Bring it to Barb


Dear Barb,

I really never imagined that my child would still be living with me in his 30’s. My son needs me to wake him for work, feed him and it has become wearisome and I wonder how it got this way? He was a good kid and is now using drugs in my home. How do you decipher helping and enabling? And how do I change things if I am?



Dear Bewildered,

Your love and other emotions can prevent you from meeting the problem head on to put a stop to this cycle. It’s natural at this point, in an effort to maintain normalcy at home, you begin enabling. 

“Enabler” has become a widely-known term for someone who indirectly encourages bad behavior by ignoring it, or worse, covering it up and making excuses. If substance abuse is thrown in the mix it literally changes everything. 

Of course, no one wants to let their son or daughter lose their job, so you wake them up and make sure they get ready. Please STOP taking more responsibility for the actions of that person than the person is taking for themselves. This pattern will actually be a roadblock to their ambition or recovery, although it may seem rational at first. 

Signs you are enabling: 

  1. Do you notice they’re dropping some commitments, or they slur or stumble, or their work attendance is dropping? Do you justify it?
  2. Do you instinctively spread the blame to others? Or take the blame yourself?
  3. Does your love for them, even with their addiction make you see them too sympathetically?
  4. Do you hope that things will get better if externalfactors would change? Factors that are beyond you or your loved one’s control. 
  5. Do you spend more and more money to care for the person with the drug dependency?
  6. Do you pay for them as if they were children again, covering meals, housing, gas, insurance, lawyers, court fees and errands?
  7. Are you afraid to express frustration or displeasure with your loved one thinking it will drive them further into drug abuse?
  8. When things are more and more out of control, do you compromise your morals to maintain the illusion that things are fine?

These are just a few signs that you are sacrificing your life and revolved around their needs. You will become emotionally and physically exhausted eventually!

You are trying to keep everyone taken care of and the situation looking normal. This is no way to live, which is why it’s important to seek help when you are in a codependent and enabling relationship. Books have been written and counselors are available for learning new patterns. Seek both avenues out.

Getting off this rollercoaster takes a lot of emotional work. First with a deep breath, tell yourself (out loud) “stop taking up the slack”. If they don’t deal with the consequences, they will never want to get sober and get on with their life.

If you normally schedule around when he needs to get out of bed–quit! An alarm easily can be set. He won’t be happy about it in the beginning, eventually he will learn that if he wants to get where he needs to go, he will have to manage his own schedules, even getting out of bed.

As hard as it is, you must begin doing things for yourself again, your son will realize he must do the same. Deep down he probably already knows he is burdening you. Don’t play the victim however, you are the wise adult here, you lead by example. 

Rock is a mental health counselor and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at

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