Enabling my addict son over the course of many years, was something that I did to relieve my own anxiety about how he was living his life. I wanted to make his addiction go away and I thought I could help. I was afraid for his safety. I thought he might die. I knew he was in emotional pain and I felt helpless that I couldn’t fix it. I just wanted him to live. I believed him when I shouldn’t have. I didn’t want to disappoint him and have him think I didn’t care about him. My heart was breaking. I felt he was safer in our home than on the streets and believed it would be different each time we took him back in. It never was. It always turned out the same. Just a matter of time when my heart would sink and I would see the needle, the residue, the stranger driving slowly up the street, the behavior changes, the “look” in his eyes, as I knew the drug was overtaking him once again.
Going to Nar Anon meetings helped although it took a while. I knew my life was out of control as well as his. I tried to believe that it was not my fault, I tried to believe that I could not cure it by saying the perfect phrase or word or monologue. But I still kept trying anyway. At times I actually believed that everything I had been learning in Nar Anon might just be wrong. I didn’t want to let go of the possibility that I COULD say the perfect thing that would change his mind and everything would work out. The way to recovery doesn’t work like that unfortunately.
My husband and I kicked our son out of the house many times. And many times, we took him back in. Throwing a sleeping bag out in the bag yard for him, but not allowing him inside. We somehow convinced ourselves that him being in the back yard instead of inside the house was ok. Then we would let him in to use the bathroom, have some food, and then go back to sleeping in his room if we hadn’t discovered him using before then. We wondered what the neighbors thought as they must have seen him sleeping in a sleeping bag in the back yard. But that was the least of our problems. We went through this scenario many times and it always ended up with the same results. He would use and we would kick him out again. My husband and I would always talk about NOT letting him in the house again if he called or knocked on our door again. But implementing that plan was much more difficult when it actually happened. You see your son on the front porch and it was so hard to turn him away. Enabling comes in many forms, but the bottom line, we finally realized, was that it never works.
I finally had to come to a place where I knew in my heart that I had to say no to my son. He had been in and out of many sober living places and residential treatment programs. Unfortunately, none of them provided any sort of structure or program that addressed the deep-seated reasons for my son’s using.
Eventually, he ended up homeless in another city and so the enabling just took on another form. He would ask for money for supposedly legitimate reasons – he needed a uniform for his job, etc. I always asked for him to take a picture of the receipts so I could be sure where the money was going. That rarely happened. Sending money to him relieved my anxiety for a while. Until the next time….
I worked on myself and my own program while he was homeless. I realized that the possibility of him dying was real. He had overdosed many times before and was fortunate that he survived. I thought to myself that maybe he would not survive the disease and that I at least got to be his Mom for 26 years and I should cherish those years. I realized the enabling that I was doing was probably prolonging his addiction and to save his life, I had to let go. I don’t know why it took so many years to figure that out, but it did. So, I told him that I was going to quit sending him money and I meant it. I never sent him any more money and he never asked again. He stayed homeless for a while and would call occasionally just to say he was alive. I always told him that I loved him and that when he was ready for a yearlong treatment program, we would support him through that. In other words, I had made my boundaries with him and he respected that, but I never gave up on him or refused his calls, or asked him when he was going to quit.
Several months later, he finally said that he was ready. We called Miracle house and there was a bed available. But it’s much more than a bed at Miracle house, unlike other treatment facilities. The program there is intense and highly structured. Each individual has their own personal issues and programs are designed based on each individual’s need. No one is left out and no one can hide from their fears. I have never seen transformations like those that take place at Miracle House. Going to the family BBQ’s, seeing the program in action, meeting the other men there and their families is truly a privilege. I always looked forward to these get togethers. You learn a lot about the program when you meet the other men and see how they interact with each other. The respect, camaraderie, friendship, compassion and growth in these men as the weeks and months go by is remarkable. Since addiction is a family disease which affects all relationships within the family, the BBQ’s can be a time to see the changes in your loved one and mend resentments, anger, etc.
Our son said to us recently, “The best thing you ever did for me was to kick me out.” It was good to hear that! He has been in recovery now at Miracle House for 16 months. He actually loves the house, the residents, and the management. But he has graduated and is moving out next month. He is ready for the challenge.