Learning About Codependence

Closing the door was the best thing we ever did to stop enabling our sons to continue their destructive lifestyle, and discontinue the codependence. The first stage of closing the door was refusing to continue financing their living expenses while they were using. There was always one problem after another of them not having money.

We told them they would need to pay for everything including getting loans for college. We would pay the loans back when they successfully completed each semester. That worked for a while. Then there were more problems as they could not hold down a job. We always told them we loved them and were willing to help when they were ready for real help. That meant in a sober living environment, not returning home.

Both our boys hit their bottom in unsafe situations. One in a foreign country and one in Hawaii. It was beyond difficult to tell them there was nothing we would do except fly them straight to New Life House. Every bone in my body wanted to go get them and bring them home. Both wanted to “come home first and sleep it off,” and then they would “consider” going into recovery.

New Life House told me all bets were off if they came home. We also knew where that would lead; nowhere with more trauma at home. Trying to manage and control their activities at home was impossible and more than anyone can possibly do. We tried that. Contracts and promises mean nothing to an addict.

Were they really “addicts”? We did not want to believe that. Or were they just immature young men who needed “managing”? Were their lives “unmanageable”? Absolutely. We knew it was the right thing to “close the door”, but it did not feel good. Without the counsel of the New Life House management, and applying my own Alanon tools, it would have been impossible to “close the door”.

We knew our “helping” was hurting them, but I struggled mightily with my momma bear innate sense of needing to do anything to save their lives. Our “loving” was actually extending the time it took for them to come to the end of themselves. But enabling them to continue on their path of destroying their lives with alcohol and drugs was actually killing them right before our eyes.

When we finally understood that our help was (partially) responsible for delaying them getting real help, that was when we stopped. We still struggle with this at times, only now with the help of Alanon tools, lots of prayer, people in the same situation, and the advice from New Life House, we recognize it sooner and find it easier to let go, one day at a time.

Then we actually sold our house and bought one where there was not room for them. That was the hardest thing, especially not telling them our new address.

Detaching with love meant not bailing them out of their messy lives. I had to develop responses to their long tales of woe, (usually long texts in the middle of the night), such as, “Bummer”, “That must suck”, “I’m sure you’ve got a plan to figure that out”, instead of my usual long lecture and parachuting in to save the day! We still were always available to reason things out, and continued to offer real help: sober living, when they were ready. “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

Today we have a new graduate of New Life House, and one with 5 months sober who is still looking for the easier, softer way. Slowly but surely, he is realizing there isn’t one, and that he must take responsibility for his life. He can’t come home. That door is closed. That’s the best advice we can give. Our best thinking got us where we were. Thanks to New Life House, we have real hope that our sons can manage their own lives …sober!

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Martin Luther King. Jr.

– Karen H.

Last Updated on May 24, 2022


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