The Art of Enabling…and I Was The Master!

enabling joke

Ok, I know what you’re thinking….Oh LAWD, another article on enabling! And well, yes, I guess it is….but I’m not going to tell you what to do, I’m certainly not a professional in the medical field, but I was definitely an EXPERT at enabling! Oh yes. I fully admit it, hands down, I KILLED It at enabling. It took me YEARS to realize that’s actually what I was doing. I thought I was just being a parent, a mom, loving my sick child and helping her. I wanted to FIX it all! Mom to the rescue!


During one of the rehabs that Brittany was in, I attended a mandatory family session. There was a group of about 20 parents in there, all quiet, all consumed in our own thoughts and personal messes. The topic was on enabling and codependency. I’m pretty sure I internally rolled my eyes. Whatever. I really don’t need to be here. I’m not the problem. If she would just LISTEN to me and DO WHAT I said, we wouldn’t even be here in the first place. Sheesh!

Then they passed out a questionnaire….

”Have you given your child money without truly knowing how it’s being spent?”.   Well, yes, but she said she needed it so….

“Have you looked for a job or applied for a job on behalf of my child?”.   UH OH…totally did that.

“Have you paid their legal fees?”. Oh SNAP.

“Do you think that you can fix the addict?”. I feel like they are reading my mind now. And I’m getting super irritated.

“Have you covered up for your child’s behavior to family and friends?” SHIT

Yes, I did all of that AND MORE. I would print out pretty little lists of AA/NA meetings she could go to. I would send her articles on “how to pick a good sponsor” and “relapse prevention”. I would make her doctor appointments, do her laundry, clean her room when it got so disgusting, bought her a car when she said “I can’t get to meetings”. I would wake her up for work when she lived at home…and when she lived out of state, I would call her to make sure she was up.

I was CONSUMED with saving her.

Every day was a new drama in her life. She would call me crying for help with some sort of issue. “Mom, OMG someone in halfway stole my blow dryer and curling iron”. “Mom, I spilled red kool aid all over my white shoes.” “Mom, I dropped my phone in the water”.


Until one day, I thought “Wow, I’m working harder on her recovery than she is”.

My husband said to me, “Katie, if anything ever happened to you, there’s no way Brittany could survive. She would have no clue how to live”. And he was right. I did EVERYTHING for her.

I finally realized that I needed to stop. I really wasn’t helping her. AT ALL. In fact, I made it WAYYYY easier for her in her addiction. As parents, its natural for us to want to help our kids. We feel the need to protect them from harm, afraid to upset them, do things for them because we think they aren’t capable.

I started attending support groups and I really engaged with them. I listened, learned and applied the suggestions. I dove head first into finding online closed groups on Facebook. I was amazed at the support. Clearly, my way wasn’t working….so why not try another?

And you know what happened? I got strong. REALLY strong. Her life wasn’t consuming me anymore. I stopped giving in to her demands and manipulation. I stopped bailing her out of every single situation. I needed to back the hell off of her recovery!

Now, was it hard for me to stop? OMG YES! And she got MAD! “Mom, get off of those support groups, they don’t know what they are talking about. I’m not like their kids!”. Hmmm, really?

Ironically, when I became stronger, SHE became stronger. She also came to her own realization that mom wasn’t going to save her all the time. Crazy how that works.

After 7 years of active addiction, Brittany is now 19 months clean. I still have to practice working on my own recovery daily, just like she does.

A few weeks ago, her car window was smashed and someone stole the radio out. When she called to tell me, the first thought in my head was “I need to help her”. But then, I took a deep breath, and said “Shit, that sucks, are you ok?”

She said “Mom, I’ve been thru worse. I got this”.

And I knew she really did.

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  1. Antonio August 20, 2016 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    i met brittnay in salvation army. She has a very bright up lifting spirit. Very kind. Never met her during her addiction But i was an addict myself. I have family that are still in addiction. Reading this gives me more understanding of what i need to do.
    Just as you said, i want to to help them but helping is only making it worse becuase its keep them in misery.
    May God bless you both. This blog helps so much, to me and many people. Its a place to where many can relate and not feel alone. Thanks for sharing!

  2. kim August 21, 2016 at 8:18 pm - Reply

    This page touched me in so many ways as I an addict and my son now is struggling to it breaks my heart but the only thing I can do is be a power or example much love

  3. kim August 21, 2016 at 8:19 pm - Reply

    You are so beautiful inside and out

  4. Mamabigdog August 22, 2016 at 4:25 am - Reply

    My daughter is 24, been a heroin addict for three years, and on a slew of other stuff before that for 2 years. She’s in her ninth rehab, and her attitude is terrible. I’ve reached the end of my rope, and I’ve told her that once she goes to the next sober living house, I’m done. I’m not going to rescue her any more. She’s been throwing fits at me at family visit time on the last two saturdays, and I think she’s just amping up her behavior to get a reaction out of me. I have no tears left, my bank account is dry. She’s had more second chances than I can count. I’m certain she will relapse and blame me, saying I’ve abandoned her, that she has no family, we don’t care about her. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. I love her so much, but I can’t endure the mistrust I feel, the manipulation, the demands she makes. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, and I’m terrified she won’t survive it. Then she will be dead and I’ll never forgive myself. I’m so afraid.

    • Kim August 22, 2016 at 2:45 pm - Reply

      At the age of 24, its not abondonment, but allowing them to make adult decisions and take care of their own. It has to start sometime.
      My own daughters Drug/Alcohol counsellor told us that whatever we do to try and stop her from doing drugs, keep her away from drugs will be an exercise in futility until SHE decides how she wants to live her life.
      They manipulate because they know they can, its part of the cycle of abuse.

    • Kathy Solomon August 23, 2016 at 2:15 pm - Reply

      Mamabigdog your story is a mirror image of mine. Can we talk. On Facebook Kathy Solomon or email Sitting here in tears reading Katie’s story and yours. Have felt so alone in all of this

    • Cassia Snow September 7, 2016 at 11:04 am - Reply

      I relate so well to your comment. You were created for so much more than being a slave to an addict. If your daughter wants to blame you, so be it. There’s a child within you that wants your love. Pay attention to her again because she’s been neglected for way too long.
      My daughter has been sober for a record 6 months on her own. It wasn’t until I said “Live or Die, it’s your choice, just let me have my life back!” that the nature of our relationship changed. My daughter just celebrated her first sober birthday in 8 years. She is 25.
      It’s easier said than done but please know you are not alone and you were created for so many better purposes.


      A Mother of a Precious Manipulator

  5. Lorraine stevenson August 22, 2016 at 7:21 am - Reply

    Do you agree ,I’ve been to support group for drug abuse and they recommend to put our son out the house,I disagree As I can’t throw him out into the darkness,what is anyone’s thoughts on this please?

    • Geri August 29, 2016 at 10:27 pm - Reply

      Recently I read a post about why a mother decided not to do that. Not sure I can find the article, but she believes her love is more important than the shock of putting him out. I was glad to read it because I concur. If I could find it, I’d share, because i agreed with what she said.

  6. shari August 22, 2016 at 9:25 am - Reply

    I love to read your blogs. I am getting stronger and not giving in anymore. And when she gets mad at me because I won’t give in…..I tell her to start walking.

  7. Luann August 22, 2016 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    That describes me perfectly. Working daily on myself and my enabling, “helicoptering” ways.

  8. Cindy Botard August 24, 2016 at 8:14 am - Reply

    There is one thing for sure all of us parents have a lot in common and many stairs that sound like our own house hold. If we were all in the same room together we would feel like we had known each other forever.


    • Cindy Botard August 24, 2016 at 8:17 am - Reply

      I’m sorry my post is messed up. stairs should say stories and inserted my name in the wrong spot. Oops.

  9. Geri August 29, 2016 at 10:31 pm - Reply

    I have the same cartoon as my header ~ perhaps it’s not as funny as I thought, as I found several of your points familiar. Thanks.

  10. Natalie September 22, 2016 at 8:57 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing your personal journey with me. My journey is very similar yet very different. I had a beautiful 22 year old daughter “Brittany” that lost her battle over addiction June 9th 2015. There are no words to express how hard it is to lose a child. The feelings of guilt, shame and grief are overwhelming. I don’t think I realized how big her addiction was or maybe I just didn’t want to believe it. In the beginning I admit I did enable her a lil. I let her and bf move into my basement. Unfortunately they fought all the time and was bringing heavy drugs into my home. One day I went in the basement and found some drugs and drug paraphernalia. Found is not the right word cause she never hid it , it was just lying around. Unfortunately I had to ask her to leave. Not because I wanted her gone, but because she had 2 little brothers (5 and 15) and I had to think of their well being. I needed to protect them and keep them safe and her actions put them at risk. So I stopped enabling her. Near the end of Brittany’s life I dealt with my daughters addiction by using tough love and detaching myself and now she is dead and gone forever. The hardest part is knowing I turned her away when she needed me most. My last memory of her is of her screaming at me in my kitchen because I wouldn’t give her money. I told her I couldn’t give her money cause I knew she would buy drugs with it. I told her I could help her with food and other material items but NO money. Then she uttered her final words to me “Of course I’m going to buy drugs with it, what do you expect”? “I’m homeless, I have nothing and wish I were dead”. Actually her very last words were “I love you” as we said and hugged good bye. Now I have her older sister popping pills (opiates) to cope with her pain. I don’t really know what drugs she is taking but she has gotten a lot worse the past 6 months. I see her going downhill fast and it scares the shit out of me!. Now when I see her I hardly recognize her. She looks like a ghost of her previous self. She is a beautiful girl but now her skin looks waxy and she has little sores all over her face, hands and feet. She tells me they are mosquito bites but I don’t know if the drugs are making her pick at her skin or if she graduated to using needles? I don’t think she would ever use needles but I never thought Brittany would either. She also lost about 50 pounds in past 3-4 months. I watch as history repeats itself right in front of me and even though I have been through this before I have no idea how to get her the help she needs? She wont even admit she has a drug problem. I tried tough love (stopped enabling) and my precious baby girl died. I too go to self help groups to deal with the addicts in my life and my grief. In those groups I hear a lot about NOT enabling the addict but I think to myself…. maybe if I didn’t stop the enabling behavior things would of turned out differently, and maybe Brittany would still be alive today? I am broken, lost, confused and angry. I have to do something to help/save her from herself and the drugs before its too late but I really don’t know what to do? 🙁 Any advice would be greatly appreciated, thanks in advance

  11. karen jewell January 24, 2017 at 1:00 am - Reply

    Easy to say hard to do,I lived it..I just discovered this blog after attending a ” hope not cuffs’ training session tonight.I went with my sister & katie is her hero!My 29 year old daughter died of a heroin overdose 2011..she had been at it a very long time..Through many rehabs,loving family,periods of sobriety,missing for months at a time..I knew about enabling from the many therapy sessions and my own homework.I knew it was life or death.there aren’t any elderly heroin cannot beat yourself up with guilt or regret.the addict has got to be the one that doesn’t pick up the drugs.I know that unless I would have chained her up in the basement,I was beating my head against the wall..I gave her 100% support for recovery..drove her to and from work.she had them delivered to her at lunch..she was blue & dead on my bathroom floor..beat the hell out of her till she came to.these were days before narcan..didn’t stop her,but i felt we were on borrowed time after that.I begged,cried,prayed.I once searched for her & found her in a dopehouse motel,I.had a legally loaded gun & was prepared for anything i might encounter.she came willingly and went to yet another rehab..lasted a few months. she nodded out and a lit cigarette started my house on fire.I was putting other people in danger for her choices.You can only do so much..Its so frustrating that you have no control over someone elses actions..My story doesn’t have a happy ending.

    • Katie February 1, 2017 at 12:07 pm - Reply

      I’m so sorry for your loss but the amount of “sorrys” and prayers could never take that pain away and I understand that. I remember when Brittany had 3 gran mal seizures and they didn’t think she would survive after the second one… or when I would let her sleep at my house I would stay up all night to see if she was still breathing. I was terrified, so I understand that constant fear and stress you had. I’m here for you and your family and my daughter is as well. Thank you for supporting us ❤

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