Unconditional Love vs. Enabling

Confronting our children’s addiction is one of the hardest things we’ll ever have to do. We want what’s best for them. We want them to be happy, healthy and whole. Learning they are struggling with addiction can be shocking, troubling and heartbreaking. Our instinct is to want to protect them and to lessen their burdens. It breaks our hearts to see them suffering, and we want to take away their pain. Sometimes this can cause us to enable them, by absolving them of responsibility or discouraging them from admitting they have a problem. Our attempts at being loving, caring and protective can actually cause us to fall into patterns of enabling them and their addictions. How can we show our children unconditional love that is devoid of enabling?

We want to show our children that we support and love them unconditionally and that we’ll always be there for them, but that we will not help them self-destruct. We will not enable them, and we will not make it easier for them to hurt themselves. This means that we have to put certain boundaries into place and be strict about maintaining them. For some of us, this means setting rules around what will and won’t be tolerated in our homes. If your children live with you, you might want to establish a zero-tolerance policy for drugs in the home. You might want to make it clear that drug use won’t be tolerated by them or their friends, at any time. You won’t tolerate being lied to, manipulated or stolen from. This might mean that you have to ask them to leave if they break your rules. This can be tremendously difficult, but the alternative would be allowing them to get away with using drugs on your watch, in your home, and this would be directly enabling their addictions. It would be making it easier for them to use. It would be preventing them from taking responsibility for themselves and their decisions.

Loving our children unconditionally means being intolerant of their self-destruction. We must decide that we won’t sit by and watch them hurt themselves. This can make us feel as though we’re being overly strict. We can worry that we’re sending them out into the world where they might hurt themselves more, but we can’t make it easier for them to continue their addictive patterns. We can’t throw away bottles or drugs or force ultimatums on them, either. These things only create more resistance. We can only create boundaries and then abide by them, reminding our children that we will always love them and be there for them when they’re ready to get help. This is the most loving thing we can do for them.

The community of Riverside Recovery has personal experience with addiction and the feelings of hopelessness and fear that come with it. We’re here to help you and your family reclaim the lives you love. Call (800) 871-5440 today.