“This is really helping me out, seriously. I didn’t know how I would make rent this month.”
“You’re the best and I knew you’d help. I’ll pay you back the minute I can. I have a line on a new job.”
Do statements like this sound familiar? If you are the parent of a child addicted to drugs or alcohol, you have likely heard these and many more pleas for money to “get them out of a jam” and it is of course a very difficult situation. You love your children and want to do all you can to help them toward a rewarding and fulfilling life but this is different. You know any money you lend them will only purchase more drugs.
To make things worse, drug addicts can be extremely convincing. Along with their dependence they often develop a talented ability to weave tales of woe and subtly heap on enough guilt to get what they want. “The money isn’t for drugs, I swear.” It’s for food, the rent, bus fare. They are very adept at exploiting any weaknesses, shamelessly including even your love for them until you cave in. Shockingly, they don’t seem so lovey-dovey until the next time they’re in a drug-related bind.
Addiction’s iron-clad grip
Addiction is a disease of great strength and ongoing drug use alters the brain chemically and structurally to create a powerful, single-minded drive to use more. Indeed, the compulsion is virtually impossible to resist and the only way to placate the urge is through the drug. To that end, anything that gets in the way of the euphoria is an obstacle that must be eliminated by any means possible including lying, manipulation, and stealing.
If the addict is your child and he or she asks for money, don’t relent. As much as you might want to, giving money to an addict only feeds their addiction and plays right into their manipulation. So, how can you handle it?
Short of kicking them out of the house, the best and really the only way you can help is by getting them into a treatment program. If your child still lives at home and agrees to treatment, you might consider allowing your child to continue living at home under the condition of very strict and enforced rules. These rules can hearken back to younger age years, with limits on where they can go and how often, curfews, financial parameters, and now perhaps random checks of belongings and drug tests. Set rules and stick to them and if they are not followed, be sure everyone agrees on the consequences, even if it means the child must move out of the house.
This might sound harsh on the surface but tough love is sometimes what it takes and it doesn’t mean abandonment; drug addiction takes a formidable defense and as a parent you must decide when to enact it.
Help but don’t enable
Simply stated, enabling is the act of fixing problems for someone in a way that interferes with their growth and responsibility. Let’s say you lend your child money and instead of paying rent, he heads down the street to buy drugs. The real-life consequence of not paying rent means you’re looking for a place to live. An enabler will swoop in and lend money, thus removing the consequence and the learning moment that goes along with it. This scenario goes on to create a pattern of unhealthy rescuing that does no one any good.
Is there a way to help your child without enabling them? Sure, but it takes commitment, courage, and all of your love. You need to be thoughtful about how to deter dependence on you, which in addiction cases many times fuels dependence on a drug. Some parents have a strong desire to be needed by their child and it can be difficult to bring the hammer down. But at some point you must communicate to your child that you are there for them while strongly encouraging them to improve their lives by seeking professional help through addiction programs.
In other scenarios, drug addiction might very well be a veil covering concerning mental health problems such as depression or anxiety. In all cases, parents with children requesting money or help in other ways must remain mindful of life events like these:
- Do you often sacrifice in various ways to meet your child’s desires?
- Does it feel like there is always some kind of crisis involving your child?
- Does your child act entitled or is he/she in the habit of demanding material things?
- Do you feel resentful toward your child or burdened by a situation?
- Do you hold back on discipline in fear of hurting your child’s feelings?
If these or similar situations sound familiar, all is not lost. Don’t ever give up or stop loving your child but if addiction is an issue you will do well to be aware of and practice proven solutions:
If a crisis related to an emotional breakup or job stress or health problems leads your child back home, accept it and welcome them but have a plan in place that moves toward independence. Don’t be adversarial. Stay calm but firm while remaining supportive and understanding. Work together in an effort to encourage strength and recovery.
Don’t recklessly give them money whenever they ask. In fact, it is a wise strategy to suggest they pay for room and board while living at home. Any spending money offered should be contingent on efforts toward recovery.
For more information on relationships with drug-addicted children, contact Restore Health and Wellness at (888) 979-4570.