My daughter has been addicted to alcohol since she was 15. My husband and I thought it was just a phase she would grow out of, but she is now 27 and her life is a total mess. We have tried to help her in every way we could think of, but nothing seems to be working. If we don’t continue to pay her rent (which is a financial hardship for us, after so many years), I’m worried she will be out on the street with nowhere to go. My husband thinks we should do this, but I just can’t bring myself to see her being homeless. What do you think we should do? ~ Jan B.
Thank you for asking about this situation. Unfortunately, you are not alone in this terrifying ordeal – I hear from many parents of addicted adult children who are also experiencing this and not feeling clear about what to do.
I know that this question has many layers of fear and uncertainty for you, and even though there may not be an easy answer, there are a number of things to consider. I’m assuming that paying your daughter’s rent for some time is not the only way you might be enabling her to remain stuck in her addiction. I’m not saying that you are responsible for her addiction, because she is making her own choices to live this way. But when we do things to ‘enable’ them – such as pay their rent, give them money to live on, buy the groceries and cook their food as well as do their laundry and basically make things easy for them so they don’t have to challenge themselves to live better lives – their choice will most often be to continue to use, drink, gamble, stay up all night gaming, etc.
What we know today is that an enabled addict doesn’t recover because – really, why should they? This can and does often go on for years, with the parents worrying incessantly and the addicts not doing much of anything to make their own lives better.
As difficult as this might be for you to hear, it sounds like enabling your daughter hasn’t been helping her at all. It may be that she needs to spend a little time on the street to see that she doesn’t like that lifestyle and to finally decide that she wants to get help to change direction. The basic message you and your husband can give her is: “We love you so much. And because we love you, we don’t want to see you in a life of addiction – it’s not good for you and it tears us apart to watch you do this to yourself. So we have decided that we are not going to support you in addiction any longer, and instead we encourage you to choose recovery. When you’re ready to do that, let us know and we will be there for you in whatever ways we can.”
It’s important to understand that when you set that much healthier, respectful boundary you’ll need to be prepared to stick with it – even when that feels difficult for you. Showing her that you care enough about her to do this is really the most loving thing you can do for her.
Even though this may sound simple enough to do, it is far from easy for most families who have become used to enabling their addicts. Fear is usually at the root of the difficulty: fear of the addict’s anger when boundaries are set and maintained, and fear of what could happen to them if they become homeless. But it is only by facing these fears – and by loving your daughter enough to do what’s right for her, even when it’s uncomfortable for you – that healthy change can happen for all of you.
If you feel like you need help facing your fears and setting the healthy boundaries that need to be set, please feel free to contact us for a FREE 30-minute consultation. We’ve been helping families like yours for 30 years – and we can help you too.
All my best,