BD Asks: I have an adult son who is an alcohol/drug addict. He has been in and out of treatments and jail multiple times. He is in jail right now and wants me to put money on his account so he can get extra food and make phone calls. I am torn as to what I should do, I don’t want to enable him anymore as I know I have been. But I also know when he is not using he eats like he is starving… I don’t know what to do?
Hello, thank you for submitting your question to “Ask Candace”.
I’m very glad you’ve reached out about this. I have heard similar stories from parents over the years. There are a few important things to understand about this situation:
1) Even though there are several schools of thought about what addiction really is (including the most popular—that addiction is a medical disease that addicts are powerless over), the truth is that either remaining in active addiction or going into some sort of recovery is a CHOICE that people make. If this wasn’t true, there wouldn’t be millions of people all over the world—including me—who have decided to become clean and sober—and stay that way.
2) An enabled addict does not recover because, really—why should they? If their families and other loved ones are going to do everything for them, such as give them money when they know where that money will very likely be going, why should the addicted people do anything to change their situation?
3) If nothing changes, nothing changes.
It sounds like you’ve been trying for a long time to ‘help’ your addicted son, but regardless of what you do, he keeps choosing to use and get into trouble. Perhaps jail and rehabs are where he feels most comfortable at this point in his life. Maybe it’s real life that scares him more than being incarcerated. If you continue to make this choice even more comfortable for him, by giving him money for snacks (or perhaps more drugs, which can easily be obtained in jail), why would he ever make the decision to do some inner work on himself to have a better life than he has now? Your continued enabling is assisting him to stay stuck in his addictive lifestyle—even though I’m sure that’s not what you’ve been intending to do.
“No” is the word that addicts hate to hear the most. But sometimes loving someone looks like “No”. What you’ve been doing has not been working, as he is still choosing to be in and out of various institutions. Maybe what needs to happen is for him to stop being so comfortable there. And this is where you come in.
It sounds like you know that it’s time to say no to your son, explaining that you’re doing this because you love him—not because you don’t. If you need help setting this boundary with him or dealing with his self-absorbed responses to you when you do this, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at www.LoveWithBoundaries.com. This situation CAN change, and we are here to help you.
All my best,