From YJ: My oldest son has just gotten his 2nd DUI and has been given a hefty fine. His car has also been impounded for 3 months. My husband, who is his major enabler, is ‘loaning’ him the money to pay the fine (even though we will probably never get it back) and has begun to drive him wherever he wants to go. I can’t believe this is happening! My husband and I are fighting about it constantly and I’m afraid we might end up in divorce court. Your book has been really great in helping me open my eyes about what not to do in situations like this. But how can I make him see that enabling our son won’t really be helping him?
The difficult reality is that we can’t “make” anyone see or do anything. This is language we all use from time to time – but because we live on a planet of free will, the truth is that we don’t – and actually can’t – control what another person chooses to do. So, unless your husband decides to see that enabling your son won’t be of any real “help” to him, he will likely continue to enable.
What I would suggest is that you see if you can have a calm conversation with your husband, where you explain your thoughts and feelings to him. See if he might be open to learning more about the difference between enabling and helping. Perhaps you can watch my TEDx talk together about how families often enable the addicts they love – and that this rarely, if ever, has a positive outcome for the family. After you’ve watched it together, maybe you can talk about some of the points I’ve brought up in it. (Here is the link for my TEDx talk.)
If your husband is going to choose to enable your son, you could speak your truth to him and let him know that this is no longer a dynamic you want to experience in your family. If you’re not sure how to do this or how to language the boundaries and consequences, this could be a good time for you to reach out for help for yourself – because even if your son decides to stay in active addiction and your husband chooses to continue to enable him, you can still find ways to live your own best life.
All my best,