Do you have an adult child with an addiction problem? Are you distraught, burnt out, overwhelmed with emotional pain, and confused? Do you feel burdened? Do you resent feeling used?
Enabling: fixing problems or removing a consequence for him with good intentions, but interfering with his opportunity to grow and be responsible for himself. Are conversations with him feeling more like rescue operations than catching up? Adult children with addiction problems tend to remain overly dependent because, sometimes, their parents or guardians enable them. It’s so hard to know what to do. It’s incredibly painful to watch your child suffer, no matter what his age. It’s hard to guess how to help him best. How do you help your child without running yourself, and your resources, into the ground?
1. Practice boundaries.
It’s hard to know what to say and do, but most often it is best for your adult child, and for you, to practice healthy boundaries. Rather than buffering a consequence or offering a bailout, express your concern and your love. If there is something practical that you can offer without enabling, great. Let him know that you are available to listen. Remind him that he will feel better and get better with professional help. You’ll be there for him emotionally along the way, but he will be stronger if he faces this, does something about it, and knows he did it himself.
2. Hold onto your money.
Whether your adult child lives with you or has his own place to stay, encourage him to pay his own way financially, if he’s working. There is always a chance that money at his disposal might not be used responsibly, so don’t offer cash or give it to him if he asks. Providing financial help should depend on your child’s efforts toward self-sufficiency, and payment of funds should be given directly to the source. For example, if he needs help with rent, pay his landlord. If he need food, take him to the store. If he needs gas, go with him to fill the tank. You can help him financially in a different way once he is well into recovery.
3. Leave a sense of urgency for emergencies.
People struggling with addiction come to others with urgent needs. They need financial help, emotional support, or a roof over their heads. It’s even harder when that person is your child, no matter what his age. If he reaches out to you, if he is not in a life-threatening situation, it’s okay to wait to respond. Take some time to consider his request before you answer him. You’ll be able to answer him with a clearer head, keeping better boundaries for yourself and for him.
4. It’s okay to change your mind.
If you’ve been helping your child but you want or need to stop, it’s okay to make a change. Be prepared; your child may reject you. Take heart, he will most likely come around after he is in recovery.
5. Get support and guidance.
As you are suggesting that your child seek professional help, so you should make sure you have the support you need. Find a therapist. Attend a community self-help group for those who love others with addiction.
6. Take care of you.
Care for your own physical health. Eat well. Get some sleep. Stay hydrated. Exercise. Meet with a friend. Schedule meaningful and fun activities, and keep those plans as self-care.
If you have questions about how to help your adult child who struggles with addiction, and about how to take care of yourself in the process, call Wasatch Crest today. We’re here to help.