Where do you think the line is between supporting and enabling your child?
Jack will always have our love. We are always going to support him in his treatment and in his recovery. But when he starts to use again is when we have to cut him off, whether it’s by not accepting his phone calls or not giving him money. We’re not going to stop supporting him in his recovery. But we won’t support him if he’s not in recovery.
One of the sayings we have is that if you make them mad, you are supporting. If you give them what they want and they’re happy, you’re enabling. If you say no, then you’re not.
I think it comes when you as a parent realize that you are out of control. We tried to support her, but when it got to the point where we knew we could not control her anymore, it became enabling. There is no hard and fast rule. That is the problem. Ultimately, as a parent, you want to be supportive of your kid. I think enabling is something you look back on and realize you are doing. You don’t know you are enabling until afterwards, and only through reflection you realize you were. I mean, surely you don’t go around planning to enable your kid. Again, that is me on the outside looking in. I see parents who I know are enabling their kids, but they don’t see that. They see themselves as supporting them. When you are in the moment of being a parent, you just want the best for your child and you’re trying to be as supportive as possible no matter what. The line is not something you consciously cross.
It’s always moving. There’s no steady line. Today I might trust this. Tomorrow I might not. Maybe that’s part of the problem. I’m inconsistent. But it just depends on the situation. When Bailey was using this last time, I put her out again. I hadn’t put her out in a long time. I did it because I couldn’t take it anymore and because it wasn’t good for her to be here anymore. She wasn’t staying sober here. Something else needed to happen.
Travis: There’s a difference between unconditional love and enabling. The example is I can’t give you 20 bucks because you might go buy heroin. However, I can go buy you a hamburger. Or I can put gas in your car. Or I can take you to work. But if I give you 10 bucks, I probably can’t trust you.
I said this at Tyler’s memorial service. The two toughest lessons Tyler taught me were patience and unconditional love. He taught me those the hardest way in life. Because I had to continue to be patient with him as he continued to screw up. I continued to love him even though sometimes he was unlovable. And he’s pulling my heart out and he’s dragging my family down the road, but I had to unconditionally love him. And I did because that was my son. At the end of the day, he was still my son.
Shelly: I think it is a little different for everybody. But there’s definitely that far side where you’re just giving and they’re just using and taking advantage. And then there’s the side where you’re not willing to help and you’ve kicked them out and they don’t have a chance. And so it’s coming somewhere along the middle and just doing the best you can. You’re going to make mistakes.
Travis: The more you’re aware, the more tools you have in your tool box, the more you’re going to control that line. If you can start knowing all of that from the beginning instead of learning as you go along this road … what I’ve learned from other people who’ve been down this lane is your child is going to lie, cheat and steal. And so if it doesn’t sound right, it’s probably not right.
Shelly: And through that process, if you quit enabling at an earlier point, it could help them get into treatment or to seek it out if they are not getting what they want.
Wayne – If they’re not putting forth effort to get help – because they have to do the work too and going to meetings and doing all of the things they are supposed to do – and if they’re not but you are supporting them, then you are making a mistake. If they are doing what they are supposed to do and you can see it and you are with them and they are open about it, and if they are living in the recovery world, then you are not enabling. You are supporting. And you can continue forward. But you have to be right on top of it. You are living this addiction with them and you are walking every step with them. And that is why it is grueling for everyone around them. It is so hard. I have met many parents that have an active addict and I tell them you have it way tougher than me. And they’ll ask what I mean. And I’ll tell they have to deal with this stress every day. It’s 24/7. They never know. They’re worried. The phone rings and they freak out. Where’s he at? What is he doing? Ours is over. There is grief. There’s a big hole in your heart, but it is different. It’s not that daily stress. We sleep. They wake up in the middle of the night thinking about him. And during the course of a day you’re thinking about him maybe 1,000 times. Just those brief moments right? What if someone gets married. You’re thinking about all of those things people his age are doing and what if Tyler had been here for this. That never goes away. But the daily stress goes away. The grief is there. It is the greatest diet ever. You lose 20 – 40 pounds.
Christy – People have to face the addiction with their child and not be afraid to talk about it with them. And it’s never going to be easy helping a loved one get well.
Wayne – It is not a character flaw. If someone has diabetes or cancer, you are open about it and you deal with it. They will need tons of support. And they will realize there is a whole world of people out there that have addictions. And they are good people and they are productive and successful. They just know that they can’t go binge drinking at bars. They can’t be drinking when watching a game over at a friends’ house because that will weaken their guard.
Christy – That was a really hard part as parents. Here Tyler was, 23 years old and his friends from here – they weren’t addicts and they are his best friends. And his friends were going out to bars and they wanted Tyler to go. Well, you really can’t do that. And Tyler wasn’t a big drinker. So Tyler’s choice was to use an opiate. I remember talking with Wayne and we were crying and I remember we were so down and we thought – what is he supposed to do as a young person in our culture where young adults go out to bars. This is what his friends do and they are not alcoholics. They tailgate at games. These are fun things they do. And how does Tyler incorporate himself with his friends but he can’t go to those things? Will he lose those friends? It was a real struggle for us. And yes Tyler made friends in his recovery world. But it is so complicated. And this whole generation … how do they navigate this? We still don’t know how to do it well.