Am I hitching a free ride?

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by hopeandjoy66, Feb 13, 2015.

  1. hopeandjoy66

    hopeandjoy66 Member

    For days now I have been throwing this around. Last week, I realized that I could be taking advantage of someone Else's enabling. My husband and I have stopped our enabling of my 31 year old step son. Our opinion is he should be doing anything that grown man should do.

    (Just a quick recap about him difficult child. He is bipolar, lives alone in a run down place and right now sits all day long fairly down in the dumps... TV and video games.. No motivation to do anything. He doesn't have a job but collects disability from the government. When he is in this frame of mind, he doesn't get into trouble but does nothing for himself. However, if he decides to try a little pot or starts to go manic because he stops taking his medications, all hell brakes loose very quickly.)

    He is where my predicament is...
    difficult child's mom/ ex wife of my hubby, is a first class enabler. She comes to difficult child's house to empty the mailbox and takes him to the bank to pay his bills as he doesn't even make an attempt at doing this for himself. She picks him up on friday to spend the weekend with her. She does his laundry makes meals for most of the week for him to heat up. She pays for everything. She does everything you really could imagine a good "sacrificing" mom would do for her son. (I say with a chuckle)
    Anyhow, it some how hit me last week that I sit here smugly with my" I am not an enabler" sign on my forehead but deep down difficult child's mother is keeping everything under control. I am relying on her to keep things running smoothly for difficult child. I do believe that if she didn't do the things she does, then everything would be in a constant state of chaos. He would have no power as bills wouldn't be paid ect... ect.... He just doesn't care and before you know it he would be homeless. So Ex does all the work and we have no cares.

    Do you see why I am asking about hitching a free ride. Life is good this way for me and husband. No Chaos. Smooth as silk, but in reality as soon as difficult child goes off the rails that is when the true test of whether we are enablers or not, shines through.
    Maybe I just think about things to much.
  2. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member

    That is a really interesting question, and I appreciate your bringing this up. I have to say, I was you stepson's mom for a while...and the depth of my frustration and bitterness at how I was singlehandedly keeping the s*(&^*t off everyone elses shoes was exhausting. At some point,k after I joined this forum about 1 year and 1/2 ago, I stepped back..and my son started talking to other members of the family, needing contact, support, money, whatever. They then all turned to me to express surprise and frustration at how needy my son was...and I was both guilty and annoyed. It was an interesting cycle.

    I'm not sure what I learned from it, other than the fact that they had no idea how exhausting he was.

    My SO took care of his severely mentally ill mom all by himself from when was 13. His dad, his step mom, various adults around him often said "wow, I am so sorry for you, this is very hard" but no one helped or stepped in. He has a lot of swallowed anger around that (and is a major enabler now...)

    I guess...I guess it is an interesting topic! I guess you could acknowledge to her that you see how hard this is. I don't think you should take on or take over her role..I'm not sure her enabling is helping him in the long run.

    I'll be interested in what the others have to say.

  3. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    He is 31 years old and disabled. It is not your job to try to raise him to be responsible adult by your (or society's or anyone's definition.) His mother is an adult individual and apparently able to take care of her business. If she has decided to do things that keep her son able to live semi-independently, that is frankly her business. You have every right to make your decisions in how involved and which way you want to be with your step son.

    It seems that your and his mother's understanding of what he is capable of doing and what not is different and she sees him more disabled than you do and you both act accordingly. You seem to think she sees him more disabled than he is and is enabling (as in: denying the growth opportunity) him to not live up his potential, but she may consider it differently. She may consider that his disabilities prevent him from total independence and that she enables (as in: makes it possible) for him to have relatively safe and independent life with basic comforts.

    No way of knowing which one of you is right, or does it even matter, but while you certainly have a right to deal with your problematic adult kid as you think is best, and that is not hitching free ride, but it is also polite to respect other parent making her own choices and not criticizing her outlook too harshly. You are doing what you feel is right for him and for you. His mother is likely doing what she feels is right for him and for her. You are both making your own choices based on how you see things and what you think is right and no one is hitching free rides.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2015
  4. hopeandjoy66

    hopeandjoy66 Member

    Before difficult child's latest brush with death.... was stabbed in the neck from his "friend" the drug dealer that difficult child let live at his place. He held down a full time labour job and disability topped up his salary every month. He really has lived much more independently previous to that. He had an outsider handle his money matters, bills ect. were on automatic debit and he received an weekly allowance and smokes.
    However when he started taking drugs, he demanded control over his money. Which they had to do. When he is manic or on drugs, (before he gets completely out of control, he is outgoing and very independent. So I know he is capable. However, the first thing he does is cuts ties with his mother as she is "too controlling and treats me like a child" Somehow all these things get done then when he is like this. The EX knows she is enabling him but has sworn that he is not going to be homeless while he is alive.
    Echo, your right. The ex goes along enabling him until things start getting out of control then she phones husband and demands help with him.She is exhausted by then and then all we hear is... I do everything and you do nothing. Nobody has asked her to do these things for difficult child, including difficult child. He asks for nothing, but I think he knows that she will step in and do what she always does and make sure his life runs smoothly for him. It maybe even on a subconscious level. She takes that duty on herself. It has been a viscous circle for the last ten years except that now we are willing to let him deal with the consequences of his choices or his mother. Unfortunately, when he is on the downside, he is given no choices or opportunities, she lives his life for him.
    I read this in someone's post this week and I thought it described the ex very well.
    " My son has been my life for the past 23 years. He is all Ive got and now that he is gone Im lost.. "(in this case, 31 years)
    I think this is true for ex. I actually feel for her. She will do what she will do. Unfortunately, she gives friends and family a scude perception of things. Again, we have no control of that either.
  5. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Hopeandjoy, you have no control over the choices of another, your step son OR his mother. She is choosing to enable her son. Enablers are generally people who cannot say no and have a great deal of resentment and anger so it all makes sense that his mom does everything and then when it all falls apart begins blaming and accusing. It's a cycle. I was in that cycle for a long time so I know it well. The step mom is the only one who can change that pattern and you said she said, she will not allow him to be homeless. So be it. We all make choices, we all have to live with the choices. As long as you and your husband have your boundaries intact, you're doing all you can do. My suggestion is to enjoy your time and stop the guilt. There is NO reason whatsoever you need to feel any guilt, you aren't making any choices, your step son and his mother are. They have their own destiny, you have yours. Enjoy yours and let the rest go.
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  6. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    I have thought about this very scenario myself several times over the past years and have articulated it to my husband. When my ex-husband continued to enable my son in a variety of ways, part of me hated that he was doing it, and part of me was relieved that he was doing it.

    Over time, as I continued to work on letting go of all people places and things (will be working on that for the rest of my life), I started to really not like the fact that my ex-husband was doing it, more and more. But I still acknowledged on cold winter nights that I was glad in some part of me that my son had a bed to sleep in.

    Then, finally, my ex got sick of it all too.

    I believe this: When a person who is capable but lives the life of a victim (for whatever reason) continues to be "helped", on some level they hate it, and on other levels (just like us) they like it.

    They will never try to be responsible for themselves until all supports are pulled out from under them. I have no idea why this is true and I will never understand it and that is okay too.

    I have seen that to be true over and over and over in many lives.

    The person who is "helping" is actually keeping the person crippled. My aunt and I drove to Georgia in January to see about my 64-year-old cousin who has Downs. My aunt and uncle are the "best people in the world" and also the biggest enablers of their---yes, I'm going to say it: Loser Daughter who spends all day in her room watching TV. She is 41 years old. My aunt and uncle who are 75 years old can't retire (they won't allow themselves to---that is why I say can't) because they are supporting this Loser Daughter and her two children.

    The whole situation is very sick. But it's not going to change because my aunt and uncle are not going to stop. This has been going on for decades. The Loser Daughter has them bamboozled. They think they "have" to do it.

    They are allowing themselves to be held hostage by their love for her.

    Who knows what she really might be capable of doing if they would stop?

    I resisted the urge (which is a much smaller urge than it used to be) to talk to my aunt about what she "should" do while we were on the trip together. As a result, she opened up and told me way more than I really wanted to know. She holds a lot of it in when she talks to my mom, her sister, because she is ashamed.

    It's really sad.

    I'm sorry about your stepson. I don't think you can do a single thing about the situation. In fact, when his mom calls to complain about all she has to do, I would just say: I'm sorry.

    Don't take it on, don't try to tell her anything, don't engage with the circular drama. She'll stop when and if she gets ready to stop, or she won't.

    It is so sad to observe this type of thing, for all parties involved. The alternative---stopping enabling---is also very hard and sad.

    Warm hugs to you today.
  7. hopeandjoy66

    hopeandjoy66 Member

    This is it exactly.
    I too believe this to my very core.
    We tried to tell her and she said she knows that she is doing this, but she said that she just can't stop. She says she is working on it. So.... It is what it is.
    I will let go of this guilt. Thanks for understanding where I am coming from on this. I thought it was only me that felt these things.
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  8. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member


    as you have filled out the story, I think you are doing exactly right. You have talked with her, you see things clearly, we all would agree she is not actually helping him (he needs to learn to manage on his own, as he will have to should something happen to her),and she is scratching her OWN itch and seems aware of it. You are a good "ex in law" and a good partner in the family. Let it go. There is no value you to your "cosuffering" in her codependency.

    Try and have a nice weekend and by all means a nice Valentines Day!

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  9. hopeandjoy66

    hopeandjoy66 Member

    Thanks RE, we intend to enjoy. Like I posted at another time. We will be snowbirds before you know it and in the mean time we will enjoy the here and now.
  10. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    I don't think you are. You have no control over your stepson or his bio-mom. That is their relationship and it's her choice to do what she's doing.
    I wonder if she has any clue to the degree in which she enables him and the long term damage it can cause? Have you or your husband every discussed it with her? The longer she continues the more the son will rely on her and she won't be around forever.
    Bottom line for me to all parents who have been blessed with these difficult adult children is we the parents won't be around forever and then what. What will our little darlings do then??? Better they learn now that mommy and daddy can't take care of them.
    I don't know that I would interfere, I suppose it would depend on if I or husband got along reasonably well with her that I might mention the above fact.
  11. pandora404

    pandora404 New Member

    Classic Karpman drama triangle! 31 year old difficult child is original "victim", his bio mother the original "rescuer" and your tough love-minded husband and you are the "persecutors". But when the "rescuer" gets tired, he or she often swaps roles with the "persecutor". If the bio-mum becomes the persecutor, your husband is forced to become the rescuer. This is sadly familiar to me because that stupid cycle has going on in my own family for a couple of years, and I'm trying to break it. Even if you are aware of it, it's not easy.

    in my opinion you should stop totally worrying about getting a free ride. You are probably the most mentally healthy person on the scene. in my opinion your only role here should be to support your husband, whatever actions he decides to take or not to take.

    Boy! This is a perfect description of how I am feeling at this exact moment. Right now my husband is paying my difficult (and undeserving) child's rent as a so-called "loan". (I actually didn't him want him to do it, but the relief it brought!)

    However I have to admit, it's not exactly concern for the difficult child that motivated him. To some degree, it's selfishness. In my family's case, in the fairly recent past (August 2014) for about a week when he was homeless and the house was empty during the day, he broke in through a window early in the morning (I guess he waited until his father's car was gone) and slept, ate and showered then departed before 4 pm. So what looks like enabling, is also keeping the difficult child at bay.

    Even when my difficult child was paying the rent himself, I used to go there every once and a while, and, working alongside him, remove many bags of rubbish. I also changed his sheets and took away dirty clothes. This was partly because I was afraid the difficult child would be kicked out of his accommodation if the landlord saw (and smelt) the state of his room. The stress of worrying about him becoming homeless, and the inability to sleep which came with that, made the "enabling" behaviour the lesser of two evils. Maybe this applies to a lot of enablers out there.
  12. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    I think you're right for a lot of us... if it were just "to enable or not enable", it would be easier. But there is a downside on both sides, so it's about choosing the lesser of two evils.
  13. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    I cherish the honesty and compassion in Echo's answer.

    For a variety of reasons, our children (or our mothers, or someone else that we love) just aren't coping well. There is no simple way to turn away from that. At the same time, though we can help to the point of exhaustion, we eventually learn to acknowledge that it is impossible to change their situations.

    Helping isn't helping.

    That is why we turn away.

    Because against every true thing we know or can learn and no matter how hard we try, helping isn't helping.

    It isn't enabling until it doesn't work.

    When it doesn't work enough times, we need support to learn how to detach from the emotions involved in watching someone we love self-destruct.

    There is nothing easy about any of this.

    There is no black and white, here.

    We are living and working and functioning through lives filled with the kinds of harrowing choices most people cannot even imagine.

    The consequences are very real.

    Unlike the majority of people in the world, our task here on the site is to learn how to function, how to understand and continue to love ourselves and our people through what are real, wrong, pain filled, and very complex, situations. Detaching from the emotions surrounding the choices we find it necessary to make where our troubled loved ones are concerned is a right thing, but it is not a simple or easy thing. Our hearts break to know those we love are suffering at the same time our resentment is flaring away because we know darn well they are only suffering because they continue to choose crazy. Our resentment boils away in the background; shame has its place in all this, too.

    But below zero temps are below zero temps. It is impossible to stand on principles that made such good sense, when it was summer, when our self-destructing kids have gone homeless and we know flesh can freeze solid in a matter of hours and frostbite can happen in minutes.

    For those who don't have that particular nightmare to contend with,vulnerable babies, grandchildren without adequate clothing or stable home lives are vulnerable babies and grands living in bad or dangerous neighborhoods, whatever the weather.

    It's a confusing, painful mess.

    There are no simple answers; there is a cold, clear-eyed decision to survive it that each of us makes. For me, and for most of us here I think, that decision was made out of desperation, out of a wild kind of "maybe this will work."

    Turning away, disclaiming responsibility, carries its own set of consequences.

    If your loved one is harmed (and this does happen ~ it happened to me), the roil of emotion is unbelievable. I could know I was right in what I had chosen for myself...but the consequences in real life, the consequences to real, living people that we love, are very, very hard to face.

    Our situations are difficult. This is not of our doing. We must not blame ourselves or those who have not yet walked where we have walked and come, out of desperation and a crazy kind of hope, to detachment.

    It is the situation we all find ourselves in that is bad.

    Not the enabler, whose only crime is loving some troubled someone and becoming trapped in something she cannot see her way out of because the person she is trying to help will continue making bad choices. Not the difficult child, though he or she is the only one who can change her situation.

    It is important for us to remember, for the sake of our own humanity, that we would help them if we knew how.

    To learn that helping isn't helping, to believe it enough to survive the hellishness of saying "no" only happens over time. If we have come to that point, we should say a prayer of gratitude every night of our lives for having come through it. For those who have not reached that extreme edge we have had to crawl out onto, we should, we "should" and we must, feel compassion, not judgment.

  14. pasajes4

    pasajes4 Well-Known Member

    My ex-husband is allowing my oldest son and oldest son's alcoholic girl friend live with him. Son had a bright future and threw it away when he met this incubus. I do not feel guilty about not helping him. I do not hate that the ex has taken them in. It was his choice. Ex thinks I am awful because I won't take them in. He complains, not to me, non-stop about the both of them to our oldest daughter. Daughter tells him that he knows what to do about it so do it or stop complaining.
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  15. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member

    Cedar, thank you for this today. This good, true, simple, clear thought is really helpful.

  16. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    My closest friend lost her sister to aloholism when her sister was 49. Her sister's husband was left to bring up 4 boys, then aged 2,4,6 and 8.

    Fast forward 25 years.

    Eldest nephew is a gambling addict. He has lost his job, wife, home and daughter as a result of his addiction. He has massive debt and lives from hand to mouth. She has 'lent' him thousands of pounds, supposedly so that he can clear his debts and get his life back on track. Of course this doesn't happen. He has gambled away a huge load of her life savings. She is a major enabler. This is because she feels major trauma at the fact that her sister died and the boys were left, that she was unable to prevent this happening, that she is somehow trying to replace her nephews' mother.

    I have told her straight that giving him more money for him to continue his gambling is enabling, destructive, feeding his addiction.

    She continues to believe his sob stories and continues to give him handouts whenever he begs and he continues to gamble it away.

    You can't stop another person's enabling behaviour, just as you can't stop your children following their own paths. They have to see it for themselves and stop themselves.

    You're not coasting along on a free ride. The mother is making her own choices and you can't feel guilty about another person's choices.
  17. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    Enabling is for us. It's not for them. Enabling allows us to feel better, comparatively speaking.

    And in time, we do learn how to help them. We learn that the way to help them is to stop helping them.

    And then, the pain is shifted back to us.

    The transition (years) from enabling to not enabling (a lifetime's work) is extremely painful to bear.

    That's why people don't do it. That's why I fall off the wagon. And when I'm HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired), I almost always fall off the wagon.

    In time, as we hear that by taking care of ourselves, we ultimately can let other people go, we start to understand a little bit what that means.

    It's a full time job, leaving us no time for the part time jobs of being in other people's business.

    This road is a very confusing one because it goes against so many things we have come to believe. And if you're like me, you believe your situation is different, and if you can just come up with the right combination of words and actions, the tide will turn. And then, after 10 years of doing the same thing over and over and getting the same result, even the slow learners start to learn.

    Hard stuff, this stuff is.
  18. Jabberwockey

    Jabberwockey Well-Known Member

    What is that old saying? Give a man a fish and he eats for a day but teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. Unfortunately we are dealing with those who don't want to learn and often don't acknowledge the need. Excellent post Cedar because the curse of enabling is VERY similar to that of addiction. By the time its bad enough that you notice the problem, the behavior has been going on for years and is difficult to change.

    Hopeandjoy, he and his bio-mom are both adults who will make their own life choices. You cant make those decisions for them so don't beat yourself up over the fact that, at least most of the time, those decisions are beneficial to you. Remember, Not My Circus, Not My Monkey!
  19. hopeandjoy66

    hopeandjoy66 Member

  20. hopeandjoy66

    hopeandjoy66 Member

    Opps.Press a button to soon.
    Thanks to you all for your lessons learned and very wise insights. I do believe a man needs to learn to fish to eat. Somewhere along the line our difficult child was taught but the task was taken from him from a very early age by doing the fishing for him. Very sad.
    I agree also with Cedar that the curse of enabling is very similar to addiction. People get entwined so badly that undoing all the knots is almost impossible.
    I grew up with a very strict mother. Actually, abusive in so many ways. The day after graduation I left home and new I would never go back. I was never given the chance to have an opinion or say about anything. She was entangled in a mental / emotional way, you felt what she told you to feel. She continued that behavior until I was 44 years old. I realized that I was allowing her to still do this to me. I didn't like it so I had to change it. Not easy.
    It has been my vow,not to meddle in my adult kids lives. Not always easy, but I did recognize that it was for them to solve their problems. Trust me not always easy. Today, I am more than willing to give advice when it is asked for and when they ask for it I do understand they will take it or leave it, but that it is their life to live.
    I now understand that the hardships we have,(for me as child right up until I was 44 with my mother) makes us who we are today. The lessons have been invaluable. I wish I had recognized what I had to do earlier. I wish that for our difficult child's bio mom. I don't believe anything will change for difficult child until mom is untangled.