Recovering enablers


I wanted to ask a question of those that used to enable.

How and when did you wake up?
Was it something someone said or something you realized?
What did it take for you to stop enabling?


Face the Sun
For me it was realizing, finding out from other family members and my DCs friends that she manipulated me every time. I always thought I was helping her "get back on her feet" after this catastrophe or that one. My husband (who basically told me he couldn't live with me anymore if I didn't get it together, we have been together nearly 40 years), my best friend, my sister and my children finally convinced me that I had to start taking care of myself, because my dive into the abyss was hurting them! It was also when my Difficult Child had no empathy for the fact that every penny I made as a freelance writer to help in my retirement, went to her. She did not care, after all, if I really loved her, I would deplete my entire savings to support her poor choices. Realizing I was hurting her by not letting her suffer the consequences of her choices has been pivotal and believe me, there are times when I still would like to save her, but I I know that is trying to control something I can't control. Having this place to come visit with others about their journey helps keep me on the right path.

Love and light.


100% better than I was but not at 100% yet
I started to change when I actually felt I had done EVERYTHING on earth to help my son (he was a minor when he started on the wrong path) and he just continued to get worse. The more I did to "help" the more he slid down the wrong side of the fence. It started to take a huge toll on me and my marriage.

This was after years of enabling. But my son was also a minor at the time so it is a lot easier to enable.

When I found this site and read other's stories and when I went to therapy for MYSELF because I could no longer cope, that is when everything turned around. I decided if I couldn't help him I'd have to help myself. My husband was supportive of anything I mentioned to him and I shared any new knowledge with him.

I wish I had done it all sooner. It's a VERY LONG process unfortunately.


Well-Known Member
Reading the Article on Detachment at the beginning of this forums list (usually in the top 4 posts) and attending AlAnon helped me to cut back on enabling. And when my Difficult Child turned 18 I pretty much said you are own your own. No cash. I was willing to pay copays to see her psychologist or her GYN for birth control. Unfortunately she refused BC. Even when I told her I would give her $50 cash to get the BC shot.

She is now 5 months pregnant. Ksm


Active Member
Thank you for this question - it's really important. What others have said resonates with me.

I don't know if I fit into the 'used to enable,' but I am better than I was. My DS was given alcohol and pot at age 11 by his father (my ex). I didn't know that for a few years, so I felt guilt about it. I think what happened for me is that no matter what I did or gave: rides, money, housing, emotional support, rehab, etc. - nothing changed for long. My DS and then my daughter were nice (manipulative) until they got what they wanted, then they returned to being verbally abusive or ignoring me.

They kept me in a FOG of fear, obligation, and guilt. Won't a mother do anything for her children, they said. How could I be so selfish. I can't remember a time since they have been adults when they have gone out of their way or showed compassion to me in any of my difficulties. When I set firm boundaries with my daughter, she cut me out of her life and, consequently, my grandchildren's lives. It hurt, but the abuse from her hurt worse. Even though we live in the same town, I have not seen her in over 2 years. I believe she struggles with both addiction and mental illness (borderline?).

My DS stopped talking to me last month because I set a boundary about giving him money, and he went into a verbal tirade that was cruel and unacceptable. I blocked his phone.

I wish I could say that the money, time, and everything else helped my two turn their lives around. It did not. My husband (their stepdad) helped me to keep boundaries because it was his money also.
I gave in many, many times. I can't say that I won't ever find myself there again, but I take it one day at a time to not enable.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, I did enough therapy, 12 step, reading, this site, etc. to know that under no circumstance should I allow myself to be treated badly, and I should not feel guilty after 30 years of working hard to use the resources I have to help me have a good retirement. If I don't treat myself with love and respect, who will?


Well-Known Member
I quit enabling after taking my son to rehab for the 4th time, he burst through the doors and refused to finish the intake process. He got in my car and I couldn't get him out. The police finally talked him out.

I drove home and 2 hours later he showed up. He walked 10 miles to my home. He sat on the front lawn for 4 days. It was truly a standoff. It was painful to watch him suffer. I was out of money, time, patience, sanity and he had stolen from me.

After the standoff I did drop him at the rehab. He said he didn't go in because he didn't want me to find out that he had done math and heroin.

When he relapsed shortly after, I cut him off. He decided to be homeless so I stopped. I read the book codependent no more and just told him I would not be giving him money anymore.

Every once in a while I got him a food gift card and bought him a tent. As soon as I stopped enabling, it made it harder for him to get high. He had to get a job to use or beg, or whatever.

That's when I started to heal. He took the news pretty good. The conversation went like this:
J, I know that I have been enabling you to use drugs and I am sorry for that. You deserve a mom who respects herself and makes good use of the money she earns. I hope you figure it out. I love you and I am turning you over to God."

His response: "I get it mom, thanks and I'm sorry ".

He's a kind boy, I'm lucky. But even if he was to kick and scream and cuss me, I had already made up my mind. I just told him out of love and moved on.

He offers to help buy his sisters Christmas this year. I let him!


Well-Known Member
Acacia, reading your post was like reading the story of my Life. Unfortunately, I used up some of my retirement and I am still enabling both my kids. I am finally on the right track even though it's a rollercoaster track.
Prayer helped me so much today. I am not going to give up....

Peace and Love


My husband keeps me/us on the right track. My DS knows he won't give to someone who is unwilling to help themselves or shows the lack of respect or just being completely unappreciative. Our other two children know this as well. If it wasn't for him, I would have easily been sucked in by her all the way, especially since there are two little girls now.

I truly appreciate everyone sharing your stories with me and the rest of the members. It makes me so upset that any of us have to go through this it's so heart breaking. Our once kind, gentle, sweet babies turned into monsters. My son and other daughter deserve to have a happy mom. I don't want to rob them of that.


Active Member
I am not there yet, but am further along the path than I was before. The support from this forum has helped me to step back from my Difficult Child. I still live with constant fear and worry, though.


Well-Known Member
How and when did you wake up?
Was it something someone said or something you realized?
What did it take for you to stop enabling?
My situation feels complex. Because my enabling came as a consequence of not enabling. I used tough love at first. My son careened downwards. I could not take it. That I enabled wasn't guilt. It was responsibility. And enmeshment, I guess.

About 8 years ago I kicked my son out cold turkey. I just told him to leave. I would not open the doors and I would not respond to his banging on the windows. I didn't even take him to a shelter. Before this, I had not enabled. I could not tolerate his not doing for himself. He had become mentally ill. He would not work, go to treatment, school, or do one other thing. I could not abide that. He was 23 at the time.

What happened was that family friends with a hotel in a high-cost famous city took him in and enabled him. For over two years, he paid nothing to stay in a high priced hotel. There he became addicted to marijuana. He did not work. Eventually, when he left there, he got on SSI. In 8 years he has worked very, very sporadically.

My enabling began about 3 years after my son left home, which was about 5 years ago. I came here to this forum about 4.5 years ago at a point I was considering enrolling in college courses so that I could sit in the classroom with my son to make sure he attended, and to make sure he did his assignments. I did not even see how nuts this was. I was crazy with worry and grief.

It was here on this forum that I realized I had gone crazy. The mothers here told me straight, that I had veered way out of bounds. The fascinating thing is that over time many of these same mothers saw that I had a very low tolerance of distance from my son. Some urged me to bring my son home, despite his manipulation and despite the issues that had grown worse, rather than better.

Over the past few years my son has been in a home I own at least half of the time. It has NEVER worked. Every single time he comes home he breaks agreements, does not pay rent, lies, does as little as possible, etc. He has taken advantage of the situation every single time. I have been enabling, one hundred percent. I have known it.

I kicked him out again yesterday. He had spent a third of his SSI money on marijuana by the fifth day of the month. Since we've been trying this (his living in a home I own) there had never been a month that a variation of this had not occurred.

What could I do? The truth was inescapable. I was subsidizing his addictions, but somehow this time I could no longer abide it. There was no way that I could imagine that trying one more thing, one more way, could lead to a positive outcome. There was nothing else to try.

It was clear as day to me that I was the problem. It's not that I caused my son's bad behavior. But I was supporting it.

I did not wake up. It was that the reality of the situation was all around me. It was inescapable.

I think my son sees it too. I think that as long as I was in denial, he felt trapped. It's like my FOG trapped him too. And when I somehow stepped outside of it, he was freed.

Does he like it? No. He was pissed. But he understood. And in one day he sounds happier, and freer.

I am not saying that it's all better. That I'm changed or that he's changed. What I am saying is that when forced to face the reality I was co-creating with my son, I turned the kaleidoscope. I do believe that this shift will give my son a shot that he would not have had, had I continued enabling him.

In retrospect, I see positive things from each phase we have gone through. Even though my son plummeted when I threw him out 8 years ago, I think I did the right thing, if he would not help himself.

There are bottom lines in life. I believe acting from the position that my son is capable of doing the right thing, was an act of confidence and faith.

However I have doubted my actions for many years. There have been people who have questioned my son's capacity, and I have had doubts too. He has gotten serious diagnoses, that have called into question his ability to get better or to do for himself. This has really caused me a great deal of suffering, and doubt. Still, I believe I acted correctly. He deserved to test himself. He still does.

I believe I also did the right thing these past 5 years trying so hard to make it work. My son has seen how much I will put on the line for him. He knows how deeply I love him, and will fight for him. I believe I have tried to support his potential and capacity. Despite the fact there are no tangible results I see maturity. I have hope.

Finally, making him leave, again, I also believe is the correct thing to do. I believe a parent has to have a bottom line, and has to live from a bottom line for her adult child. So. In this I believe the same as 8 years ago.

I think it is a very, very hard thing to nuance this. To act from deep love and support and at the same time to have boundaries. There is no way of knowing what will be the right thing. It is an act of faith, really.

I wrote entirely too much, here. What I want to say is that for me enabling is not a black and white thing. Of course enabling is never a good thing. But for me and my child it is been the correct thing to spiral back and forth from support and openness to more rigid boundaries. But the risk to support and openness is that it morphs into enabling; at least for me.

I'm quite sure not everybody here agrees with me. And I can't say what I have done is right. I can only say that it has been right for me and for my son. He's still OK. He still has chances. I know I can't change anything in him, about him, or for him. That's the great shift for me. That what I do, either right or wrong, is not the mover here. He is the mover. I can't anymore cause him to succeed. Or to fail. But I can love him and act from love and support.

The one who has changed is me. I can tolerate now that my son go at his own pace. I try to stay in the present moment, with hope and faith. I try not to be so afraid. For me, this is a big change.

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New Member
I just wanted to thank everyone who shared here. My sister and her husband enable my niece in her behaviors and drug use, and a lot of your posts helped me understand the place they're in right now. What makes it more complicated is her being 14 years old, so cutting her off is not an option. I hope they wake up soon.


Thank you for sharing @Copabanana. I realize its different for everyone. My situation involves two babies and it just complicates my feelings so much more. If it was just my daughter, I could deal with that so much better.


Active Member
im not sure there is ever a point at which we can say ‘we’ve stopped enabling’. Its a constant battle with ourselves. Ive had many stop enabling moments. When i threw my son out at 18, when i refused to get him from the hospital after an overdose, when i refused to bail him out of jail. But there were many enabling behaviours inbetween. For me, the biggest leap was when my son went to Federal Prison for five years for armed robbery and i couldnt have contact with him, it was a release for me. However i continued to enabling his girlfriend(mother of my grandkids) and I can’t honestly say I have 100% stopped enabling my son . Im working on detangling myself from his ex right now. But i see These behaviours in me with everyone. i’m very blessed that somehow my second marriage despite my enabling behaviour, I managed to marry a very good and relatively healthy man. he sees what I do and calls me on it frequently. I Recently took a much-needed vacation with a girlfriend. however I was stressing terribly about it to the point that I wasn’t going to enjoy it. I was trying to make premade meals for my husband and younger son with detailed instructions on how to prepare them, and my husband stopped me, And said “you’re not as important as you think you are, We will get along fine without you.” in fact when I got back from my vacation not one of those meals have been eaten, they looked after themselves. We are often our own worst enemies and see problems where there arent any. we also anticipate problems that haven’t even occurred to try to find ways of avoiding them. it’s all about trying to control the chaos instead of stepping back from the chaos. so there isn’t and I don’t think there ever will be a magic point at which I can say I’ve stopped being an enabler. But through self knowledge we can learn to recognize it and perhaps use our ability to anticipate and pre-plan to find ways to protect ourselves from enabling behaviour. i’ve learned now that when people come to me with a problem, to listen and respond with sympathy instead of answers. As soon as you give answers or advice to someone you have taken some responsibility for their problem. how many times have we given advice, answers or help to our Difficult Child and then when everything falls apart anyway they jump on that as a way to blame it on us. as an example I lent my sons ex-girlfriend money to pre-buy a phone so that she could go on a cheaper phone plan. she got cut off because she went way over the amounts on the phone plan and the bill got too big. she then refused to pay me the money she owed me saying it was my fault for putting her on an inappropriate plan. i’m sure we all have similar stories with the same theme, we help someone and therefore we become responsible for the result. For all of us out there we know that anxiety when the phone rings or the text comes in from our Difficult Child. they only really contact us when there’s a problem. Now i screen my phone calls or I don’t immediately respond to a text. if you’re like me you get very anxious and you must answer right away and usually you regret that answer. so take a deep breath don’t answer, Think about it for a while so that when you do answer you’re not answering emotionally. I always try to think of a way to frame the answer so as not to give advice, only sympathy and not to take responsibility.Such as “ wow that’s terrible I can see why you’re stressed.” or if they insist on trying to get advice out of me(so They can blame me later) I will come out and say” I don’t really know what to tell you I’ve never been in a situation like that, It’s up to you” and I will also do other things, such as my son’s ex-girlfriend does not know that I’m retired, She thinks I work 3 to 11 every evening which makes me unavailable for her when my family is home from work and school. And in keeping with this fiction of course I can’t answer the phone no matter how bad the “emergency”. I guess all I’m saying as I think we’re all a work in progress, even those that are further along that road thab others that we would look at and say they are recovered enabler’s, there’s a reason they keep coming back here. they know themselves, they keep coming back so they don’t forget themselves. I’ve come here on and off for many years. I can see the progress I’ve made, I can also see how very easily I can slip deeply back into that behaviour.


Well-Known Member
Thank you for asking this question. Looking through the responses gave me a needed boost. I think that even those of us who have been here awhile need that. Things that contributed to my bottom were the loss of a relationship with my other children. Repeated coaxing from my husband and friends. Realizing it will never stop as far as money is concerned unless i stop it. Realizing that although i love my son i don't trust him and i don't really want to be around him. I deserve to enjoy my retirement not give it away and if there is a small inheritance my other children are entitled to some. But perhaps the biggest thing is i am just tired. Through the encouragement and kindness of the people in this forum, a counselor my husband and friends i feel less and less guilty about this. Recently i talked with someone who has been in my sons place and he said to me you have done your due diligence its time to stop. I also pray a lot and it has gone from please get him out of this to please do what is best for him. I hope you are able to find what motivates you to stop enabling or help who is to stop. I think it is different for all of us. Prayers


Well-Known Member
Beautiful, T & T.

It is sad when we can not have normal relationships with one or more of our kids. But we would not let anyone else treat us that way because it's just not right or healthy for us and the person.

Yet we all deal with this sad event in our own ways and we all have our own lightbulb moments. Or at least most of us change the way we deal with bad or no relationship with a child. We get better at it for the most part. We wish it were different, but it isn't and the world keeps turning. And we keep growing.

I am proud of all of us.

God bless.

Tanya M

Living with an attitude of gratitude
Staff member
Great question! I know it's different for everyone.
For me it was somewhat a gradual awakening. I went through so many times of "helping" my son. When I say "helping" I really mean enabling but at the time, I did not see it that way. For so long I had the mindset, "this time will be different, this time he will get it together" Sadly, this went on for years. I would believe his "lies" to me that he was really trying and he knows he needs to change. I came to understand that he was simply telling me all the things I wanted to hear because then I would "help" him.
The absolute final straw for me was close to 10 years ago. My son had gotten married to a gal that I absolutely love! They got pregnant so they got married. My grand daughter was born and then my grandson. My son "played" all of us! He did a good job at making us all think he was really trying and once again, I bought all the lies he was dishing out and continued to "help"
The day came when my daughter in law had enough. You see, even though my son was good at playing all of us, he could only keep the ruse up for so long. His real character started to come out and my daughter in law tried for months thinking it would get better, hoping and praying that she could change him that if she only love him enough things would get better. She called me one day telling me that it was over, she was done, you see my son had been trying to find women online to hook up with. They split up. About a year before they split, they were in need of a car. Having two small children played on my heart so my husband and I bought them a nice used car. It was not cheap. The deal was, we would knock $1000.00 off the price of the car and they were supposed to pay us $100.00 a month till the car was paid off. We also paid for the insurance. Needless to say, I never received any payments from my son. He always had an excuse. Okay, back to them splitting up. My son kept the car. He said it was his because it was "his" parents that bought it.
My son was living in an apartment and supposedly working. He lied about working. I got in touch with him wanting to discuss him getting on track and paying us back for the car. That's when IT happened for me. That's when I decided I WAS DONE!!! My son told me that he didn't have the car anymore. He told me that he was behind on his rent so he gave the car to the landlord for the back rent. Yup, I was done.
As I said, it's different for each of us when IT happens and when we know WE ARE DONE. We each have a breaking point.
I honestly believe that had I found this site many years ago I could have saved not only thousands of dollars but my sanity.


Well-Known Member
Thank you DaisyC for this great question. My mother enabled my younger brother. I never saw any emotional growth in him each time I would visit. My mother made excuses for him and even asked me to pay his bills. She thought it was my duty to continue the enabling. My youngest brother is a handsome, fit, intelligent man that has won awards in math, but had been severely enabled. I also had the privilege of being around my husbands bipolar family and made my mind up that I will never be around another abusive person in my life. I went for therapy very early and set boundries but when the adult onset bipolar hit my daughter it was horrific. My breaking point was when my daughter stold a lot of money from me and was belligerent. When I blew her off for 3 months I got a deep down satisfied feeling that I did not have to put up with her nonsense... It was very hard too but it felt good and right.. NOTHING would have changed had I continued to enable and tolerate her horrific abuse.. Things are far from good but better and workable. The relationship still feels off balance.

New Leaf

Well-Known Member
It was the image of my son, 14, curled up on my bed in fetal position sobbing his heart out after another too many to count chaotic episodes happened in my home. That woke me up to the years of craziness of trying to “help” both of my daughters. In particular, Tornado and my three grands. Hubs and I had our minds on our grands and their mother’s attempts to leave their abusive father, wanting our grands to have a better life. Wanting our daughter to be safe, believing each time she would leave her boyfriend. I would rearrange the house, make room for all of them, only to have the boyfriend creep back into their lives....and ours.
Looking back, I regret that I can’t recover those years lost for my son. That I was in this fog of desperation for both of my adult daughters and their lifestyles, it clouded my vision and shattered the peace of our home and hearts.
I put my foot down and said no more.
Hubs was not at the same place I was.
That was hard, our eldest pounced on the divide and triangulated her father. I would come home from work to him washing her clothes while she showered, he would make her food. Then she would go back to her street life. I don’t know if he gave her money. This continued throughout his illnesses. When he was in the hospital she would call and promise to visit, then didn’t show. Near the end, he was in ICU and the doctors said he only had brain stem function, she showed up as we made the decision to honor his wishes to pass peacefully. She was angry and accused me of giving up on him. It was awful enough to have to deal with hubs death.....
I am sorry, this is difficult to write, horrible to read I imagine. This is a “nutshell” version of years and years of downward spiraling, our daughters one bad choice after another, our symbiotic desperation to “fix” them. I thought often that maybe this or that would be the moment my two would make a change, but they are still actively using.
And so it goes.
I had to give them back to God. It was the only way I could disentangle myself from the sadness and face the reality that I had no control over their choices, that they were going to do what they wanted to do no matter what.
A few months back, I visited my eldest in the hospital, her leg was badly infected. I cried at the sight of it, reeling back to hubs battles with sepsis. I pled with her to get off the streets, to take care of herself. She left the next day AMA.
She is on the streets with a dangerous, abusive felon.
Tornado is in jail and I am fostering two of her children.
She appeared at the latest permanency hearing expressing to the judge that she wanted to try to fulfill court orders to keep her parental rights. Rehab, classes, etc. I am cautiously optimistic, but guarded.
The system pushes for reunification, arguing that kids do well when parents get clean and step up.
How do I find balance with this?
That’s the hard part.
I know too much. Been through too much. Seen the same ole same ole too many times. Not to mention dealing with traumatized grands.
That’s a whole different thread.
I would be lying if I wrote that I am fine. That recovering from enabling is easy. It is not. Recovery will be a life’s effort, just as addiction is.
But, being back in that rabbit hole is not an option.
I am grieving the loss of two living adult children.I hope and pray for their recovery, and mine. I am still trying to define that, and myself. Life keeps throwing these curveballs at me. I’m trying to figure out what I am supposed to be learning from all of it.
One day at a time........


Well-Known Member
I am grieving the loss of two living adult children.I hope and pray for their recovery, and mine. I am still trying to define that, and myself. Life keeps throwing these curveballs at me. I’m trying to figure out what I am supposed to be learning from all of it.
One day at a time........
I wonder this too, what life lesson we are meant to garner from it all.

Prayers for you and yours, Leafy, and for all the moms and dads struggling.


Well-Known Member
Hugs and love ❤ to all the suffering going on here. We all need a break. What is going on in so many of our lives is heartbreaking.
Words like tough love, unconditional love, love is never having to say your sorry etc. That makes it hard for me to stop enabling because I have a difficult time separating them all, I just Love.
I hope and pray everyone has a great day.

Peace and Love