Supporting vs enabling....

Discussion in 'Substance Abuse' started by toughlovin, Aug 22, 2014.

  1. toughlovin

    toughlovin Well-Known Member

    So I was thinking about this issue this morning as I went to help my difficult child deal with one of the many beaurocracies in life!! I really think sometimes it is hard for those who for whatever reason are not in great situations. I see this in my work a is just harder to deal with issues if you have no money or if you have a record, or if you are homeless.

    I know some feel that we need to let our difficult children dig themselves of whatever hole they got themselves in.... but reality is that sometimes the systems out there sometimes make that almost impossible without help.

    And at least for me that means stepping in and helping my difficult child when he is trying to do the right things.... and not helping him when he is not.

    So here is todays example. My sons drivers liscense from this state was suspended at one point because there were warrants out for his arrest. Along his travels he lost his liscense and I had to help him then get birth certificates etc. to get ids in the states he was in. Ok so he currently had an ID from CA and a drivers liscense from Florida. Ok Good.

    Now he is in a halfway house and is on job search. He needs to get a job within 6 weeks or he is out... this is really what he needs to get a job and really start supporting himself. So this is a good track. I told him awhile ago that I would take him to the RMV to sort out his liscense. I knew that to get a job here he would probably need an ID from this state.

    So he checked with his probation officer and the warrants have been cleared in the system.

    He texted me yesterday that he had a couple of job leads but needs to get his state liscense and the sooner we could do that the better. So I was taking my daughter back to college yesterday and so that was no an option..... but I agreed to take him first thing this morning, giving up my knitting class to do so. I could have made him wait til next week but I decided that my hope is he will get a job soon and I want to support him to do that....

    So we went to the RMV this morning. What a runaround... his liscense was still suspended, but yes the warrants were gone so he could reinstate it for $100.... oh but wait his liscense expired in 2013. So he could transfer his Florida liscense but he needs proof of residence, birth and signature. Luckily from some experience with clients I knew some of this and had mentioned, needing something with his name and address on it before we went this morning... and so he got a letter from the place for proof of residence. His liscense from Fl was proof of birth or signature but not both .... so he needed either an original birth certficate or social security card, neither of which he had! We could have driven to the place he was born and gotten a birth certificate, but darn it I am trying to leave this afternoon to go away with my husband for the weekend and that would cost a lot of time. So I asked the woman if his suspended liscense from this state could count.... she asked a supervisor and thank goodness that would work if we paid to reinstate it. All of this was going to cost $200 in cash! Luckily they had an ATM right there.

    But honestly I am not sure my difficult child would have been able to negotiate all this and he definitely did not have the $200 to get his liscense!!! And if I had refused to help him with that he has no way of getting the money (legally) without a job, and he cant get a job without the ID!! Catch-22.

    So he did get his ID and I am glad I helped out.... but there are so many examples of this sort for kids who get into trouble with the law or have no money. Even when they are ready to do the right thing, there are obstacles in their way. And yeah if they can find the way around the obstacles on their own that is wonderful.... but for some I think the obstacles just make them give up.

    So I think there are many examples of where supporting them and helping them out is the right and best thing to do. And this may include sometimes getting them a lawyer if they have committed a crime..... not to excuse their crime, but to deal with the crazy court system which is its own crazy system.

    I just think the systems out there work against our difficult children when they are to the point of doing the right thing... and at that point sometimes they need our help.


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  2. dstc_99

    dstc_99 Well-Known Member

    You are right it is a fine line we walk. I want to let my difficult child know that if she needs help we will always be there BUT that in order to get that help she needs to be respectful and showing potential.

    I think you did the right thing for this one. Getting this done was a necessity for his continued well being. Now hopefully he can get that job and keep on getting better.
  3. toughlovin

    toughlovin Well-Known Member

    Totally agreed.... my difficult child was quiet this morning as I think he was nervous but he was respectful and very thankful for my help. And at least for now all evidence is showing he is clean and sober.


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  4. pasajes4

    pasajes4 Well-Known Member

    You did the right thing. There is nothing wrong in helping our young adults when it is for a good cause. You did not hand him cash.
  5. Signorina

    Signorina Guest

    You didn't enable him. You just helped him at his request and it was completely age appropriate. You did the right thing, in my opinion
  6. Calamity Jane

    Calamity Jane Well-Known Member


    For sure, that's a "supporting" and not an "enabling" in my book - you both did great. I hope he thanks God for a mom like you! I agree that very often people give up because a trip like you had today would have been insurmountable on his own. That's the sad thing for many people. So glad it worked out and hope he gets a job soon. You rock, and have a nice weekend!
  7. Lil

    Lil Well-Known Member

    I think that's a perfect example of supporting, along the lines of me paying for my son's duplicate license and buying him some interview clothes and shoes so he looks nice. I hope he gets a job soon and that you have a good weekend!
  8. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member

    Ive done stuff like that before. In fact just the other day Cory called me to ask where to get his medicaid card. I told him but when he services or social security I asked if he needed both his medicare and his medicaid. He needs both. So I told him how to get them. My first question to him though was WHEN is this doctor appointment? Normally he waits till the last minute and expects me to pull miracles out of the air. Not this time. appointment is for 9/10 but he wanted to get started on getting everything together...whew.

    One thing that kills me though, and I keep telling him this, when I was his age I was taking care of 3 kids, knowing where to get all their information and I was already at the point of dealing with IEP's!!! He would be so lost.
  9. Kathy813

    Kathy813 Well-Known Member Staff Member

    TL, we are going through the very same thing with our difficult child. She has gotten a full time job and is still doing well in the Intensive Outpatient Program/halfway house. In fact, she called us and proudly told us that the IOP was moving toward a peer leadership model and cutting back on their full time tech staff. difficult child was asked if she would like to serve as a peer leader in the halfway house and in return they would cut her rent in half.

    Her therapist confirmed all of this and then told us about the downside. difficult child would need to get her car registered and insured since cutting back on techs meant there would be less people to help drive her to and from her job. The halfway house is over two miles from the nearest bus stop and the busses stop running at 6:00 and difficult child often works until the salon closes at 8:00.

    Even her therapist seems to think we should help difficult child get the car running again. The problem is that difficult child let her insurance and registration lapse and got a ticket for driving without insurance. Also, once her insurance lapsed the great state of Florida suspended her license. So the amount to get her back legally driving her car will be around $900 which we originally refused to pay.

    So what do we do? She is in treatment, working, and has been recognized for doing so well that she has been asked to be a peer leader in the house. Her rent will only be $200 a month now so she can easily afford to pay her own expenses but everything rests on her being able to get back and forth to work.

    We finally decided that we would pay to get her car back on the road with the understanding that we immediately stop all other financial help.

    So are we supporting her or enabling her? It is a close call but I always go back to Fran's "do to get." She is doing the right thing so she is getting our help.

  10. toughlovin

    toughlovin Well-Known Member

    I agree Kathy that yo are supporting her because she is doing the right things for now.... and it makes sense for you to help her keep moving forward... and if she slips you let her fall.

    I will say the other day with my difficult child I did let him keep the extra 5$ from dunkin donuts... and then I had to give him the cash to pay the dmv (they would not take a credit card but they told me how much he needed so I gave him that amount). I really did not want to infantalize him by standing with him at every moment.... really want to let him handle as much as possible. Well when he came back he gave me back $40 and said it was not as much as they said. It crossed my mind that maybe they gave him back more and he kept some of it.... but I decided to let it go. I hope he didnt do that but I was not going to search him for it.... and really if he was going to do that why would he give me back anything. Dont know I took the chance.


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  11. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    TL I think of it this way, we are guiding and teaching our difficult child's how to take responsibility and straighten out the messes they have gotten themselves into. I did the same with my easy child and still do in ways, teaching her how to lease a car and rent an apartment and to understand contracts and what they mean and how to negotiate business and financial transactions. It's just that with our difficult children they are steps behind and we are teaching them things that they should have learned long ago but because of their drug use they didn't.

    I had to teach my difficult child how to pay bills and get out of debt and so may things she didn't learn because she was out of the house living the good life as she put it when she should have been at home learning those things. She is now living with her boyfriend who has no license because it was suspended years ago because of a DUI and driving will suspended. He owes back court costs and BMV fines and has no idea how to go about getting out of the mess. In the meantime my difficult child has to drive him everywhere. You are right that it is so difficult for people to work their way around all the obstacles even when they are ready to do the right thing. You need a license to drive and you need to drive to work.

    I do think you are walking the fine line very well and soem day I have hopes the lessons you are teaching your son will finally take hold.
  12. Scott_G

    Scott_G Member

    But how many times do you support them and watch them slip before enough is enough? Or are you there to support them indefinitely any time they seem to be moving in the right direction? I am at the point with my 32 year old son that if I have my way, he will never get anything from me again, ever. These kids (or adult kids) are master manipulators who are experts at telling us what we want to hear in order to get what they want. I can't tell you how much time, effort, and money we have put into our son over the years in situations where he said and gave the appearance he was trying to do the right thing, only to see him slip uo yet again shortly thereafter. Every time we trick ourselves into thinking this time will be different, but it never is. The last incident was money my wife gave him for a cell phone earlier this year. He showed up at our house one day all distraught. My wife was glad to see him because he hadn't returned any of her calls. His story was that someone beat him up and stole his smart phone while he was walking down the street. Of course he starts the drama about how he's been pounding the pavement filling out job applications and since his phone got stolen there is no way anyone can contact him about any jobs. He seems to be doing the right thing right? If a potential employer has no way to contact him how can he hope to get a job? So my wife buys him a new phone. No job ever materialized though. Of course they are going to tell us that they are doing the right thing (or that them doing the right thing hinges on us doing something for them). They know well enough that we aren't going to support them if they tell us they have no plans to do the right thing. But even if they are sincenerly trying and slip up, how many times are we supposed to be there to rescue them? After all, we didn't create their messes and our lives weren't a mess when we were their age? I have heard all the BS and hair brained plans over the years and i have had enough. My son is like the proverbial boy who cried wolf. I have heard the BS so much that if and when he sincerely needs help to turn his life around I want nothing to do with it.
  13. toughlovin

    toughlovin Well-Known Member

    Hi Scott..... I really think it all depends. How is that for an answer! It sounds like you and your wife are not completely on the same page which is hard, or you just look at it differently which is understandable. As a friend (whose older adult son had substance abuse issues) once told me he and his wife were watching a different movie... meaning they came at it from different perspectives.

    So I think we all have to do what feels right to us and that may be different for different people.

    My son is younger than yours by 10 years... I have to admit if we are still doing this in 10 years I am going to be even more sick fo it than I am now and probably even less willing to support and help him.

    I will also say that I have let my son at the age of 20 be homeless and live on the streets.... at that point he was not doing the right thing and was using.... although I did get him a sleeping bag and boots.

    So I understand about the manipulation and lies... and even now I am not always sure if I should believe my son or not. He may be lying to me to get stuff out of me... that is totally possible.

    However in my case I am not only believing him that he is doing the right thing... he is invovled in drug court and is in a court ordered program and so I have someone else watching him and he has someone (the probation officer and judge) that he needs to be accountable to. And so I have other evidence, besides his word that he is doing the right thing... and that makes me more willing to help him.

    I understand your wife getting your son a cell phone, even though in many ways that may also be enabling him.... for me when my son was homeless and for awhile had no phone, it was really hard not knowing if he was alive or dead. That was almost unbearable for me. At least when he has a cell phone I could check phone records or call or text him. And so I would do that again.

    So everyone has a different line of what is help and support. I dont think there is a right or wrong line.

    And I do think for me the line is going to get tougher and tougher as each year passes.


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  14. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    I actually think it is a good idea to help them once they are on the right track. It is pretty easy to tell if they are...the druggy friends are gone. Drug users don't like to hang with those who don't indulge with them both because misery loves company and because that's what they do to socialize. They also suddenly seem to understand that they have no choice but to conform if they want to get off the streets an d stop depending on their often very two-faced drug buddies. Working is a big GOOD JOB!!!! It may not mean the drugs are over, but it is a step in t he right direction. I would be more of an emotional cheerleader than a financial one, but that's up to the parents.

    I do think the older they get, the less apt the parents are to believe there is any real change and I think stopping young is more promising that continuing the behavior into the 30s.
  15. Kathy813

    Kathy813 Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Scott, we only are helping our daughter because she is in active treatment. We rely on her therapist to guide us on when to help her and when not to help her.

    Once she leaves treatment she will be on her own again. You are right, though, that there will have to be a point when we stop helping her at all.

    I understand your frustration. I really do.

  16. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time

    This is a great thread. I am dealing with this decision every single day right now. What is supporting and encouraging? What is enabling?

    It is so freakin' hard to know what to do.

    This is the second week that difficult child is on the job at McDonald's. First job in about 16 months. They are giving him 32 hours a week. He is still homeless.

    The McDonald's is one mile from my house, where he is training.

    He has a bike that he is riding, from someone who he knows who is in jail. We got him a bike lock. That lock broke, so I got him another one yesterday. Is that supporting? Is that enabling? I have no idea.

    He has not gotten a paycheck yet. He asked me for some of the money from his birthday (there was $150). I gave it to him.

    He and his homeless friends stay in hotels sometimes. They sleep outside sometimes. He can't take a shower at the day shelter on the days he works because it opens after he goes to work and it's closed by the time he gets off.

    Can't wash clothes there either, same reason.

    So I have let him take a shower three times at my house in the past two weeks, and have washed his clothes twice. Is that supporting? Is that enabling? I have no idea.

    I do know that I constantly caution myself. And now, i say some of the same things out loud to him. That takes the pressure off. I used to keep it all inside, and I would never say any of it to him, but I do today. I try to say it kindly but sometimes I hear myself, and it is very direct, strident, even harsh. I don't want to be that way, but I am at times.

    What is the solution? Distance, space and time. Doing what I can live with. Cautioning myself. Working my program--reading, writing, studying how to recover from the disease of enabling. Going to meetings. Using the tools in my toolbox.

    And I will admit that his dad is clearly helping him some, which I both am glad about---for myself, takes some pressure off me---and scared about---if we do it for him, he won't do it for himself.

    Ugh. This tightrope is a hard one to walk.

    Yesterday I said: Well, you could go to the Salvation Army right, to sleep, but it's clear that you have decided not to do that, is that correct? He said, yes, I am not going there. I asked why, is it because you are "mad" at them (due to the program he was in last year in another city with the SA). He said yes. I asked if that is false pride. He said I don't know what it is, I'm just not going to go there. So I said, well sleeping on the street must not be that bad. He said, truly it isn't. If the police would quit hassling us to move all the time, it would be okay.

    So there you have it.

    I cannot open my house---which I live in alone---all 3,000 square feet of it, to my son. That is a surreal thing to write and know and live. Instead, he lives on the street, and is trying to do better, it appears, working, but he is in a major transition.

    If I help him more, would it really help him, or hurt him? I have no idea. Every day, I say to myself: Wait. Don't rush it. Work your program. Let time take its time. Let him handle his life. Don't solve his problems.

    It is so hard. Yesterday I am on craigslist looking at rooms for rent. Ugh. Why am I doing that? Nuts.

    One day at a time.
  17. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Everyone has to walk that tightrope the best way for them. You are doing a great job in balancing that walk. It's good that he has a job. In my world doing little things to help him keep that job as long as he is doing his part, is in balance for me.
  18. toughlovin

    toughlovin Well-Known Member

    COM - it is a total balancing act and sometimes it is hard to know which side of the rope you are on!! I have been questioning myself a lot on this issue this week. Monday my son texted me that he had lost the subway pass I had gotten him... actually his claim was that it was stolen. There seems to be an issue at the house which immediately got me worried... was difficult child invovled in this type of behavior. Past history says maybe. In spite of my doubts I did agree to give him the money to pay back the person who got him another subway pass but was I enabling him? Then in a text I commented that I hoped he was squeaky clean, when I didnt hear from him I worried if I should have kept my mouth shut... would my doubts sense him off the rails? I reined myself in from that way of thinking, reminding myself I didnt cause this and one comment by me is not going to be the cause of him relapsing.... which as far as I know he hasnt done!!

    But jeez I can get myself tied up in knots from my own head and questioning of myself!

    Today he told me he had lost the copy of his birth certificate which he needed for a job interview.... so I hassled getting another copy from home!!

    So I took all that to him today and he actually looked and seemed good with a good attitude about the job interview... and he did reassure me that he is obeying all the rules... did not seem at all phased about my comment and when I gave him the money fro the subway pass, he showed me the pass eh bought which was time stamped. So he seems willing to show me what he is doing..... rather than being sort of "Why dont you trust me/believe me belligerant which is how has been in the past which is a total red flag.

    And he got the job.... delivering pizza (on foot in a very busy part of the city).!!!!

    So I actually think he has been telling me the truth but my own fears and worries and lack of trust had me doubting him. And it made me glad that even though I wasnt sure it was the right thing, I am glad I helped him. So tomorrow I am helping him again, got get an original copy of his birth certificate.

    So lets hope he keeps this job! He starts next week!!


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