According to statistics, 4.2 million young people in the United States experience binge drinking at least once every month. More than eight hundred thousand of these individuals have reported binge drinking at least five days in a month. These numbers illustrate how underage drinking has become a serious problem in the US.
Parents are responsible for looking after the well-being of their sons and daughters. However, some parents end up being enablers instead of seeking alcohol and drug abuse interventions.
To truly help children suffering from substance use disorders, parents should be willing to confront them about the consequences of alcohol abuse and stand their ground.
What is Enabling?
Enabling an alcoholic son or daughter isn’t just about giving them money to support their substance abuse problem or giving them a place to stay. Generally, parents become enablers when they delay the moment where their children are forced to confront the gravity of their actions.
Signs of enabling an alcoholic are often characterized by the following:
- Blaming other people or situations other than the alcoholic;
- Downplaying the severity of their child’s alcohol or drug addiction or their situation;
- Ignoring the alcoholic’s negative or dangerous behaviors;
- Condoning an addict’s behavior;
- Lying on the son’s or daughter’s behalf to protect them from consequences;
- Making excuses for your loved one’s addiction;
- Prioritizing the needs of an addicted individual before their own; and
- Providing emotional support to one with an alcohol problem and denying their own mental health needs.
When parents act as if nothing is wrong with their child’s behavior and forgo the need to seek substance abuse intervention, they’re negatively enabling behaviors and sending a signal to the alcoholic that there’s no need to correct or change their habits.
The Different Patterns of Enabling Relationships
Parents’ motivation to enable a loved one’s substance abuse issue is often triggered by four different things: fear, guilt, hope, or victim. Alcoholics generally have different manipulation tactics to gradually train their parents and the whole family into enabling their habit.
In this type of enabling pattern, the alcoholic would make several threats when their parents confront them about their alcohol abuse. Often, alcoholic sons and daughters would tell their parents and family members that they will perform acts of self-harm or cut ties with the family.
Parents fear that their attempt to correct their son’s or daughter’s behavior will result in potentially dangerous behavior.
Some alcoholics blame their parents for their addiction. For instance, a son might say that his parents weren’t there when he needed help, which encouraged him to become an alcoholic. Some children would even say that how their parents raised them led them to become an alcoholic.
Hope-based enablers will think that their loved ones are on the verge of turning over a new leaf or making a positive breakthrough, but will lose any progress if they don’t continue to provide support. This “progress” is often a lie that alcoholics use in order to secure support from their loved ones.
In this type of enabling pattern, alcoholics see themselves as blameless victims and think that nothing is their fault. Alcoholics often blame their addiction on a specific situation or person.
Enabling and Codependency: What’s the Link?
Enabling relationships take place because of codependency. This kind of relationship develops when two people depend on each other to satisfy certain needs that they can’t satisfy on their own.
Parents often enable their children because their children bring a sense of purpose to their lives.
Seek Professional Help
For parents to address their son’s or daughter’s substance use disorder, they should first address codependency by seeking professional help for alcohol and drug intervention programs. This will make it easier for parents to stop enabling and help their children heal from the damages that triggered their alcohol and drug use addiction.