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Love vs. Enabling

anonymous anonymous
My daughter has been to treatment programs, NA groups, jail programs, psych holds for meth psychosis, rehabs, halfway houses and everything you can think of probably more than 20 times. She is a stimulant user of meth and crack. I am the only person that she can still count on in her life because she has lied, betrayed, threatened and verbally abused everyone including me so many times that no one in the family will see her again. Last year I got a restraining order against her after she came over and I caught her stealing items to sell and she got violent when I stopped her. That was really hard to do to my only child. After 20 times of trying am I still enabling her when I help her get into programs to quit? She will still call me every few months and ask for help again and again and it always ends with her getting kicked out of programs for using or just running away. I do not know if I stop helping her? Everyone says I should. Is this a part of letting her hit rock bottom but then what is the point of her hitting rock bottom if she can’t get any help? She is only 27.

Rob Danzman Says...

Dear Anonymous,

I'm so sorry to hear about your struggles with your daughter and wish I had either a quick fix or better news. The bottom line is A) You will always love her because she's your daughter and B) You can not provide enough money, intervention or help to save her (at least not by yourself). This is the point where we (our clinicians) change the conversation from 'intervention for child' to 'boundary setting for parents.' If you were our client, I would help you identify, create and maintain healthy boundaries for yourself - limiting how you respond to your daughter's requests/demands. We already know your daughter will attempt to violate any limit you put into place (we kindly refer to this as negotiating). Let's focus on the person we can control - you. The best control is setting those boundaries you will not cross (ie. sending more money when she calls). This process should not be done alone and should include everyone in your daughter's life with whom you can effectively communicate. The more family and friends adopt this new perspective (set boundaries for the sober people, not the person on drugs) the more effective and (slightly) less stressful your lives will be. WARNING: She will not like this approach and will accuse you of conspiring all her friends and family against her. This is just another form of negotiating, trying to ultimately get money for drugs. When the world is consistent and the boundaries are clear and enforced, she will fight to find any loop pole to get what she wants. 

As for your daughter. If she were our client, we would contact a magistrate/judge and have her involuntarily placed in long (and I mean really long term) residential treatment. She clearly did not have a long enough treatment with the right therapy and the right team. While the brain's ability to heal is amazing, there are some of us that require a significantly longer period without drugs in our system before our neurons can rewire. 

In summary:

1) No, you can not change her. Yes, it is kind of enabling for you (and anyone else) to give her money. Focus on setting rules/boundaries/limits with yourself and others related to what you will give to her and when you will give it. Example: Commit to yourself you will only give her food, water, rides, clothing - No money, no access in your home, and nothing of significant value (she'll sell it for quick cash). 

2) Your daughter is not dead. There is hope. She just needs a different set of supports/interventions than what have been previously tried. 

I hope this information provides some perspective on a terrible situation which is not your fault. Best of luck. 

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Page last updated Oct 24, 2013

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