When you are the parent of a teenager with a substance abuse disorder, THEIR disease can make YOU just as mentally sick? This is known as codependency.
Teen addiction is a paradox.
On one hand, the disease rapidly separates a young person from the good things in their lives—family, friends, school, sports, hobbies, and other healthy interests. And the resultant isolation only creates a downward spiral of depression and worsening addiction.
But on the other hand, everyone around the addict is also harmed by the disease, even while the interpersonal gulf continues to widen. Broken promises, neglected obligations, and addiction-driven dysfunction leads to severed friendships, disappointed teammates, worried teachers, and parents at their wits’ end.
Enabling – A Trap for Parents
The first instinct of every parent is to do everything they can to help and protect their addicted teenager. They probably feel guilty and ashamed that this has happened to THEIR child. To assuage their guilt, they try to help even more, going so far as to shield their child from the natural consequences of their actions.
And that overprotection becomes a problem.
In an effort to “protect” your substance-abusing teen, have you/do you:
- “Walk on eggshells” to avoid arguments?
- Keep quiet when you notice money missing?
- Hold your tongue when they are visibly impaired?
- Allow your child to hang out with bad influences?
- Drive them to places where you know they shouldn’t be?
- Let them drink or do drugs at home because it’s “safer”?
- Cover for them when they miss school or work?
- Bailed them out of jail?
If you do these things, you aren’t helping—you’re enabling their addiction to continue.
Look at it this way—if they never have to face the consequences of their behaviors, then they will never have any motivation to change. Why should they?
Codependency—The Addictive Disease for Parents
Soon, your relationship with your child becomes completely and unhealthily one-sided. They mess up in all the ways that only substance abusers can, and you clean up their messes. You both are being controlled by their addition.
Here’s the thing—because you are futilely spending all of your time trying to control their disease, your relationship gets distorted even further. YOU become addicted to THEIR addiction.
Do you or have you:
- Tried to micromanage their money?
- Gone through their phone and computer?
- Driven around looking for them?
- Stayed up waiting for them?
- Made empty threats?
- Blamed yourself for their addiction?
- Neglected other responsibilities to care for them?
- Isolated yourself so you can be available for their needs?
- Suffered health problems because of their addiction—stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, weight loss, etc?
Breaking Free of Codependency
Overcoming codependency is hard—you have to be the “bad guy”.
In other words, you have to help your teenager learn that their actions have consequences. Most active addicts don’t ask for help until they hit “rock bottom”—the point where they are sick and tired of being tired and sick.
But remember, YOU are the parent.
Although it’s better if they go voluntarily, if necessary, you can check your child into a rehab facility against their will. Most desperate parents won’t take that route, because they don’t want their teen to “hate” them.
But at this point, your role isn’t to be “liked” by your child…or to enable their addiction…or to drive yourself crazy trying to “fix” them. Your role is to do whatever it takes to get them the specialized care they need.
Since 1978, Teensavers Treatment Centers has been helping teens and families in crisis due to substance abuse or behavioral disorders. If you want to know what you can do to truly help your addicted child, Teensavers can help.