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How a Christian Parent Can Stop Enabling a Child’s Addiction

As a Christian, you should not condone substance abuse – even if the abuser is your child. I’ll bet you already knew that. So why do you still do things that you know will help your son or daughter use? When does your help actually become a hindrance to recovery? Learn what God says and gain victory over addiction.

What is an Enabler?

An enabler is someone who facilitates substance abuse. People who abuse alcohol and drugs need someone in their lives who assists with their habit. In the book, Unhealthy Helping by Shawn Meghan Burn, Ph.D., she said, “Unhealthy givers [enablers] often think in ways that make them feel they must rescue others or help and give beyond their energetic and material means.” This type of extreme sacrifice has cultural and gender-related roots.

Denial, a refusal to acknowledge the reality of a situation, is an inherent part of the disease of addiction. Denial helps people alter their beliefs even in the face of new information. Bad news is avoided. Both parties – the person with the addiction and the enabler – are actively engaged in denial.

The Difference Between Enabling and Supporting

The term “enable is not necessarily a bad word. It depends on the situation. The Bible uses the word at least 13 times in a positive way. Leviticus 26:13 says, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with your heads held high.”

Notice that God took them out of a bad situation and put them into a good one. He did not help them persist or continue in a state with negative long-term consequences.

Recovery Support Services and the Path to Sobriety

Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly published an article, Enabling or Engaging? The Role of Recovery Support Services in Addiction Recovery. It discussed Recovery Capital and defined it as “the quantity and quality of internal and external resources to initiate and maintain recovery.” The article also said, “When framed this way, it is easy to see how efforts to increase a person’s recovery capital might be viewed as ‘enabling’…”

In other words, why provide assistance when you know the person will only use it to use again? Recovery Support Services is a psychological method that keeps individuals engaged in treatment. Through one-on-one support, community services, etc., people with an addiction achieve self-sufficiency. RSS has proven that “rather than enabling continued addiction, it is effective in helping people achieve sobriety.

The Role of a Parent

According to an article published by Social Work in Public Health, The Impact of Substance Abuse Disorders on Families and Children: From Theory to Practice, “The family remains the primary source of attachment, nurturing, and socialization for humans in our society.” So enabling can easily happen in this type of environment.

However, Christian parents have a guide, the Bible. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers do not exasperate your children, instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

Signs of Enabling

Helping your child is a loving, healthy response. However, enabling is dysfunctional because it fuels unhealthy actions or conditions. So how do you know when you have crossed the line? Here are some tips:

  1. Attempt to Explain Erratic Behavior
    Is your child acting strangely? Does he/she have mood swings, keep irregular hours, withdraws from family interaction, or is failing in school? If so, do you lie about it to friends and family members? Rationalization is a common response to a problem.
  2. Avoid Uncomfortable Conversations
    Have you discussed your concerns with your child? Why not? Be honest. Is it because your suspicions will lead to embarrassment or a heated discussion? You must calmly open a dialogue. Proverbs 15:1 says, “An answer when mild turns away rage.”
  3. Relies on You to Solve Problems
    Is your child overly dependent on you to solve his/her problems? The above-mentioned article also said, “Each family and each family member is uniquely affected by the individual using substances…unmet developmental needs…economic hardships, legal problems, emotional distress, and sometimes violence…”
  4. Neglect of Your Needs
    Does the time you spend helping your child consume more time than you spend for yourself? Have you missed time from work to attend to the needs of your child? Have you given your adult child money for rent and gotten behind in your own expenses? This is a state of dysfunction and chaos. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, “God is not the author of confusion.”
  5. Experience Resentment
    Does your child’s behavior frustrate you or make you angry? As Christians, this is not desirable. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace…self-control…”

God’s Word for Overcoming Being an Enabler

It will be difficult for you to make the transition from an enabler to a healthy parent. However, your child’s life is at stake. Follow these steps:

  1. Stop Taking Responsibility
    In the Bible, 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says, …“If a man does not work, he does not eat.” Each person is responsible for his own life.
  2. Consider the short and long-term consequences
    If you help him/her one more time, what will that accomplish? Esau sold his birthright for the temporary satisfaction of a single meal (Genesis 25:29-34).
  3. Regain Control
    Do not allow the person with an addiction dictate your life. If he/she is having a bad day, you must go on with your plans.
  4. Communicate Your Boundaries
    Read books like Unhealthy Helping or The Enabler by Angelyn Miller. Learn how to set reasonable boundaries and manage the accompanying guilt.

Proverbs 13:24 says, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” Take a stand against substance abuse. Stop enabling your child and gain God’s favor.

If you are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, contact Home of Grace at 228-826-5283.

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12 Comments

  1. My daughter is 29 years old she has spent time in an institution twice in her life now my child I believe is doing crack cocaine she has all the signs and symptoms and The disappearance I need to know how to help my child she has a 6 months old baby boy and she says she does not want him and he is stopping her from doing what she want to do please help thanks

    • Hi I’m a mother with an an addicted child and also has a son..I help out with my grandson as much as I can it’s about him now..my child has chosen to continue using..so it’s all about my grandson..
      Of course I always say to my child if you want help or ride to get help I’m here.

  2. Get her in Church if you can and start reading verses to her when you talk.

    • With all due respect…. what????? Do you have an addict child??? I do and that response does nothing to help or guide this women. As hard as it is you may have to take the child and raise him yourself. I have had to do that for my 12 year old grandson. We don’t have a place for him nor do we have custody of him. But we have managed and I have had to go to the court and petition them for temporary guardianship of him. You will need guardianship to get him to the doctors and to get help from your state for medical insurance and food assistance for him. Talk to your Pastor and seek support from your church and other family members. I will pray for you and yours and the Lord will see you through.

  3. having an addicted adult child and trying to help is like beating a dead horse. We dont have money for good treatment. The system fails him repeatedly. Last time they arested him I heard one say “light him up boys.” My son is on a no drink order. Then he is in horrible jail and then they just let him walk out. Then it starts all over again. He is 50 and I know his body cant take much more. Hard to let go thats the problem. And he has no where else to go. Stuck in the North woods.

  4. This is a great article. Unfortunately, simple misbehavior may result in more significant problems for the kids’ future. I hope as a parent, we observe and always give time to our kids no matter how busy we are.

  5. My son is 27 and is a drug addict.. I believe it all started in high school and truthfully I never seen it coming. We was struggling with having a split up family, with dad being in and out of his life. I worked all the time so I could give my kids what they needed. I am a child of God and I raised my kids to know who and how great God is. The drugs has turned him into someone I don’t know nor understand. I pray for him several times a day, everyday. He is lost and only God can find him, I just hope I get to see that day and be reunited with the man God intends for him to be. This mom’s heart hurts and is so sad for him.

    • Me too, I am so worried about my son I can’t relax or sleep. Terrified.
      Have found some beautiful prayers on the internet for parents of drug addicted children to pray for them.. and also prayers to help quell my own anxiety.
      I am absolutely petrified of what’s going to happen to him.

    • i just viewed your post and i feel led to tell you, your childs issue is not your fault. none of us are perfect parents but at some point our children have to make their own decisions and choose which direction they want to go. i have a son and a daughter, same parents, and same drama that we had to go thru. she is on a positive course and he is not. i have been enabling my son for years but i am going to stop. you stop feeling guilty for your childs choices.

  6. My daughter is 42 and on crack. I just recently found out that. She has 5 kids in which 2 are grown. The other 2 live with grandparents and another parent. It has been very hard to encourage her to seek help because she think she doesn’t need any. I am inconstant prayer over the situation and trusting that “God” protect her when she is out in the streets.

  7. My 40 year old addict daughter is going to die out there and there is nothing I can do to stop it. If I allow her to move in she will destroy me, my life and everything in it and none of that will save her either. The quilt and broken heartedness I feel is horrible and meanwhile the enemy sits back and laughs.

    • I feel your pain thru my own experiences. This will be a daily task, but every day when you wake up, give your child to the Lord. Remember, your daughter belongs to christ before you. I have told the Lord on many occasions “since this is your child, hes your responsibility”…ask Him to protect your daughter and to remove toxic people from her life. I, too, am watching my son go down the path of destruction but all we have is prayer. I have learned nothing I can do or say will make him change his pathway. They have to want to fight to get their life back. Hang in there and I will be praying for you.


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