Even though addiction is a struggle for individuals, the disease impacts entire families. Each person within the addict’s circle of love and influence is changed in some way, even if only slightly. For parents of adult children struggling with addiction, the situation is extremely difficult.

Helping without enabling while trying to convince your adult child of his or her need for treatment is a delicate balance. Although your child is grown up, you still worry and care like you did when he or she was younger. If your adult son or daughter is struggling with an addiction, you are not alone.

Helping vs. Enabling

adult son hugging fatherOne of the most important things to remember when you are the parent of an adult child struggling with addiction is that the addiction is not your fault. Your adult child is making his or her own choices. Of course, you want to help your child, and knowing the best way to do that is part of the battle. Enabling is trying to fix things for the people you love the most, even when it interferes with their own growth and change.1

Rushing in to take responsibility rather than allowing the natural consequences of your adult child’s action to take their course, creates an expectation that this will always be the case. Enabling is an unhealthy response that actually contributes to your child’s addiction rather than helping stop it.

It is a difficult situation to be in, since when a person you love needs help, your first reaction is to step in and fix the problem. It is important to recognize your enabling behavior and get help to change it as you work to help your adult child find appropriate treatment. Helping means making difficult but necessary choices, while encouraging your son or daughter to admit that there is a problem and ask for help.2

While force will not work with most adults, the following steps can help you help your loved one:

1. Understand your legal rights.

Is the person in question married? Can his or her spouse help you? What are your state’s regulations with regards to helping someone seek treatment? In some states, you may be able to petition the court to have that person committed to treatment for a day or two. Before you take any action, call your lawyer or a recovery counselor to learn more.

2. Practice healthy selfcare.

When someone you love is addicted, it is easy to become stressed out or even sick over the situation. Lack of sleep, good nutrition and proper exercise can take its toll as your stress level rises over what do to about your adult child’s choices and behavior. Take time to separate yourself from the situation as often as possible. Get away and rest, read and meditate and get appropriate counseling for yourself and your other family members. When you are feeling well and strong, you will be able to deal with your child’s addiction better.

3. Find a support group.

You can learn a great deal by speaking with others who understand what you are going through. By attending a support group for parents of adult children struggling with addiction you can receive tips, comfort and social connections that can help get you on the journey.

4. Protect yourself from your child.

Drugs, alcohol and mental illness can change the person you love and cause him or her to become violent, irrational and completely different from the child you once knew. Understanding what legal steps you must take in the event that you or other family members feel threatened in any way and taking them is necessary when dealing with an addicted loved one.

5. Consult a professional interventionist.

When your adult child continues down the path of addiction and refuses to get help, an intervention may be the only way to make a real difference.3 Enlisting the help of an interventionist to plan and rehearse an intervention increases the chances of success in getting your loved one into treatment.

An interventionist can help you find treatment, handle your loved one and get things moving in the right direction.

Finding Help for an Adult Child Struggling with Addiction

If you are the parent of an adult child struggling with addiction we are here for you. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions and help you find treatment for your adult child. You are not alone. Call 269-280-4673 now.


1 Bernstein, Jeffrey. “Stop Enabling Your Addicted Adult Child.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 25 Nov. 2014.

2 Degges-White, Suzanne. “7 Tips for Mothers of Adult Addicts.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 11 Oct. 2014.

3 Wilcox, Stephen. “Intervention – Tips and Guidelines.” National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, 25 July 2015.