Life’s consequences can be valuable teachers. You learn lessons from consequences in childhood and this continues throughout our lives. When an incident or event occurs that causes pain, you are likely to avoid repeating the same behaviors that led to that pain occurring. In the case of addiction, consequences can be vital to the addict seeking recovery.
Often times it will take an addict experiencing the same mistakes and pain over and over again to be compelled to make a change. As a family member, this can be a stressful process to watch. Parents have a natural tendency to want to keep their children from experiencing pain and this doesn’t change much when they become adults. Most parents would certainly agree!
As the consequences from active addiction become more serious, it can become more and more challenging for a parent to refrain from bailing their adult children out of trouble. However, keeping an addict from experiencing the consequences of his or her actions can lead them to a dangerous state where they are less likely to initiate change in their own lives. As this destructive pattern continues, the addict learns that there is no real reason cease the destructive behavior associated with their using because they have had no real challenges to face as a result of that behavior.
It is recommended that parents or loved ones of addicts seek their own support, such as Al-Anon, while dealing with a family member in active addiction. Learning the difference between supporting someone’s recovery versus supporting their disease is an important distinction that must be made in order to keep from the dangerous consequences that can result from enabling the addict. Often times it takes years for family members, especially parents, to realize they have been enabling their loved one after all. Many recovering addicts today say that their change for the better occurred when their families stopped “bailing them out” and they were forced to face their problems associated with their using head on.