Mothering or Enabling?


When I first came to Al‑Anon, I spent a great deal of time wrestling with the term, “enabling.” I am a mother. Surely a mother’s role is to enable her children, is it not? It has been a struggle to understand, let alone accept, that the behavior I viewed as that of a good mother was actually unhealthy! All my life I have held the belief that a good mother encourages her children, fixes their problems, fights their battles and cooks and cleans for them. Surely a good mother is in service to her children.

With the help of Al‑Anon, I have begun to learn that being a good mother means loving my children but also allowing them to live their lives. My children should have the right to learn life’s lessons in their time, their way. I owe them that. Doing everything for them, unintentionally or not, would do more harm than good! By placing my children’s lives ahead of my own, I was doing everyone a disservice, especially myself.

What a phenomenal moment when I realized that what I was doing for my children was actually the opposite of why I was doing it. Wow—the freedom of that weight being removed from my shoulders! Not only could I stop the exhausting experience of doing it all for everyone, but it opened the door to self-exploration by allowing my children the freedom to live their lives. I found I now had the time and desire to look at myself, take care of myself, and define myself.

By Stephanie W., Ontario

2017-09-12T14:03:20+00:00 September 12, 2017|Categories: Alcoholic Child, Alcoholic Sibling, Alcoholic Spouse or Partner, The Forum|


  1. Marchell November 2017 at 6:03 pm

    Going to my 1st meeting scared as heck. I have to for my sanity. My 23 yr old is a drug addict pill user and drinker. Lost multiple jobs since out of prison 14 months ago. Was in for 15 months for assault. He’s a liar manipulator. And I’m the enabler. Will it ever stop. I can’t do it anymore. My heart is breaking.

  2. Karen November 2017 at 2:33 am

    My son is 29 and addicted to alcohol. I’ve been divorced from his dad since 1989, he was an alcoholic, addict of cocaine and sex. I’m remarried to a wonderful man. My son admits he has a problem but doesn’t know what to do. How can I help? He lives a hour from me. I sense hopelessness and depression… I want my son back!

  3. Renee November 2017 at 4:52 pm

    I started to go to Al-Anon years ago because my life was terrible at the time. It took me a long time to work up the courage to go but it’s been totally worth it. Within 6 months, my 13 year old daughter started to do drugs. That made my life worse for a while but I had the greatest group of people to help me deal with that crisis and I got desperate enough to ask someone to be my sponsor. Today 6 years later my daughter still does drugs but I’m not totally crazy. I have hope that my younger boy won’t go down that path. I lost my home and my car. But God brought me to a better home and a nicer car. My daughter and her boyfriend live in my home. They take care of their bills and pay rent and we are able to have family dinners together often. I can’t fix my girl but I am doing my part to to live my life and let her live hers. Ps. They suggest going to 6 different meetings before settling on a home group. I did this. When I first got to Al-Anon my life was hopeless. Now my life is like a fairy tale whether the alcoholic is drinking or not. My life has changed but so has my perspective.

  4. Carol November 2017 at 12:45 pm

    I have been going through this roller coaster with my son for years. He is an alcoholic, and spinning out of control. He can no longer keep things together, and function. He very recently lost his job (which was a good thing). His job was a very big source of his enabling, and drinking buddies. The drinking buddies were NOT friends, they actually used him as their entertainment. He had a great job with a good wage and benefits, but went back to this previous job, and now fired from it. He leaves and I have no idea where he is for days, because he is on his black out benders. He is in denial, and refuses to think that he is an alcoholic. He is not paying his bills, now has a fine for public drunkenness and public urination, and I like a fool, gave him the $25.00 monthly payment last month, so the police department wouldn’t put a warrant out for his arrest. HUGE mistake on my behalf. This time around, I have pad locked the doors, and securely locked the windows, because he will open them from the outside, and crawl through the windows to get into the house. I looked up the local Al-Anon meetings, and know that I must go to get the knowledge on how to handle all of this crisis before I lose my sanity.

  5. Aron October 2017 at 3:20 pm

    My son, 38 went to rehab in 2008 for drugs and alcohol. While in rehab he met his wife, they have now been married 6 years with 2 children. My son started to drink again 4 years ago, so did his wife (also went to rehab) about 3 weeks ago things blew up bad. He relapsed, police were called, lots of drama. My husband and I were called when the police were at their house to help with the children. It was and is still a mess. We have now been banned by my son and his wife, no contact. I am concerned about the children. We think my son moved out of his home and has been in a sober living house for almost a month. It is a very helpless feeling.

  6. Maureen D. October 2017 at 9:06 pm

    Do keep coming back. It is suggested that we attend at least 6 meetings before making a decision whether or not to stay. Try other meetings.

  7. Jan October 2017 at 9:37 pm

    My son is 29, an alcoholic and addict. He is living with me now. He can’t get his own place because his credit is bad and he spends all his money on alcohol. He just went through his first hospital detox, but left the program after 3 days. That was 3 weeks ago and he is drinking again. I’m so tired and discouraged.

  8. Deb October 2017 at 11:18 am

    First meetings are often uncomfortable. It really does help to keep going.

  9. Lori b. October 2017 at 2:30 pm

    I had to do the same thing, called the cops to do a “well check”. I was able to have the peace of mind that she was ok.

  10. Lorra October 2017 at 9:05 pm

    Looking for an answer! I’ve been a mother/enabler and always hoping that this will be the last time that he (my oldest son) gets in trouble and I help. My other 2 kids stopped talking to me, they are concerned that I’m spreading my self very thin for him by using money for bail and lawyers etc.

  11. Dianne K. September 2017 at 6:24 pm

    i have a 20 year old son who is in a rehab at present going on 30 days. I want to ask him is he aware of all the damage he has done….I want to ask him about ALL the lies he told….I want to see him grovel and be a lot more humble than he is showing…what is wrong with me?

  12. Kathy P. September 2017 at 9:29 am

    I have a daughter who struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. Her drinking is becoming a huge concern. My daughter knows what to do but isn’t ready to help herself. I feel helpless, it’s hard to watch her suffer. My daughter does not live at home, she is 31 years old. She is of the impression she can, her words “fix herself and I sometimes really do not know what is best.”
    Right now she is angry with me and does not plan on calling me any time soon. Yesterday her boyfriend who’s away on a business trip, called my youngest daughter, concerned for my daughter’s safety. (this happened once before and I didn’t do anything) apparently she had been drinking excessively, called work saying she needed a mental health day and told her boss she was not doing well.
    My daughter was making threatening comments about her life to her boyfriend and similar things to my youngest daughter. I didn’t now what to do so I called mental health, they advised I call the police. I did. Now my daughter isn’t talking to me because I phoned the police. I responded to her email, yes I did call the police because I was scared for her safety and well being. I said, I care about what is happening to you. I do not know what to do how to do it. I am a caregiver maybe I enable, I don’t know. I just know it took everything I had to call the police rather than go to her home. Try and talk to her under the influence, watch her, try and help herself until the next time. Next time just escalates into something more. I’m looking to go to Al-Anon meetings to learn how to cope with my daughter’s choices and learn new ways to be a better support system for my daughter.

  13. Hope September 2017 at 9:30 pm

    I don’t know what meeting to pick, my son is an alcoholic, drug addict, thief and manipulator. He’s ruining my marriage to my husband who has given him so much since his release from jail. I am just falling apart from keeping so much inside.

  14. Lynn September 2017 at 10:57 am

    You might try a different meeting, as each one is different. Perhaps your friend could go with you for the first time. You don’t have to do it alone. I hope you find the help you need.

  15. Gay September 2017 at 7:59 pm

    I am afraid. I don’t like anything new. I talked to a friend and she suggested Alanon. Been once and really was uncomfortable. Don’t know why. I came from an alcoholic home.

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