Each year as Mother’s Day approaches, I reflect on how grateful I am for my mom. Most importantly, how grateful I am that she stopped enabling me. As the mother of four VERY challenging children she went above and beyond to provide us with everything we needed to prepare us to take care of ourselves as adults. Whether it was helping us with school, making us do chores to teach us how to care for a home, holding us accountable to rules and expectations that would build a sense of responsibility, or being there to care for us when we were sad, sick or hurt, she always made us feel loved and valued. As I became an adult, that love and caring became something that I would take advantage of in my addiction.
This is the story of many, many mothers and their adult children who suffer from the disease of addiction. As parents, we are genetically programmed to care for, protect, and help our children at any cost. And for an individual who is caught in the cycle of addiction, it becomes easy to take advantage of a mother’s love. Our disease precludes our ability to see or care about the pain we cause our families as we take advantage of their love for us. We will lie to them, take their money, eat their food, have them bail us out of jail, have them pay our bills, and numerous other things while not feeling the slightest sense of remorse. Oh, we will make promises though. We promise to change, we promise to get a job, we promise not to steal from them, we promise not to go to jail again, we promise not to ask for money again, the list goes on. And a part of them wants to believe those promises. They want us to get better, to change. At a core level, as parents, they want to know that they have succeeded in raising a healthy adult that can take care of himself. And, they want to know that the child they love is going to be okay. And, thus, the cycle of enabling begins.
At a certain point though, it becomes obvious that their child is not going to change and the requests for help become expectations and demands. Often, a sense of entitlement develops in which the adult child believes that they deserve to have their parents take care of their needs so that they may continue to use drugs and alcohol. This is not always evident to the addict. They, more often than not, have no idea that they are behaving in this manner. It is a symptom of their addiction. In many cases, parents will continue the cycle of enabling, unsure of what else to do. They love their adult children and cannot fathom cutting them off, kicking them out, and letting them fend for themselves as it is apparent that they might very well die. No parent is okay with the thought of their child dying. It goes against the very nature of being a parent.
It is the experience of those of us who have been cut off by their families that being cut off was exactly what we needed. The consequences finally piled up to the point where I was willing to do anything to change my life and break the cycle of addiction. It was hard for my mother to go against her instinct to protect me and to stop helping me as she watched me hurt myself. And it worked. There was no more money. There was no more assistance. There was no more shelter. There was no further acceptance of my lies and manipulation. There was no help that would allow me to continue using drugs and alcohol and, hence, things got bad quickly. To the point that I wanted to change. For me. Not for my mom. Not for the courts. Not for anyone else. And that is when I became willing to do the necessary things to recover and that my life finally changed. Thanks Mom!! For doing what was probably the most difficult thing for you to do. Cut off your son. In doing so, you saved my life. And hopefully, today I make you proud of the man that I have become. You did an amazing job in giving me the tools to help myself when I really had to. Happy Mother’s Day, I love you!
Paul L. Scudo is the Executive Director of Step Denver and is in recovery from the disease of addiction.