Don’t Put Your Loved One’s Addiction Problems On Your Shoulders

Mother is thinking about daughters addiction problem

Recently, I was reading a book called Essentialism by Greg McKeown. There was a metaphor used regarding watering your neighbor’s lawn that I thought would be helpful in explaining enablement when it comes to addiction and getting family members to realize that they need to empower their loved ones who have addiction issues, not enable them.

Greg McKeown writes, "I’m not saying we should never help people or our loved ones. We should serve, love and make a difference in the lives of others, of course. But when people make their problems our problem, we aren’t helping them we’re enabling them. Once we take their problem from them, all we’re doing is taking away their ability to solve it."

Further McKeown relates a story from the author Henry Cloud from his book Boundaries, “The parents of a twenty-five-year-old man came to see him. They wanted him to “fix” their son. He asked them why they had come without their son, and they said, “Well, he doesn’t think he has a problem.” After listening to their story, Henry concluded, to their surprise: “I think your son is right. He doesn’t have a problem… You do…. You pay, you worry, have anxiety, you plan, you prop them up the best you can. Handle their bills, housing, legal issues, you exert your energy, your time and money to keep him going..." “He doesn’t have a problem because you have taken it from him.”

Starting to sound familiar? How often have we seen a family member or a friend propping up their loved one by keeping their current lifestyle going, handling whatever comes up for them? At that point, the loved one doesn’t realize they have the problem, the family member or friend is preventing them from seeing it.

McKeown continues, "Cloud then offered them a metaphor. Imagine a neighbor who never waters his lawn. But whenever you turn on your sprinkler system, the water falls on his lawn. Your grass is turning brown and dying, but Bill looks down at his green grass and thinks to himself, “My yard is doing fine.” Thus everyone loses: Your efforts have been wasted, and Bill never develops the habit of watering his own lawn. The solution? As Cloud puts it, “You need some fences to keep his problems out of your yard and in his, where they belong."

You can insert your loved one’s name in the above in place of Bill to see how this is all playing out.

In reality, when it comes to your loved one’s addiction issues, allowing them to use your “sprinkler” isn’t help any longer, it’s enablement.

The answer to the problem of whoever is trying to siphon off your time and energy and ultimately your sanity for their own purpose, the solution is to empower them, not enable them. This starts with getting them the right treatment, training, and development to help them take control of their lives. If you or a loved one needs help with addiction, please call our team at Narconon Ojai.


Fabian Padro

Narconon Ojai, the premier Narconon center in the United States, is led by Fabian Padro, AS, RADT. After starting a career in International Business and earning an Associates Degree, Fabian changed course and has now dedicated his life to helping those trapped in the downward spiral of addiction.