It’s incredibly beneficial when a patient’s family takes part in their son’s addiction and mental health disease recovery. Mothers and fathers influence their loved one’s struggles with mental illness, for better or worse. That isn’t to say that the parent is responsible for causing the psychological issues their child is battling, but parents can unwittingly contribute to their child’s downward spiral. In order to prevent unhealthy familial interactions post-treatment, it is critical that parents learn how to support without enabling.
At PACE Recovery Center, we work closely with the parents of our young male clients. One of our primary goals is to illustrate that their role in their child’s recovery can affect long-term outcomes. We teach parents about the importance of establishing boundaries. We show them how to say “no” without guilt, and we help recognize which practices may enable self-defeating or destructive behaviors.
Actions done in the name of love can have the unintended effect of crippling the individual a parent is trying to help. Some will go to extraordinary lengths for their children. When it comes to families with healthy boundaries, unfettered love and support is helpful. However, when the opposite is true, codependent enabling causes trouble for both parent and child alike. When addiction and mental health treatment is put off, conditions worsen, and connections are strained further due to unconstructive parent/child relationships.
The Most Enabling Mother in America?
A few years back, PACE Recovery was approached by Dr. Phil to help a young man struggling with substance use and behavioral health issues. The PACE team agreed to take on the case, and also worked with the family during his care – this is because mental illness is a two-sided problem. It is important to reiterate that successful recovery outcomes often hinge upon total family recovery. Healing is contingent upon all concerned parties making healthy changes; at PACE, our clinicians teach parents how to make those changes last.
Recently, Dr. Phil thought of PACE again in another case involving a young man struggling with myriad mental health conditions. Viewers of Dr. Phil may have had an opportunity to watch an episode titled “The Most Enabling Mother in America?” For those who haven’t viewed the segment, it involves Jai, a 20-year-old living with his mother, who was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder at age 11. As an adult, preliminary observation suggests that Jai meets the criteria for a cannabis use disorder and possibly bipolar disorder as well.
Jai has had a rough start in life, beginning with abandonment issues stemming from his parents’ divorce. In high school, he was plagued by both cancer and a nearly life-threatening infection; his illness led to dropping out of high school. To alleviate some of Jai’s symptoms, with his mother’s concurrence, he opted for medical marijuana. While the sickness has fortunately subsided, the cannabis use remains steady. Jai reports smoking about an eighth of an ounce per day, partly to mute his fits of rage.
Making matters worse, his mother Amy admits that she has enabled her son’s self-destructive behavior. She instructs him to make something of himself (earn a GED and get a job), while simultaneously allowing him to steamroll over her and everyone else.
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Transitioning Into Recovery
Amy is not the cause of her son’s mental health issues, but she acknowledges that her enabling contributes to Jai’s unwillingness to make changes. Dr. Phil recommended that Amy and Jai turn to PACE for assistance. Dr. Phil explains that:
PACE Recovery Center is a gender-specific extended care program for men that are struggling with two different things. One is any kind of chemical dependency, and more importantly when it’s happening co-morbidly with mental health issues. They are in Costa Mesa [California]. They help clients develop life skills, so you can get traction in your life and get control of the mental health issues, get control of the addiction issues, and come out with a plan. And these guys [PACE] are as good as they come at that — I’ve never seen better.
Dr. Phil goes on to ask PACE Executive Director/Founder Lenny Segal, LMSW, MBA, if they can help. Responding to Dr. Phil from the audience, Mr. Segal speaks directly to Jai and his mother:
We certainly can, Dr. Phil. We work with young guys like you from all over the country. When you come to PACE, we’ll be able to first address the mental health issues, get you properly diagnosed, properly medicated. Support that with all different types of psychotherapies. Help you get your GED and any continued education and life skills and to be able to help the family system. You folks love each other, you folks have to be separated for a period of time and for you to be able to do some concentrated work, so you can actually parent from a place of heart, not guilt.
Mental Health Treatment for Young Men
In closing, if your son is struggling with addiction or mental health issues, we invite you to contact PACE Recovery Center. We’ve created a setting where men are allowed to express their fears, sadness, shame, and guilt in a non-judgmental environment. We help young men and their families toward their goal of leading a healthy, productive life in recovery.