Parenting Adult Children with Addiction (Survey Result)

June 5, 2023

Expert Advice | Barbara Decker

Key Takeaways

  • The report is based on three surveys and interviews with parents, adult children with addiction or in recovery, and recovery professionals.
  • The top 5 things adult children and recovery professionals want parents to know are giving boundaries and love, getting help for themselves, letting the adult child become ready for recovery, addiction not being their fault, and addiction being a disease.
  • Addiction is a family disease, and support groups allow parents to connect with like-minded people who understand what they are going through. No one else can fix an addict, and the addict needs to be ready to seek help in order to get well.
  • Addiction is a disease, and it is not a moral failing. It is not the addict’s fault that they became addicted, and recovery is possible.
  • For parents who want to be helpful but do not know how, resources and support exist to help them learn and heal. There is always hope for recovery for every child, and parents’ support can be crucial to this process. Parents should seek out resources and support, and work on themselves to best support their child’s recovery journey.

Addiction Survey Results, Analysis, and Actual Action Steps for Parents.

(In this report, the term addict includes anyone with a substance use disorder. This may be drug addiction and alcoholism.)

This report is based on the results of three in-depth surveys and many follow up interviews. I included parents, adult children in active addiction or recovery, and recovery professionals. I present the data and then offer action steps for parents in this situation. 

This work was done for one purpose: to identify how parents of adult children with substance use disorders can actually help their children.

These same strategies also apply in two other situations.

  1. The child has a mental health issue.
  2. The person with the addiction or mental health issue is not your child.

Topics covered are: 

  • Challenges faced by 164 parents of addicted / alcoholic adult children.
  • What 159 active or recovering addicts/alcoholics want parents to know.
  • What 101 recovery professionals want parents to know.

This is a consolidated report. It compiles and analyzes data from all three surveys. Results from each survey are not analyzed in isolation. Instead, data is considered in context with the data from the other groups of respondents. This approach provides a more complete and balanced picture.

So, let’s dig right into what I learned and how this what I learned can help you.

Looking at the Raw Numbers

Adult children and recovery professionals were asked very similar questions.

Adult Children:

“What would you like your parent to know (or have known) about your addiction/alcoholism? “

Recovery Professionals:

“What would you like parents to know about their adult child's addiction/alcoholism?”

I’ve analyzed all the responses and grouped similar responses to identify those things the people responding want parents to know.

The top 5 things respondents want parents to know are:

  1. Give me boundaries + give me love and kindness.
  2. Parents: Please get help for yourself.
  3. No one else can fix me and I have to be ready in order to get well.
  4. This is not your fault; you did not cause my disease.
  5. Addiction is a disease I have; it is not a moral failing.

The Top 5 Things Respondents Want Parents to Know

There are three graphs below. Each one shows the percentage of the people who want parents to know each of these five things.

Graph 1 combines answers. This graph includes both adult children and recovery professionals. It shows how the group as a whole ranked each of the 5 things they want parents to know.

Graph 2 is just the answers from adult children. This graph shows what the adult children want their parents to know.

Graph 3 Is just answers from recovery professionals. This graph shows what the professionals want parents to know.

You’ll notice that the five things people want parents to know are identical for both surveys. 

You’ll also notice that some of the answers are ranked higher by one group and lower by the other group. We’ll talk about the differences in ranking a little later in this report.

Graph 1

Graph 2

Graph 3

Analysis of the Top 5 Things Respondents Want Parents to Know

The Oh-So-Clear 1st Place Winner:

“Give Me Boundaries + 

Give Me Love and Kindness.”

Let’s break this into 2 parts and talk about boundaries first.

91% - yep, that’s almost everyone in the adult children and recovery professional groups. 91% talk about boundaries, enabling, and the struggles parents face in deciding on the “right” boundaries for their family. 

(Editorial note: Personally, I don’t think there is one right boundary answer. Every family is different.)

In the same breath, almost everyone points out that what is needed is loving boundaries and kind, supportive behavior from parents.
This Sets Up the Great Boundaries Divide

So what exactly is this Great Boundaries Divide?

  1. Adult children say they need their parents to set boundaries and not enable their addiction.
  2. Recovery professionals agree with the adult children. Professionals mention this over and over as the thing they most want parents to know.
  3. 65% of the parents report that setting and holding effective boundaries is one of their biggest challenges.

So, both adult children and recovery professionals insist that boundaries are essential.  There is absolutely no doubt about that.

And yet most parents report that they struggle to set and hold boundaries.

This difference between what the adult children need and what the parents know how to do sets up what I call the Great Boundaries Divide.

The feelings and challenges of everyone are both understandable and natural.

As parents, our whole being tells us to be there for our children. Our emotions scream at us to put a Band-Aid on a bloody knee. We want to hold them when they are sad. We want to help them through their difficulties. We love them.

I Call This the Mom Code 
or the Dad Code.

It is who we are! It is what we do!

It is how society often expects us to behave!

Parents are judged badly by the uninformed all around us when we don’t behave the way society expects.

And parents often judge themselves harshly as well.

And that leads many parents to feel like they are failures as parents. Yet….

...Addicts see it differently. Addicts say that every time someone rescues them, they have one less opportunity to feel the pain of their actions.

With each parental rescue, the addict once again escapes the logical consequences of their choices. 

And that means the addicted person loses yet another opportunity to choose a different path for themselves. And one more opportunity to choose recovery is lost and cannot be reclaimed.

Here are just a few of the moving and crystal-clear quotes from the adult children themselves. They tell us over and over that what they need are real boundaries.

  • “Enabling does not make it better but prolongs the path to recovery.” - Angela
  • “If they are happy with you, you're probably helping them stay active. If they're mad at you, chances are, you're helping save their life.” - Haley
  • “Don’t love your child to death! Don’t be an enabler!” - Ashley
  • “Addicts learn at the speed of pain.” - Misty
  • “Be strong in what you say to them… If an addict has a soft place to land, a safe place, then nothing will ever change for them. We need to be backed into a corner and have no way out. We need to see the world crashing down on us. Rock bottom is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING.” - Aaron
  • “She enabled me for too long. Allowing me in her life even after I continued to hurt her.” - Ashley
  • “That no matter how much you love me it won't stop my use. Stop enabling me You will literally love me to death! I know you think it helps but cut me off! Say no! I need tough love not coddled.” - Britteny
  • “Don't provide a pillow for their fall or they will never feel rock bottom.” - Erin

Pretty darn moving, and I have hundreds more comments just like these.

The Problem is that Setting and Holding REAL Boundaries is So Challenging for Parents.

It is hard for parents to decide what their individual boundaries should be.

It is challenging for parents to hold those boundaries when their child is in pain.

And there is a chaos that comes with addiction. And that chaos seems to constantly change what is happening in our child’s world.

And because of this chaos, our child is constantly asking us for something more ... different ... better …. And we are being asked to respond quickly and “help” over and over and over.

Add to that the fact that my research shows that there is little specific help available for parents on HOW to set and hold REAL boundaries. 

No real usable step by step process or system for how to set and hold effective boundaries ….
  • ...Boundaries that are right for an individual family and the circumstance…
  • ...Boundaries that an individual parent can live with…
  • ...Boundaries that may just help that parent’s child choose to get well.

It is clear that effectively setting and holding powerful boundaries IS our children’s best chance for recovery. Both the adult children and the professionals are telling us this is true. They are saying it  clearly and loudly.

Now Let’s Talk About the Second Part of What Almost Everyone Wants Parents to Know:

Applying the Boundaries a Parent Chooses with Love and Kindness

Both adult children and recovery professionals point this out again and again. Boundaries need to be offered in a kind and loving way. Adult children do not need to feel abandoned or like “trash”. Adult children need to know, really know, that they are loved. They need to know that when they are ready to choose recovery, their family will be there for them. They are still loved. Their behavior is not tolerated, but they themselves are still loved. 

Adult children need to be treated with respect and without sarcasm, hurtful comments, or scorn.

And 54% of the parents say they can no longer communicate in an effective way with their child.

It is hard to talk to someone in active addiction. The conversations don’t make sense to those of us who are well. And if you are like me, you feel your child is only in contact with you when he wants something. You may feel manipulated and used.

When a parent feels manipulated and used, it is hard to communicate with love and respect. When a child is in active addiction, even if the parent tries to communicate with love and respect, their words may appear to fall on deaf ears.

The addicts want parents to know that the parents’ words of love and support are being heard…. even when their child is too far in the disease of addiction to say so.

The addicts want the parents to know that they always love and value them. It’s just that their disease of addiction does not allow them to show it. And the addicts want parents to know that one of the addict’s greatest pains is seeing how much they hurt their parents and families.

So, the takeaway is to keep trying to communicate with love and kindness. But not to confuse love and kindness with enabling. There are books and coaches that can help us. We can learn how to have difficult conversations with as much grace and ease as possible in this painful situation.

Here are what some adult children have to say.

  • “I would hope parents would show support, understanding and continuous unconditional love. The addict has underlying issues. Not an excuse but please show support for them. The more support they see they are getting from family, friends and community, the more strength they gain to battle their demons.” - Anonymous
  • “To not insult them. Remain tactful and at same time make sure you let them know you love them regardless but will not let their actions go on and on. We're here to strengthen and conquer.” - Christine
  • “Don't put them down.” - Ash
  • “Words of reassurance, something as simple as "I'm proud of you" or "you can do this" meant the world to me, especially early on in my recovery.” - Alie
  • “Talk to your child let them know u are there for them and that you love them no matter what.” - Beth

So How the Heck Do You Set Effective Boundaries AND Do It with Love and Kindness?

The real challenge we face as parents is how to deliver effective boundaries with the necessary love and kindness. Almost every addict and recovery professional mentioned this as the thing they most wanted parents to know.

As the mom of an addict, the challenge for me was how to actually set boundaries which do not enable. And I had to choose boundaries that I could live with. I had to relearn what a loving mom does and how that mom behaves. And then I had to learn how to actually become that person. It was a huge shift for me. I had to learn how to deliver and hold those boundaries with both love and respect.

Doing both at the same time can be a real challenge when the adult child is in active addiction. It took me 7 years of intensive work to find my way all the way through this dilemma. It took years to get to my own place of peace. It took years to be able to move forward with my own life, independent of what was happening in my son’s life. And it took me years to learn and believe that setting and holding --- with love --- boundaries that are right for me -- is the only area in which I have any power at all.

A full 65% of the parents report that they are in constant pain and feel powerless to help their child. I was a member of that group for an awfully long time.

Here is a sample of what people wrote about boundaries and love. Of what often felt to me like a contradiction. The contradiction of boundaries with love.
  • “Love your child from a distance. Let them know that you can not enable them but that you will be there when they are ready to get help.” - Jenna
  • “Don't give up on your child. Be there for them but don't enable. Don't give them money to support the addiction. Don't demean them or make them feel lesser than.“ - Anonymous
  • “Don’t enable them but be their support system. They need to know they are loved and cared for. That it’s okay they messed up, it can be fixed.“ - Abigail
  • “Not judging me and but not enabling me either.“ - Amber
  • “They told me to call when I was ready to get help, but not to call for anything else. My parents did exactly what I needed.“ - Dakotah
  • “LOVE but do not enable by LOVE I mean no judgments no hatred no anger just tell them you love them and pray for them but if their lifestyle is harming you, you have to protect yourself by not being a part of any longer and they have a choice to make and if ever they choose love and family you’re there waiting.“ - Angela
  • “My mom let me face my consequences. "Tough Love" as they call it. Without that I really don't know that I would still be here today. When I got clean she helped me out a lot to get back on my feet. She’s now one of my biggest supporters.” -Bonnie
  • “Let them know you love them. But you won't help them kill themselves. As hard as it may seem, sometimes you must step back and not help them when they are still using. You can't force an addict to take help when they don't want it yet. Their pain and misery has to be great enough that they want the change. Do nothing to make their lives easier.” - Candi
  • “I appreciate my mother always being there and supporting me, but my father’s tough love was a lot more helpful.” - Chelsea
  • “Be supportive but not enabling.“ - Angel
  • “Never turned against me. Loved me all the while. Refused to bail me out of jail.“ - Caitlin
  • “Loved me from afar.” - Crystal
  • “My mother finally started to tell me no and stuck by it, no matter how hateful or manipulative I became. She got to a point when she let me know she loved me enough to not enable me in killing myself. She protected herself from me, shortly after she & my family left me alone, refusing to allow me to torment them any longer, I chose to get help.“ - Anonymous
  • “Stop enabling the child. Show them love, but know that it’s ultimately up to them to get help. Sometimes it's hard, but enabling an addict only adds to the problem.“ - Adam

The 2nd Place Answer Is:

“Parents: Please Get Help 
For Yourself.”

Both recovery professionals and adult children encourage parents to get help for themselves. To find support groups…. To consider Al-Anon or Nar-Anon … To consider therapy. To get help for themselves.

And this all makes sense for 2 reasons.

Reason 1

Being the parent of an addict can be isolating. A third of parents report isolation as one of their biggest challenges. Recovery professionals think this number is higher and under reported by parents. I tend to agree. I know a lot of parents who have kept their child’s addiction secret for many years, even from close family members.

Having the support of a group of like-minded people, those who know and understand what you are going through as a parent, is crucial.

Having the support of such a group was what allowed me to move from constant pain and worry to a place of relative peace.

I didn’t want to join a group.

A person I trust kept insisting that I join. And I’m extremely glad I did.Because it turns out that I learn more from listening to the challenges of the other parents. I learn by thinking about options for them in a way I never did while thinking about answers for me. The other parents, in turn, offer such value to me week after week. And so it goes. We all get stronger.

Yep, I continue to go to my group every week I am in town. Going to my group is a gift I give myself.

Reason 2

Addiction is a family disease. This doesn’t mean that the family causes the addiction. It doesn’t mean that the family can cure the addiction.

It does mean that addiction is a disease that affects the entire family. It also means that all any of us can do is to look at ourselves and our actions. Because we can only change ourselves. That’s simply a basic truth.

A full 77% of recovery professionals emphasize the importance of parents finding their own help and support. That’s more than 3 out of every 4 professionals. I find that so informative! 

This answer ranks second as the most important thing recovery professionals want the parents to know.

And 39% of the adult children also ask their parents to get help and support for themselves. The addicts report that it is painful for them because they can’t help their beloved parents through this situation. The parents’ suffering weighs heavily on the addicts.

I built a program based on this research. It includes membership in an exclusive community of parents. Parents in my community interact with other solution-oriented parents. They implement a step-by-step process that allows them to shift their responses and regain their peace. 

I became convinced that an action-oriented program for parents was needed. And so I built one.

My program is fully explained in a workshop at this link.

Because for many of us, our current peer groups and families are unable to truly understand and are ill-equipped to support us.

Let’s face it. Until you’ve been here, you just can’t understand. Parents often feel intense shame. Friends and family frequently feed the feeling many parents have of not having been “good enough”.

Here are few related comments from the survey:

  • “Join a parents’ support group, Al-Anon and attend open AA meetings to help you gain an understanding about addiction and freedom for yourself.”
    - Anonymous
  • “Getting yourself help will improve your relationship with them and your ability to properly support them.“ - Sara
  • “Get in a group that understands.“ - Pat
  • “Find support systems and use them. Research and find out all you can.“ - Pam
  • “It takes a village to properly treat substance use disorder and engaging with treatment professionals is incredibly important. Talk with people they trust and develop a support system. Learn the language of recovery and if confused about recovery talk with professionals.“ - Matthew
  • “Join a support group.“ - Lori
  • “Having your own support group and trusted individual(s) that you can bounce things off of, it absolutely important. You much put your own gas mask on first before you can appropriately assist a loved one with theirs. Get their own support. Be open with people they trust about what they are going through. Addiction is a family disease and will tear at the seams of the family unit if it is kept a secret.“ - Katie
  • “Find help for yourselves.“ - Brittany
  • “Gather support around yourself, get a team to be with you and to help. You can't do this alone. Don't be ashamed.“ - Anne
  • “Be accountable for your OWN mental health and do what you must to become a qualified support system and set a good example.“ - Donna

The 3rd Place Answer Is:

“No One Else Can Fix Me and I Have to Be Ready In Order to Get Well.”

Both the adult children and the recovery professionals place this answer third. And it often seems impossible as a parent to accept this. 

If you are anything like me, you go into “fix it’ mode. You figure you’ll just search high and low. You figure you’ll turn over every idea and stone that comes your way and never “abandon” your child. You commit that you’ll never give up. You just know you will be different. You know that you’ll find the magic way to “fix” your child. If you just keep on looking. 

That magic does not exist. There are things you can do to encourage recovery. It’s not magic though. It’s hard work based on solid understanding of addiction. 

And yet we continue to hope and pray. And it’s natural when you think about this fact: 

94% of parents report that they worry all the time about their addicted child.


That’s a huge number.

That worry, though, is not doing anyone any good, The truth is that the parent cannot force the addict into recovery. The parent may force the child to get clean of drugs and alcohol. But the parent cannot force the child to embrace actual recovery. 

  • Constant worry just sucks the joy and life out of the parents.
  • Constant worry consumes the parent’s time and most of the parent’s waking hours. Constant worry interferes with sleep and the parent’s health and well-being.
  • Constant worry makes us say “yes” when we know we should say “no.”

This is actually remarkably similar to the disease of addiction. It’s the same thing as when our child says “yes” to their substance of choice, even when some part of them knows they should say “no.”

The survey responses do identify 2 things parents can do about worry.

  1. Deliver and hold effective boundaries with love and kindness and
  2. Get their own help.

The survey data shows that these are really the only productive uses of the parent’s time and energy.

Survey respondents say it best.

  • “Just know that sobriety is a choice that an addict must make on their own.“ - Jessica
  • “When they are ready, they will seek help.“ - Jewel
  • “You can make things easier or harder. I’m sorry and still love you but I am not myself when using.“ - Madeline
  • “It was not until I was ready to do it for me is when it worked.“ - Rachel
  • “That they can't save the addict. I had to make the decision on my own to stop drinking.“ - Silky
  • “If they're not ready, nothing is gonna help.“ - Dana
  • “That the patient needs to put in the effort. It's hard to force recovery on a patient it needs to come from within.“ -Ethan
  • “Your child has to want to change first and foremost…” - Leigh
  • “You are not responsible for their recovery. You can’t work harder than they do.“ - Michele

The 4th Place Answer Is:

"This is Not Your Fault; You Did Not Cause My Disease.”

Many adult children speak elegantly about the fact that their addiction is not their parent’s fault. They speak about this at length. 

So, I asked some recovery professionals why this answer ranked lower on the professionals’ survey. I got two reasons. These reasons make perfect sense.

  1. As recovery professionals, they think that parents feeling responsible is rather ridiculous. They know that parents didn’t cause this disease, any more than parents cause cancer or diabetes.
  2. Unless a professional works mostly with the families of addicts, he or she may not witness the pain these parents experience. He or she may not know the parent’s pain is constant, day after day. He or she may not see how many parents believe they are the cause of the problem. He or she may not know how many parents feel they are failures.

This pain is very real and is experienced by at least half of the parents. But understanding the facts does not make the pain disappear. Getting past the pain is a process, helped when the parents have support.

In the survey, the question asked is: “What would you most like your parents to know?”

And often the answer is these exact words: “It is not their fault.

The adult children elaborate in a number of ways.

Several of the adult children mention that knowing that their parents “carry this guilt” is horrible. They say that it makes their own recovery more difficult or painful.

This disease strikes all kinds of families, from the finest and most loving to the worst. It is indiscriminate in the devastation it causes to both the child and the parent.

Parents - Please Know This. 
Parents - Please Believe This. 
Because It Is Absolutely True.

Addiction is not your fault. 

You did not cause the disease of addiction

Listen to what the adult children had to say:

  • “That it wasn't their fault there was nothing they could have done.” - Alison
  • “Their parenting had nothing to do with what happened. They were great parents and should be proud of how well they raised me.“ - Abbey
  • “It's not your fault..regardless of what I went through growing up my own actions are the reason I become addicted and I never want them to feel blame.“ - Alicia
  • “It’s not your fault. You did not fail me.“ - Tracey
  • “Most of all I want them to know that it's not their fault and they did an amazing job raising me.“ - Lindsay
  • “It’s not their fault they didn’t fail as parents I made bad choices on my own.“ - Mark
  • “That it isn't their fault; they have tried every single thing they could think of. That I love them more than I love myself.“ - Olivia
  • “That it isn't their fault. I had a great childhood with great parents. … I had everything I needed and most of what I wanted. Addiction can affect anyone. It had nothing to do with their parenting.“ - Rachel
  • “That it started with her but she isn't to blame…“ - Nicole
  • “My addiction has absolutely nothing to do with you as a parent or as a person. You didn’t fail so stop thinking you did.“ - (Kristin
  • “That they have nothing to do with the choices we make. That they have no reason to take on any guilt for our decisions.“ - Jordan

The 5th Place Answer Is:

“Addiction is a Disease I Have; It is Not a Moral Failing.”

Interestingly, 53% of recovery professionals want parents to know this, followed by 29% of the adult children.

Addiction is a disease that can strike anyone. There are lots of factors. And like with any disease, recovery is possible.

But unlike most diseases, addiction is a disease of the mind. This makes recovery harder because the addict’s mind is fooling them. It fools them by telling them things that are just not true.

In addiction, your child looks like the person you love. But what you are experiencing is the addiction. The person him or herself is still there - hidden somewhere deep beneath the addiction.

Just like it’s not the parent’s fault, it is also not the addict’s fault. The addicted person has a disease. And still it is the addict’s responsibility to manage his/her disease. It is the addicted person’s choice to choose recovery or stay active in the disease. But it is not the addict’s fault that they became addicted.

The addict does not cause their disease any more than the parent does.

  • “Don’t give up on them because addiction is very powerful so if it takes them 100 times to get better know that they really are trying. It’s harder than you know to have a brain that tells you lies and can keep you isolated even when you so desperately want help and freedom from drugs and alcohol.“ - Martha
  • “That if I could've quit I would've sooner. It changed my whole core being, I loved them as best I could.“ - Chloe
  • “That I did feel horrible for the things I was doing while I was using. And that I was sick, my mind was not in the right place. Who I was while I was using drugs and alcohol is not who I am. That's a whole different person. A sick, consumed, sad, lonely, scared person.“ - Sarah
  • “It is a disease. I would never have put my family through what I did because of lack of love. If my love for them was enough to get sober I would have a long time before I did.“ - Dakotah
  • “Addicts are not bad people and they love their family, they are sick and driven by cravings which is not always if ever a nice picture/ or the person they love.“ - Amy
  • “Also despite what some people believe the problem is not a specific substance it's addiction.“ - Anthony
  • “Addiction is a disease and they can't help the feeling of urges they get.” - Holly
  • “Your child isn't well. Their brain needs healing. It's easier for them to find another fix than to find the help they need… When they relapse it spirals fast into a worst beast from before. They don't want to be there. They are scared.“ - Pam

Parents Who Want to Help Versus Parents Who Do Help

There is one more key statistic. Professionals were asked:

What percentage of the parents you encounter

WANT TO BE truly helpful to their adult child in that child's recovery journey?


What percentage of the parents you encounter 

ARE truly helpful to their adult child 

in that child's recovery journey?

65% of parents want to be truly helpful. 32% are helpful.

That’s according to the recovery professionals. That’s according to the people who work with our children every day. 

The adult children themselves were asked to rate how helpful their parent was on a scale of 1-5. 1 is the most helpful. The adult children rated their parents’ helpfulness at an average of 2.4.

I am convinced that the difference between 32% and 65% is almost entirely because parents don’t know how to help. Today, there is a lot of help available for the addicts when they are ready to accept it. But there still isn’t much help for parents who want to do the best they can for their adult child ... and simply don’t know how.

Final Thoughts

Please know there is the possibility of recovery for every child. There is always hope.

Many of us have seen people in long-term addiction choose recovery. The reasons for the bottom each person chooses are impossible to find and define. The addicts themselves usually don’t know what caused their switch to flip and how they ended up ready to embrace recovery.

As a parent, it will have to be enough to know that our child may come back to you/ Know that there are things you can do to help yourself. Know that these same things are what will allow your child a real chance at choosing recovery. 

The things we can do may not be the things we know how to do. But we can learn.

And we can heal.

It is my hope that this work will be useful to the parents of addicts.

What’s Your Next Step

Does my style resonate with you? Do you want to go deeper? Hop on my free, confidential workshop and watch a group of Moms apply these learnings to their own lives.

Click here to reserve your seat on my workshop:

Free, confidential,

60 minutes.

I hope you find a pocket of joy in your day today.
Reach out anytime, because I care.


Certified Family Recovery Specialist (CFRS)

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  1. I am struggling with a 27 yr old son who is an addict and lives with me. I raised my two children by myself and all we have in this world is each other. My son has been to 8 rehabs in the past 2 yrs and completed none-just walked out of another one two days ago. He is the worst he’s ever been and is now demanding money and the use of my car. I don’t know how to kick him out-he has absolutely no place to go, no car, no money and no phone and its still cold here in the northeast and there is no one else to help him. Im 66 yrs old and have done this solo for the last 34 years but somehow now cannot handle it anymoreemotionally. I can’t afford your seminar but I do read your encouraging and strengthening emails. Please pray for us.

    1. Hi Mindy – These are hard decisions. I’m glad you are reading the emails. I’ve also asked support to reach out to you with one more thought so watch for that. -B

  2. My son has not lived with me since my divorce from his father 17 years ago. He has moved around a lot and started doing drugs too young and now he lives in our downtown shelter. I have tried to help the best I could but now I am choosing to step back and help myself. Nothing has been easy but this information on the statistics that you posted was very helpful. Thank you

    1. Ilene – You are right that nothing about this is easy – it is terrible thing for any mom to go through. I’d glad you found the info helpful and that you are choosing to help yourself. Counter-intuitively, helping ourselves, moving to the Love Another Way model is often what does help our “child”. -Barbara

  3. Hi Barbara, are there any other free or low income options for parents other than AA or Al Anon. I don’t find those groups helpful for me right now as there is no cross talk allowed and being able to converse and ask questions feels more like the support I need right now.

    1. HI Gerry, I felt the same way about the 12 step meetings and about support group meetings. That’s why I’ve done this work. I asked support to reach out to you by email. Please watch for that. -Barbara

  4. God bless you Barbara for offering this information to all. My daughter is in recovery, not actively using , but is not going to NA meetings. She said she could teach the class because she has been in rehab so many times. She lives 2000 miles from me and never calls me . She says it’s because she doesn’t have any new news and our time zones are 3 hours different. I always feel like it’s because she is relapsing and it worries me. I have told her that I just want to know she is ok. Even a text would be awesome! I find out about how she is doing through her boyfriend or his Mom but I hate to bother them all the time. I don’t understand why she won’t contact me.

    1. Hi Paula – There are so many possibilities and layers to why she won’t contact you, it’s impossible to find the answer in a post. It may be possible to shift things between you and her if you are open to making changes in how you respond to this disease. If you haven’t watched my workshop, please do that and see if I resonate with you. If you need guidance on how to watch the workshop or further help on how to start, please write to [email protected] and tell then what you’ve seen from me so far and ask for guidance. -Barbara

  5. I can’t afford your program but have been reading your emails. I am concerned about my grandson who is only 15. Will your suggestions work with teen addictions?

    1. Margaret – Thank you for being such an involved grandparent. Yes, the strategies I teach are effective for anyone who loves anyone with one the disease of addiction and/or mental illness. There are some differences in execution with a minor. In some ways, you have more control and in other ways less due to laws, which vary location to location. -Barbara

  6. Thank you ! How Awesome you are to have done this work to help so many desperate people ! yourself and your Son most notably . Very informative !!

  7. Barbara thank you so much for sending me emails. I was not able to continue in your program. I appreciate all your hard work and sharing with so many. I need these emails to stay on track with with my thinking. I have two kids with issues. Thank you again for keeping me in the loop.

  8. Hi Barbara, Thank you for still reaching out to those of us that can’t afford the full program. My son has distanced himself from me since he was 18 or 19. I did the tough love thing and told him if he didn’t get a job he had to leave. He was consumed in video games. After a couple of weeks he got a job and I let him back in. But this went on and on in a circle of having a job for only a few weeks or months until he decided living with a friend and his Mom was better for him. Of course he made me out to be the villain. He is now 34 yrs old. His brother kept in contact with him and I would find out how he was thru him until they had a tiff and don’t communicate anymore. He is very narcissistic and we have all cut off communication with him except I have recently texted him to try to reach out to him but he never replies. I know he’s alive because of an accidental contact lol but he chooses not to talk to me. His Dad is bipolar and I think my son might have it too. We divorced when my boys were 7 and 8 yrs old. They still stay in contact with their Dad but that’s a really bad thing because the bipolar makes him twist things and lie and make up stories about me and I’m guessing that’s why my son doesn’t communicate with me. I tried and tried to communicate with him but I came to the decision to just stop. And just last night I realized I didn’t cause his disease. I brought him up right. I don’t have to suffer. I’m doing this to myself. He won’t acknowledge his sickness, but at some point I believe he will. And then maybe he’ll seek help. Reading this today just confirmed that I didn’t cause his disease or behavior and that was such a relief. I have let him know that I love him and if he ever wants to get together and talk I’m right here. Thank you for all you do to help so many people.

    1. Hi Dawn – It sounds very difficult – and I know it is easier for me to type this than it is to apply when these things are going on – but, the person who is behaving this way is not actually your son This is a mind disease and your son is still in there somewhere. I’ve asked my support team to reach out to you via email so please look for that.

  9. Thanks for sending this out. I also can’t afford your program. What is most helpful , is all the comments by the recovering addicts but also the parents. It shows us once again, we are not alone. They have some of the same thoughts, ideas, and wants as I. This blog gives me the encouragement to continue to exist with an adult alcoholic daughter that lives with me. Very hard to not belittle, be angry and then become silent. Thanks again

    1. Hi Doreen – You are very welcome. It is hard and no one taught us how to deal with this disease. When it arrives, it doesn’t feel like a disease but like bad choices. I’m hopeful there will one day be shift around addiction and it will be better understood. I remember AIDS when it was first discussed in the 80’s and how different discussion and perceptions are today. I hope this problem can advance in a similar way. -Barbara

  10. Barbara – Thanks for continuing to send info, even though I can’t afford your program right now. I’ve been dealing with 2 addicted (alcohol) adult kids a total of 26 years now. I’m divorced & my 48-yr. old son lives with me. Fortunately, my 46-yr. old daughter HAD to quit drinking (after 5 treatment centers) because 6 yrs. ago she was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease & she went to live in a group home, which she will be in until she dies of the disease. Very heartbreaking – but her addiction could have landed her in a MUCH worse situation!! Thanks for your fresh perspective! I enable my son because I DO STILL believe that I forced him to grow up with an abusive father for 30 years, until I divorced him. But, I know it WAS NOT POSSIBLE for me to leave earlier, for many reasons. I’ve told both my kids that & they seem to understand. But, STILL I gave birth to them & it wasn’t their fault they were emotionally torn to shreds by their dad. I PUT THEM IN THAT SITUATION!!! It’s REALLY HARD to get over that guilt!! Thanks for listening.

    1. HI Stephanie – It is hard to get over our guilt (and all of us have the if only I had xyz) – and it is possible. Keep working on it. Once someone is an adult, they can choose to put on their big boy/big girl pants and take charge of their lives, or they can choose to play a victim role. That is the individual’s choice. Certainly some people have it harder growing up than other people, and that is not the determinant for how their lives will unfold. It is what they do with the hand they’ve been dealt that matters. YOU did the best you could at each moment of time, and no one can be expected to do any more than that. -Barbara

      1. Barbara……Thanks so much for responding to my comments. I am still hanging in there, trying to STOP BLAMING MYSELF for my kid's bad circumstances involving their abusive (& alcoholic) father when they were growing up. I was stuck & couldn't leave for many reasons. I have joined your program for $49/mo, but can't afford the full program right now. Hopefully I will soon, though. Please keep me on your Emailing list. EVERYTHING I have read from you is helpful! God Bless!🙏

  11. Helped reading this As a grandparent that the addict lives with I always think it could be a choice not a disease but his father was also an addict and took his own life Am hoping my grandson will chose recovery as has a beautiful daughter

    1. Hi Sandra – Yes, 100% correct and I hope he chooses recovery. In the meanwhile, please do take care of yourself. Just because it is a disease doesn’t mean that we have to accept any of the behaviors this disease creates. We can and should say no to the behaviors, imo. -Barbara

  12. I am struggling as every other mom is. Sleeping through the night while he is in jail. I can’t afford this program, but I appreciate the encouraging emails

    1. Hi JoAnn – You are right – it is so hard. I also found I could sleep through the night while Eric was in jail. It was the times he was out that my sleep was more disrupted. My support desk is going to send you a special email this week, so please watch for it. -Barbara

  13. Thank you Barbara for your blog and emails, I too cannot afford your program, however I read all the information you post. I have two adult Sons, they did decide just last week to get help for their drug addiction. It’s been a very long road, but they made the decition them selves.

    1. Hi Michelle – You are very welcome. I am glad to hear that your sons are choosing to move forward with their lives. Enjoy every moment. Watch your email. We’ll be sending you a special one. -Barbara

  14. Interesting, but like many I don’t have the money to join but read everything you post.
    Thank you

    1. Thanks, Linda. I’m going to ask support to send you an email. Please keep an eye out over the next couple of days.

  15. My son went to detox for meth use and is now in a sober living home he has 100 days clean and has a job and doing good so far. My biggest fear is what if he relapses. What do I do or say my heart will be broken again. He will have to leave the home then he will be out on the streets again. Thank you Barbara for all your help and e-mails. I’m retired and don’t have the funds to join . I look forward to more e-mails. Once again thank you so much.

  16. Thank you so much for this study and for every one of your emails. I read them all and they are so helpful. My addict is my grandson, whose parents were not the best. Bipolar and abusive mom and a dad who turned to drugs to take himself out of the chaos. As a result, being the codependent that I am, tried to ‘take care’ of the lack of love, support and affection that I thought was needed. Not necessarily a bad thing, but what was back, there were no boundaries set. I now have an adult grandson who is bipolar, has ptsd, anxiety and uses drugs. As much as I would love to join, I find that I can’t because of finances. I have learned through your correspondence, that no matter how hard, I must set these boundaries. In fact, I have one in place today and so far have stuck with it. I just felt the need to let you know, that while I cannot join now, you have helped me through your correspondence with me. I look forward to continuing to receiving them. Thank you so much.

    1. Vickie – Thank you so much for sharing your story. And I think you did what most grandparents would do in the situation you described, and you helped out of love and concern. I’m very proud of you for now experimenting with setting boundaries. Good for you. -Barbarar

  17. Hi Barbara, I can see the value in what you have lived and created. Thank you for not giving up on me and reaching out to share. I don’t have an actual relationship right now with my child, as he has taken distance. For sure, my love for him is totally intact and has never wavered. Interestingly enough, I didn’t reach out to him, like usual, by his voice mail on the special occasion of this past Christmas. He reached out to me a day or so later (almost unheard of- any communication very few and far between). The very same day, I learned of your group through social media. I decided to take the initial first step and participate in the complimentary intro video, and based on that, waited another day or so and carefully formulated a self-respecting response (text) with new, self-respecting boundaries. I have decided to no longer leave newsy messages. I have invited him to call us, if he wants to have a relationship with us to set up an appointment, so we can gather ourselves before-hand. I told him if he wants news from siblings, he should approach them himself. I re-iterated our love for him. I told him that, right now, it’s like he’s dead to us, although he’s alive. I told him that I take comfort from nature. A bird lays eggs in a nest, and when they grow up enough, the young birds leave the nest, and that’s just how it is. I love my son and would love to be able to hold him in my arms and tell him so (tears), however, that is not possible right now. So, I wish for the best for him and I look after myself in my own life. So, thank you, Barbara, for not giving up on me. I sense that in the future, I’ll be looking for you and your legacy. I’m just not ready, just now.

    1. Hi Donna, Thanks for sharing the actions you’ve taken, and they are powerful actions. So very well done. I applaud you and say continue. -Barbara

  18. as true and real as these statements are It also was Raw as I spent ( with my new husband) 3 weeks with my son… I am now recovering ❤️‍🩹 from a downward spiral 🌀 of depression. But this helped me see what I and my Husband Kevin did Right during that time . Jesus help us all

    1. Hi Elizabeth – Glad to hear that you are able to recognize what you did right. That’s huge! And I believe that most/all of us with children with a “mind disease” (addiction, mental illness, mental condition, etc) need to allow ourselves to grieve the loss of the child we expected to have at this point, the family we carefully built which does not now match our expectations, etc. -Barbara

  19. What do you do when your addicted child has children of their own that you are trying to raise. Should you set boundaries about
    the addict see their children ages 2.5 and 14?

    1. Hi Teri,
      Grandkids do complicate things for sure. I wish there were one “right” answer I could give you to that question – and there just isn’t. Legalities, people, families are all different – and my approach is to work with each student on establishing their own priorities and then creating boundaries that best serve them, based on those priorities and the realities of their own family. Take a listen to my workshop if you haven’t (linked at the top of my website.)

  20. Interested in your work. I have a 15 year old addict (first went to treatment as a 14 year old). I struggle with the legal obligations I have. I have even been investigated for child neglect/abuse. Setting boundaries with a teenager is an even larger challenge for me – it seems.

    1. Hi Debra – Yes, there are some different challenges when the child is a teenager for sure, and the same strategies and approaches are what can make a difference. I’m so sorry that you have been investigated for abuse/neglect when all you’ve done is try to set boundaries. Take a listen to the workshop and see if the approach resonates with you. Barbara

  21. What if there are kids in the middle of all the addiction issues? Don’t say call the authorities as there are 2 kids no one ever saw again after my niece had “authorities” called. And that in between time until its all settled, there is no prominse of them being safe in a strangers home in my state. No thank you. Suggestions please.

    1. Jo,

      I’m so sorry to hear that your family is struggling with this too. I would never tell anyone to call the authorities, because we each get to choose how we engage with this terrible disease. And each mom’s choice is different because each mom’s situation is different.

      Unfortunately, there are no “magic answers” to these situations. But we CAN find our way through, if we’re willing to engage with the disease in a new way – what I call Loving Another Way.

      If you haven’t already, I’d recommend watching my online workshop to learn more about how we approach things using the Love Another Way Framework. You’ll find the link in the menu, at the top of the page

  22. Hello thank you for info. I lost my youngest son to addiction 3 years ago. My older son has opiate addiction too , but was also diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and had meltdowns frequently. It is a hard challenge, Any other parents struggling with this? Thx

    1. Tamara – I am so sorry for your loss. I don’t personally have students dealing with the combination of addiction and Asperger Syndrome. We do have quite a few students dealing with the combination of addiction + some other thing, like OCD, ADHD, Schizophrenia and on and on. And some dealing with the combination of addiction and serious physical conditions like cancer and hear disease. The approach that seems most effective and which I teach is to recognize that no matter what combination of things is occurring, the addiction must be tackled before other conditions can be properly treated. And additionally, the core of my approach is that what we can react to and deal with is the behavior, and there are strategies to use regardless of the cause of the behavior. The strategies are universal. Hope this helps. Barbara

    1. There are great examples in the workshop. You can register to attend right from this page. And I write about them in my emails regularly. If you aren’t on my list, you can join at

  23. Thank you for sharing this. I have been tied up in knots. I would like to enroll in your program. I need help managing. It is difficult to find a positive way to communicate with my daughter without making things more difficult for her.

    1. Thanks for your note, Bonnie. I’m going to ask Sharon to reach out to you by email and provide you with the full details on my program. I’d love to support you and am so sorry for what you are going through.

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      I see you have signed up for the Essential Edition. Welcome! When I first launched, I had set start dates and people had to wait until I had a group assembled. People didn’t like that very much and so I changed everything around. Now, a person starts immediately when the sign up and I have fancy tech on the back-end that makes all the possible. So, whenever a student is ready, they enroll and start immediately, up to my limits of capacity to handle the coaching. I always make sure I have enough bandwidth to properly serve each student. Barbara

    1. Thanks for your note Karen. I think most of us need to hear them over and over so that our hearts can start to connect to our heads.

      1. Confirming what you said that “it is up to the addict to quit his/her addiction. It is not the parents fault that they are addicts. Hard to wrap our heads around when our love for our children is so strong that we want to fix them.

        1. You are right Janet! It is so hard for us to wrap out heads around. We want to figure out what caused this – what we could have done differently – and there is no answer to that question. It is a brain disease and use of a substance changes the brain of some people. There are lots of contributing factors known and studied, but in my view, no one yet can determine all the whys or predict who will get what is truly a disease and who won’t. I had to have this discussion with people in the know over and over and over. I’d get it – and then I’d lose it and I’d have to repeat process.

    1. Hi Leon and Helen – you can join my email list. Here’s my website, just click on the button for the free download.Thanks so much for your note. Barbara

  24. Thank you Connie. And I agree, it is a shift all for moms to figure out HOW to be a truly good and helpful parent to an adult child who has chosen recovery.

  25. I’ve so appreciated what I’ve gained from you, at least hub didnt run down and bail him out, of course it helped that he was told that if he did he’d just be immediately re-arrested

  26. I am so thankful I found this program. It has helped me to learn about how addiction works and how it effects the addict and their actions. I have completed the 1st phase of this program and am enjoying the 2nd phase even more. It has given me the courage and strength to do what was needed to help myself as well as my son. We now have a good relationship that we are able to “agree to disagree” and can communicate in a positive manner. Barbara, thank you is not enough to express how grateful I am that you offer this program!!! I hope it never ends!!

    1. Kelly – Thank you so much. You contribute so much inspiration – you show us how to live with peace, joy and grace even while the child you love is choosing addiction. Love ya:)

  27. Thanks for this article. I so needed this tonight. We have tried so many ways to “help” our adult daughter. But in reality we were enabling her. And usually got abuse for it. Today we had to put our foot down, while telling her we are here if she really wants to change, with boundaries this time. I want to take your 90 minute course but will not be able to for a couple of weeks. Please send me info. We really need to fortify ourselves, and learn what’s helping and what is enabling, and not feel guilty about it. Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Connie – Thanks for your note. The experience you are describing is typical, I’m sad to say. We, as moms, try to help – and the disease which has taken over our child often dumps all kinds of nasty at us when it does not get what it wants/needs. I’ve added you to my email list, which means that you’ll start to get email from me within 30 minutes or so. Please check promotions or spam and reply to one of those emails to educate gmail that you want to hear from me and I’m not a spammer. And reach out when you are ready – just reply to any of the emails I’ll be sending, and I’ll get you the link for the workshop. Barbara

  28. I am completing the boundary essential program and this is an excellent summary. Through this program you gain an understanding of how your own actions are affecting your loved ones addiction. It’s such a tough road to travel alone and with people who try but cannot fully relate. With the understanding from others who are going through similar experiences you gain strength. Thank you Barbara!

  29. My son who was 33 died in his addiction, my oldest son has dealt with addiction all of his adult life. I now have a BA in psychology addiction and recovery as well as Christian counseling, this article is so right on. Thank You

    1. I’m so sorry for your loss, Pamela. Sounds like you’ve gone on a journey of your own as a result of addiction coming into your world. Appreciate the insight.

  30. My son, Richard Thomas Eubanks, died of a herion addiction on Valentines Day 2020 on the nasty streets of Baltimore, Md
    Thank you for helping parents

    1. I am so sorry for your loss, Joannie. There just are no adequate words. So many of our children lost and no rhyme or reason to it. It is still very fresh for you and I hope you can find some peace with the passage of time.

  31. Your findings align perfectly with he documentation in a book I’m currently reading titled, “Beyond Addiction: How Science And Kindness Help People Change.” The authors are Jeffrey Foote, Carrie Wilkens, Nicole Kosanke and, Stephanie Higgs. I agree with your assessment that parents want to be helpful; they just don’t know how. In my opinion, that’s why it’s imperative that one joins a group. That’s why I’ve joined this group: to learn how to be more effective from those who have been in this situation and will help guide me without passing judgment.

    1. Thanks Brooke. That is a wonderful book, and the companion workbook “The Parents 20 Min Guide” is also useful – a series of exercises parents can do. And yes, 100% on the importance of a group of like-minded people. Because I read and read for years and had great trouble applying in the actual situations that came up it seemed every single day.

  32. I appreciate meeting parents from all over and identifying with them, sharing things we’ve learned, need help with and sharung wins from time to time. It’s helped me immensely with the isolation that often comes with this life and parenting an addict. I’ve also learned about myself as well and have begun the journey of taking care of me too! Barbara is a great spokesperson and leader of the group as so many of our experiences are similar. It’s a blessing to have somewhere to turn – thank you.

    1. Stacy – Thank you so much. It is such a pleasure to know you and see your own growth on this journey.

  33. Barbara, I thank God every day that He led me to you! I am forever grateful for the physical, spiritual & emotional healing I received while I was an early student in your program.
    I stay concerned for my son, but no longer obsess With constant worry, which WAS literally sucking the life out of me. I can now sleep without the horrible insomnia; and I have found my pockets of JOY each day. The weekly Group support video calls have been a lifesaver for me!! Thank you, Barbara, and God bless you For your superior program!

    1. Donna – I think most of us moms feel the same way on this journey. I sure did. Because it goes against what we intuitively do as moms. I recommend my workshop as a next step – where I talk about the boundaries I had to learn to set in my own life. Click here to sign up for that.

  34. Barbara’s course it amazing. She has helped me to view things in a different light and therefore I can respond better to the situations I am faced with. I am learning to set loving boundaries and no longer enable my children. To let go of the guilt so that I can enjoy my life to the fullest. I felt so isolated before and now I have a found a community that truly understands what it is like to parent a child with addiction. Barbara truly cares.

    1. Thank you so much, Sarah. You’ve done the work and I’m so glad to see the joy you’ve found and allowed yourself to have.

  35. I found the article eye opening. It was presented well and organized. It gave me so many ideas on ways to deal with my son while still loving and supporting him but not enabling him with his addiction. I also now understand more of what he is going through with this disease instead of thinking if he wanted to he could just stop. I have forgiven him for some of the awful things his has done. I understand that really wasn’t him.

    1. Thank you, Donna. Yes, great insight about your son – and it is hard to recognize that in the moment.

  36. Barbara, thank you, thank you, thank you! This is SO well thought-out and comprehensive – and contains so much valuable information in one spot. I appreciate the work it must have taken to write it. I am grateful for your wealth of knowledge and experience and your willingness to share it with others. Bless you!

  37. Barbara teaches strategies parents can use to find happiness even when their child is in active addiction. I learned that by finding a new way to deal with my daughter’s addiction, I can improve my relationships with my other family members and help her chose recovery. I have never approached her addiction this way despite years of therapy and participation in Alanon.

    1. Kind of amazing how that happens – the things we learn spread outward in our lives in such a positive way.

  38. This is an excellent review and so helpful to read. With your survey and analysis you have identified really important information I did not know about parenting adult children with addictions and understanding the real needs of parents in this situation. It is so hopeful and helpful that setting healthy boundaries with love and compassion is a skill set anyone can learn if they work at it. Your course provides research-based strategies and interventions to learn and implement with personal and peer support available. Awesome!!

    1. Thanks Karelle – Yes, you are right! Anyone can learn these skills and strategies. Just takes an open-mind and a willingness to change some things about ourselves:)

  39. I am thankful every day that I found Barbara Decker and her program for parents. My life has changed dramatically since i’ve learned to set loving boundaries that I can keep and not cave on. I highly recommend any parent with an addicted child to check her program out and free themselves from the constant chaos, pain and worry – Donna S .

    1. Thank you Donna. I’m seeing such amazing growth in you. You should be very proud of the hard work you’ve done in the past 10 weeks or so.

  40. I’ve just completed Barbara’s course and feel equipped to move forward – setting realistic boundaries to keep me from getting engulfed in the chaos that comes with addiction.

    1. Thanks, Evelyn. You feel equipped because you did the work:) You dug in with an open mind. Kudos to you.

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