How to handle birthdays with an addict

by ET
(Brevard, NC)

My wife and I disagree about how to handle birthdays and Christmas regarding our 21-year-old daughter, who has spent the last two years being completely supported by others (7 different households). She dropped out of college and has only held a job for about 4 months in this time.

Various people have taken her in because they feel sorry for her. We even took her back in after she dropped out of college with the understanding that she would follow a contract that included getting a job, saving money, paying for her phone and preparing herself to live on her on. She chose not to follow these guidelines and we gave her six weeks notice to move out.
We have been very clear with her that we will only help her when she helps herself--goes back to school or gets a job.

Her birthday is in a few days and my wife thinks that we should not give her a birthday present because we would be enabling her. I disagree. I think birthdays are birthdays. For the last two years we have only given her gifts on her birthday and at Christmas. Otherwise, I've given her a few hand-me-down clothes. I would like to give her something that I know she needs (not wants). Thoughts? I would appreciate some help with this.

My wife, who is a recovering addict, is rather black and white about co-dependency. I understand that enabling is when you do something for the addict that she can or should do for herself. Technically, she could buy her own birthday present, but that seems ridiculous!

You might wonder why I refer to my daughter as an addict. Well, she has many of the behaviors of one: lying, manipulating, projecting, etc. She spends all her time badmouthing whoever the previous person was that took her in and gets the sympathies of her new "suckers." She also has exhibited signs of love/relationship addiction.

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Oct 10, 2012
Enjoy the enjoyable moments...
by: Don

Hi ET,

While there are good arguments on both sides, I tend to lean toward the advice to "enjoy the enjoyable moments" when you get the chance. In other words, do what YOU want to do in a given situation such as birthdays or even a simple meeting for lunch somewhere - as long as it is not doing something that is tied to supporting her addiction.

If she brings her addiction into the event, then is the time to set the boundary. Say she comes to lunch stoned... you can say, "I think we need to do this another time" and leave. Otherwise, it is okay to tell her you love her, to give her a birthday present, to laugh at lunch, to get a hug once in a while - as long as it is not directly tied to supporting her addiction.

Always check a few things: Ask yourself, am I doing this out of guilt or fear? Am I withholding love as a way of trying to control her? Am I being too responsible for her? Can and should she being doing this for herself? If the answer to all this is "no" and you are doing it because YOU want to do it, then I say go for it and enjoy that moment!

Oct 06, 2012
by: Anonymous

You sound like you are doing all the right things with your daughter. As far as the birthday gift is concerned I think it is fine to give her a present although it shouldn't be anything extravagant. You are celebrating the day of her birth- not to acknowledge it would be vey hurtful not only to her but to you as well. Namaste.

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