Is my mother being an enabler/codependent?


My parents were married for over 25 years with my dad being an alcoholic. I realized that my mother was an enabler/codependent during their marriage. They finally divorced which my mother has always regretted believing she should have stayed with her man. Later she had another relationship with a man who was also an alcoholic.

My relationship with my mother has always been stormy and after I married she has had a very difficult time accepting my wife and kids. Things finally quieted down until a few years ago... My sister's husband abandoned her for other women and is now living off the grid in another state. My sister (51 years old) has deteriorated into the proverbial "cat lady" living in a home that is falling down without heat or hot water with her cats. She lives in filth with bags of trash and hordes food among other things. She doesn't work (never has) and was left with a mortgage payment.

My mother has become consumed about my sister's situation. She literally lives for nothing else but to worry about and help her. My mother (78 years old) lives on social security and uses every penny to try and keep my sister afloat. As a result her house is falling apart, her health is suffering (she won't even visit the doctor), and she is doing without food all to "save" my sister who refuses to get out of her mess.

My mother refuses help unless it's for my sister. She has turned on the rest of her family (another brother and his family) because we don't feel sorry for our sister. My sister has not had contact with the rest of us in many years.

This has been going on for over 4 years now. Is my mother being the codependent/enabler person in this situation? Can anything be done? If it keeps going the way it's going they will both end up homeless! Thanks for any advice you might have.

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Jan 07, 2011
Sounds like it...
by: Don Carter

Hello NC,

It sounds like your mother has had a long history of being codependent & enabling (two alcoholic marriages)...codependency is an addiction too. It does not spontaneously go away if left untreated.

All of this is generally speaking, of course. The specifics of each person and situation are unique. So it may be that other things are also going on to complicate the picture such as depression, OCD, Adult Child Syndrome, etc.

What can you do? -- Not much if she resists seeing the extent of the problems (unless she poses a threat of immanent harm to herself or someone else).

What "needs" to happen? -- Ideally mom and sister need to get into see a qualified therapist who also knows about addiction for an evaluation. They would then need to follow through on the recommendations.

Having said that, if all else fails an intervention might be necessary, IF there are enough people that SHE cares about who will go to the trouble to learn about the process and carry it out. Below is a link to find out more about Family Intervention: (Just copy and Paste it into your browser's address bar)

Good luck and I hope this was helpful. Let us know how it goes and feel free to ask questions and share your experience.

Don Carter

Dec 29, 2010
Cat Person Syndrome
by: Kathleen D. Cone

I know this might be a strange response but there is an actual virus/infection that humans get from cats that cause them to act the way they do.. often called: Cat Ladies/Men syndrome..

What it is, is a naturally occuring amoeba/virus/bacteria of some sort that is transferred from cats to mice and rats to make the mice/rat seek out the urine of the cat (natures way of keeping rat/mice populations down) and it's been found that this bacteria can tranfer into humans and cause them to seek out cats or horde them to their own destruction...

I think with what you described it sounds like that could be what's going on with your sister. ... She can be tested for it and I think medication (possibly antibiotics or an antibacterial) can be given to her to snap her out it!

You might want to look into the alternatives and see if indeed this is what's going on.

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