The Art Of Enabling…And I Was The Master!

Katie Donovan

 Katie Donovan Non-Profit Staff Reporter Staff Author

Ok, I know what you’re thinking….Oh LAWD, another article on enabling! And well, yes, I guess it is….but I’m not going to tell you what to do, I’m certainly not a professional in the medical field, but I was definitely an EXPERT at enabling! Oh yes. I fully admit it, hands down, IKILLED It at enabling. It took me YEARS to realize that’s actually what I was doing. I thought I was just being a parent, a mom, loving my sick child and helping her. I wanted to FIX it all! Mom to the rescue!

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During one of the rehabs that Brittany was in, I attended a mandatory family session. There was a group of about 20 parents in there, all quiet, all consumed in our own thoughts and personal messes. The topic was on enabling and codependency. I’m pretty sure I internally rolled my eyes. Whatever. I really don’t need to be here. I’m not the problem. If she would just LISTEN to me and DO WHAT I said, we wouldn’t even be here in the first place. Sheesh!


Then they passed out a questionnaire….

”Have you given your child money without truly knowing how it’s being spent?”.   Well, yes, but she said she needed it so….

“Have you looked for a job or applied for a job on behalf of my child?”.   UH OH…totally did that.

“Have you paid their legal fees?”. Oh SNAP.

“Do you think that you can fix the addict?”. I feel like they are reading my mind now. And I’m getting super irritated.

“Have you covered up for your child’s behavior to family and friends?” SHIT

Yes, I did all of that AND MORE. I would print out pretty little lists of AA/NA meetings she could go to. I would send her articles on “how to pick a good sponsor” and “relapse prevention”. I would make her doctor appointments, do her laundry, clean her room when it got so disgusting, bought her a car when she said “I can’t get to meetings”. I would wake her up for work when she lived at home…and when she lived out of state, I would call her to make sure she was up.

I was CONSUMED with saving her.

Every day was a new drama in her life. She would call me crying for help with some sort of issue. “Mom, OMG someone in halfway stole my blow dryer and curling iron”. “Mom, I spilled red kool aid all over my white shoes.” “Mom, I dropped my phone in the water”.



Until one day, I thought “Wow, I’m working harder on her recovery than she is”.

My husband said to me, “Katie, if anything ever happened to you, there’s no way Brittany could survive. She would have no clue how to live”. And he was right. I did EVERYTHING for her.

finally realized that I needed to stop. I really wasn’t helping her. AT ALL. In fact, I made it WAYYYY easier for her in her addiction. As parents, its natural for us to want to help our kids. We feel the need to protect them from harm, afraid to upset them, do things for them because we think they aren’t capable.


I started attending support groups and I really engaged with them. I listened, learned and applied the suggestions. I dove head first into finding online closed groups on Facebook. I was amazed at the support. Clearly, my way wasn’t working….so why not try another?


And you know what happened? I got strong. REALLY strong. Her life wasn’t consuming me anymore. I stopped giving in to her demands and manipulation. I stopped bailing her out of every single situation. I needed to back the hell off of her recovery!

Now, was it hard for me to stop? OMG YES! And she got MAD! “Mom, get off of those support groups, they don’t know what they are talking about. I’m not like their kids!”. Hmmm, really?

Ironically, when I became stronger, SHE became stronger. She also came to her own realization that mom wasn’t going to save her all the time. Crazy how that works.

After 7 years of active addiction, Brittany is now 19 months clean. I still have to practice working on my own recovery daily, just like she does.

A few weeks ago, her car window was smashed and someone stole the radio out. When she called to tell me, the first thought in my head was “I need to help her”. But then, I took a deep breath, and said “Shit, that sucks, are you ok?”


She said “Mom, I’ve been thru worse. I got this”.
And I knew she really did.

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Katie Donovan
Katie has spent over the last 20 years in the marketing, events and communications industry, working at companies such as CSR, Default Attorney Group and Chrysler. After experiencing the addiction journey, Katie left her marketing career, in order to focus on family recovery. She has now dedicated her life to guiding others through the overwhelming process of finding quality treatment for substance abuse, coaching families through their own recovery, and a consultant for the treatment industry. Katie is on the advisory board for FAN-Families Against Narcotics, is a public speaker on addiction, and an advocate for treatment vs. incarceration. She has been with her husband John for 19 years, and they live in Macomb, MI with their 12 year old daughter Brooke and Labrador retriever, Biscuit.

Her daughter Brittany, is now 25 years old, healthy, happy and working as a behavioral health technician at a treatment center in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Note: by management Katie is a Platinum member of the SFYB network and highly recommended. Her references have been verified and she has no complaints on file.

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