Help! My Parents Won’t Stop Enabling My Brother.

Nicole says her older brother Jim has become a stranger to her. She and Jim were close as children, but all that changed when Jim entered the eighth grade and started smoking marijuana and then moved on to harder drugs.

Nicole went on to graduate high school and university, while Jim dropped out of school and lost multiple jobs. Jim is 28 now and still lives at home. Nicole has spent the last decade nagging her parents and Jim. She says Jim has it too easy at home and her parents enable him.

Nicole used to ask Jim why he took advantage of their parents. Now she says, ‘Why wouldn’t he?’ Jim has a roof over his head, all the food he can eat, and free utilities. Jim’s parents give him an allowance and pay his car payment, car insurance, and cell phone bill. Jim doesn’t need to keep a job. Everything he wants and needs is provided for him.

Nicole tried talking with her parents but said it’s useless. In the beginning, her parents promised to stop enabling Jim and set boundaries with him, but they never followed through. Now Nicole’s parents look at her like she’s the problem. They say Nicole doesn’t understand. They tell her, her brother is sick, and she should be more compassionate.

Nicole says she feels like the parent in this situation. Her Mom does whatever her brother wants, and her Dad doesn’t say anything about it. Nicole’s parents are angry with her. They want her to stop arguing with them. They say if Jim were sick with cancer, she wouldn’t be acting this way.

But Jim doesn’t have cancer, and if he did, Nicole says she’d stand by him like she’s doing now.

Nicole supports her brother by confronting him. She hopes her realistic approach will wake him up. Nicole doesn’t make excuses for Jim. She believes he can get well, but only if her parents quit enabling him. Nicole tells Jim the truth, not what he wants to hear. Nicole offers to phone rehab with Jim when he asks her for money. But she says it doesn’t matter how hard she tries. As long as her parents enable, Jim will stay down. Nicole’s parents disagree with her. They don’t view helping their son as enabling. They say being good parents and offering their support is an act of love, not one of enabling.

Recently Nicole and her parents had a huge argument. It ended with her mother in tears and Nicole storming from the house. Nicole hasn’t spoken to her parents since. Nicole says she feels invisible because everything is ALWAYS about Jim. Nicole claims she has lost her entire family to addiction. None of them are the same people they once were. Nicole admits her Mom is obsessed with her brother, and they can’t have a conversation without her Mom bringing Jim into it. Nicole wonders if the only way to get attention in her family is to be addicted.

One word comes to Nicole’s mind… SAD. Nicole is grieving the loss of her parents and her brother. She worries about her parents and notes her mother is exhausted and has lost weight. Nicole knows her mom doesn’t sleep well because of worrying about Jim. Nicole says her mom recently started taking anti-depressants but didn’t tell the doctor why she is depressed. Jim’s addiction is the family secret, and her parents don’t want anyone to know about it.

Nicole claims her Dad’s not much better. Since Jim got sick, he is rarely home, and when he is, he’s pretty quiet. He doesn’t want to upset Nicole’s mother or Jim, so he goes along with everything Jim or his wife decide.

Since Nicole stopped talking to her parents, she is plagued by guilt. She worries she was too harsh. Nicole feels torn. On the one hand, Nicole loves her family, on the other, she doesn’t like who she becomes when she’s with them. Nicole acknowledges she struggles with controlling her parents and Jim.

What Nicole isn’t seeing is Jim’s illness has affected everyone in Nicole’s family, including Nicole.

Jim is consumed with using drugs and getting high.

Jim’s mother is consumed with Jim.

Jim’s father walks on eggshells trying to keep peace in the family.

Nicole is trying to fix them all and has lost herself in the process.

The family believes if Jim gets well, they will all be okay. In short, their well-being is attached to Jim’s moods and behavior. They have made the impaired thinker responsible for the quality of their life.

Nicole’s parents refuse to reach out for help. They believe Jim will come to his senses, ‘one day.’

If Nicole’s parents were to reach out and become educated, they would learn what they’re doing isn’t helping Jim, but crippling him. They would also learn Jim isn’t the only one who needs help. But more importantly, they would learn without consequences, Jim will inevitably succumb to his illness and die from it.

Although Nicole has lived most of her life in Jim’s shadow, her future is bright.

While Nicole can’t make the rest of her family seek help, she can influence them by making positive changes in her own life. Nicole has started attending meetings and feels hopeful. She is finding peace and learning to forgive her family and understands they’re sick too. Nicole is breaking the cycle of addiction in her family and hopes her leading the way, will encourage others to do so.

Lorelie Rozzano

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