Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Am I an Enabler?

I have a 27 year old son who is somewhat stable on medication. He hears a few voices but says he can brush them away and move on.
He lives at home, used to have a part time job but since his last episode last year has decided he doesn’t want to work. His room is a mess, he doesn’t know how to cook a thing except peanut butter sandwiches. I tolerate all this because he has schizophrenia.
He can go and spend time at a friends house a few days a week and he can go to his spiritual healer’s house and hang out there a few days every now and then. I’m thinking that he needs to go into assisted living or a group living environment where there are expectations that he will have to live up to and learn to be a participant in the adult world. What is holding me back in pursuing this is I don’t want him to feel pressured and relapse into another psychotic episode. Am I just enabling him to stay the way he is?


When my daughter was most unwell, I tried to find somewhere else for her to live, several times, and didn’t talk to her about them until those arrangements were certain with the other parties. Then I asked her (slowly putting out the new idea). It was very difficult to find a group home, and when found, she turned it down. Lack of work, messiness, weird eating habits are common problems in our loved ones, on or off medicine. My daughter still doesn’t want to cook anything, rarely eats anything I don’t buy or prepare for her, and her room is a mess (she used to be soooooo neat pre-illness). But the psychosis is gone, and now she’s had a stable job for over 7 months. I am well aware of the blessings, and count myself lucky to have them.

You could try and find a place first, then if/when found, see if he will agree. There is only so much you can expect. I don’t think you are enabling, you are cautious, and rightfully so. I’m glad your son is able to socialize to some degree. Perhaps the longing for a job will come back, especially when he runs out of money.


Many of you know this, but here’s a story of two children: one developed bipolar disorder, had generally poor compliance with medication, self-medicated with alcohol and occasional drugs, worked off and on, lived with a girlfriend until she decided to end it, then moved in with the parents.

About that same time another younger child dropped out of college after developing SZA, moved in with the parents, started seeing a psychologist but was resistant to medication. Given help to find a job, and was taking classes part time to go back and finish college. Had a psychotic break and was hospitalized before going back to college, was unsuccessful at finishing classes. Went back to job and living with parents, but mother now required he pay rent which he resented because his brother didn’t have to. Started psychiatric care. Eventually moved out, starting paying for his psychotherapy and medical bills, car, insurance etc. Eventually returned to college and finished his degree, bought a house, advanced in his career and had a few relationships.

Meanwhile the other brother was no longer working aside from getting an allowance for taking care of the parents. Got into debt from bar tabs, and filed for bankruptcy. And at some point started getting violent when drunk, and attempted to strangle another sibling and eventually the mother. Parents got a restraining order, bought him a small house and continued to support him to this day. Has hoarded out the house, gotten into various legal troubles, and now has committed to getting into rehab and taking medication about 45 years after he was diagnosed.

I’m the second kid. Do I think my parents enabled my brother—yes. Do I necessarily blame them for it, well no, they did the best they could, and they could have done better, but I’d say more attempted to contain him rather than enable him. It just went on too long, and they missed opportunities to help him by doing so. Would the outcome been much different either way, hard to say. He had elaborate denial and anasognosial systems in place that thwarted their (and my siblings) efforts, only recently did these break down by circumstances and less enabling. I’d say it was and is still touch and go.

But, I think you have a choice to make and are asking yourself the right questions. Should I require him to work, maybe pay rent or get him into a group home or assisted housing or living. Whether what you are doing is enabling or containing or whatever it is, you can choose how much you give and under what terms. He really doesn’t have much choice in the matter unless you give it to him, and if giving up your own choice is enabling or codependence or whatever label you give it, you need to start balancing your choices to both your benefits if you can.


Sometimes when I think I’m enabling, I tend to analyze the situation (I retired as an analyst so its part of my DNA) to see which it is - enabling or avoidance of the possibility of a really bad situation. What’s worse - having to mow the yard myself because he believes he’s so rich that everything should be hired out - or his ending up in a full blown psychotic episode that I can see coming? The latter will usually require repairs to the sheetrock, furniture or broken windows. Calling the police is useless since our local state attorney’s office doesn’t like to send people forward into hospitals so they sit in jail - on the wrong meds. My son has been so incoherent on more than one occasion when he ended up before a judge that the judge was leery of even bringing him into the courtroom - so he didn’t. And it was only because we (family) coordinated efforts between the public defender and the state attorney’s office, that they dropped the charges against him and sent him to the hospital. The judge was so incompetent that he was going to send my son home so that he could later appear to be admitted to the hospital. Yeah, right! I had to explain to the attorneys that typically they are sent to an interim hospital or CSU until a psych bed opened up and they in turn convinced the judge to send him to an interim hospital. The whole situation was incredulous!

My son has gotten to the point that he no longer cares about maintaining his room or bathroom. I have to remember that I have no clue as to what he’s truly thinking or how he’s feeling. He knows there is something wrong but at a loss to take it all in. At 41, I have never seen him so excited as when I bought him a bicycle that you’d have to take a sledge hammer to in order to damage it. That was after repeatedly replacing inner tubes, tires, spokes and handle grips on his old bike. I was pouring money into a piece of junk but this one is built like a tank! So, I pick up the wet towels and dirty clothes and know that it can always be worse.

I want him to get better but “better” is sometimes only a hair better than yesterday. So, I keep hoping and when he forgets which meds he takes in the morning, I know that its progressed further than he himself realizes. He has no friends, they’ve all left him behind and family isn’t important to him anymore. He says that when I die, he dies - so I have family who I check in with each morning “just in case”.

Hopefully your son will be able to find a med that works for him but good psychiatrists are hard to find. Take care and know that this is something that every parent or caregiver has to understand - and sometimes there just isn’t a good answer.

Take care of yourself and be blessed! :palm_tree:


Thank you for your input. Some helpful thoughts. Choices.

He has friends? That’s great! Can he live on his own with a roommate? My son, even on medication, still shows signs of schizophrenia. He is in an assisted living facility with gives him some sense of other people. Otherwise, at home he did not interact with others. The fact that your son has a social life is huge!
He will eventually need to leave your home and have medication management. I would start looking for that now
What is a spiritual healer??

A spiritual healer feels he can draw demons out naturally and make you healthier. I do not personally believe this but my son has been involved with this for several years and it is more a sense of community than anything. He has continued to have psychotic episodes even with this healing.
How has the assisted living experience been for your son. I need to approach my son about this idea as he definitely needs to expand his sphere of friends and community with people like himself. Did your son go willingly? Has he learned to live on his own and picked up skills around cleanliness, cooking, grocery shopping, interacting and sharing with others. There are so many facts of life that my son is not learning.
My husband and I are an older couple and we are trying to help our son make a life for himself as I am sure all caregivers want. I seem to hear more negative experiences around group homes or supported living arrangements not really working.
Thanks for your input.

My son is in a county run facility, kind of like a dorm. There is a dining hall, they serve 3 meals a day. There is a mini kitchen they can use to make their own food if the want, there is a meditation room, a small “store”, tv rooms , gaming rooms, ext… it’s an old retirement home. He loves it there. However, he has to start becoming involved in the “community” in order to stay. That’s what I am working with him on now. He doesn’t drive, so this is perfect.

Hi there:

I missed your e-mail but have just seen it now.

Thanks for sharing your information. I am wondering why your daughter turned the group home down. Was it the feel of the house, the other people living there or? This may be helpful when/if I get to that point with my son.

Also, do you mind me asking what medication your daughter is on. My son’s psychiatrist wants him to go on clozapine as he still hears some voices. He manages these voices by ignoring them but nevertheless they are still there. My son did start on clozapine a couple of years ago, but took himself off it as he didn’t like going for blood tests every week. He didn’t tell anyone until we started noticing the signs of psychosis creeping back into his life.

Thanks again for your input.


Hiya Shirley,

Not sure how to post on this site via email, but am glad you saw my earlier response. My daughter is on the Haldol Dec shot, one shot a month. It is working very well for her.

She wouldn’t even go look at the group home, she just wanted to continue living in my house. It was earlier that she wanted to move out, but by the time I found a place she’d changed her mind.

Clozapine is a life changer from what I’ve read of others’ success with it for their loved one. Yes, they have to do the blood tests though.

I do hope you and your son have continued success improving things a bit at a time.

Hi @oldladyblue :grin: when you get an “email” from one person it’s more of a private message. You do have to reply through the site - as you can’t use your own email to respond.

When you get the email that you have a private message, tap the link and it will take you to the site where you can respond to the message…

Does that make sense?

Hi @hope, yes, thank you, that made sense and worked out fine. I appreciate your response.

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I honestly don’t know if I’m enabling my 34-year-old son. He’s on medication, but is still hearing voices I think. For the past few days there’s been more paradoxical laughter than usual, which can be disturbing. He’s 2 weeks out of a psychiatric ward of a hospital.

His only talking therapy is with a psychiatrist for 30 min a week via phone. He says he doesn’t want to talk to a psychologist, which he used to do up until a couple of years ago.

When he’s less symptomatic he can sell books online and make maybe $400/month.

He has no social life outside of our house, but was never one to socialize anyway. I don’t think we can encourage him to be more sociable at this point. He did form a relationship with a woman about 10 years ago and lived with her. They got married but it ended badly after about a year and they got divorced. For the past 3 years there have been zero friends in his life.

I think I should probably explore what housing options there might be where I live. Maybe it would do him good to live outside the house if he’s willing to try it. Can’t hurt to try.

I agree with the idea of developing friendships outside our family, especially with people sharing the same issues with SZ. Although our son seems perfectly content with his life as it is I can’t help feel that he needs a community of friends for the longer term. There are no groups for him to associate with other than when he first came out of the hospital 7 years ago. After that there is no organized groups to help him with this forever diagnosis.

Some of the supported living options are dismal at best. They appear to be unstructured, unhealthy situations with little help for my son to continue to heal and thrive as an independent person. I’ll keep researching.

@MakeThePlan When you say “I’ll keep researching”, I feel the same way. There is so much we don’t know. So much we have to find out about for our family members with SMI. What meds should they be taking? Where should they live? What non-medical therapies should they be doing? If they are resistant to one or all of the above, then how to motivate them?

In my case, I tend to do nothing when times are tolerable, which is about as good as it gets, and then I get super-motivated when it’s intolerable. I think I need to stay motivated all the time.

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