By now in our culture, we have heard of “tough love” and it is especially referred to when dealing in problematic relationships. In essence, tough love is when a person is treated sternly or “harshly” in the short run by those that those who care about him or her. These actions are done in an effort to help the addict make better choices about their future.
The best way to possibly describe tough love is to give examples of it being put into practice. Probably the easiest example to state is one where the relationship with the addict or alcoholic is completely ended until he or she goes through a sober treatment program and is well on their way in recovery. Again, this is easy to say, but so incredibly hard to do. However, keep in mind the whole purpose of tough love is to not only to provide the addict with enough pain incentive to change their life but also to allow you space and room to live your life independent of the bad behaviors and poor choices the addict is continuing to make.
Another example is not allowing the addict to live with you or enter your home while still using and not in recovery. Not giving him or her any money or resources such as time and energy is also important; by doing things for them, you free up their time to focus all their efforts in finding and using drugs or alcohol, not necessarily getting better. Making these kinds of decisions can seem unkind or really hard, but do not let the addict manipulate you because their number one priority is to keep their addiction alive and active. By refusing to participate in their requests, favors or poor choices, you can at least take comfort in the fact that you stop enabling them in their addiction—which will be incredibly important to your future peace of mind.
To understand this concept further, enabling a loved one with an addiction does nothing to assist in the relationship you have with that individual in the long-run and in fact, is probably the worst thing you can do for them. The problem is that by enabling, many people feel like they are helping, but they are not. What they are really doing is making the problem bigger because they prevent the person from having to live and face consequences that the rest of us have to; therefore, the addict is not really allowed to build their own skills on how to cope and navigate through life in a successful way.
Another big factor to remember is that as an addict continues to use, their brain chemistry changes. The need for a fix becomes bigger and bigger and they become less and less capable of making sound decisions. It is really easy to begin to aid them here and there, thinking you are doing good by them, but without a doubt they will begin to take advantage of you…sometimes for a long time before you even realize they are doing so. This is how the cycle of enabling starts and when it does, stopping your behaviors are almost as hard as getting an addict to quit. Like addicts, enablers also loose themselves to their enabling actions and what was once important to them falls by the wayside in favor of “assisting” the addict in “getting better”.
How do you know you are enabling someone? Do you do any of the following:
- Take care of their needs before your own,
- Give more of yourself than you really have time or energy for.
- Lie to cover for them.
- Give them money.
- Do things for them to help them “catch up” with their life.
- Ignore harmful actions and behavior from the addict to avoid confrontation.
All of these can take an incredible emotional as well as physical toll on any person. By continuing to act out of fear, you will eventually resent the addict for putting you in this position, when really it was your choice all along. What was once love can change to hurt and suffering and even worse, your own perceptions can become malformed, so you yourself are also not seeing things in reality.
Perhaps the biggest concern about tough love is knowing when and how to use it. It has the best chance of working in the early stages of addiction. However, it’s hard to know how long any addict has been using before their behavior becomes noticeable. This is probably best discussed in detail with professionals. It is really important to state getting counseling for yourself and life is never too late because, at the end of the day, you really have no control over any addict’s choices—you only have control over your own behaviors.
If you or a loved one has been dealing with an addiction of any nature or if you need help getting through to an addict, contact us today. We can provide you with quality treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. Don’t wait. Call now.