Does “Tough Love” Work in Recovery?
Millions of Americans are living with an addicted loved one and even more have a close friend that is actively struggling with substance abuse. So many of us have felt what it’s like to disappoint someone we care about with our drug use. Whether it’s stealing through dishonesty, aggression, manipulation or any other kind of toxic behavior, addiction very well brings out the worst in us. Everyone who has had the experience of dealing with an addicted loved one has a different threshold of tolerance, from the mother sticking by her child to her detriment to the sibling who writes the addict off after a very short time. Many have even used what they describe as “tough love” to deal with their loved one’s substance abuse.
The definition of “tough love” varies for each and every practitioner. Some exhibit their brand of tough love by not giving their addicted loved one money or any kind of logistical support that would enable them to get drugs. Others may think tough love is cutting off contact completely until they agree to get help for their substance abuse. Whatever one’s definition of tough love may be, families and friends who adopt this policy must be fully mindful of its drawbacks in addition to its benefits. It’s only when tough love is exhibited with compassion that it can be fully effective.
One of the most important things to remember about tough is to temper it with logic and practicality. It’s important to remember there’s a world of difference between tough love and abandonment. While no person should be forced to derail their lives for the sake of their loved one’s recovery, any kind of support is better than no support at all. It’s not likely that an addict will seek help entirely on his or her own. They will need an advocate to help them realize the severity of their problems and to assist with the logistics of entering treatment. We also have to be prepared to realize that tough love is not a viable strategy for our specific loved one.