Addiction – Is Tough Love Required?
Being addicted to alcohol or drugs is not only devastating to the person suffering from it. The disease of addiction is also devastating to all those concerned – parents, spouses, children, other family and friends and employers. The person in active addiction will often demonstrate all sorts of abhorrent ways that are harmful to not only themselves but everyone else around them. These behaviors include but are not limited to lying, stealing, cheating, emotional and physical abuse, reckless spending and reckless sexual activity.
By Shayne Sundholm, CEO, Clean Recovery Centers
Yelling and screaming doesn’t help
When anyone carries on in such a manner, addict or not, it can be very hard to show love to that person. If someone is the recipient of these abhorrent behaviors the natural reaction is to become angry, depressed, fearful or even vengeful. The disease of addiction actually thrives on these reactions. To yell or scream or try to purposefully hurt someone in active addiction is actually like pouring gasoline on a fire. Someone in active addiction can process very little mentally and have minimal if any remaining coping skills left.
When they come down from their high or drunk, they feel incredibly depressed and have an uncontrollable urge to use once again. Yelling, screaming and fighting with the suffering addict in this state only intensifies their anxiety, depression and feelings of fear and helplessness. Hence, the desire to use increases exponentially and the sad downward spiral of addiction accelerates.
What does someone on the receiving end of the addict’s behavior do? This is a very serious question. They often want to help but are either so furious, depressed or fearful they cannot think straight and have no idea what to do.
Thankfully, the answer is not that complex. In fact, if is rather simple. Simple but not easy for most people.
Some believe “tough love” is the answer. Love is never tough. Love is love. Some aspects required in dealing with someone in active addiction may seem tough, but they are not. If a person is to have any hope in helping their loved one suffering get the treatment they need, certain recommendations must be followed.
Manipulated too often
For example, a family wants to help their child suffering from addiction. Often the family has been manipulated over and over by their addicted child and has unknowingly enabled their child’s addiction.
They most likely have caved repeatedly into the demands of the child while things have gotten worse. The family has done this out of love, not on purpose. The love actually required to help their child is the opposite of this approach and it may seem harsh. It is not. This is a matter of life of death.
The approach requires firmness, not toughness – screaming, yelling and fighting with the suffering child is not the answer. Using a loving and compassionate tone, the family must make it clear to their suffering child that if they seek help and do their best to get well, they will support them in every possible way they can. If they choose not to, the family will not support them any further and watch them destroy themselves and everyone else.
A firm approach works
This family example is just that. It is an example. It could be a spouse trying to help a suffering spouse, or friend trying to help a suffering friend. The approach is essentially the same. Some may find this approach not only tough, but mean. It is not.
With the disease of addiction, this is truest expression of love there is. It may not work in all cases but has been demonstrated to work far better than virtually anything else. Remember, you are not trying to corner the suffering person, you are trying to corner his or her horrific disease of addiction, which happens to be inside of the suffering person’s mind, body, and soul.