Tough love is the enforcing of restrictions, from one family member or loved one to another, applied in response to repeated undesirable behavior such as criminal activity or substance abuse. This arrangement is maintained until the agreed upon or dictated set of conditions are met, typically entailing that the offending party has seen the error of his or her ways or has made other significant steps towards recovery. While the instinctive approach to helping someone close to you is to be open to his or her problems and provide a supportive environment in which they can heal, this can do more harm than good.
While welcoming a family member into your home after they’ve gotten into trouble may have worked in the past when his or her problems were less serious, it isn’t the solution for substance abuse. Helping your loved one out when he or she needs money, needs to be bailed out of jail, or needs a place to stay might seem like the right thing to do, but it enables irresponsible behavior. This policy allows the substance abuser to continue taking advantage of your help at great, personal cost even though it is intended to achieve the opposite effect.
This type of treatment might seem severe but it can be the only way to help your loved one when they have shown that they can’t or won’t help themselves.
Strike A Balance
Tough love tends to be the standard solution by the families of substance abusers when acceptance and support doesn’t work. When the situation progresses to this point it usually indicates that the problem is more severe and requires a more potent solution. Successfully helping a family member who is addicted to drugs or alcohol is about temporarily disconnecting your love and not enabling them to continue hurting themselves. This might be difficult to enact, but the alternative is waiting for them to correct their behavior on their own, which can entail them incurring severe, potentially permanent, consequences. The dawn of these effects could cause your loved one to “hit bottom,” resulting in them dramatically reversing their behavior overnight. However, this point may never come, resulting in them abusing drugs or alcohol until it kills them.