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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.

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.
In many cases, accepting them as they are can enable them to continue their self-destructive ways because they know that you’ll be there to help them whenever they need it. Often, it might be in your loved one’s best interest to let her suffer the consequences of her actions, so that they can gain perspective on costs of their behavior. As with intervention, tough love becomes necessary to protect your son’s, daughter’s, mother’s, boyfriend’s, etc., health and safety and will save them from potential life-threatening consequences in the future.
The Best Intentions

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.

 

illustration about addiction tough love showing icons of houses and money
Tough love is based on the opposite approach but achieves the same desired effect. It relies on expressing your love or concern for someone else in a stern and unsentimental manner to promote responsible behavior. Treating someone harshly or sternly with the intent of helping them in the long run can take the form of discipline or rules meant to restrict their destructive behavior or enforce constructive behaviors.

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.

Neither approach is a cure-all. To forge a long-term recovery, a balance must be found tough love and support, followed by professional treatment. Once sufficient progress has been made and you’ve convinced your loved one to make some changes to his or her lifestyle, it’s time to suggest that they get medical help for their condition or conditions. It is important to understand that substance abusers often act self-destructively due to underlying mental illness; in addition, persistent drug abuse can also trigger the emergence of a mental health condition. These mental health issues can complicate any attempts at substance abuse recovery, making “self-rehab” attempts typically unsuccessful, temporary and potentially dangerous, even though they are often carried out with the best intentions. Professional help is a critical component of any path to recovery from substance abuse.
illustration showing a equal scale with a substance abuser as the fulcrum
If a family member or someone close to you is destroying their life with drug or alcohol abuse and has either taken advantage of your kindness or balked at meeting your terms, Behavioral Wellness and Recovery can help. Homemade treatments to complex problems such as substance abuse or mental illness can only help so much. At a certain point, treatment must be less reactionary to be effective over the long term. Behavioral Wellness and Recovery can help your loved one find their way back to their life before substance abuse. We are a comprehensive recovery center located in scenic West Chester, PA, specializing in drug and alcohol dependence, mental illness, and dual diagnosis. Please give us a call today at 800-683-4457 to learn how we can help your loved one free themselves from the grip of addiction and abuse before it is too late.