Tough Love is Misunderstood
Last year I was invited to be the keynote speaker at an Anniversary Meeting of Families Anonymous in New Jersey. I was surprised at how large their group had grown to be, over one hundred members. Before the meeting, they had a buffet dinner where all the members were mingling and having brief conversations. It was a great networking opportunity for me
I Really Couldn’t Believe Some of the Things I was Hearing!
All the group members were parents of adult children that were suffering from substance and or process addictions. (Process addictions are behavioral addictions like gambling or sex.) I introduced myself to several groups of parents that were already engaged in conversations about addiction and their loved ones. The more I listened the more I realized how confused the parents were. I really couldn’t believe some of the things I was hearing. I mostly just listened, knowing that I would soon have my chance to educate those who were willing to hear the truth. The parents were like the blind leading the blind. I realized that they were hurt, afraid, and, of course, angry. They were searching for anything and anyone who could help save the lives of their loved ones. Some had been going through Hell for years. They were tired, burned out, and at the end of their nerves waiting for that phone call every night that their child was dead or in jail. It’s not the parent’s fault, that there is so much bad information circulating about addiction and plenty of charlatans willing to take their money.
It was Like They Were Trying to Punish Their Kids!
Families Anonymous is a great program as a whole! This group seemed to really be struggling with understanding the concept of tough love. They seemed to think that no matter what that you turn your back on your addicted loved one, do nothing for them, and have no contact. It was like they were trying to punish their kids. It didn’t matter to the parents if their loved ones were in active addiction or willing to go into treatment they believed they should treat them with the same “tough love!” That’s not what tough love is
What Do Fearful, Hurting, Angry People Need?
Dinner hour ended and everyone was seated in the meeting. They had a couple of parents speak briefly. They introduced the co-founder of the group to thundering applauds. They had a local youth officer speak about drug prevention for about fifteen minutes. Finally, it was my turn! The chairperson introduced me and I proceeded to head up to the podium. I didn’t want to sound like a pompous know-it-all, so I started with an ice breaker. I asked everyone in the room to stand up, they did. I then asked them to find three people that they didn’t know very well and give them a great big hug! They all were giggling like kids and roaming around the room hugging strangers. It was awesome! What do fearful, hurting, angry people need? Love! The hugs went over very well.
It’s Really that Simple!
I think the whole room was shocked at my words after asking them to return to their seats. I said, what you just did is what recovery is all about! Then I went on to talk about tough love. “Tough love is used when someone refuses to comply with treatment and a treatment plan. Support recovery and do not enable addiction.” It’s really that simple. There were looks of amazement. We as human beings tend to complicate very simple things. I did a question and answer period for about thirty minutes so that I could give the parents as much information as I could to help them with crucial information that they needed. After the meeting, I ended up talking to a few sets of parents for about an hour. They were all such nice people and very grateful for the help. I was so blessed to be able to share my experience, knowledge, and hope with the group.
Addiction Impacts the Whole Family and the community.
Addiction impacts the whole family, support groups and programs like FA and Al-Anon are a tremendous help to the loved ones of those who are suffering from addiction. Parents are starving for good information, helpful and hopeful information. One of the biggest problems that interrupt treatment plans is enabling by the families. They love their kids and want to believe them, but how can they believe their addicted loved one over the treatment professionals? We even coach families on what their loved ones might say or do at certain points of their recovery. Some of the families still enable their kids! It’s really quite amazing! There are also community centers in some cities to help those suffering from addiction.
They are Helping to Kill Their Kids!
If you have an addicted loved one in the family and you can’t figure out who the enabler in the family is, it’s you! The good news is that you can hire a professional family recovery coach that will only work with the family. You can also hire a professional recovery coach and or a case manager that will only work with the addicted loved one. There is nothing like knowledge and experience to help empower people. The other good news is that the recovery process works. If someone really wants to recover from addiction they can.
There are new modalities, medicines, and ideas popping up all the time. That being said, the families can make a huge impact by not enabling and learning all that they can about addiction and recovery. Support recovery, but do not enable addiction, it kills!
Tough Love is Still Love!
Tough love isn’t about punishment, it’s about support, common sense, boundaries, and love. Love in balance with structure, guidance, discipline, and boundaries heals those suffering from addiction. Codependent, unhealthy, enabling love kills those suffering from addiction.”Keep it simple!” Support recovery, and don’t enable addiction. Tough love is still love!
©2015 Rev. K.T. Coughlin All Rights Reserved