Many people believe that addiction is a disease, as much as any other disease. But when we see a parent in a hospital room tending for a child who is sick, holding his hand, making sure he is comfortable, feeding him to help restore his health…you’ll think it’s much easier to take care of a child when he is sick like that. But with addiction? Taking care of a child with addiction requires something so much different.
Because treating addiction often requires tough love.
What is Tough Love?
The language of addiction is enough to make anyone cringe, and probably this is another reason for the social stigma. Words such as “reach the bottom”, “get high”, “compulsion”, and “wasted” can make you have thoughts of a person slumped listlessly in the streets.
And when it comes to the term “tough love”, many people, especially mothers, have a big dilemma.
What is tough love, anyway? For some mothers, tough love seems to be tougher on them than their sons or daughters who are struggling with alcohol, substance, or behavioral addiction.
In addiction, tough love means creating boundaries, making rules, and standing firmly by them so that the addict feels the full impact and consequences of his addiction. It is a way of helping addicts cope and rise above this disease.
–Far from the picture of a mother taking care of a sick child by holding him close, right?
Understanding Tough Love
One thing you should know about addiction is that there is nothing simple or easy about it. There is nothing straightforward about it. It’s not as easy as it seems. Addiction is a disease that can often give birth to liars, manipulators, and deceivers, because those who are shackled with addiction will do anything to continue their habits and give in to their cravings.
And this is why ‘tough love’ is important in addiction. It’s actually the best way of loving the addict, however much it pains you to implement it. It would seem that tough love is tougher on you than on them because it goes against everything you believe about loving a person. But you have to do it.
You should love them enough to hold your ground, stand by, and let the addict’s devastating life unfold and not give in to the urge to rescue them. This does not make you heartless. In fact, doing this can be utterly heart breaking. But this is the only way you can help them. If you fix everything for them, they will just keep falling back into their addiction.
Tough Love is REAL LOVE.
Many mothers who come to us struggle with this every day and we tell them the same thing. Addiction can bring out the best and worst in you. It can only get better when you accept that you cannot love the addict into sobriety. Whatever you do, however you love him, you have no control over his addiction. You only have control over yourself.
So maybe “tough love” can be a confusing term. To be more accurate, tough love is actually REAL LOVE. And this is not just for mothers, but for fathers, husbands, wives, or children who are dealing with an addict in the family. Try it. Let them experience the full extent of their decisions and addictions; but keep urging them to seek help.
For real-life insights on how some parents have handled their children’s addiction with tough love, follow these links:
Dealing with addiction in your family can be overwhelming. We’re here to help. Call or text us: