Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tough Love is not One Size Fits All either

Just like recovery there is no one size fits all when it comes to “tough love”. Everyone’s situation is different. The loved one has to do what they can live with and what fits their situation. I’ve heard varying degrees of tough love from not enabling by not paying legal fees or bills to completely cutting off all contact. What works for one family may not work at all for another. One good example of this was told to me by another recovering addict.

Andrea called me about 3 years into her recovery and told me her story. She was addicted to meth and living with an abusive meth cooking/dealing boyfriend. Her parents, on advise of their counselor, told them to cut off all contact with her until she got clean. They would not answer the phone for her. When she approached them they wouldn’t even hug her. She became completely isolated. She had no friends and not one “clean” contact. The only people she saw were other drug addicts who came to buy drugs. She didn’t leave the house. Her boyfriend would beat her if she even made eye contact with any their associates.

This went on for a while until her sister broke the tough love/no contact agreement and came to visit her. She treated Andrea like a normal person, took her with her to the store and on dinner dates. She also told her if she ever wanted to leave she would help her. Andrea ended up pregnant. When she was 6 months preganant her boyfriend broke her jaw. She finally wanted out. She called her sister and she picked her up and took her to a shelter. From there she got help with her addiction and delivered a healthy baby.

Andrea’s sister found the balance for “tough love” that worked in her case. If the sister had avoided all contact Andrea said she would have stayed until her boyfriend or the drugs killed her and her baby. She wouldn’t have known anything else to do. Meth addicts can lose all touch of reality. If her sister had came begging for Andrea to leave, took her back to her house off an on when she was able to talk Andrea into leaving, bailed her out over and over, and not allowed her to face any consequences then Andrea’s situation would never have reached the point where she had enough and was ready to quit.

Andrea’s sister didn’t automatically know what to do. She tried the parent’s approach at first and it didn’t work. Then she tried something different. Thankfully, her next approach worked, but only in the end because Andrea wanted it to.

I think parents should listen to the advice of others because no one knows better than someone who has “been there and done that” then take what they’ve learned and apply it to their own situation. An easy X, Y, Z answer is not ever going to fit something as cunning and confusing as addiction.

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