Using “Tough Love” tactics to help treat Addiction
In a world moving closer to nurture and farther away from nature, concepts like unconditional love are being shelved and replaced with things like “tough love”, with most addiction therapists, counsellors and practitioners proclaiming expressing that the former “unconditional love” model just doesn’t work. This is because relapse rates are astronomically high for addicts who find themselves surrounded by enablers (by default or planning), and for those of you not sure; bending to the will of an addict is very much enabling them. The addict knows precisely how to manipulate and control the people closest to them. That’s why they are permitted to remain close to them. And this very tactic of manipulation is often the addict preying on the loved one’s fear of upsetting or not being loved by their family member – “do as I say or else I won’t tell you I love you” or “I will kill myself if you don’t give me what I want” or “of course I love you, now please give me some money” are examples of the addicts control and manipulation of their family.
It’s incredibly important to remember that recovery is about the addict’s wellbeing first and foremost, and yet it must also be about the feelings of the whole family too. A family’s quality of life is the most important part of the process, despite the goal being about getting your loved one into good, solid recovery from their addictions, and that can be helped along greatly through sincere tough love measures.
Tough love measures can be likened to a series of ultimatums. Whether used on your children, your spouse, your family or your peers, these measures can be effective at making an addict face the truth: They must accept proper help through rehabilitation or face significant enough consequences to help shift their mindset away from the pleasures of their addiction to the joyful possibilities of recovery. .
10 Tough Love techniques for counteracting addiction and alcoholism
1: Cut Off Funding
Any money given to an addict or an alcoholic is simply enabling them to carry on engaging with their addiction. It helps them purchase the substance of their choice, or it helps them pay bills with money that may have been set aside previously and then spent on their addiction. It is essentially allowing them to live an addicted life, and thus funding should be cut completely off. Justifying it by saying that I’m buying their food and cigarettes only, is thereby allowing the addict or alcoholic to spend more on their debilitating substance of choice, rather than their own responsibilities.
2: Detaching Emotionally
Many addicts bring their promises and sob stories directly to loved ones, hoping to be forgiven. More often than not, the addict presents a series of lies and emotional pleas in order to continue using. The addict creates a myth in their own mind to justify just how difficult their circumstances are and to remind the listener that they’re not at fault and actually the victim of circumstances outside of their control. This is all further manipulation and if you look more closely at the real story behind their yarn, you’ll see a very different picture, probably with some genuine victims who’ve been abused by the addict, and not vice versa. This is where the loved ones must be firm and completely detach emotionally.
3: Ask Them to Leave
Though it will be incredibly tough on you, asking the addict to leave the home may be the harsh dose of reality needed. A wake-up call in the truest fashion, most addicts quickly realise that their home life is far more appealing than a life on the streets, and will be instantly pushed into reconsidering their lifestyle choices of active addiction, before being put out onto the street. However, they are likely to threaten you with all sorts of calamities that may befall them should you insist on turning them out of your home. These are largely fantasies designed to scare you into not changing the status quo and to let them carry on indulging in their addiction without further challenges.
4: Refuse Legal Aid
Addicts all too often find themselves in trouble with the law and rely upon you to pay their bail, legal defence, etc. Please cease to spend your hard earned resources, or remortgaging your property to pay for lawyers and insist that the addict in your family deals with the consequences of their own crimes, selfishness and harm caused to others. Explain that it’s now time for them to fend for themselves financially. It tells them that they are truly on their own if they wish to continue engaging in their anti-social addictions. Do not financially support them any longer until they’re prepared to live a life in recovery of their illness, rather than continuing to compromise your own values and morals and remain a drain on your resources.
5: Seek Custody of Children
If there are children involved, these children are in grave danger around a practicing alcoholic or addict. Seek custody of children in these situations and keep them from their addiction inflicted parent(s). The law is on your side in these instances, so be tough in this area. Although this is really for the children’s benefit as exposing them to the behaviours of someone in active addiction isn’t a good imprint for them as children, it is also for the addict’s benefit, hoping that this action may push them further towards the reality of the impact their addiction is having on the family they love. Unnecessarily exposing the children to further damage or the reality of drink driving, neglect and possibly much, much worse needs to be avoided.
6: Use the Police to Your Advantage
The police are available to you in these instances, so don’t be afraid to use them. You might not want your loved ones dealing with legal implications from their addiction, but if they’re refusing to leave, stealing, threatening, or causing trouble in any way, calling the police shows that you’re no longer bending to the will of an addict. It shows the addict that you are sincere enough to be putting you and your family before them and their addiction.
7: Find the Right Scare Tactic
A great way to play the ‘tough love’ card will be the potential threat of the harshest environment should the addict / alcoholic not comply with your wishes for them to accept the help you’re offering them. For teenagers and young adults there are some “Boot Camps” AKA “Brat Camps” or more responsibly called “Wilderness Programs” that can seem incredibly harsh to both the parent and the teenager threatened with it, but remember these facilities are effective – otherwise they wouldn’t exist. For an adult you could show them the typical future they may have if they continue to experience consequences, by showing them some of the homeless shelters, rough sleeper spots, skid row, drunk tanks, prison cells, etc. These can be a real eye-opener.
8: Offer Your Honest Criticism
Conventional interventions don’t typically allow you to air personal grievances in a very honest fashion. You’re supposed to just tell an addict how their addiction is affecting you. Go a step farther here and be truly honest. Tell an addict exactly what’s on your mind and what they will find if they refuse to change. This is a harsh experience and is usually a step too far for many parents in particular, but if planned and timed correctly (when the addict isn’t intoxicated) it can have a real good effect on the addicts mindset. Do seek advice before going ahead with this method.
9: Show the Addict His/Her Behavior
Another good tough love tactic is to actually show the addict how he or she acts when intoxicated. Using a video camera and recording the addict can show this person a side they didn’t know existed, and this reality check could help bring about change. Again, it’s advised to only replay the video to the addict when they’re not intoxicated and best delivered when they have some sort of remorse for the day or events beforehand.
10: Stick with Your Bottom Line
Tough love tactics are ultimatums – they’re the last resort, the bottom line. Pandering to an addict with unconditional love is just enabling the addict, whereas putting your foot down and cutting the addict off is giving them a harsh dose of reality. It’s either they change, or they lose. Many fear that addicts will take the latter road, which is largely due to the manipulation and fear that the addict has already installed in their family. However, please understand what’s at stake here. Following through with the tough love model could be the difference between life and death.
It’s never going to be easy to help a loved one fight their addiction, and tough love measures are not 100% effective. That said, not engaging in tough love and permitting them to carry on can kill them considerably faster. But deciding to stick with them might just provide you with the weapons you need to help you wage this battle.