This is such a hard question. And no one knows the definition of this phrase. Everyone thinks they know it but it shifts and bends depending on the situation. What’s right for one family, isn’t right for another. But one thing’s for sure, you’ll get an answer one way or another when you set your boundaries.
Someone asked me if I felt like I should have approached my son’s depression and addiction differently?
Is tough love the right thing to do?
Keep in mind that I encouraged her to ask the question she was wanting to ask because she hesitated. It’s a good question with no “right” answer. Given that my son’s rock bottom was suicide, I’ve asked myself this a hundred times. But here’s what I can tell you.
No addict makes a change unless they are uncomfortable
If you have a teenager that is using and has everything paid for and just has to put up with the hassle of your nagging– it’s unlikely anything will change. They have to feel personally uncomfortable.
I have never heard of an addict that gets a moment of divine intervention and out of the blue simply decides to go into recovery. It’s usually a pretty ugly back and forth process.
Something happens and the addicted person finally hits the point that they can’t live like that anymore. It’s the something “uncomfortable” that typically inspires recovery. And often that “uncomfortable” thing can be (or it might not be) the result of a boundary you set because you can’t take it anymore. Throw in a mental illness like bipolar or depression, it gets even more complex and harder. It works against our nature as parents.
Remember that the hallmark of addiction is that the drug takes over the mind and makes addicts do anything to satisfy their craving and keep withdrawal at bay. They are not doing this to get back at you. It’s an urge so strong, even a mom that once loved her child will leave her child for the sake of her habit.
After 4 years at Families Anonymous (a highly recommended support group), I can’t tell you the right thing for you to do, but I can tell you that not setting boundaries means more of the same.
So at the very least, you have to set boundaries
If you don’t, you’ll lose yourself in the chaos of someone else’s addiction. At some point you have to realize that this is their journey, not yours.
Does that mean you should throw them out? Of course that carries a risk. But keep in mind they can die in your house and they can die outside your house. I am still not advocating that this is the move you need to make.
All I am saying is that their being at home doesn’t necessarily mean they are safe. And most likely if you are living with an addict, you too, are at risk.
Drug dealers are not known to be stable people, they often carry weapons and they often make home deliveries right to your driveway. It might be your loved one is the dealer to support his/her habit.
Addiction is a deadly illness
Sufferers either find recovery. Or they die.
And only you know when you are at the point where you can’t live with it anymore and what exactly you are going to do in terms of setting and sticking to boundaries. Our stance? It was that we’d support recovery, but we wouldn’t support a habit.
I would recommend a support group to work that out for yourself. And for getting on the same page if you are a couple –which is very hard. You will hear what others have done in terms of setting boundaries and that is helpful.
If you are in an area that doesn’t have a support group, there are online groups. Our son obviously did not make the choice we hoped. He died by suicide while involuntarily going through withdrawal.
I have heard amazing stories of recovery and it’s my hope you will come back to this site one day and publish that story. I hope that for you. It happens all the time. It can happen with your child and you cannot lose hope.