My last blog post “Mom, I have no place to go” was heartbreaking to write. It forced me to relive a time that was very painful for our family. It was early on in our journey through addiction. While I was choked up the whole time that I was writing it, I felt it was important to share it with you because it demonstrates the pain that parents and their children go through when dealing with addiction. It is not easy.
At that point in time, we had already tried to get our son to want help but he didn’t seem ready. His drug use hadn’t taken too much of a toll yet, although he was doing it every day and it was hurting him, it just wasn’t enough to make him want to quit.
Many of the experts say that you have to use tough love on them because that is the only way that they will ever want help. If you make it easy and comfortable for them to use drugs, you are enabling them. You are allowing the disease to thrive. We also heard from many people in recovery who credit their parents’ tough love with helping them to get clean. We wanted our son in recovery also, and didn’t want the disease to escalate, so we used tough love that night. After a long painful night of crying and worrying, we knew that we could not do that again.
As our journey through addiction continued, I learned all that I could about the disease. I wanted to understand what had a grip on our son and how we could get him back from the demon. When I began to understand the nature of the disease – a brain disease that takes control of lives – the tough love theory became even more confusing. They are sick and not in control so how can we expect them to make wise decisions? Will tough love beat the demon or will an outpouring of love, support and encouragement?
With this new knowledge and following our instincts, we did things differently when faced with this situation again. The new strategy was a relief to all of us. Our son could stay home until he found another place to go, but he had to follow our rules, which included getting out of bed early and doing chores. If he wanted to work on getting off drugs, he wouldn’t have to leave at all.
We could make this decision because our son is a calm, gentle person. He is not hostile or abusive toward any of us when he is using drugs. We were not putting our other children, ourselves, or our pets in harm’s way. Having him there also gave us an opportunity to “love him up” and encourage him to get help.
I would never tell a parent what to do in this type of situation nor do I judge the decisions they make. Every family, individual, and situation is unique. One size does not fit all in anything in life, most especially in this crazy world of addiction. Through my blog, I share our journey, which is ever evolving. We learn as we go along and sometimes, like in this situation, we change our strategies until we find what works.
What I do know for sure is that some people got clean because of their parent’s tough love while others got clean because their parents kept them close. There are no concrete answers to this. I pray that you find what works best for your family when faced with tough situations. Reach out to other families going through it. Only they can truly understand what you are dealing with.