“Tough Love” is a concept often used when someone is addressing substance abuse issues with a loved one, close friend or co-worker. Tough Love is the ability to be stern, focused and unwavering in efforts to intervene and address the substance abuse of another. It is the ability to lovingly express concern while refusing to enable further abuse, raise awareness of the affects the addicted person is having on others, and the poor decisions the addicted person is making, while offering solutions that are directed toward ending the addictive behavior. Practicing the art of tough love is extremely difficult. Attitudes can prevent parents, siblings, friends and co- workers from applying concepts of tough love.
Attitudes that can prevent loved ones and co-workers from applying tough love stem from the relationship you have with the person experiencing addiction and patterns of behavior that develop from these attitudes. Parents who have historically had difficulty with discipline have the attitude that “nothing they say will help”, or siblings who have been drinking with the addicted person(s) may have an attitude that “he/she won’t listen to me”. These examples of attitudes and a multitude of others can prevent tough love interventions from happening. In order to develop the ability to overcome attitudes and provide effective tough love interventions, counseling may be needed.
In counseling, loved ones and co-workers receive education on addiction, addictive behavior, co-dependency, and how to coordinate an intervention of tough love. Therapists are trained to help family members and close friends or co-workers to identify and overcome barriers, such as attitudes, to helping loved ones get the help they need. They are also able to provide support to loved ones and friends as they wrestle with the difficulties that people in addiction often face, as well as skills to manage the emotional upheaval that can further complicate intervention efforts. Complicating factors can be any of the following or a combination of legal issues, unemployment, relationship issues, health risks, safety concerns, financial issues, housing and so much more. The lives of people living with addiction are complicated by their inability to see their own dysfunction. Counseling can be helpful as well to provide information and referrals to services and programs that assist in the recovery process.
Addiction is a strong force and influence in the lives of people suffering from it. Loved ones and co-workers cannot make the decision to stop the addictive behavior of another person, yet they can develop skills that when applied lovingly can help the addicted person become more aware of the affects they are having on their loved ones and friends, and encourage them to ask for help, get help, and start on the path to recovery.
Yvonne E Newell, LMSW, DOT SAP