How to Use Tough Love with an Addict

Living with an addict can be a terrible experience. For those who are dealing with a family member’s addiction, it can be a heartbreaking ordeal. Watching someone you love destroying his or her life and the lives of those around them and knowing there is nothing you can do about it is stressful and upsetting.

It’s hard to know what to do for the best when someone you love has an addiction. Your natural instinct may be to do everything you possibly can to help the person, but this is not always a good idea with an individual who has an addiction. Addicts will often become manipulative in their bid to get their hands on what they need, and they may take advantage of a loved one’s kindness.

It is important to remember that the addict is ill and may be acting in a way that is entirely different to the way he or she used to. Those with addiction are unable to control their actions and, when deeply affected by this illness, will forget about everything else they once held dear; that includes the people they love. Everything else in their life comes second to that which they are addicted to.

Enabling an Addict

If you have a loved one with an addiction, you will no doubt want him or her to get the help needed to overcome the illness. However, you cannot force this person to accept help if he or she is not ready to do so. That said, you should not make it easier for your loved one to continue with his or her destructive behaviour.

Many family members can be guilty of enabling their addicted loved one by covering up or rationalising their bad behaviour. They will make excuses for them and may lie for them out of a sense of guilt. Family members, especially parents, spouses and children, often feel guilty for the way the addict behaves. They may blame themselves and believe that they can make up for it by being there for this individual and doing things to make him or her happy. These actions are known as enabling.

Unfortunately, enabling an addict will only make the situation worse and will allow him or her to escape the consequences of his/her actions. Addicts quickly learn how to manipulate their loved ones to get what they want. In this situation, it may be necessary to employ what is known as tough love, or in other words, being cruel to be kind.

Being Cruel to be Kind

If you have decided to use tough love with your addicted family member, you will need to be strong and resolute. It can be extremely difficult to employ this strategy with someone you love, especially when he or she is begging and pleading with you. Nevertheless, if you want your loved one to accept the seriousness of the situation, this may be the only answer.

You will need to stop allowing this person to manipulate you into helping. You may want to give him or her an ultimatum, as this often spurs addicts into action. Some parents will tell their addicted child that they are not welcome in the home until they get help. Spouses may say they are leaving and taking the children with them if their partner does not do something about his/her problem. In many cases, ultimatums like this can be enough to spur an addict into action; but not always.

Being cruel to be kind is often effective when it comes to forcing an addicted individual to face reality. When he or she realises that family members are sticking to what they have said, the person may realise that his/her only option is to reach out for help.