Tough love

Your Family
Tough love

"Tough Love" is a concept that became popular in the '70s as awareness grew about the impact of addiction on the family, not just the individual suffering from the disorder. Tough love often involved a zero-tolerance approach for loved ones - cutting them off financially, asking them to leave home, forcing them to enter treatment and allowing a return only if they were abstinent and in recovery.

Over time, modifications to this tough love approach encompass ideas such as detachment with love or allowing natural consequences. Awareness has grown about how family members can inadvertently become enablers of loved ones who may be non-compliant with medical treatment for physical or psychiatric illnesses, chronically unemployed or financially irresponsible.

Family members experience similar turbulent emotions and tendency towards codependency or self-neglect. Families must come to recognize that tough love is tough for them as well. These issues are complex and there is no one size fits all.

The following may prove helpful for family members considering a tough love approach:

  • Obtain accurate information about the disorder or issue affecting your loved one.

  • Get professional support for yourself - your physician, clergy, support groups, educators. This is a process for you as well as your loved one.

  • Get personal support from family members, friends, colleagues. Do not isolate.  Find the people in your circles who are unconditionally supportive and will not judge.

  • Do not neglect your own self-care. Try to get adequate sleep, attend to your health care needs, maintain a balanced diet, work/life balance, exercise regime and spiritual practice.

  • Cultivate self-compassion. You may have made mistakes in the past and will undoubtedly make mistakes in the future. You are human. Everyone makes mistakes.

  • Keep your expectations realistic.  You may be  more invested than your loved one in recovery or behavior change. Your loved one may not be grateful that you are changing your behavior or expectations but quite often he/she will come to understand the need for change.