Loving other people usually means showing affection and being nice to them. However, sometimes loving somebody can mean treating them in a stern manner – this is often referred to as ‘tough love’.

When dealing with those individuals who have become addicted to alcohol or drugs it may be necessary to act in a way that might be perceived as a bit cruel – but it may an effective strategy to help them.

Tough Love Defined

Tough love can be defined as love or affection that is expressed in a stern or unsentimental manner. The usual motivation for acting in such away is to promote good behavior. For example, if a parent speaks in angry tones to their child they are likely doing so to encourage this young person to follow the rules. With tough love the individual is treating the
other person harshly out of a desire to help that person – they are not acting that way out of malice or knee-jerk anger.

Tough Love and Addiction

Sometimes family members and friends may need to employ tough love when dealing with an addict. It can be heartbreaking to watch this person destroy their life, but loved ones may feel helpless to stop the deterioration.

They will likely have tried being reasonable, but the addict is often in complete denial about their problem. In fact helping them may seem to be making the situation worse. There often comes a stage when family members realize that being nice just isn’t working. In fact being nice can be part of the problem because it could be enabling the addict. This is because such those who have become dependent on alcohol or drugs quickly learn how to manipulate other people in order to get their way. They can use the willingness of other people to help against them. This is why loved ones come to the conclusion that the only option left open to them is tough love.

Using Tough Love When Dealing with Addicts

Employing tough love with an addict involves:

  • No longer allowing the addict to manipulate those who love them.
  • It may involve giving the substance abuser an ultimatum – for example, either they get help or they stay away.
  • It means making decisions and sticking to them no matter how much the addict pleads or cajoles.
  • In some cases it can mean breaking off all contact with the addict.
  • Refusing to enable the addict in any way. This means ensuring that they are not spared the consequences of their actions.
  • It can often mean cutting the purse strings – this means no longer giving or lending any financial assistance.

Sometimes an intervention can be used to attempt to coerce the individual into getting help for their addiction. This usually involves family and friends getting together to confront the addict – the power of numbers can make a difference.

If you're not sure how to conduct an intervention, consult the experts at a good addiction treatment facility.