Whether you’re a parent, partner or friend, you might be told that a drug or alcohol addicted person you care for needs tough love. Don’t believe it. Love has always been understood as the gentlest of emotions. You might have to be tough in war, politics, business or some other place, but love is the wrong place. Love is a place where you can drop your guard, care unconditionally, and show your softer side. Isn’t that right?
Yet today we hear time and again that love ought to be tough. Of course, this “wisdom” is typically directed at the most vulnerable members of society: a seventy-year-old wino, a drug addicted working girl, a street kid or a welfare single mother. Funny how our culture is much less inclined to get tough with those who could handle a hit: the CEO, the pro athlete, or even the one advocating tough love.
Why Tough Love is Pure Nonsense and Serves Only to Worsen Drug Addiction
Ask any addiction expert – please, someone both honest and competent – and he or she will undoubtedly tell you that positive reinforcement, love and support, are much more likely to help someone overcome an addiction than any cold approach. As a person myself, I can honestly say something that all of humanity has long understood (though not always practiced): treating people kindly is a good thing; being mean is not.
Isn’t all that “tough” nonsense the very thing that drives millions toward drug and alcohol abuse? And now, apparently, the solution is to provide more of the same. Rather than debate the issue, I will simply identify a very unpleasant reality: many take pleasure in degrading others, and are grateful for any self-righteous excuse available. This way, they can avoid the shame, avoid the blame, but still achieve the same sick pleasure.
If this approach offends, consider whom we address. It’s all they understand. See, when we’re at war we get tough. But when reaching out to those who may be weaker or less fortunate, the preference is being gentle. They’ve had it “tough” enough already, and we’re not here to add to the damage.
This point of view comes from also knowing that if we kick out loved ones out into the street they are more likely to use more not stop. What if the addict you are attempting to “cure” is a heroin addict? They no longer have clean water to use when they are using. Do you know what that means? They might use pond water or toilet water in a public restroom.
Here’s the deal, dead people cannot recover. If you tell an addict that you don’t wish to speak to them anymore unless they get help all you are doing to taking a sane voice out of their life. Who are they listening to now? Who do they see live without using drugs? Probably no one.
If you love someone suffering from drug addiction learn about harm reduction. Teach them about it. If they are using opiates get Narcan (naloxone) and tell them never to use alone. Of course you don’t ever want to hand an active user cash because they will just buy drugs, but feeding them and loving them…what is wrong with that?
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