August 4, 2014

The Tough Love Challenge

“I can’t do it. I want to, I need to. But I can’t do it. I want them out of my house, I want the drama gone from my life. I’m tired of arguing with my husband about them. I’m tired of my belongings ending up in the pawn shop. I’m tired of wondering if today is the day I’ll find one of them dead. I’m tired of not having the life I want at 48 years old. I’m tired of my 16 year old daughter living in a home where her two brothers shoot up heroin in the basement. But I can’t do it. I can’t stand at the door and watch them walk away knowing that they have no place to go and no one else to love them.” ~ A mom in response to a previous blog post

On the street - 100PedalsWhat a terrible place for any parent to find themselves in. Any parent with a child battling an addiction demon has had those moments of exasperation and despair to the point where it seemed like few alternatives were left.

How do we know when enough is enough? How can we turn our child away and send them to the streets? How can we possibly live with the potential outcomes of these choices?

There are no easy, simple, clear answers to these questions. It is very difficult to come to terms with the reality that everything else isn’t working and the options are shrinking. Every parent has been wired to protect, coach, love, encourage, and support their child. Getting to the point where a parent’s last resort, for the safety and security of self and the rest of the family, to tell their child they are no longer welcome in their home is so sad, painful and contrary to all we know.

While tough love may be the ultimate outcome, there are no shortcuts or quick paths to this decision. Getting to this point is a process. It is the individual, respective, and personal process that every parent must go through on their own terms, in their own way, and in their own manner.

The mom in this quote is feeling the pressure to do something that intuitively she knows she may need to do. Encouraging her to take this action is not the answer.  It is trying to force her to do something she is not yet ready to do.  The best course of action for other parents is to coach, encourage, love, and support her as she goes through her painful learning and decision making process. Every parent who has had to come to terms with this outcome has gone through their process. After the fact, they may have realized it was a good decision and could have been made earlier. It doesn’t alter the importance of the process – the decision was made when the parents were prepared to make that decision.

My message to this mom, you are in very difficult, painful place. You are becoming more and more aware of the impact of your sons’ choices in your home. I would encourage you to step back from the emotional aspect of sending them out the door and look at the bigger picture – who are you hurting by letting them stay?  They are making conscious choices to hurt themselves and others without regard to the impact.  At some point, you have to protect those that need your love and protection most.  And, you may need to make a difficult, painful decision.

Here is my process for setting the table for a future, potential tough love conversation:

  1. Define the boundaries: Clearly define and articulate the agreements, norms, and requirements for living in the house.
  2. Explain the consequences: Clearly explain the outcomes and consequences for breaking the contract.
  3. Follow through: Be prepared and committed to taking action and following through on the consequences.
  4. Let them decide: Let their actions, behaviors, and decisions define the outcome.
  5. Accept their choices: If it doesn’t work out it is a choice they made not a choice you made.

Get your complimentary audio of my program “Three Ways to Rise Above the Addiction Drama.” Taken from the lessons of my experiences with my youngest son’s heroin addiction, I provide three behavioral tips for parents that will help them find more peace and clarity in dealing with the chaotic and destructive actions of a child dealing with addiction.  To get your complimentary copy click here.



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About Dave Cooke

Dave Cooke is a dad on a mission. His mission is to help parents get control of their lives over the powerful, destructive influences of a child's addiction. As the father of a son in a ten year heroin battle, Dave knows all to well the challenges parents and families face. He also knows there is a way to find peace in the chaos. It is his mission to help parents discover their path to a healthier, balanced life even if a child's active addiction is still part of their daily journey.