There is so much about Recovery that is a Process. At no time can we the parents/loved one or our addict (or our addicts for that matter) claim “We have Arrived”. That we (or they) have come to the place of walking perfectly in our Recovery. Not on this side of Heaven will we ever find perfection.
I was reminded of this last night as the topic of conversation turned to “Tough Love”. It’s time we realized it’s named that for a reason. It’s TOUGH.
Just look at some of the synonyms for the word Tough: rough, hard, harsh, dangerous, hard-hitting, strong, sturdy.
Just looking at that list you would think that “Tough Love” has to be an oxymoron. (a phrase in which two words of contradictory meaning are used together for special effect) Tough and Love completely contradict each other. Especially in our nurturing minds (ok hearts), it’s supposed to be soft, tender, caring, giving.
The question was asked “how do I change the way I love? I don’t know how to do it all at once”.
Oh how I wish we could… it would have saved this mother of an addict thousands of dollars, numerous items, precious time and sleep. I wish there was a switch somewhere in my heart that I could just flip and ‘wha-la’ Tough Love is produced.
But the truth is, there is no switch.
There is no easy way to put it into practice. In order to Love tough, we need to stop thinking that love is just a “feeling”. It is so much more than that. Love is an action word, it requires something from us. It will mean that we will have to stop thinking about our feelings or our addict’s feelings and love in such a way that it will bring our addict to the place of seeing Recovery as the only option. That will never happen if we keep supplying all their needs and wants and paying their bills.
When they were toddlers, and were beginning to learn to walk, we walked behind them holding on to their hands.
But the day had to come when we set their back against the sofa and took a number of steps away from them and held our hands out… and waited. At first they would plop down and crawl over to you all smiles and giggles. And we’d pick them back up and place their back against the sofa again… and we’d wait.
Before long they would take that first step and then another and before you knew it they were running up and down the hall. This is one of the simplest of explanations of Tough love. Had we continued to hold their hands… walking alone may have never happened. It took our putting our feelings aside that they would fall and maybe hit their head and put their back against the sofa and wait.
Learning to walk is a process, as is Tough love. We parents who have admitted to enabling have held their hands far too long and letting them stand there with their backs against the sofa (so to speak) and begin the process of walking on their own will take our letting go of our feelings, stepping back and waiting.