Tough love has many interpretations. I am going to repost the best posts I’ve found about this topic on Tuesdays. Many times I include 2-3 posts about the same topics but this topic is the main theme for helping others so I will repost one entire post here.
From one of my favorite blogs written by the parents of an addict: An Addict in Our Son’s Bedroom- “??? Detaching With Love???”:
I have received many comments and personal e-mails asking me to explain exactly what or how do you detach with love. The other day I was again ask for an example of exactly how do you detach with love and I answered with a typically philosophical answer. That evening it bothered me because here I was answering the question again and I am not being clear to what people are asking. It finally stuck me to use the KISS it methodology. (KISS, keep it simple, stupid)
So I wrote about when detaching, enabling, boundaries, values, rescuing and a whole bunch of other things began to click with my wife and I. Below is how one step by step transformation occurredfor us and our son.
My son shoplifted to support his addiction. Needless to say he got caught several times. The first few times when he was a minor we’d get a call to come pick him up and he’d get a ticket and we’d pay a big fine and take him to court services for his probation and take him to a psychologist. This went on for a couple years.
When he turned 18 he was no longer a minor and with his record they’d take him to jail. He’d make that phone call from jail, “Please come and bail me out. I’m never going to do this again.” Off we’d go. After a while this was getting expensive and no one was learning their lesson. I mean, Darlene and I were not learning our lesson. 😉 and by the way neither was our son. We were doing the same thing over and over, and our son was doing the same thing over and over, nothing was changing. He’d make the same promises, we’d take the same action and we couldn’t understand why HE kept using!
This is where the idea of detaching and setting boundaries started with us. We are no longer going to pay bail. As a mom and dad it is very hard to think of your child sitting in jail. In Jackson County, MO jail he witnessed a person get stabbed. The food is universally bad at all jails, without money on your books you can’t even get a toothbrush to brush your teeth, he had food stolen and had to fight at times for his food, spent 2 days in solitary for defending himself against another inmate that attacked him. Some jails they put the crazies in with the criminals like rapists and murderers, in with the drug addicts, makes no sense to me.
It’s hard to think of yourself as being a loving parent when you know that for just a few hundred dollars we could get him out of those situations, but if you don’t pay the bail are you really a loving parent? Finally the day comes when you don’t pay the bail money. Once we let him sit in the Johnson County Resort for 11 days because we wouldn’t post a $50 bond. Sounds mean doesn’t it?
This is about detaching with love and not enabling.Your boundaries must match your values. It works for us this way. Overriding all is the value that we love our son. When you sit down to think about and discuss boundaries this goes at the top of the page. Every single boundary is tested against that value.
Another value we hold close and taught our kids, Stealing is wrong. Stealing carries consequences and it should. Bailing him out removes or minimizes the consequences. Contrary to our values we were bailing him out. But we hated what he was exposed to in jail. However, we had established a pattern, he got caught, he called, we jumped with cash in hand. It’s not fair to change the rules without telling all the parties.
So Darlene and I sat down a determined where we would go and where we would no longer go. This began to establish our boundaries. You will never cover all of the situations, you just cover what you can and know that once you learn how to judge behaviors and rescuing against what it is you believe inside the exercise becomes easier and more natural.
Then you must sit down with your child, an addict that may or may not be high at the time and explain where you will no longer go with him. In fact you can even start each sentence with, “Because we love you……….. we can no longer bail you out of jail. All your life we taught you that stealing was wrong and you know that in your heart so we cannot support your actions by bailing you out of jail when you do something you have been taught all your life is wrong. I hope you understand this and can accept our decision.”
Each boundary that we had discussed the conversation went like that. Our son hated it when we turned off the TV and ask him to sit down at the table to talk. This satisfied our need to tell him our expectations and it told him what to expect from us. Yes, he still called begged, pleaded and cried from jail but what we had been doing in the past didn’t work and was bad for us and him. We had to change the rules, but that didn’t mean we loved him less. It meant we loved him more because it hurt us terribly to let him sit in jail.
Even with his begging and pleading we were still able to sleep at night and have a moment of down time. He was in jail and we knew jail was safer than being on the street shooting more heroin. We then began to see jail as “protective custody.”
We detached from Alex’s crimes and actions, we did not detach from him. We still loved him, took some of the $10 for 10 minute collect calls from jail. On those calls we always ended with that we loved him and please help yourself. We were doing all we could and all we knew to do. Detach from the actions, crimes, drug use, lying and every other terrible thing a drug addict does to himself and others. Love and support the person inside not the addiction controlling the life.
Does this help explain what detaching with love and how it works for us? Then you begin applying the same formula to all other areas in your relationship with your addicted loved one.