Sometimes people feel like they’ve done all they can to help a loved one get sober. There comes a time when family and friends need to step back and let the person with an addiction stumble on, in the hopes that they come to realize that they are going nowhere as they are.
Call it tough love, or allowing the person to hit rock bottom, or cutting a family member off, but establishing boundaries with an addict is a hard thing to do. Sometimes it is the only thing to do. Seen as a last resort most of the time, withdrawing all support and even contact with a person who just won’t turn around can produce some results.
The Frustration of Relapse
Someone who refuses to get help for an addiction, or who relapses time and time again is a huge strain on their family. Family members find themselves getting hopeful that each time in treatment is going to be the time that works, only to be let down again and again. These family members soon learn how to enable the drug addict or alcoholic, by providing money, excuses, and even a place to live. They get so used to life with the addict that they don’t expect anything better then the turmoil that addiction brings.
It is not an easy decision, nor should it be taken lightly, but loved ones have to come to a point where they need to withdraw their support. This means that if the person won’t get better, they can’t live with family any more, or beg them for money, or rely on their family to cover for them. Dr. David Sack, a board certified psychiatrist and CEO of Promises Treatment Center explains, “Then you have to say, ‘We love you very much, but we’re not going to spend money so you can go buy drugs and end up in a worst predicament. We’re not going to support your habit.’ So it means no money, no car, no food, no shelter because ultimately those are the things that can be converted to drugs.” (1)
When all support is cut off, a person has few choices. They can either continue in their addiction and struggle to survive on the streets, or they can get serious about getting sober. Some people credit their family members who let them hit rock bottom for their eventual recovery.
A person with an addiction needs professional help, and the hope is that enforcing tough love will push them to get that help. Family members also need help and counseling, to work through the problems that the addiction has caused in the family. Even if a loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol won’t get help, family members can still benefit from therapy themselves.