Tough Love

     You have to understand that the addict’s mind is broken when it comes to drugs and alcohol. Our #1 priority is to drink or use and remains that way until our #1 priority becomes growth. Therefore, allowing the active addict to stay with you, eat with you, share your roof, share your bed, share your wallet and remain comforted by your time, energy, love and presence does nothing but perpetuate the addiction. Being showered with comfort and privilege simply allows us to manage our addiction year after year.

     You have to remember that we really don’t care. We are phenomenal actors and actresses. We will act like good little boys and girls to get back in your door, but then as soon as we unpack and settle in, we know we’ve manipulated you successfully and once it’s ‘all good’, so to speak, our minds literally go insane and we think we can drink and use drugs again, control it, get away with it, and it’s no big deal.

     If we are robbed of our comfort and security – place to live, healthy food, comfort, love, sex, you name it – if we are robbed from the people in our lives who have loved and nurtured us, we might pause and think, ‘Do I really want to be this fucked and have nobody, or should I maybe do some fucking work on myself?’ It is the same concept with the ‘gift of desperation’. The worse we get, the closer we are getting to getting better… do you see? If our addiction progresses slowly, we simply muddle through forever because we can. If we get really bad really fast, we either die or get better. Sorry, but that’s how it works.

     Sure addicts can be forced into treatment and once the fog has cleared, we may hear something or have some inner experience, something hits us and we suddenly want to change. But the point is that if addicts don’t ever come to want to change, or if they want to change but not completely, they will fail. You must understand that we are either completely okay (as in brain restored, insanity gone) or not at all.

     Physical sobriety has nothing to do with it. You can see a recovered person visibly. It is palpable. There is a glow in their eyes. There is a fire inside. When well-cemented, guiding principles, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that have driven us and haunted us our entire lives (or since we mutated ourselves into addicts) are completely rearranged and new ones take over, that is how you know an addict has gotten better. Trust me, you can just tell. You just know when you can trust someone. You know when you don’t have to worry anymore. It’s a feeling, a shift. It’s internal, almost cellular. The energy has changed. The addict is gone.

     So help me out, isn’t settling for anything less than this completely useless?  Do yourself a favor and demand nothing less of the addict or the alcoholic in your life. If you allow them back into your life and your heart, knowing they are not truly okay and knowing it is still toxic, you are not honoring yourself, nor are you helping them.

     If we don’t achieve escape velocity, then it’s right back to square one. It’s right back to relapse, heartache, mental illness and delusion. That’s why there is no other option than tough love. You are not helping addicts one single bit when you shower them with comfort and privilege and compassion. In fact, you are literally fueling the addiction and keeping them addicts longer. Same with designer drugs like methadone and antabuse. Same with talk therapy and watered down AA. Worthless. If all we do is read something or understand something or swallow something, we will die because we have not actually changed at all. We are fundamentally the same person and our addiction is fundamentally in tact.

     We only change through work, through action. We change when we DO things. We change when we write inventory, when we make a tough amends, when we help someone, when we meditate and when we pray. Changing as a person and removing addiction requires hard work and loads of spiritual action. Nothing less.

     Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware I can be a dick sometimes and often fail miserably at living by these principles. The person I describe and address in these blogs is me. It is meant to be educational. Take from it what you will. If you want to unload, that is more about you than me, but go right ahead because I’ve altogether stopped caring and it will give me a good laugh 😉

Also see: Enabling Makes You Suffer
                What To Do With Addicts
                A Message for Parents & Spouses
                How Does One Love from a Distance?
                Some Truths About Addiction
                Working Isn’t Part of Recovery? 
                Comment on Narcissism
                How Not to Help Addicts

11 thoughts on “Tough Love

  1. Anon took the words right out of my mouth. You continue to amaze me with your hard core honesty. I NEED to hear this all. the. time. The part about moving in and getting comfy and then going off the rails is so true is scary. Thank you Charles for that bright light of truth you shine on this hard to understand subject. xo

  2. Anon took the words right out of my mouth. You continue to amaze me with your hard core honesty. I NEED to hear this all. the. time. The part about moving in and getting comfy and then going off the rails is so true is scary. Thank you Charles for that bright light of truth you shine on this hard to understand subject. xo

  3. Thank you. I am dealing now with kicking my heroin addicted son out after he failed to appear in court and lied to us about his relapse. We found drug bags and needles. We are scared. We are dreading the phone ringing with bad news. He has not contacted us in 2 weeks. We have no idea where he is and we are panicked.

    We know there is a good person there somewhere – we just don't know where it is.

    We are desperate, depressed, worried beyond all means.

  4. Thank you for another insightful post. I recently learned that our adult son was addicted to both alcohol and drugs. I suspected the alcohol, but never suspected the drugs. Your book and your posts have been instrumental in helping me understand my son and his addictions, and work through the many issues that I have as his parent.

  5. Dear Charlie, Thank you for this post. It is exactly what I needed to hear at just the right time. My girl is coming home next month, and I simply cannot go back to anything less then her being completely clean and sober. I will read this everyday!
    Thank you, Liz

  6. Charlie –

    So funny that you posted about this (knowing when the addict is gone). My son is in a SL has been for a couple months, he’s coming on 2 months sober. And I remember you telling me those very words “you’ll just know”. My family and I keep thinking how will we know? He looks great, says the right stuff, seems to be working hard, people in the house like him, but I don’t feel “it”.

    I thought maybe he just needs more sober time and perhaps that is true, however, on a weekend visit I sat with a hometown friend of his who is on his 8 month sober (now, granted I had no idea what this boy was like 2 months in, so maybe it just happened) but I knew. We chatted for a bit, took him to dinner with my son and it was evident. I wrote to his mom and said I can’t believe the calm in his eyes. I told her he was on his way to an honest, sober life and she responded that she was so happy to see that others could see it, too. I pray that I see it in my son someday, but thanks to his friend and to you (for keeping me on guard), I now know what I am looking for.

  7. Charlie,

    I sent your book to my 30 year old son who is currently in jail for drug abuse. He was quite impressed by your story as he talked to me at length about it. If he finally gets what it takes to get better your story would have played a part in it. Can you recommend any other books that would further fuel the fire?

  8. Thanks so much, guys. It's nice to know people still read this stuff. Just busy working on the Step book. Taking a while to edit because of kids and work and stuff, but coming along.

  9. As far as other books go, there are many good books out there, the Big Book being one of the crucial ones for addicts, but action is really the key. Self-knowledge is good to have, but real change will come through rigorous action. The Steps give us a great set of directions…

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