Am I enabling or supporting my child? This is a question many parents ask themselves when dealing with a son or daughter addicted to drugs or alcohol. I have never been a fan of “tough love”. I have always argued that the people advocating tough love were usually people who have never known the hellishness of drug addiction so how would they know how to deal with an addicted person in a way that is helpful.
My youngest daughter has been difficult since about the age of five. She has always been emotionally volatile and has struggled with drug addiction as an adult. She has made many bad decisions that have led her down roads that rarely had good results. She has left behind chaos leaving others to clean up the mess. She rarely worked and regularly “borrowed” money that never got paid back. I was told constantly to let her fix her own stuff which I was unable to do. There were many arguments between me and other family members because I couldn’t or wouldn’t see that I wasn’t helping her and I was actually harming her by always trying to save her.
Several months ago my daughter moved to the south with a friend. She felt that maybe a “geographical cure” was the answer. Living here she felt surrounded by people who would give her crack with just a phone call. It wasn’t easy at first and she would call me saying she wanted to come home. I encouraged her to come back because mommy could fix everything. To her credit she is still there and working full time. A wonderful woman is supporting and mentoring her in a way that is healthy. Rather than fixing all her problems this woman is encouraging to learn how to make good choices. She is being uplifted spiritually which is something important to our family. Together my daughter and I are seeing how I wasn’t letting her grow up to be a productive woman. I never equipped her with the tools needed to get through life, I always just tried to fix everything.
I see now that I didn’t do her any favors by saving her all the time. As hard as it is to admit I am toxic for her right now. I am not suggesting that every child move away from parents. I am suggesting that maybe there is something to this “tough love”idea. Loving our children isn’t about giving them everything they want, it is about equipping them to be productive adults. I kept her from reaching a “bottom” in her addiction by always saving her with money or a place to live. If she had gone hungry or spent some nights in a shelter because she refused to work it might have been the best thing for her.
I still don’t care for the phrase “tough love”. The idea of it I do agree with and try to implement with her as often as I am able. Often now she will say “Mom I don’t want you to fix this I just want you to let me vent”. I think she is practicing “tough love” on me.