Tough Love and Hard Choices

I’m sure most of you have had tough love extended to you or had to apply tough love to someone you care deeply for due to their behavior. I’ve been the recipient of tough love more times than I care to admit. The thing about tough love is that the word “tough” doesn’t begin to describe the conflicting emotions both sides face.   

When a person fights addiction, it doesn’t affect just that individual. Their fight affects every person close to them. The harsh reality is that those who fight addiction have many issues that are both seen and unseen. I should know. Addiction isn’t something that ever goes away. You can be addicted to many different things. Alcohol and drugs are some of the most popular, but many categories fall under this realm.  

I used to be anorexic. I don’t talk about it much because it took Karen Carpenter’s death to open my eyes that I was slowly killing myself. I was letting other people’s opinions determine my fate. My self-esteem had stomped on; every time I looked in the mirror, I saw fat on me, I saw an ugly girl in the mirror. I couldn’t see the truth. There are always things about ourselves that we wish we could change. Thank goodness more emphasis is on mental health in today’s world.  Eventually, I learned that I was better off getting the help I needed, and I was doing well until I went to college. I substituted anorexia with drugs and alcohol. It’s amazing at what the school of hard knocks teaches us. I began to understand after years of abuse that dying was more manageable than living. If we learn to live life to the fullest, then we’ve conquered many demons that would love to destroy us. It’s a difficult lesson to learn and one that I wish more people didn’t discover. Trying to kill yourself without realizing that’s what you are doing won’t solve anything. It leaves a gaping hole in many lives. If you find yourself needing help, I urge you to call Suicide Prevention at 800-273-8255. Many groups meet for various types of addiction. If you are struggling with this, please reach out to the appropriate group.

Thirty years ago, social media wasn’t even on our radar, and now it’s a way of life. But cyber-bullying, criticism, and comments are part of the norm. We are listening to other’s viewpoints and allowing those views to affect us.  

There are people in this world who will argue with you and not respect your viewpoints. When people you love get themselves into toxic situations, tough love may be the only way you can walk away. When those you love and those who love you find themselves or you in positions that are difficult to navigate, life choices are never simple. If you or someone you love weighs whether or not to exert tough love, here are a few suggestions that I found that might help. It’s helping me with a complicated situation that I wish I didn’t have to deal with, but unfortunately, what I want and reality are two different issues.  

  1. Listen to understand first. You cannot hear if you are preparing to defend your position at the same time. Look, part of where we all struggle is when we react without listening to what’s happening around us. We can be quick to judge and respond in the wrong manner if we aren’t careful.  
  2. Be open-minded. If we do everything with a know-it-all mentality, we can’t understand when we need to back off or be there.  
  3. Look at it from the other person’s perspective. Everything we do in life is usually from what we want or think. Can you imagine what that person is processing? If someone is struggling with any addiction, can you guess why they are addicted? Sometimes it isn’t easy to know what to say when we don’t know how to help. You might know of other resources that could help someone better than you ever will.  
  4. Pause before replying. This statement is critical. When we say something without thinking of the repercussions, there are lasting effects. When we jump from the frying pan into the fire, we often don’t realize how hot that surface can be until the heat is on. The same thing applies to our lives. Our decisions have consequences.  
  5. Recognize your feelings. Are you in a situation that you can help, or are you enabling that person or yourself? Ask yourself the tough questions and be willing to accept responsibility.  
  6. Acknowledge the feedback. When you can acknowledge others’ feedback, you can use that information to help yourself or those you love.  
  7. Take it on the chin. What I mean by this is to own your decisions. This action is not always easy, but it is necessary to keep moving forward.  

No matter what you decide about using tough love, please know that you aren’t alone in that journey. There are many people who are making the same types of decisions and don’t feel support. It’s okay to reach out for help. I hope you never have to deal with addiction, but if you do, please reach out for help. Every person on this earth matters. Have a great Thursday, everyone.

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