There is a fine line between giving someone advice and helping them through the mutual aid fellowship of 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. I recently was reading an article that discussed the difference between gruff love (in programs like AA) and tough love (in treatment centers). The verbiage can mean different things to different people, in some cases people think of tough love as love with boundaries and without codependency, however this article approaches it differently. It talks about what happens if there is power and control involved and what can happen for clients that are getting treatment in this type of environment.
Since it’s inception, AA has been full of slogans like “keep coming back”, “a day at a time”, acronyms like K.I.S.S. - “Keep it simple stupid” and sayings like “take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth”, which are helpful and effective reminders for people who have been struggling with addiction and cannot get back on track as well as being helpful everyday reminders for those who of us who are in recovery need to be humbled daily to remember how great life really is.
Treatment is a different beast than AA and can be less transparent because it is a private institution, so it’s just important to make sure you know what is happening at your treatment center so you know that whoever is getting help is getting the most effective treatment possible. In the old days substance abuse treatment was fraught with verbal abuse, tough love and making clients feel powerless in order to help them surrender, but today, with advancements in treatment, excellence in training and continued education, the new “tough love” can set boundaries but also help clients get the help they need without breaking them down or making them feel worse than they already do. The thing is, addicts are already aware of what they have done wrong, and they do feel bad, it’s just getting to the feelings through the drugs and alcohol - that is the hard part.
Now that I know dealing with feelings is at the core of any problem, I always look to see what I am feeling. However uncomfortable, and yes, at times it is very uncomfortable, I know feelings will pass and if I identify, address and let them go, I can move on and have a nice day and not relapse or have reason to hold a resentment.
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Cindy Nichols is the founder of 411 Intervention, a full-service intervention resource that helps individuals with addiction issues find treatment solutions. You can see an interview with Cindy here on Recovery Now TV.