For every action…
…there is NOT always an equal but opposite reaction. As family members and friends of addicts we very often let them off the hook when their addiction negatively impacts on us. Along the way we learn from various support groups and therapists that we must practice “tough love” and we are torn between making the addict responsible for their behavior and not waning to create more friction in an already tense relationship. So which is correct. How do we best impact positively on an addict’s behavior/disease and still feel good about ourselves. The answer is that there is no right answer.
If we truly believe that addiction is a disease then we must be careful not to hold an addict too accountable for a disease that he/she may have no control over at a given point in time. Particularly early in the course of their disease before they have had adequate treatment and their dual diagnosis has not been addressed. We do not punish someone when they develop diabetes or high blood pressure. We must be careful to not do the same to an addict under similar circumstances. Addicts deserve every opportunity to participate in treatment programs that “get it”. Programs that understand the science of addiction, understand dual diagnosis, and treat the addict and their disease “Holistically”.
That being said there does come a day when we as family members and friend s must hold addicts accountable. They don’t get a free pass forever and they must learn that there are consequences for their behavior. When they have been given the righ tools for recovery and yet they ignore those tools and continue to let their addiction ruin their lives and the lives of those around them, then it is time to play the “tough love” card. Addicts must earn the right to be loved. to be a member of the family with all its privileges.
As strongly as I feel that addiction is a true disease, I also feel that once given the right treatment there comes a time when every addict has the ability to make a conscious decision to either use or stay straight. If they choose to use then we must hold them liable for that bad choice.
The Holiday Season is perhaps the time of year when families suffer the most because of a loved one’s addiction. Making the “right” choice for us is always a difficult one. Perhaps this will help. Where do you stand? share your thoughts.