"A tough love intervention can save a live"


"A tough love intervention can save a live"

Tough love in this case means to be caring but adopt a strict attitude toward a loved one who is abusing substances. I.e. not to make their indulgence easy or avoid challenging them about it.

We now understand that Addiction is a disease but this does not excuse addicts from taking responsibility and getting treatment – Some say it is even more reason to be tough on the addiction not the person. Addiction itself shows no compassion and kills. A tough love intervention can save a live.

NOTE: When dealing with teenagers and young adults your decisions could have a profound affect on the rest of their lives, this is why we advocate exhausting every avenue to get them the help they need before kicking them out the family home and restricting contact.

Another important reason we advocate so called tough love is that a family member, spouse or friend often cannot resolve the addiction due to emotional ties. It can be heartbreaking to watch a loved one destroy their life. Families need to prioritise protecting themselves as they will never be able to support an addict family member if they are broken.

We always point the family members and loved ones in the direction of Al-anon, a self help group specifically for to support them.

"Sympathy and enabling never really help"

The problem is sympathy and enabling never really help someone who suffers from the disease of addiction. It is important to say Tough love is not about depriving an addict of help or support.

Sanctions help the suffering addict to understand how their addiction is hurting others, not just them. Also there maybe children in the home who need protecting.

Finding and funding rehab once or twice is acceptable but there comes a point when this also is a form of rescuing, and therefore enabling.

As treatment director at Hope Rehab I am often faced with desperate parents and spouses on the end of the phone in a dilemma or crisis, so I suggest an ultimatum – Rehab or out the house!

In Narcotics Anonymous (NA) we say “carry the message not the mess” (or not the addict) this means share what has helped us. Not clean up someone’s mess or pay their bills as it wont help them stop, if anything it encourages them to continue using when others bail them out. I mean why stop?, stopping involves a transitional period of withdrawal from a pain killer, it is very uncomfortable while you confront your demons.

We also say when an addict reaches out for help we should always help if possible, however it is not worth chasing the addict. I know this as I run a Rehab and whenever we chase a client it usually puts them off.

By the way I was an outreach worker for over 3 years in London and we took the drug and alcohol service to the addicts on the street. I can safely say almost no one actually got clean. We did however do some very good work, mostly harm reduction that may in the long run have helped some people, but I cannot say with any confidence for sure.

"We also say when an addict reaches out for help we should always help" 


Tough love - Hope Rehab

Enabling - Caretaking - Rescuing

  • Enabling: To aid a person to do something, or coming between the addict and the real consequences of their behavior.
  • Care-taking: Protecting or maintaining someone.
  • Rescuing: Saving someone from a dangerous, difficult or distressing situation.


Boundaries and being assertive are really important in order to practice tough love. How tough love works….

  • Cut contact if they refuse help
  • Do not let them in the house if they abuse the privilege
  • Do not cover up for there mistakes
  • No manipulation to get there way
  • No money for anything
  • Do not bail out
  • Do not leave children with them
  • Do not pay depts.


When clients admit themselves to Hope Rehab we ask if we can send out family feedback questionnaires and encourage the respondents to be totally honest, not to hold back or protect the addict from the reality of their active addictions.


Many addicts need to hit bottom before changing, in fact this is true of most humans, anyway tough love may get them there sooner.

Tough Love by Simon Mott