The next person who tells me “they just need tough love or has to hit rock bottom is getting punched in the face.” I said to a friend the other day. I meant it with my whole being, with my whole heart. I am not a violent person but "tough love" makes me mad.
I am the mother of a young person in long term recovery, what that means is my child had a substance use disorder, the disease that affects the deepest part of the brain. The part of the brain that recognizes your essential needs. Those being food, shelter and water. Once activated by substances like alcohol, marijuana, prescription pain pills, xanax, and other highly addictive prescriptions, the brain then recognizes that drug or alcohol as an essential need, like food, shelter and water and it will make the body do anything to keep that feeling, fill that need. The brain becomes conditioned to need it and the most effective treatment is professional medical treatment in a controlled environment. For people with this disease, the only true bad choice was the first one, after that, it becomes primal.
Because I am a mother, daughter, friend, lover of people with substance use disorder I am privy to anonymous meetings and private FB groups that speak to the issue of addiction and substance use disorder and offer support. I am allowed in those secret places where people spill their guts and other people sit silently or post comments and witness the pain and chaos that living with someone in active addiction creates. These are safe containers for people to express themselves and sit with or read what other people are going through. A fellowship, a community. I believe that its important to have these containers and these safe places. I believe in fellowship & community.
BUT, I call bullshit on the messaging that goes around the circle and in the private Facebook groups that the ONLY way to treat someone with this disease is with tough love also known as abandonment and waiting until they hit "rock bottom," which could possibly be an accidental overdose or waiting for them to "want it," which doesn't make sense if you look at the brain science especially for young people. I’ve never been able to get behind tough love or rock bottom and I tried the "waiting" thing and "waiting" is my BIGGEST REGRET as a Mother.
To the people with limited to zero education on addiction and zero experience in the arena, saying “tough love is what THEY need," you activate my desire to punch something, preferably the person saying it.
The tough love method depends on law enforcement to treat a disease. Law enforcement is to protect and keep our communities safe not treat addiction or substance use disorder. Diseases are treated by the medical community.
The tough love method encourages homelessness, isolation from family and community, rejection and shame. What someone with addiction needs is a safe place away from drugs and alcohol, professional treatment, including therapy and practices that create healing, and most of all, a community of understanding, support, acceptance and love.
The tough love method causes damage to relationships and family connections. The tough love method creates the ideal conditions for crime. The tough love method is why we are in an addiction epidemic.
What people with addiction and substance use disorder need is not tough love. What they need is unconditional love and understanding from family, friends and community, and professional treatment by the medical community not by law enforcement. Substance use disorder is a disease not a crime.
What family members need to love someone through this disease is education, understanding and acceptance from the community, support from the medical community, and a clear protocol for treatment like any other disease. What family members need from law enforcement is to catch and incarcerate the people perpetuating the disease by dealing drugs. The profiteers of the disease.
If you found out your child, your friend, your family member had cancer would you wait until they hit rock bottom before seeking treatment? If you found out your child had depression would you wait until they hit rock bottom before seeking treatment? If you found out your child had a heart condition would you wait until they hit rock bottom before seeking treatment?
Would you offer tough love and kick them out until they wanted to go to the hospital or the therapist or the doctor? Would you encourage homelessness? Would you call the police and have them arrested?
This is happening in the realm of addiction. This is the messaging that pervades the anonymous family support. This is the word on the street. This is also what someone who doesn’t know anything about addiction and what its like to be in its clutches thinks is the solution. What I hear is, turn your back on someone you love even if its your child. What I hear is “they are not worth it.” and guess what, that’s what they hear too and that perpetuates the cycle of guilt, shame, and unworthiness at the heart of the problem.
What I want to hear is….."This is how we take care of ourselves while supporting and loving our children, family members, friends as we battle this disease together." What I want to hear is…….. "I love you, even while we are going through this hell." "I love your kid, your person, they are worthy of my love and understanding, my acceptance, because they are a human being."
I believe that the only way we are going to get better is by treating whole families and changing the way addiciton and substance use disorder is treated by every single community. The medical community, the law enforcement community, the religious and spiritual community, the government, and our personal communities. And it starts by educating all people and especially the families of people who exhibit the symptoms of the disease so that they know the signs and can intervene with treatment options, support and compassion.
I am all for boundaries and safety of the entire family and community but do NOT speak to me of tough love or rock bottom, ever. I am not having it.
Every time you say “they just need tough love” you are perpetuating stigma, shame and the disease itself.
When you find out your child or your child’s friend or someone you know is using a substance activate your deepest love and the response that a dangerous situation calls for, professional treatment, inquiry, safety and support. Substances, any substances on an immature, not fully formed brain are dangerous.
I repeat ANY SUBSTANCES on an immature, not fully formed brain are DANGEROUS. It is never ok to put substances on an unformed brain.
If you have a family member with addiction or substance use disorder or what you think might be a problem, seek help, seek treatment for yourself and your person. Don’t wait. The longer you wait and watch it unfold, wondering what to do, wondering if its a problem, waiting for it to get better, waiting for rock bottom the worse it will get and the harder it will be to treat. It is a disease with stages and it affects everyone in its path. It is a chronic potentially fatal disease. It doesn’t get better by itself and it doesn’t get better with tough love. If it did there wouldn’t be 23 million people suffering with it.
I am fired up about tough love, rock bottom, choices and the messaging that perpetuates stigma and addiction. I’ve been listening to my partners in law enforcement, medical treatment, government, fellowship, community and support. I’ve been listening to stories of recovery and people on the front lines activating change. I’ve been listening to families, mothers, brothers, sisters, children of people with substance use disorder.
I am listening. And nowhere in the conversation are we using tough love or rock bottom and where they are talking tough love, people are suffering, visibly.
Over here, we are speaking revolutionary change in treatment and unconditional love for our sick people trying to get well.
Bullshit on Tough Love. That’s what I say.
Right now we are raising funds for to open the doors to quality treatment for young people, a chance to feel the love and support of community and to give families hope.
To support Buddy's Family Foundation, aka THE BFF, our foundation to break barriers to treatment and foster family wellness, click here. We are changing the way addition is treated and we welcome your resources, your volunteering and your presence.
I read somewhere that Valentines Day brings the universal vibration of love way down. It actually has the reverse effect. It appears by the abundance of red hearts, roses, chocolates, stuffed bears, bubbly drinks and sparkly gifts that we are in an explosion of love. The truth is Valentines Day actually creates a larger collective feeling of loneliness, sadness and grief.
It shines a bright spotlight on what we as a society have come to define love as. A partner, a mate, a date on Valentines day.
If I don't have a special someone on Valentines Day I must not be loveable.
If I don't get flowers, a card, chocolates, gifts he/she must not love me.
If I don't get a ring, I must not be loveable.
If I am alone today, I must not be loveable.
Last night I was at the grocery store and saw men with arm fulls of flowers and chocolates. Women standing in the card aisle looking for cards. This morning I told Charlotte, "the worst feeling in the world today wouldn't be not having a date or special someone, the worst feeling in the world would be looking for a Valentine card and thinking, I don't feel those feelings for this person at all and buying the card anyway and going through the motions with a lifeless heart."
Today someone is standing there contemplating a card and thinking, "this sucks. How do I get out of this." Their stomach is clenching, their face is tight and they are trying not to hurt someone by honoring the way they really feel deep inside.
Someone else is practically coming out of their skin with exuberant joy thinking "I hope she says yes."
I am hoping that both people are honoring their hearts. One being brave enough to lay it all on the line, heart wide open and ask and the other being brave enough, to let go of someone they don't really love that way so that someone who will love that person the way they deserve to be loved, can, heart wide open. There is nothing worse for your soul than dishonoring your own heart.
And what about being loveable? What about being alone?
You have a choice. You can be a victim of Valentines Day or you can be what you really are, which is LOVE. By our very nature, at our very core we are LOVE.
Instead of wondering why you don't have the love you desire or the relationship you desire or the candy, the roses and the chocolates. Be Love.
Instead of being forced to examine the level of romance in your life by a lucrative business idea. Be Love.
There is no lack of love, only a lack of belief in love. There is no absence of love unless you are not loving yourself.
Love is what you are. Its not something you can buy. Its not a status symbol. Its not even a big fat diamond ring from Tiffany. That is a symbol of promise & commitment. That is a gift with the feeling of love behind it. Its not Love. It doesn't prove you are loveable.
Love needs no proof.
It just is.
If you feel you are unloveable then it is because you don't know what you are and perhaps you need a change in perspective.
Our very nature is Love. If you think you do not have love then perhaps you should look in the mirror and see it for yourself. Love doesn't come from the outside. It comes from within. Deep within. Perhaps today of all days, it needs your nurturing. Your acknowledgment.
How do you raise the vibration of Love on Valentines Day?
Be Love. Love yourself the way you want to be loved. Love your friends the way you want to be loved. Love your family the way you want to be loved. If you want roses and chocolate and a love note, you can have them. They are right up the street at the grocery store.
Sit down and write yourself a love letter. Write all the things you love about yourself, only the things you love about yourself then read it out loud. Read it out loud in the mirror. Do it everyday for 28 days.
See how much love you can make yourself.
Today is a day just like everyday. A day to love.
And if you're feeling lonely or under loved, treat yourself well today. Love yourself up and then treat someone else to your love. Love someone else up.
Take a bubble bath. Light the candles. Dance in the kitchen. Dance in the break room at work.
Call your best friend and say I love you. Send someone, anyone, flowers. Make a toast to all the lovers all over the world fighting for whats good and honest and right. Write a love note and stick it on someones car window. Buy someone coffee in line at Starbucks. Kiss the kids. Hug longer. Tell old love stories over lunch. Flood your heart with romantic memories. Stare in someone's eyes just a little longer.
Put your hand over your heart and say "I love you."
Be the Love you wish to feel in this world.
See what kind of magic that makes.
With so much love for your love filled being,
We used to spend Friday nights together telling each other stories. Each story was like a little dose of soul medicine, a peek into each others hearts, a heart opening, a deeper moment of connection. One of my favorite stories that he told one of those sweet Friday nights across the dining room table where he held my hands as I listened to his voice and watched his eyes sparkle, in the little house in the woods where he lived was what I now call, "How'd you get here." It was a story that prompted a telling of what brought you to this moment. Right now.
He and I hadn't see each other in two years. He'd asked me where I'd been and reached for my hands across the table, his eyes sparkling just the way I remembered.
"A lot of places." I said.
A lovely villa at the edge of a rice paddy in Bali, an artsy wooded, waterfront compound on the Eastern Shore, a sweet little cottage surrounded by massive trees on a tiny island off the coast of Seattle, a real tipi in the desert of Sante Fe, New Mexico, a four hundred year old house full of artifacts and love stories on Amelia Island and countless hours cozied up on the couch of Hope House.
All retreats. For an entire year. A year of being well taken care of. All with the purpose of healing. Healing something I didn't understand needed healing until the first layer was peeled back at the house with the banner in in the kitchen that said, "hope house," on a nondescript tree lined street in Silver Spring, Maryland with a deeply spiritual woman willing to create the space I needed to unburden my soul and find my way, my quest, create my path forward in love and deep abiding happiness.
Beginning in 2011, we'd began experiencing a series of unfortunate events that included deaths of two young men I loved like my own children and were my son's best friends, a divorce from a dysfunctional marriage, a wicked battle with addiction to prescription drugs with one of my children following the trauma of the above deaths, my daughters best friend being diagnosed & treated for brain cancer (gratefully she's well and in remission now), my mother dying from the effects of alcoholism and addiction, my father dying 3 months later after a motorcycle accident, a failed catering business, and the broken heart of confusing love story.
Through it all I tried to keep my head high, my heart bright and continued to rise each day with happiness and love, to find something beautiful in every day, to exude peace. I just kept believing that things would get better and better.
After my parents died I felt unmoored. The disruption to our lives was so intense and addiction was kicking my ass. I needed grounding. I needed peace. I needed to stay strong for my daughters. I felt very alone. Things were hard but I felt like I was being called to something. That I had a purpose for all this feeling.
I've always been a Pollyana, look on the bright side, positive vibe type person. "You have an extraordinary belief system." someone said to me once. It's true. I do. I am a dreamer. A hoper. A believer. I have faith that we will make it through hardship, that we can recover, that we have a choice in how we go through life and we can get better. I am always looking for the fun, the happy, the goodness, the silly side. I believe in our potential to be the best version of ourselves. I believe our thoughts and our belief systems are powerful in creating the kind of life we desire.
I took a year and invested in myself, my heart, my soul and ultimately my healing. Mind, Body, Spirit. For an entire year I was my own experiment, my own devotion. As each retreat unfolded I began to understand that I was experiencing all of this to share it someday with others. That I was being prepared, led, shown, given these stories and experiences so that I would know how to create the space for others to feel the effects of retreats and to be an example of the effect of retreats not only on the individuals but the ripple effect on children, on families, on relationships, on communities and on our world. The most powerful ripple effect has been the recovery of my child from addiction.
I spent a year with spiritual coaches, mentors, shamans, Balinese Healers, Mayan healers, acupuncturists, meditation guides, massage therapists, yogi's and bodyworkers.
"Healing is everything." He said after he'd asked me how I was feeling and I said "I feel whole. Like there isn't an empty space, or a hole, or a feeling of being alone anymore."
"What are you doing now?" he asked and I smiled with excitement, my own eyes sparkling. "Retreats" I said.
"Sharing what I've learned. Opening hearts. Facilitating healing. Teaching people about love. Having a LoveFest."
You can join us here for our first LoveFest Day Retreat on Saturday, February 11th. It's going to be a heart opening, soul touching, mojo rising experience with storytelling, yoga, music, & delicious food. A mind, body, spirit retreat.
You're invited to RETREAT with me and my talented team of healers, lovers, caregivers, fun-makers, adventure guides, HERE
I can't wait to hear you story.
Love and Magic,
Passionate Storyteller, Enthusiastic Mother, Facilitator of Magical
Family Recovery Activist,
Founder of Buddy's Family Foundation aka, The BFF.
High Priestess of Love
on The Path of Devotion