When Dealing With An Addict Is It Better To Give Love Or Tough Love?

I ran into one of my oldest friends yesterday. My husband and I had gotten a couples massage done. When we left, we went across the street to get gas. Thertuge was a guy that I have been friends with for fifteen years. We will call him Ethan (not his real name). He just cam home from rehab for the um-tenth time about a month or so ago. He was trying to sell us something in order to procure funds to go in town to cop some dope. This is the same story with him. Over and over. He will have a killer habit, get busted- either by being arrested or by his parents, go to jail or to rehab, come home, do well for a week or a month or six, then start getting high again. So the story goes, over and over and over again.

I have another friend who I have known for about nine years, but my husband has been best friends with this guy since elementary school. He is the same way. Goes to jail for a year or two, comes home, starts getting high, rips and runs until he gets locked up and goes back to jail. Actually we haven’t seen this dude who I am going to call Adam (again, not his real name) in over a year. We had to cut him out of our lives. He doesn’t even try to do good. Also he wants my husband and I to do too much for him. I am not a cold hearted bitch, despite how this sounds, but I have my own family to take care of. He wants money (which I have no problem giving – sometimes), he wants a place to live (again, I don’t mind giving a friend a place to stay for a night or even a week, but we have given him a place to sleep and he stayed for like six months). Also, he doesn’t ever want to give my husband and I any alone time or family time. he is always there. Actually, last time he stayed with us, he would come in our bedroom and hang out, watch tv, and get high. He would never take the hint to leave, we would have to pretend that we were asleep to get him to finally go into the guest room and go to sleep. We would then get back up and hang out alone, snuggle, fuck, talk, you know – be a married couple.

Anyway, these two dudes are very similar in that the cycle of addiction is their lives. In and out of active addiction. In and out of institutions. Only difference with that is that Adam has never gone to rehab since I have known him. Once, long before I ever met him, he was in a rehab, but was out on a day pass and got arrested for picking up a hooker thus not making it back before curfew and got kicked out. The main difference with these two guys is their families. Ethan’s parents, who are his adoptive parents, support him every time he messes up. They are self mad millionaires. They own a security company. Actually they were the people that put up the police cameras that are on practically every corner in Baltimore. The other guy, Andy. His mom and step-dad are the exact opposite. They don’t help him out at all.

So which family has the answers? Who is doing it right? To even begin to answer that, we have to delve deeper into each man’s situation.

First I am going to discuss Adam and his family. They believe in tough love to the extreme. Actually, if we are being totally honest, I think that his mother would help him, support him, be there for him, but his step-dad is having none of it. I mean they don’t bail him out when he gets arrested, but many people look at this and say that he got himself in jail, so why should his parents get him out? Ok, maybe, he is 36 after all. It is so much more than just not paying his bail. They will not visit him in jail, send him money or even write to him in jail. They won’t set up an account on their cell phones enabling him to call them collect from jail. When he has done time in the past, they refused to get his car out of impound within the deadline, thus letting it be taken over by the state. So he lost that car. Another car and another time in jail, they wouldn’t let him park his car at their house, so he lost that car because he had no where to leave it safely and eventually it was towed and as with the previous car, if not retrieved from the impound by the deadline, it is the state’s to auction off. When he comes home, they are unwilling to let him live with them, or even stay with him until he gets into a half way house. They won’t help him pay for rehab. Or give him some money to get himself started when he comes home. Yeah, tough love.

Ethan’s family is exactly the opposite. He lives with them. They always pay his bail. They have even put their house up as collateral to get his ass out of jail when he had a $500,000 bail. They pay for him to go to rehab when he comes home from jail. He has had hi sentence cut down before due to this. In Maryland we have what is called an 8505. This means that at least one time, a judge has to allow someone with a history of drug addiction to be able to serve their time in rehab instead of jail. A good lawyer can often get an 8505 for a client even if they have received it before. obviously, most people would prefer to do their time in a rehab facility instead of in a prison. They have put him into rehab even when jail is not involved, (i.e. not an 8505, or no pending charges where rehab would look good for the judge and possibly spare him time or at the very least receive less time from the judge). Currently he is on a methadone program. They give him a place to live, pay for anything he needs. Also, and probably one of the biggest things they do for him, they give him a job at their company. He would never get this job if not for his father. He would not pass the security clearance. A job, besides being a requirement for parole and probation, is the biggest stepping stone to achieving self-sufficiency and maintaining sobriety.
Both men, sadly keep going through the revolving door of ails, institutions, and active addiction. So who is approaching their relationship with their child right? In my humble opinion, I think that Ethan’s parents are going about it the right way.

They are not enabling him. They will pay for things he needs, but they almost never give him cash, unless they are pretty positive that he is not getting high. They have strict rules for living at their house. Now an addict is going to find a way to get high if they want to, but they do not just allow drugs in the house. If they find drugs, or needles or any other sort of paraphernalia, they are sending him into a program. Actually they have had him arrested before, but they dropped the charges when it went to court. I think that they just wanted him to “dry out” in a cell for the night. They try to keep track of any and everyone that he is hanging out with. Believe me, you do not want to be grilled by is mother.

The thing is, at least he has a fighting chance when he comes home from jail or rehab. Adam, he doesn’t even have a shot. He comes out of jail with no where to live. Yeah, you can go into a halfway house, but unless you are in a pre-release kind of jail, there is no way to find and contact these places until you get out. That is one of the primary flaws in the system. You have to have a place to stay for a few days in order to find a place to live. At least halfway houses will let you in without any money up front. Yeah, they charge you rent to live there, but they give you a couple of weeks to get a job. As long as you are actively looking for employment, they ill give you time. In the beginning, they are mostly concerned with making sure that all of your drug screens are clean, that you are going to the required number of NA or AA meetings and are helping out with the cooking and chores. It is usually a little bit harder to g from jail to rehab if there is no one helping you. If you do not have insurance that covers all or at least the majority of the cost, they are going to want a large portion of the money up front. State insurance takes a month or so to kick in. You have to go to the social services office and apply (you can also apply for food stamps too, in order to get the temporary cash assistance, you have to come to the social services offices 3-4 days a week and turn in like 10 job applications a week, so if you have no one to help you with a ride, there is really no point in trying to get the TCA), hen about a week later you get your Medical Assistance card with your number and a bunch of brochures about different insurance companies, you then call the state’s medical assistance number and tell them which company you have chosen, like a week after that you get your insurance card and have health insurance. That is like two to three weeks in the best case, fastest scenario. So for Adam with no where to stay while waiting rehab is a difficult option (I didn’t even get into the fact there is a high probability that there is a wait list). So he stays with a friend in the city. He finds someone who will let him sleep at their house for $10 a night. More often than not, these people get high as most 0f his friends that live in the city do. He needs money right away so he starts going out boosting. With no internet access, he ends up not even looking for a halfway house, Actually, the only time that he lived in a halfway house was when he stayed with us after he was released from jail and my sister complied a list of halfway houses. Being as he is staying with people with a drug habit who are taking him out boosting and then going to cop dope, it is only a matter of days or weeks that this heroin habit is back.

I am in no way trying to put all of his issues with relapse on his parents, Ethan is proof that an addict will relapse if they want. I have noticed that Adam developed a habit within about a week of coming home, while Ethan has gone a year, and almost always months. Yeah when I saw him, he was trying to cop, but I don’t think he had a habit. He is a fool to think that his casual use will not develop into a habit, but he is trying. Ethan’s parents afford him the opportunity to do the right thing, and one of these times he will get into his mind that he is sick of this life of drug use and abuse. Adam doesn’t even stand a chance. He is released from prison with no where to sleep, no one to support him emotionally or financially.

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3 thoughts on “When Dealing With An Addict Is It Better To Give Love Or Tough Love?

  1. Wow. You really laid this out and with so much detail it was totally convincing. I think you are right. I’ve struggled with how much to help my son, also a heroin addict. I fall between the two. I stopped bailing him out of jail long ago, stopped going to court with him, stopped getting his cars out of impound, stopped retreiving all his gear, his life’s possessions, from wherever he was staying when he went to jail again, and eventually stopped visiting him in jail. I even stopped picking him up from jail, but I would wire him money for a bus ticket. I would put money on his books so he could buy coffee and other stuff, I would pay for his phone calls home, and I would write him and send him books. I would put together lists of rehabs and sober living homes. I would let him come home for a week or two at most. Sometimes I would pay for motel rooms if he seemed like he was actively looking for another place to stay. I would help him get a phone and bus passes and back pack. I would call him and text him and encourage him. I would pray like hell. I would jump when the phone ringed late at night. I would cry myself to sleep. I would praise him like crazy when he was doing good, when he got a job, when he was staying clean. And I would hold my breath. And then the dance would start again–the relapse, losing his job, losing a place to stay, moving out onto the street or onto people’s couches. I couldn’t bring him home when he was using. Not again. I’d done that too much. But then, he he got looking so bad, when he was crying on the phone, when he talked about suicide, when he was covered in staph infections and skinny as a rail, I would bring him home–I’d try again to get him into rehab, But they’d kick him out. He’d go back to jail–and it would start all over again.

    It’s so hard. But he’s doing well now. 90 days clean. I’m hopeful. So is he. We’ll see.

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    1. It is tough because you love the person so much, and ultimately they have to really want to be clean. Even then, it is hard. I understand why people can’t have it in their home anymore. At some point, you have to worry about yourself. As an update: the friend whose parents help him out all the time has just moved from here (Baltimore) to Billings, Wyoming because he is starting a job on an oil rig, paying $30 an hour. He has an apartment, a truck, everything. The other guy is back in jail. At the end of the day, no matter how much we as addicts want to blame our childhoods, our partners, our friends, whatever, we are ultimately responsible for our own actions. But keep faith, because people do get better! It is not easy, but people can do it. I will pray for you and your son.

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      1. I am so happy for your friend who’s making it. I love to hear that. No life should be wasted. I hope the one in jail will make it too eventually. You do need people in your life willing to help out when times are so hard, or at least to give encouragement. That was so good of you to let him stay with you as long as you did. Good people have helped my son out as well, and I am so grateful to every one of them. He’s moving in the right direction now, and I am hopeful. Your prayers are much appreciated!

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