Tough Love: A Valentine’s Day Message for Those Who Love Someone with a Drug or Alcohol Addiction

Looking for love in all the wrong places
Love at first sight
Love is blind
Love means never having to say you’re sorry

These are just a few of the themes that come to mind as I contemplate Valentine’s Day.  It occurs to me that I could tell my life story (both before and after recovery) using just the right combination of famous love quotes and song lyrics!

I was looking for love in all the wrong places when I first tried drugs.  I just didn’t know it at the time.  Growing up in an alcoholic home was traumatic.  I was frightened most of the time and very lonely.  Drugs filled the emptiness inside and made my fear go away.

It was love at first sight for me when it came to drugs.  Before long, nothing else mattered.  My family, friends, school and job – all took a back seat to my desire to get high.  This is the nature of the disease of addiction.

Love is blind, especially when it comes to loving someone with a drug problem.  We see only what we want to see because the reality is much too painful.

If love means never having to say you’re sorry, then what does it mean when our addicted loved ones keep apologizing?  Does their inability to stop using mean they don’t love us?  Of course not!  It’s just that addicts love drugs more than anything else.

Love is complicated enough without adding addiction to the equation.  If you’re struggling with a loved one who has a drug or alcohol problem, you’ve probably been told that you need to practice “tough love.”   What does that mean?  For me, it means letting go and trusting the process.  I hope you can trust me when I tell you that “tough love” is the best gift you can give to an addict.

This Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to begin learning this new way to love.  But please don’t forget that love isn’t just reserved for Valentine’s Day.  You can practice it every day.

I know there are many of you who have learned to practice “tough love” with your addict and I would like to hear from you.  How did you start?  How do you stay strong?  How has it helped you and/or your loved one?  Sharing your experience here can help others — and might even save a life.