From time to time I read a story that paints a vivid picture in my mind. This one, by Nikki Holman is one such story that gives the reader a clear picture of what tough love looks like. Nikki shows us what it is like for someone who has lived both sides of the coin—who has essentially been the “wrecking ball” in so many lives, to becoming the strong one. . . who manages to administer tough love and compassion to people she cares about.
In doing so, Nikki learns firsthand, what like is like on both sides of the fence. Nikki works at a Colorado Resort, where this story takes place. Please take the time to read all the way to the end. . . and also to forward to someone who needs a bit of encouragement and strength to continue with Tough Love. Thanks Nikki for allowing us to reprint this.
A recovering Addict’s taste of tough love!
(for the loved ones of the addict)
~ by Nikki Holman
Yesterday was an emotional onslaught of the reminders of the pain & wreckage that as addicts in active addiction we bring to our families, our friends, to our neighbors, society as a whole. My day started as usual, veryyyy early to work. After handling the things I needed to handle I popped back into the break room for a quick second to find one of my sponsees that is also employed by the hotel in the break room dissolving into tears at the very sight of me.
A little background may help. She has been in active relapse for a few weeks now. We are in contact nearly every day as I love her, want to help her but I am not going to enable her. To this point she is again homeless, actively drinking & drugging & having violent outbursts of mutual domestic violence with not just her partner but with friends, etc. We talk for a few moments every day. I will always hug her, tell her first that I love her, that I believe in her but that she has to stand up & take her own life back; that I will walk beside her but can’t carry her even if that was an option. This happens daily—with increasing call-ins to work—in crisis, begging to workers to let her pitch a tent in their yards, etc etc etc etc etc. the rest of the details you can probably imagine; today was only slightly different as she dissolved once again.
I had to hug her and then do the hardest thing ever; I had to tell her point blank that “No, I will Not give you one dime of cash, No I will Not pay for a room at the hotel for you, No I will Not ask anyone to let you stay there, that you need to go to the homeless/ dv women’s shelter” (that she cannot go to because she created wreckage there). I had to tell her that she was about to lose her job. It broke my heart to have to stand up, hug her tight, smooth her hair, hold her face in my hands and say “I Love you enough to not help you die! The minute you stand up & choose to fight, to do the right thing I will be right there to help you”. She just sobbed and sobbed and I cried too as I let her go and HAD TO GO BACK TO WORK.
If that was not enough, a half hour later I caught sight of a familiar faced child. A little boy came into the restaurant during brunch drenched in sweat, asking for a drink and practically drooling at the sight of food. Of course we gave him a drink, turned our backs while he ate and later as a co-worker and I were driving home on her way to drop me off we saw this little boy again (mind you this is four hrs. later and at least eight miles away or more. She then told me that the little boy told one of them that his parents had locked him out of the house early a.m. and told him he could not come back till after four.
So this morning I caught a glimpse of him once more. As my co-worker headed for the door he got scared off and bolted. I told her the story and went out to look for him with no luck. Ten minutes later he popped back in and we were ready this time. We asked him if he was thirsty, took the food and juice we prepped for him and I walked out the door with him. I asked him if he was locked out again, he blurted out “NO!!!!!!” I said gently “yes you are, aren’t you?” He said “Yes, Yes and I’m really hungry.” He started walking faster—trying to escape. I stepped up the pace and gently tasked him, “will you come have breakfast if you need to tomorrow?” His eyes got huge, “Yes! …Yes and then he bolted out the door”.
Chasing him wouldn’t help; he needs to trust us. We talked it over and we will buy his breakfast every chance we get—even if that means we only make a couple dollars. We would do this, not just to feed him but to build trust with him so that he will let us help him. I know this note is really long but these examples slammed home the terrible pain and suffering addiction causes to those that love us.
I have not a shred of doubt that this little boy lives in a home filled with active addiction and also that my sponsee’s life is like a wrecking ball to everything she comes into contact with—especially to herself. I know that administering Tough Love to her today and just plain love to that little boy today damn near broke my heart. I know that what I experienced today is possibly, mayyyyyyybe one tenth of the heartbreak that my FAMILY and MY FRIENDS FELT WITH EVERY CRISIS, EVERY SLAM OF THE WRECKING BALL TO THEIR LIVES.
YA SEE, I CARE FOR THESE TWO BUT THEY ARE NOT MY DAUGHTER (like my parents) OR NOT MY SONS (like my babies). My addiction robbed my parents of a daughter, my siblings of a sister, my sons of a mother, my neighbors of a decent neighbor and so on. I also know that the very best “amends” I can ever make is: to BE DIFFERENT.
WORDS OF REGRET, REMORSE, SORROW and OWNING MY WRECKAGE IS GREAT, BUT WITHOUT BEING BACKED UP BY ACTION THEY ARE MEANINGLESS. I also know that I hated getting “TOUGH LOVED” HATED HATED IT, PISSED ME OFF! But in retrospect I know that It helped to save me.
Oh I was stubborn! Believe me I flipped em the bird and thought, “Well now I don’t have anything left to lose so I’ll just stay high! And I did for a while. But this allowed me to hit my personal bottom sooner than I would’ve had they continued to enable me, to turn a blind eye, let me continue to actively harm them.
I loved my family. No I never set out to harm them but it’s what we do when we use—regardless of intent. Tough Love Sucks!!! It sucks for the families that carry guilt for thinking they are leaving their loved one alone, that they are abandoning them. I used the guilt card lots of times. But TOUGH LOVE MADE HELPED ME TO CHOOSE TO SAVE MY OWN LIFE.
IF YOU ARE ONE OF THE LOVED ONES—KNOW THAT IT IS THE BEST THING YOU CAN DO. IT MAY NOT WORK IN THE TIME THAT YOU IMMEDIATELY HOPE IT DOES. MOST OFTEN IT TAKES A LITTLE BIT.
You don’t ever have to give up hope. I am living proof that hope should never be lost. I am so grateful to my family for tough loving me. I am Now A DAUGHTER, A SISTER, A MOTHER , A FRIEND!
Raising the Bottom? ~by Joe Herzanek
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I so needed to read this today; I am practicing tough love with my son right now and he seems to be rebellious today about my new boundaries.
I have a daughter who is a recovering addict and today she is 59 days 9lear of all drugs!!!! I believe TOUGH LOVE is the only thing that’s helps as it closes all doors to the addict and they have to hit rock bottom and deceide for themselves what they want – pick themselves out the gutter and live and get help or just stay down and die.
No matter how much a parent/loved one forces the addict to change ,the addict must deceide the pain of wanting to be clean is more than the pain of getting the next hit!
Thank you so much for your positive feedback on this. I have to be honest, I was a bit nervous. I am so grateful to be able to share my truths as it is possibly one of the best amends I can make for the wreckage I created through my active addiction. ~Nikki
nikki u did it again, *tears* i love you so much. I too have been shown and had to show tough love. Thanks to my mother for standing her ground. If not i wouldn’t be here. Love u mamma
So proud of you for your own “recovery” and thank God for women like you in the program… I can’t imagine how hard it must be to have this “tough love” and hope it isn’t something I am faced with… My family had it for me though. Getting clean and sober has been a journey of miracles for me… Keep on keeping on and thankyou for sharing…
Great reminder of the power of tough love. I can’t imagine anything more difficult for parents. But I also realize it is necessary to set boundaries for what we are willing to accept. In my experience, letting people be responsible for their own lives brings them closer to seeking recovery.
I totally agree Jamie. Nikki is “the real deal” and the world needs more honest and passionate people like her. Thanks for the comment.
Most excellent and better truth I have not heard for some time. If more of us could put our stories out there like this, the world’s compassion would be overwhelming. God Bless!