Today I took part in a conference call with other Parent Support Network members along with professionals with The Partnership at Drugfree.org and counselors from The Center for Motivation and Change.
Part of the call focused on "allowing natural consequences." It was a very good discussion and there was a lot of back and forth about allowing natural consequences. What's the difference between allowing natural consequences, tough love and just being mean or angry about your loved ones addiction?
This isn't all about letting them sit in jail while you are miserable and feeling guilty. It's not as easy as taking away a car or not paying for a phone. Allowing natural consequences is putting yourself in a place where the actions you take have an intended effect of moving a person towards a realization that life addicted is more than getting high. Allowing natural consequences involves you being able to take actions that may cause your addicted love one uncomfortable circumstances but inside you know you are doing the right thing for the circumstances.
During our call we spoke about one end of the spectrum, your loved one is in jail and they want you to bail them out or they want money on their books. But we also spoke of dinner is at ____ and when it's over and they come late they don't find a plate set aside or leftovers. We all know about the discussions, arguments and fights concerning cars and phones.
But, how do you feel good about something like this? They are hungry, they are in that horrible jail, they need to have to have a car to get to work; all circumstances in which we as parents are particularly vulnerable. The only way to get past this is not that we take these actions because we should or someone told us too, we do this because we own it. We own this because it is our own personal value system.
It's not fair to ask someone to do something they are not capable of doing. I am talking about parents not your addicted loved one. Each of us can only do what we are capable of doing at any point in time. If something seems too harsh then it is an issue you must work yourself, don't shove it off onto your loved one.
Allowing natural consequences is a strategic action. Allowing natural consequences is not and should not be a REACTION.
Setting good boundaries based upon your own personal values and communicating them to your addicted loved one is step one. After all, you get that call from jail asking for bail money. You have bailed them out each time before. It's not fair to change the rules and expectations in the middle without giving your loved one the respect they deserve by explaining your values and plans. This is strategic and not a reaction borne of anger and frustration about getting that call from jail, again.
I want to make sure I am clear. Allowing natural consequences isn't tough love. For me tough love is seems almost like a "get out of jail card" for parents. It allows us to take an action and not care. Allowing natural consequences is taking deliberate actions with an intense interest in the outcomes along with open communication between your loved one and yourself.
A great resource for this is The Parents 20 Minute Guide. Don't take this on just because your read it on this blog or in the guide. Do this because it fits and you own it.
The Parents 20 Minute Guide