Thursday, February 13, 2014

Allowing Natural Consequences

Today I took part in a conference call with other Parent Support Network members along with professionals with The Partnership at 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


Anonymous said...

I'm sitting here with a shattered heart. I'm waiting for my cherished son Alex to come home so that we can take him to yet another rehab facility. He was just released on Tuesday after spending only 7 days in detox because the insurance wouldn't pay for residential. He relapsed about an hour and a half after being released. The emotional pain is unbearable. I truly feel as if I will die of a broken heart. Our journey with his addiction began in earnest the past May. He was in rehab for 7 days and released to IOP. He relapsed after 90+ days. Went back to rehab for in November for 21 days and relapsed after 50+ days. I know that everyone reading this can relate to my feelings of hopelessness and despair. Thank you for this blog. It makes me feel less alone.

Dad and Mom said...


You are not alone.

Annette said...

**Each of us can only do what we are capable of doing at any point in time.**

I love this sentence. The idea that I didn't have to *know* what to do next or how to do it all exactly right was such a relief. We can only do the best we can do at any given moment.

As I read this post, I thought about the dynamic when one parent is ready to allow their addicted child to live out the natural consequences of their actions...and the other isn't. What if one of the parents simply isn't able to do what needs to be done yet? Gosh, that is so hard. In my marriage, we had to choose, and at different times it could be either one of us, we had to choose to be patient with each other, with the one who wasn't able to let go yet, or who wanted to rescue. We each have our own path, as a couple and individually, to travel in this God-awful journey. It was so easy for either of us to get mad at the other because this was so hard on its own, then add in co-parenting disagreements during crisis and its a recipe for divorce! We eventually came to a place of giving some time and space for the other to work through their hesitancies, their fears, until we could be find some common ground to agree on, some compromises so that we could both be in some form of agreement with the decisions we were having to make. It was so hard... and really that is an understatement. The good that came out of that was that despite what was going on with our girl, we learned how to stand as a couple, how to be patient and wait for the other to catch up if need be, we became a unit and not this fragmented explosion shooting off in all different directions.

Last, but not least lol... I just read about when the butterfly is trying to free itself from it cocoon and all the work that takes. The butterfly has to struggle and persevere and it takes time to build up its strength to be strong enough to fly free. If someone comes along and tries to "help" the butterfly break free from its cocoon before its ready, it can actually die. Its not strong enough to sustain itself. All of the butterfly's hard work and persistence is helping it become ready for its journey as a free independent butterfly.

Gosh, sorry! I should have written my own blog post over on my own blog! lol Great post Ron and thanks for sharing with all of us here.

Cathy Taughinbaugh said...

Great explanation Ron of natural consequences. I loved the idea that you are letting the natural consequences happen out of anger, but you are doing out of love and because you care. For me that makes so much sense and defines the difference! Thanks - I will share!!

Tori said...

This was great Ron. For years I read everything and went to seek advice which was a good thing, but what I finally realized is that during this journey through hell I had to make decisions that were right for me and that I could live with.

I made a ton of mistakes and still do but when I think things through and make a decision based on what I felt was the right thing to do things started getting better. Not really for my son but for me.

Jeff Foote said...

Thanks Ron, for your always heartfelt and helpful explanations and're a warrior and a guiding like ...

Medbury Gaye said...
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Lin said...

If you are truly afraid that your son will get high with this person and might die, then absolutely do not tell him. It sounds like it would do more harm than good for him to know. That's just my opinion.

Dad and Mom said...

Dear Medbury,

I have thought about your comment and question. My first reaction is to say don't tell. Keep him away. But I began to reconsider. What are alternatives?

Of course so much of this really depends on your sons recovery and determination. No matter how much we fear the world concerning our addicted loved one we cannot remove the world from our loved one.

Alternative I would consider if it were my son would be to tell him about his close friends mother and to offer to him support through the process. Go to the funeral with him. Encourage going to a NA meeting, therapist or whoever is helping him with his recovery. Go to him to help him process this and use conversation about how to process a loss of a friends mother without drugs.

This is a hard question but it is also an opportunity to connect about how life goes on and people are able to handle these events in life without drugs.

After all, regardless of this event if your son wants to reconnect with his friend and use there is little you can do, funeral or not.

Medbury Gaye said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dad and Mom said...


Sometimes your gut has the answer. I am glad it turned out well and truth is sometimes we can't predict the outcome or dream the reality.

Build on this with your son. Help him build on this too.


Syd said...

You help a lot of people get through the rough times, Ron.