One of the most widely repeated pieces of advice on dealing with addiction in a loved one is that \u201ctough love\u201d is the best approach. He or she has to hit \u201crock bottom,\u201d you\u2019re told, and when that happens, there will be a tremendous transformation. The son or daughter who once wanted nothing but to abuse substances will suddenly realize the error of his or her ways and commit to getting clean. This is the advice Diannee Carden Glenn was given by her son\u2019s therapist, but in an article for The Fix, she points out that the reality of this advice is far from pleasant. Tough Love and Hitting Rock Bottom in Addiction The theory behind practicing \u201ctough love\u201d is that protecting your son, daughter or loved one from the effects of their addiction effectively enables it to continue. Without negative consequences, there is no motivation to make a change, and therefore many parents are advised to practice tough love until their addicted child reaches \u201crock bottom.\u201d This is an ultimate low point (usually being jailed or suffering a near overdose) that shocks them into realizing they need to get help. Diannee was told that her son would eventually come begging for help, at which point his recovery would begin. Diannee\u2019s Story \u2013 Where Is the Rock Bottom? Diannee tells of two times she thought her son had hit rock bottom. At one point in 8th grade he had his pants pulled down in the boys\u2019 locker room, and the gym teacher merely looked on laughing, brushing it off with a \u201cboys will be boys\u201d justification. But soon after she received a call from school to say he\u2019d gone missing. After searching the long route home in the pouring rain, she eventually found him lying in the mud, crying and humiliated. \u201cIs this rock bottom?\u201d she wondered. It apparently wasn\u2019t; four years later, she received a phone call from him\u2014he said that he loved her but didn\u2019t want to live anymore. He\u2019d taken two bottles of pills in an attempt to commit suicide because he thought God had deserted him. He was rushed to a hospital where his stomach was pumped and then placed in a suicide psychiatric ward. \u201cThis has to be rock bottom,\u201d she thought. The advice from her son\u2019s therapist started to seem more ridiculous to her. She eventually rejected the \u201ctough love\u201d approach, instead aiming to support him and try to help him whenever she could. She writes \u201cI will love him unconditionally until he feels like he is worth saving \u2026 I will cover him with blankets when he shakes uncontrollably and use cold packs to keep his fever down. I will spoon-feed him vegetable broth when he can\u2019t keep solid food down. I will buy emergency one-way plane tickets. I will do it because I love him unconditionally.\u201d She was always there for him, but the result was the same as for many who practice the \u201ctough love\u201d approach diligently. He hit the absolute rock bottom, and she was left to make funeral arrangements and design his headstone. Is Tough Love the Right Approach? In many cases, the overdose that is supposed to be the \u201crock bottom\u201d moment for those practicing tough love is fatal, and as Diannee\u2019s story shows, the result can be the same when you reject tough love, too. So what\u2019s the right thing to do? The answer isn\u2019t really clear, with even experts disagreeing about the best advice. However, there are elements of both approaches that have merit. Being an \u201cenabler\u201d isn\u2019t a good thing. Being insulated from negative consequences of addiction because of overly protective parents gives you a distorted view of the impact of your drug abuse. You might not even realize how much trouble it causes. But as Diannee understandably felt, it\u2019s not right to abandon your child and silently hope they hit a rocky enough bottom to make them decide to get clean. Showing support and unconditional love is beneficial. Like with many things, you must strike a balance. You have to be consistently loving, but you can\u2019t mistakenly believe you can protect your son or daughter from everything. You should try to show your loved one the value in getting help before they reach rock bottom, but if they\u2019re hurtling uncontrollably toward it, you need to have the courage to admit that you aren\u2019t in control of their behavior. As Diannee\u2019s story shows, both the caring or tough love approach can lead to tragedy, and sometimes there just isn\u2019t much you can do about it. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers when you\u2019re trying to help a loved one overcome addiction. The only thing you can do is try to offer support in any way you can, while remembering there\u2019s ultimately only one person who can help your loved one get better: the addict him or herself. You didn\u2019t cause it, you can\u2019t control it and you can\u2019t cure it.