Sheryl’s story

My name is Sheryl Rahme and I have been a member of Toughlove® since the early eighties. I joined Toughlove® because I had a family member addicted to drugs, he was destroying himself and our entire lives. A friend introduced me to Toughlove® as a last resort and still I wish I had found it first.

I walked into my first meeting optimistic, nervous, hopeful, anxious and terrified. We had been living with total destruction for four years prior to my joining Toughlove®. I was greeted warmly by a group of older ladies and instantly I felt that I was no longer alone. I sat eyeing out all the material on the welcome table and although I cried through most of that meeting, I believed that if only I could read all that material, it would help me “save” my brother and my family would return to sanity!! Oh how wrong I was! I thought that Toughlove® meant that I had to be tough, firm, and punish him. On the contrary, it taught me how to “love” unconditionally. Love him whether he was out of control, or doing well.

All they asked me for was to commit to come back the following week. I promised and even though’ I was not so sure how these older women could help me; I always kept my promises and went back the following week. It took me 3 weeks to get my manual and as interesting as it was, it didn’t tell me that everything was going to be ok or even how to “fix” my loved one. I was so desperate that I tried every suggestion that they gave me for a stand and bottom line. I never missed a meeting, probably hoping that someone would give me a magic cure and all would be well.

After a month or so, they suggested that I start to change myself and my behaviour. How DARE they suggest that I have a problem and I need to change, he was the one hooked on drugs, weighing 35 kilograms, living on the street, stealing, lying, conning and manipulating and “I need to change”. I was ready to leave and never go back, “did nobody know how hard I tried and how much running around I did for him and the whole family. By the Grace of God, I didn’t leave, swallowed humble pie and started really listening to the philosophy and what the programme was actually about.

It was about change. Me making small significant changes to my own behaviour, stop making excuses for him and my family and become proactive rather than reactive. I always believed that we had to “Kick them out” but heavens that’s the last thing that Toughlove® was about. It was tough for me to stop enabling, abusing him (yes, loving too much is abusive) and start setting realistic, achievable goals for my recovery and hopefully in turn, he too would get help.

Toughlove® was not an easy programme to follow, but it made so much sense. It was the one place I felt understood. I didn’t have to pretend, laugh or make excuses for how awful things were at home. I worked the programme exactly how I should have and within a significant period of time I was seeing results. It took far longer than it should have as my family fought me all the way.

They did not agree with what I was doing and their own denial kept them stuck.

When Linzi (the Social Worker who introduced Toughlove® to South Africa) asked me to take over from her, I resisted completely, how was a hairdresser going to run this organization without training and skills? She told me that the programme had all the answers, I must just follow it. With the help of many dedicated families, we took over the running and training for Toughlove® and grew it from one group to almost 20. We were all volunteers and slowly but surely, we started seeing families healing and addicts getting well. 20 years ago, there was no real help or assistance for the addict
or the family.

We have seen South Africa, grow to a pandemic of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction and Toughlove® is still truly the one organization that offers real help to families in crisis. Many treatment centres have opened doors to addicts, but nobody is really equipped to help families who are being torn apart from loved one’s unacceptable behaviour and chemical abuse.

If you are willing to do what it takes and tell us that you will do anything to help your loved one, then I challenge you to do the one thing that will help. Change yourselves and join a Toughlove® family support group. Blessings to you on your journey of recovery!