Gordon’s story


Director and Head Office manager

Our son is a recovering heroin addict and has been clean for almost 7 years now, and without TOUGHLOVE® we would have never survived the trauma we went through. Being a father of an addict I’ve been through all the emotions of finally admitting my son had a problem and the realization that the whole family needed help. It is amazing to see that once you ‘speak-up’ you are not alone and it is horrifying to know how many people are out there feeling hurt, angry, like a failure etc. as the stigma of addiction keeps them bound and hopeless.

It was only when the crisis got so big that we then started to look for help. We were blessed to be referred to TOUGHLOVE®. We drove 70km one way to the nearest support group for a year, and this equipped us with information to make more informed decisions and helped us in a very practical way to make the changes we needed to make.

The support was amazing! Our thanks go to Bill and Glenda.

One of the most difficult concepts that I needed to grasp was that I needed to change and what we had been doing over the past few years had not been working. This was a very difficult pill to swallow, as I initially thought that we needed to change my son. Unfortunately we can only change ourselves.

It was only after our son and his girlfriend cleaned out my wife’s jewellery and found out they were spiking heroin did we realize that we had a huge problem on our hands. After speaking to her parents they agreed that we should charge them both with theft and leave them in the holding cells until we knew what the next best thing to do was. After our appointment with Sheryl Rahme, a qualified addiction counsellor, we decided he was ‘safer’ in jail than roaming the streets stealing etc. and decided to leave him there for four months until his trial. We then managed to get the court to sentence him to rehab and give him a suspended sentence at our request so that he could not just walk out of rehab, like most addicts do, and plus learn that if he chooses the life of addiction after rehab, that there will be a good chance he would be arrested again and have to serve out his full sentence in jail.

This was a bonus for us as he hated jail and never wants to put his foot back inside again. After 8 months rehab we reluctantly allowed him back home. By then we had learnt to have healthy boundaries in our home and life moved on as he appeared to have made the choice to change his way of life.

We had learnt that rehabs only have a 2% to 5% success rate, and that when they return to the same parents, friends and circumstances, there is a good chance they will relapse especially if they are still struggling with low self-esteem and boredom. After a while we noticed that his behaviour was moving back towards his own way and soon found out that he had ‘used’ again. My wife and I then took time and advice from others before deciding that we will give him notice to move out of our home with very strict rules until the end of the month. We sat down with our son and told him how much we loved him. We really felt as parents we had done our best, financially and emotionally, to assist him through his recovery, but if he chose heroin again, then we could not have him anywhere near us, as it destroys us to watch him slowly kill himself. However, if he stayed clean he was welcome to visit in our home and build-up good relationships again.

We believe he came to a point where he decided enough was enough and that he needed to change his own life as the choices he made had consequences that impacted him and him alone. It was no longer the family’s problem, but his! Not easy to do when you love and care for someone!

He has been ‘clean’ ever since we gave him notice to move out of our home and it has taken him almost 2 years thereafter to forgive us and say that the best thing we ever did for him was to send him to jail. He knew from the days he sat awaiting trial that if we had set him ‘free’ there would be a good chance he would not be here today. Sadly too many addicts do not get the right support they need. Love them, and deal with the problem separately.

These are a few of the things that TOUGHLOVE® helped me with:

  • Stop blaming, admit there is a problem, and start doing something positive about it
  • Assess the problem, set a long term goal and start working towards it one week at a time.
  • Stop making movies in your mind about where they are and what they are up to
  • Be confrontational in a loving way. Something we don’t like to do, but give the crisis back to them.
  • Stop ‘bailing them out!’
  • Compromise with your partner. I found that as one person gets stricter, the other gets softer and so they drive a wedge between us until we want a divorce and they are doing exactly what they want to.
  • TOUGHLOVE® brought my wife and I much closer together The more you tolerate unacceptable behaviour from them, the more they disrespect you
  • People love to know where they stand and healthy boundaries make healthy relationships