Loving Hurts Sometimes

Problematic behaviors around substance use and other mental health issues can often directly or indirectly impact every member of the family. The Center for Optimal Living provides families with the chance to work together in a therapeutic, healing environment.

On Saturday, May 20 the Center for Optimal Living will co-host a free Family Drug Support Workshop led by psychotherapist Tony Trimingham. This interactive workshop will include challenging your triggers and assumptions, changing language and dropping labels, stages of change for drug users and their families, and more. To register click here.



Loving Hurts Sometimes

By Diannee Carden-Glenn

Sometimes loving someone can hurt. Loving someone who suffers from substance use disorder is especially hurtful and difficult for the entire family. We have to learn to redefine love. Often we are told that the only way to love that child is to allow them to falter and fall and hit “rock bottom” and then they will realize what they have to lose and turn their life around. But, how is that working for us?  Every 15 minutes someone’s loved one overdoses and dies somewhere in the US.  We need places to talk about our struggles and how they affect us and our families. We need a place where there is no judgment, no stigma and finger pointing about enabling.

When my son was struggling with SUD I looked for such a group that would help guide me. The only groups that were available were those that told me to kick my son out, change the locks on my doors and to never give him money or food or love for that matter – because if I did he would take advantage of my weakness. It led me to remember an 18 year old, who was told if they went out with friends when they returned all their belongings would be on the front porch and the doors locked, who defiantly tested the limits and went anyway. That person was me and after all these years I can remember when I returned home and found my belongings on the porch and the door locked the feeling of abandonment, homelessness, fear and feeling unloved.  

I live in a community where there are support groups for families with loved ones who suffer from Alzheimer’s. They never suggest kicking their loved one out and changing the locks on the doors. They are a comforting group sharing stories and encouraging each other to love their loved one “just as they are”.  There are support groups for families who have a loved one with a terminal disease. They support the family suggesting that their loving care of this person is not only the right thing to do but the moral thing to do.  There are support groups for parents with children who suffer from Bipolar disease. There is no stigma, no one insinuates that the family is enabling the sometimes inappropriate behavior. There are even support groups for parents who have lost a child to opiate overdose who lovingly support each other in their grief and sometimes guilt for the tough love approach.

Why would we offer anything less to our loved one suffering from substance use disorder?  We need support groups who think outside of the box meeting their loved where they are at and developing support around their specific needs. One size does not fit all for this population and even though their behaviors may be similar their needs are probably not. We need groups where there is no finger pointing, no stigma and where enabling is not a dirty word. We need groups that make us feel good. We don’t need groups that make us hang our heads in shame.  We need groups that encourage us to never give up and provide us with the encouragement to discover what will work best for our family.  Sometimes that is setting boundaries for ourselves and not necessarily for them.  Sometimes that is how to cope with positive changes and challenges as well as the negative ones. It is being creative and learning that love can be hard and it can hurt sometimes but that love can also mend your soul and result in a positive relationship that leads to change and acceptance without resentment or anger.


About Diannee Carden-Glenn

Diannee Carden-Glenn is the mother of Michael Carden. Michael had a deep understanding of policy, research and the treatment of both substance use and hepatitis C. He understood addiction and the science of behavior change and was skilled at helping people take difficult, challenging steps toward healthier behaviors. Michael was founding member of Washington Heights CORNER Project, a leading force in harm reduction in New York and nationwide, and a fierce advocate for the rights and health needs of people who use drugs. Michael passed away of an overdose on April 9, 2012.


To request additional information about our Family Therapy program or to set up a consultation please call 212-213-8905 x2 or email info@cfol.org.


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