Not Tough Love, just Love

We are so  honored to be with you each day sharing hope. Our outreach has grown at a tremendous pace. We are averaging over 100 new subscribers a day. We just past 101,335 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it.

We are starting a new promotion. The person who is our 105,000 will wins some nice prizes. It goes very fast so don’t miss out. 

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Doug Bolton, the founder of Signs of Hope, is writing  a new book, “Signs of Hope for the Military: In and Out of the Trenches of Life.” It reaches out the military and veterans who may be battling anxiety, fear, depression, addictions, rejections, PTSD, and many other usual suspects. There are 22 military connected suicides every day. That is almost one every hour. We need to help stop those statistics. Be looking for more details about the new book. Look for updates here.

+ Update! The book has been sent to my editor this week. Now I wait and see how many red marks she will have in it. 🙂 

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Welcome back Linda Clare. Her posts have us crying. They want us to reach out to help. They are inspiring.

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Not Tough Love—Just Love

That Sunday in church, tears slid down my face. I was so close to hopelessness, I didn’t care if my mascara ran. The night before, two of my grown sons, fueled by alcohol and drugs, had argued and nearly come to blows. Again.

The son who was supposed to be getting sober had relapsed. His brother was tweaking on meth. Around three AM, old grudges and rivalry reignited as their shouts woke my husband and me. We’d managed to break up the late-night fracas, but nothing was resolved. I felt trapped in a cycle: hope’s birth, followed by hope’s death, hope’s rebirth and back to death again. Now, even as Deacon Ron (not his real name) read aloud the Gospel, I wondered if I had strength enough to ever hope again.

My heart was heavy. Any hope of escaping the cycle seemed impossible. I was not only discouraged and sad, I was angry. Angry at my sons for their behavior and their choices. Angry at myself for my failure to enforce Tough Love. Angry at. . .well, just mad.

Bad enough that I felt hopeless. Recently, someone had remarked that I also appeared helpless. Tough Love sounded like a logical solution to a thorny problem, but I couldn’t make it work. That made me seem like a toothless T. Rex, my mini-arms clawing nothing but air.  Why couldn’t I do what so many friends, relatives, counselors and clergy had suggested over the years? Why couldn’t I detach myself from the alcoholics and addicts in my life? After services, I avoided eye contact as I slouched along in the handshake line.

The problem for me, lay in the popular meaning of the term Tough Love. Whenever people advise me to use Tough Love, they usually mean, “kick out your addicted loved ones.” In twenty-plus years of dealing with their substance abuse, I’ve ordered my loved ones into treatment, set rules and drawn up code of conduct contracts. I’ve called police, obtained restraining orders and separated from my alcoholic husband for a time. But what I could never do was kick them out—especially if it meant, “Don’t come back until you’ve licked this problem.”

After services, instead of slinking off, I knelt at the prayer bench where Deacon Ron waits to pray for those who ask him. Ron’s also a Jail Chaplain, and has led a prison ministry for at least twenty years. He knows my family’s situation well. “Please pray for me.” I hung my head but he placed his hands on my shoulders. I glanced up and confessed. “I’m a terrible failure at Tough Love.”

What he said next made my jaw drop. “I don’t believe in Tough Love.”

I’d never heard anyone say that.  I thought Tough Love was the only way I’d ever convince my sons to go into recovery. The reason they were still using their drugs of choice was that I sucked at Tough Love. Unwittingly, I’d chained them to a life of self-destructive misery by not “kicking them out.”

I own a battered copy of the 1982 book, ToughLove, by family therapists and drug and alcohol counselors Phyllis and David York. After the tumultuous sixties and seventies, more and more teens were using tobacco and alcohol, and the crack cocaine epidemic was hitting youth hard. TOUGHLOVE was touted as the solution to restore parents’ control over their wayward youths. The book was a bestseller and changed many lives.

Somewhere along the way, though, TOUGHLOVE became Tough Love. While counseling professionals may still use the phrase to reference the Yorks’ program to establish control over wayward teens, most people today tend to think of Tough Love as, “kicking him/her out,” cutting off contact and withholding resources.

The idea works some of the time. I know several parents whose adult and teenage sons recovered after a Tough Love ultimatum. One friend’s son, in his forties, was a meth addict who recovered after his family said he wasn’t welcome at the family Christmas gathering. My own husband of forty years gave up drinking after we separated, and I’m thankful.

But not every family’s so lucky.  Sadly, addiction and mental illness are often tangled together. Too unstable to hold a job, find housing or pay for treatment, those with both mental conditions and substance abuse problems often self-medicate. Some are like my middle son, whose drug use and mental illness give him an emotional and social age of about ten years old.

Many alcoholics and addicts either cannot or will not get the help they need. Sometimes addicts are stubborn, but more often they’re destitute, physically sick, mentally ill or all three.  After the closure of most mental hospitals in the eighties, individuals once committed to institutions are now forced to live in the streets.  And what’s left for these people is more tough than loving.

My knees hurt as I knelt before Deacon Ron, but my mind raced. Why didn’t he believe in Tough Love? I remembered our own attempts to use Tough Love—we really did try. When our meth addict was not even sixteen, we “kicked him out.” Surely our son would feel the cold and wet from an Oregon winter night and beg to go to rehab. I packed my son’s belongings into a black trash bag, sobbing as I placed it outside the front door. We stood firm as he tried to talk his way back inside. We locked all the doors, only to find him asleep in his bed the next morning. This went on for days.

We finally gave up trying to kick him out, fearing he’d die if he had to live on the street.

Deacon Ron’s gaze drilled through me as I knelt. “Did you know that I lost a son to drugs?”

My eyes must have widened. Ron may have sensed I needed to know he wasn’t just opinionated—he’d already made the ultimate sacrifice. “No,” I mumbled. “I’m sorry for your loss.” I took a breath. “See, that’s why I fail at Tough Love— if I turn my back on them, I’m scared my sons will die.”

Ron smiled a little. “What does Jesus command us to do?”

“Ah. Love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul. And love your neighbor as yourself.”

“That’s right.” Ron bowed his head and asked God to give me wisdom, courage, to help me love not only my sons, but to forgive those who judge me if I can’t do what they suggest. My soggy heart felt lighter as I began to I understand that talking about difficult problems like substance abuse and mental illness makes people uncomfortable. People naturally want to do something—anything—to make the pain stop. Tough Love sounds easy—just remove the addict from your midst and the problem is solved. In our culture, hard problems like addiction, sickness and death aren’t discussed much, let alone embraced.

I’m as squeamish as the next person—I still can’t watch the part of the movie where the Romans flog Jesus. But God has provided me with the grace and enough hope to keep encouraging and yes, often nudging my sons to get clean.

As Ron prayed, I also felt more compassion for those who can’t tolerate the idea of suffering, those whose story must turn away from the Passion and always be tuned to the glory of Easter. I forgave myself for being so sucky at Tough Love. Slowly, anger was replaced by love.

That day, I arrived home to the sound of our lawn mower. One son had transformed our yard from a mess after the harsh winter storms to an emerald-jeweled landscape. Besides mowing, he’d hauled fallen branches, edged the planters, raked leaves and swept the driveway. He’d even mowed the neighbor’s yard. He beamed as I thanked him for his efforts. Inside, his brother had cooked a Sunday dinner fit for royalty, and the house had been tidied too. A bouquet of fresh daffodils sat on the dining table. Both my sons demonstrated their love by doing, without being asked, chores that for me are difficult. I hugged each of them, hard, whispering that I loved them to the moon and back.

By the end of the day, I had sore knees, a singing heart and a stronger hope than ever. I’ll keep pushing them (and myself) to lay down demons and hold them accountable if they fight those demons with T. Rex arms. More than anything, I will keep on loving without conditions. That’s the toughest kind of love there is.

Linda Clare

Remember:

You are never alone.

You are never forsaken. 

You are never unloved.

And above all….never ever give up!

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Stop the Stress, and See the Light

We are so  honored to be with you each day sharing hope. Our outreach has grown at a tremendous pace. We are averaging over 100 new subscribers a day. We just past 101,100 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it.

In our current promotion the winner will be the person who is the 100,000th subscriber will win some nice prizes. It will go very fast. This is a huge milestone for us. 

* WE HAVE A WINNER!!! At 11:54pm last night we had the 100,000th subscriber! If you subscribed at that time, email us at doug@dougbolton.com to confirm you are the winner.+

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Doug Bolton, the founder of Signs of Hope, is writing  a new book, “Signs of Hope for the Military: In and Out of the Trenches of Life.” It reaches out the military and veterans who may be battling anxiety, fear, depression, addictions, rejections, PTSD, and many other usual suspects. There are 22 military connected suicides every day. That is almost one every hour. We need to help stop those statistics. Be looking for more details about the new book. Look for updates here.

UPDATE!!  In the final stages of having the book finished. Much of it is already sent off to my editor. The countdown begins!!

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Glad to have Dennis Booth back as our Guest blogger today. He has an unusual post on visions. We have all heard of them. He has seen one.

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Whether you believe in visions or not, whether you are a Christian or not, I am going to share something with you that I believe will talk to individuals about where they are at present and offer them hope.

Recently my wife had occasion to travel and meet up with family during which matters close to that family were discussed and which in turn provided some spirited discussion that sometimes was bordering on flared tempers.

Fair enough that happens to a lot of families but when the discussion or call it what you will is all over, in the solitude of silence and contemplation there can arise a lot of hurt, a lot of bitterness and a lot of regret.

And so this last Sunday in church I believe I received a vision (I sometimes do) and this is what I believe I saw.

It was like a Western wilderness scene in the sense that there was a lot of rocky outcrop and on the ground not uneven there were giant cacti with thorns and smaller bramble bushes.

However in the middle was a road heading into the distance through a gap in hills in front of the outcrop and cacti and through that gap there was a brightness that almost lit up the entire sky but only through that gap.

And I believe I heard this to support the vision.

Many are having divisions, quarrels, arguments, strife with those close to them and many are being drawn into these situations.

But that same many know that they want to stay out of it all because it causes them to stray away from what they know is right.

The problem is in this situation not only has there been strife to the left but it has developed into strife to the right and so one side tries to get the person over to their side but the same applies on the other side.

Yet the path/road is still there and I believe God is saying that in these situations keep your focus, your eyes on what you know is the way out….it is ahead and by staying on the path you will see light very much like the saying, “light at the end of the tunnel.”

I think too often we tend to be drawn into taking on burdens that we are not meant to carry, too often we tend to be drawn into adding to strife and argument that we never intended to happen.

We may be staying out of it all, be seen as a fence sitter but I believe God is saying come into the light through the gap, out of the wilderness and all will be well.

Dennis Booth

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Remember:

You are never alone.

You are never forsaken.

You are never unloved.

And above all…never, ever, give up!

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How to Stay Strong in Unfriendly Places

We are so  honored to be with you each day sharing hope. Our outreach has grown at a tremendous pace. We just past 96,825 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it.

WE HAVE A WINNER!! We will be notifying the winner by email, if they put in the right email address. I will also let you know about when the winner subscription happened, so you can know that it may be yours. 

We are starting a new promotion and the winner will be the person who is the 100,000 subscriber. That is a huge milestone for us. More details later. 

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Doug Bolton, the founder of Signs of Hope, is writing  a new book, “Signs of Hope for the Military: In and Out of the Trenches of Life.” It reaches out the military and veterans who may be battling anxiety, fear, depression, addictions, rejections, PTSD, and many other usual suspects. There are 22 military connected suicides every day. That is almost one every hour. We need to help stop those statistics. Be looking for more details about the new book. Doug just interviewed a WWII veteran, for the book.  Fascinating! Look for updates here.

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Glad to have back our guest blogger Dennis Booth from Australia. His post today is tremendous for all who suffer depression in a very depressive world.

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If you are reading this you are in the category of those who wish to see Daily Signs of Hope and quite frankly in the world today without hope we would be candidates for the funny farm.

The media apparently are serving up “fake” news, an Australian Senator has almost taken the same line and we have others sending up missiles that frighten the life out of those near them and those they threaten.

But here is something to hold on to.

Century after century, year after year there have been the doomsayers who predict all sorts of evil things about to befall the world and end it.

Sure in that time there have been terrible wars, terrible plagues/epidemics etc that have wiped out untold  millions of lives and there have been disasters that have done the same.

Yet the world still exists, there are more people on this planet today and we have made giant strides in technology and medicine.

People in most Western countries are living longer.

But after all these wars, and even today with none of their scope, one thing stands out…….depression is as bad as it has ever been and it shouldn’t be that way.

Returned Service personnel who have served overseas come home with post-traumatic stress and sadly like those who came home from other wars the same way are almost shunned and what we cannot see is what they saw.

So how in the world do we overcome this plight?

For me to stay positive means I try and stay around people who are animated and happy, particularly friends of that nature.

Secondly I try to read positive information be it media, books.

Thirdly if I watch a dramatic movie I try to do so during the day or early evening but then read something light after so I do not go to bed with my mind racing full of action that could be depressing.

Fourthly I refuse to be drawn into heavy debate about situations I have no control over…to me that is a waste of my time.

Finally, I am a Christian and a strong believer and have been since I was a small child. Yes I did walk off the rails for a while but when I came back I was so glad I did and have never looked back.

When all things are failing, or falling around you just these simple words…”Help me Lord”. …are heard and you have to believe that help will come.

Dennis Booth

Remember:

You are never alone.

You are never forsaken.

You are never unloved.

And above all…never, ever, give up!

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This Year Will be a Hard Year for Some

We are so  honored to be with you each day sharing hope. Our outreach has grown at a tremendous pace. We just past 94,225 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it. We have a new promotion going with prizes. The person who is our 95,000 follower will receive two nice prizes, which we will not name. (This is called a hook in writing.) The number of followers rises fast. We are averaging close to 30 new subscribers each day. So don’t hesitate! Click on the icon right after the title of this post to subscribe to be eligible for the prizes. 

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Doug Bolton, the founder of Signs of Hope, is writing  a new book, “Signs of Hope for the Military: In and Out of the Trenches of Life.” It will be reaching out the many military and veterans who may be battling anxiety, fear, depression, addictions, rejections, PTSD, and the many other usual suspects. There are 22 military connected suicides every day. That is almost one every hour. Doug wants to help stop those statistics. Be looking for more details about the new book. Doug Is also seeking military who would be willing to do an interview. It will be part of the book. Sharing by actual soldiers will help many others. Look for updates here.

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It is nice to see Dennis Booth back as a guest blogger. He has been out for health reason for himself and his wife. Glad you are back my friend!

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This new year is going to be hard on a lot of people, hard on those who are sick, hard on those with labouring relationships, hard on those in financial difficulty but even harder on those who keep wanting to make it harder without realising it.

What do I mean by that?

Well some people want to not only control others but also situations as if they have the answer (s) and that sadly no one is listening to them.

And I think one of the biggest reasons we have so many emotional upsets these days is because we try to take on situations in our mind that really we cannot control because we do not have the knowledge nor the facility to do so.

Let me instance this.

A very well known U.S public speaker tells the story of how he was on a plane trip from LA to New York and for almost the entire journey two men in the seats in front of him were talking with concern about the oil crisis at that time, whose fault it was and what should be done about it.

As the plane was descending for arrival, the public speaker leant over and said “I could not help but overhear you talking about the oil crisis so do I assume you are both involved in the industry?”

“Oh no,” they replied…”we are just concerned about it”.

The public speaker then said this: “Well that is all well and good but if you cannot fix it why spend four to five hours getting worked up about something you have no control over. Couldn’t you have spent the time more wisely?”

There is a lot of wisdom in that because four to five hours of stressful conversation can ignite into more so we need to be careful of what we are thinking about and solutions that we cannot bring about.

It does not mean we cannot think about it but let it be from a point of if it is making me unhappy and I cannot do anything about it then quickly move on to things you do have control over and can fix.

Today too many are resorting to ways to forget situations that make them stressed and the way they resort is to go somewhere where their health is endangered and therefore also their thinking.

Look for the good, look for what makes you happy, do not look for flaws in others or situations all the time because we are not without flaws too.

And try and go to bed at night not thinking of one hundred and one things…if it must be one hundred and one make them sheep!

Dennis Booth

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