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. 


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. 🙂 


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


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


You are never alone.

You are never forsaken. 

You are never unloved.

And above all….never ever give up!

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What’s the True Feeling in Your Heart

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 98,250 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it.

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


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.


Have you ever had a MRI done? It is a test to see what is going on inside your body.

Many people look happy. Many people go along and seem satisfied with their life. Many people are living a lie.

What would people see if they could truly see into your heart. Would the anger of life fill it? Would you be in pain from all the frustrations that clog up the veins?

We all need to watch what is going on inside us.

Yes, life is tough. Yes, there will be obstacles that tear you down. There is no way you can control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it.

Some of the people I know are like porcupines,. They seem nice on the outside, but you better not get too close.

The bottom line is: It is impossible to be bitter and thankful at the same time.  

There is a word in the dictionary called: Ressentiment. It is reliving the past bad memories. It is not forgiving someone. It is holding a grudge against someone.

We all have to get over it, and work on being positive people who help others who are struggling.

I know… We will all be persecuted. We will all suffer. We will all be disappointed.

That has all the makings of trying to have pity parties.

We need to focus on what God has done for us and not what someone has done to us. 

Being bitter and trying to get even with someone is like taking poison and hoping the person you are bitter about will die.

We all need to let God show us where we are bitter. We need to give him all our frustrations. We need to pray just before we go to bed: Lord, I give you everything in my thoughts that are not pure. Cleanse me and give me a fresh feeling as I rest.


You are never alone.

You are never forsaken.

You are never unloved.

And above all…never, ever, give up! 

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Big Hope Through Tragedy

We have another promotion where there will be prizes. The next winner will be the person who is our 95,000th subscriber. As you found out here, it goes very fast. We average over 30 new subscribers a day. We will get there pretty fast. We just passed 92,300 If you haven’t already subscribed please do by clicking on the icon right after the title of this post.


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 ever 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.


We are very excited to have a new guest blogger. Linda Clare will be posting every fourth Sunday of the month. Her first post is a must read. You can almost see the tears dripping on her post paper. However, she still share hope with us. Thank you Linda for being so open and sharing your hurts and pains in life.


Big Hope

October 23, 2016

By Linda S. Clare


A sign taped to my desk reads, “Don’t forget: write it from the heart.” I want to, I so want to. But my heart’s broken—a million pieces of bright, unending sadness. Each morning, God and I patch my heart back together. And every day it breaks all over again.

The pain of my grown children’s battles with substance and sanity gouges new wounds in me daily. After so many years of broken heartedness, you’d think I’d flinch or run each time I anticipate its coming.

But I’m not afraid of pain. It’s familiar, like a pair of uncomfortable shoes you can’t bear to get rid of. What I fear most is this: one day my heart will become unmendable—so broken it simply quits caring. The pieces will scatter and my heart will no longer feel at all.

My thirty-four year-old second son, Cordell, was in middle school when, unbeknownst to my husband and I, he first tried meth. He says he was hooked right then and there, and he’s struggled to stay clean ever since. Because he also has serious mental health issues, ordinary life achievements like career, his own family or even a steady job, has so far eluded him. Over the decades we as parents have tried every idea, from tough love to treatment, in and out patient, different types of rehab, social workers to shrinks. He gets most of the negative attention in the family, since meth comes with so many scary and ugly side effects: Lying, stealing, and uncontrollable anger, in addition to the physical toll meth takes on the human body.

It’s hard enough to deal with a single drug addict. But to my horror, my other two sons, Micah and Joel, each nurse a progressive addiction to alcohol that is taking at least as bad a toll. I only understood the depth of my alcoholic sons’ dependency this past couple of years. In 2014 my husband Dennis suffered a heart attack, which he survived. But a complication of his treatment caused his kidneys to fail. For the past twenty-four months, he’s been on kidney dialysis, as well as in and out of the hospital more times than I can count. Through it all, I naively believed the kids would certainly stop using and drinking. After all, their dad was near-death several times. But that’s not how addictions work. My three sons have kept up their addictions in a way I might never have predicted.

Two alcoholics and a meth addict in the family makes me feel like the Dutch kid who put his finger in the hole in the dyke. The moment one problem gets dealt with, it seems as if the other two suddenly have crises too. I’m only telling all this because I’ve learned the hard way that the answer to treating addictions is rarely as easy as, “Here, just call this number and you’ll kick the stuff forever.”

If you’re on this same road, you probably want to punch people who sweetly suggest a treatment center or who say you need more faith, more prayer, more or tougher love. Well-meaning folks who quote scriptures to you or shake their heads and say you “just” need to do this or that. The cruelest thing anyone ever said to me was that I must not have been a good parent if my sons turned out this way. Ouch.

So what can we do? I can only speak for myself, but my secret to not going completely bananas over all of this is Jesus. Because of Jesus I can hope. I can allow Jesus to carry me through this because I’ve already tried and failed at everything else.

I’m still trying to get it right. By moments, I glimpse the spiritual way of handling my very messy life. I cling to faith the way people in hurricanes grab onto any solid surface to keep from blowing away. Most of the time I holler for help as I’m pulled straight into the vortex of crazy. Total fail is business as usual. But then I remember to grab for the tree, the one that sits high on the cliff overlooking Golgotha. And every single time I’m caught up just before I sail over the edge.

This is how I make it through: Imperfectly, coloring outside the lines, being a total helpless baby when I get into a jam. Like any good parent, God follows at a safe distance and waits for me to exhaust all my resources. Then God acts like God, with loving care and maybe a little, “You again?” Yes, hope crashes through the swamp that is my life, a hope named Jesus who carries me through the black water.

Going through the insanity of addiction and mental illness is a bumpy ride. Hang onto God for dear life and it’s possible to be alive, truly alive and present. But hold on tighter in the dark hours when she’s drunk again, when he’s gone off the deep end, when you’re so broken that you’re sure there’s no one home in heaven.

If you’re like me, you want your hurts to stop hurting too. You’ve been coping for such a long time, treading water while the hurricane roars toward you. You’re desperate for rest.

This is my struggle, but maybe it’s yours too. Maybe you’re like me and it’s taken you decades to stop trying to fix, cajole, shame or enable the addicts/mentally ill in your life. Maybe your heart breaks every day—every minute—like mine, but you’re desperate to avoid the numbness typical of we who love addicts and the mentally ill. For once I can say I know how you feel.

It’s excruciating to love any person stuck in the throes of addiction or untreated mental illness. Love is so dangerous, after all. A heart that loves is a heart that can be broken. But if love ceases, we become as a clanging cymbal or a noisy gong, take your pick. Yes, love is dangerous and it often hurts more than it should. But maybe you, like me, haven’t given up on love or God.

This Big Hope road is one where God performs miracles once in a great while but never often enough for my liking. It’s not an easy road, but one where the blessed assurance is that God may not deliver us or our loved ones out of our sufferings, but He will always carry us through. That’s a miracle in itself.

Finding this place isn’t easy and honestly, it winds straight through the valley of the shadow of death. But I’m desperate, remember? And maybe you’re desperate too, ready to be carried through the flames by the only One Who can make any difference at all. He beckons, “Come to Me and I will give you rest.” If someone you love suffers from mental illness or substance abuse or both, I invite you to allow the hope that is Jesus to carry you. It’s a way of hoping where we acknowledge that God will never fail to carry us through whatever trial we face. That’s Big Hope. Broken hearts welcome.

Follow Linda’s Clare’s writing tips at:
Miss Crankypants at 
 A Sky without Stars
The Fence My Father Built




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The Top 9 Ways to Avoid Stress

We are starting  a new promotion. The next winner will be the one that gets us to 83,000. We just passed 82,900. It will go past the mark this weekend as we have been averaging close to 50 new subscribers a day. There are nice prizes, so don’t miss out, subscribe today. Just click on the icon right after the title to do that.


Doug Bolton, the founder of Signs of Hope, has written 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, and the many other usual suspects. There are 22 military connected suicides ever day. That is almost one every hour. Doug wants to help stop those statistics. Doug sent off his mini proposal to an agent who is very interested in his concept. We will update you when we hear more.
We are happy to have back my mate Dennis Booth from Australia. he is our guest blogger for the third Sunday of each month. Enjoy his wisdom and insight on how to deal with stress.

One of the biggest problems facing men and women today is stress…and more particularly how to avoid it.

So here are some tips to help if you are in that sort of situation now and might be in the future.

  1. Avoid  events that leave you mentally drained. Have people learned to over-rely on you, impose on your time an load your back with their problems? Learn to say NO to demanding requests rather than suffer subsequent regrets and stress.


  1. Don’t always commit yourself to other people’s expectations. We tend to perform tasks merely to feel accepted by other people. Try to rely less on approval of others so you do not become dependant on and entrapped by their likes and dislikes.


  1. Don’t react to imagined insults. It is a waste of time and energy to be oversensitive to imagined insults, innuendo or sarcasm.


  1. Don’t dwell on past mistakes. Feelings of guilt, remorse and regret cannot change the past and its saps your energy.


  1. Don’t bottle up anger and frustrations. Express and discuss your feelings, It is possible talk it out, plan for some physical activity to relieve tensions.


  1. Set aside part of each day for recreation. Take up a new activity unrelated to your current knowledge and which gives you a sense of achievement and satisfaction. Try and establish new friends in your new found interest


  1. Don’t let people rush you. Frenzied activity leads to errors, regress and stress. Request time t0    orientate yourself to a situation. At work, if rushed, ask people to wait until you finish working/thinking something out.


  1. Don’t be an aggressive car driver. Give way to highway bullies. Develop an “I cannot be ruffled” attitude  and drive cautiously. Near misses cause stress and strain so does the fear of being caught for speeding. If possible avoid peak hour traffic. If caught in heavy traffic relax by concentrating on deep breathing.


  1. Finally if stress and its effects get out of hand seek help from your family doctor, Mental Health services or expert counselors.


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