It was during the talkback and you’d said something about “tough love,” relative to how it doesn’t work, how it’s a catch phrase, how it pretty much means “tough love’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose” sort of thing.

I don’t know why at that precise moment, hearing a phrase I’d heard a thousand times before, it would hit me like a slap in the face, but it did. All I could think of, and what I’d told you and the others that night, is that when my son was in the crippling embrace of his addiction I’d heard that “advice” from others. Tough love. Get tough. Throw him out. He’ll learn. It’s the only way. You gotta be tough.

Well screw that. I couldn’t do it, wouldn’t do it. I’d thought of it, but the thought of my boy on the street, cold and alone and needing me…well, screw that.

And what you said made me realize and articulate for the first time: I didn’t throw him out because if anyone was going to find him dead, it would be me. Not a cop. Not a passerby. Not an EMT. Not the guy who gave him the lethal dose in some crappy apartment. Me. His father.


I’ve thought long and hard about that ever since, and stand by what I said. If it came to the end, I’d be the first one to find him, to cradle him, to cry over him and who he had become addled by addiction, who he was before it, and the shattering loss of the promise of what might have been.


I don’t know if I said this or not that day, but I say it to you now: We talk about ‘tough love’.  Well, watching your kid die day by day by day and not being able to do a goddamn thing about it but standing by him anyway because he’s your son? You tell me what kind of love is tougher than that.


Thank you, dear audience member, for the catalyst into insight, hope and healing. You and all those with the courage to share your stories is what makes telling ours an honor, a privilege and a mandate.


Paul Kandarian