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‘Tough love kills:’ White Rock event to guide families struggling with addiction

Program promises to offer families insight on how to communicate with loved one
Sources manager of substance use services George Passmore. (File photo)

A group of people who have lived through the worst of the opioid crisis are offering a guiding light to families in need of help.

Tsawwassen’s Julie Cochrane is one of three panelists at the Dialogue for Family Members Impacted by the Opioid Crisis event, scheduled for Monday (Oct. 18).

Cochrane lost her stepson Cody Anders in 2018 after he consumed heroin that was poisoned with fentanyl. At the time of his death, Anders, 27, was living in a rehabilitation home in Burnaby. His body was found in the house’s bathroom. Tuesday (Oct. 12) would have been his 31st birthday.

“As a family to say we were shocked is putting it mildly,” Cochrane told the Now-Leader Wednesday. “We had this thought, ‘Oh they’re in rehab, that’s the safe place for them.’ We had no idea that it was actually a really, really vulnerable time for him not only mentally but physically.”

At the time of Anders’ death, Cochrane said their family didn’t know he was at a greater risk of overdose if he relapsed, nor did they know about other supports that were available, such as opioid agonist therapy (OAT).

Following Anders’ death, Cochrane joined the Tides of Change Community Action Team (CAT) and Moms Stop the Harm groups. Her motivation to join CAT, she said, was to help families understand how to access the resources, help, and available information.

SEE ALSO: 160 people fatally overdosed in May in B.C. as drug toxicity keeps rising

Further, Cochrane is working to dispel the dominate narrative that “tough love” is the solution to dealing with a family member’s addiction.

“Tough love, today, kills,” Cochrane said. “Bottom line.”

The concept of tough love usually involves placing ultimatums on a loved one or applying a mentality of ‘get sober or else.’ It’s often tied to another myth that insists addicts need to hit “rock-bottom” before they can be helped.

The “tough love” and “rock-bottom” approaches, popularized by A&E television series Intervention, prior to the North American drug supply becoming increasingly toxic, are now being widely criticized as having limited effectiveness and fatal consequences.

According to the Canadian Centre for Addictions (CCA), a key issue with the “rock-bottom” strategy is the risk it carries, especially considering the toxic drug supply. People could die before they hit rock bottom because they’ll get bad drugs. Most doctors and therapists agree that early addiction intervention is beneficial, the CCA states.

Sources manager of addictions services George Passmore, who is facilitating Monday’s event, said that so-called tough love and ultimatums can backfire “tremendously.”

“I always hear a strong emphasis on the word tough and very little evidence of the love,” Passmore. “The opposite of addiction is connection. If we remove love from people’s lives, they do not have better outcomes. Ever.”

SEE ALSO: How COVID-19 has exacerbated the drug overdose emergency

Instead of getting tough, Cochrane is suggesting people meet their loved one where they are at emotionally.

“That means you can’t put your demands on them. With our son, the first couple of times we were the ones that said you’re at this place, you have to go to rehab,” she said. “It comes from a place of fear, as a family, as parents. You want to keep your kid alive. But when you force them into something that they’re not ready for is just not going to work.”

In B.C., drug overdose is the No. 1 cause of death in people under 50. It’s also where the greatest years of life are lost compared to anything other than cancer.

The virtual and in-person event, organized by Tides of Change Community Action Team (CAT), is to take place Oct. 18 from 6-8 p.m. in the White Rock Community Centre.

To register for the free event, whether wishing to join in person or virtually, visit

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance misuse, help is available. Contact Sources at 604-531-6226.

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About the Author: Aaron Hinks

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