Sunday, February 10, 2008

How do you detach....with love?

The topic of detachment has come up time and time again in meetings. It's one of those topics that is hard for newcomers to understand and sometimes it's hard for anyone, regardless of years in the program to put into action. I know that it took me a while before the light turned on and I grasped the concept.

In Al-Anon we say that we love the person but hate the disease. To detach means that we don't follow someone to the bottom, or allow a person to make us feel rotten because of their actions. It means that we can listen and not become emotionally involved in what others are saying. In essence, we stay focused on ourselves.

I know that I never detached before bottoming out emotionally and coming to Al-Alon. If my alcoholic was drunk and being irrational, I would try to reason with her. I would coax her to go to bed and get some sleep. And what I would end up doing is staying awake most of the night wondering if she would fall when she got out of bed or go the wrong way and fall down the stairs. I didn't have a clue about how to detach in that situation.

So here's some things that I've written down from meetings. These are things that I need to remember about detachment:

Don't let someone make you feel a certain way because of things they do or say.
Don't take abuse.
Know that the things an alcoholic says is really more about the things they hate about themselves rather than me.
Know my own truth and not doubt it when someone says something that is negative about me.
Don't do for them what they can do for themselves.
Live your life and make your own decisions whether they drink or not.
If you have plans and drinking messes them up, do them anyway without the alcoholic.
Do something nice for yourself.
Don't allow yourself to be caught up in the drama of others.


  1. deattachment is one of the hardest things a person has to do....

  2. Good info Syd...I'm having a hard time with detachment especially because I think I'm co-dependent on my alcoholic.

  3. Detachment must be like walking on the edge of the razor. It is so narrow and so easy to fall off either side. Sometimes I have to detach from the world, it gets me so overwhelmed. I do better sticking to me and my little recovery world.

  4. Don't do for them what they can do for themselves.

    this is the one I live by...

    And reading July 1st in ODAT over and over and over again

    how about that page in C to C about the A falling out of bed? She finally gets it to put a pillow under his head and cover over him. Loving detachment not detaching with an ax like I used to do

  5. "Don't allow yourself to be caught up in the drama of others."

    That is one that is true, and great to follow for life in general, much less for an addict or alcoholic. I've lurked here for a while. I like your writing and wisdom. Keep up the great posts.

  6. good topic.. it seems a "balancing" act internally.. learning how to take care of ourselves so we CAN love others authentically ?? that thought just came out of nowhere :)

    i enjoy your blog

    P.S. i dusted off some crates today :)

  7. Syd, what a beautiful, helpful post--for dealing with the ups and down of any relationship. Thanks.

  8. I attended my first al-anon meeting with my husband last night. My precious 20 year old homeless daughter is addicted to heroine and crystal meth.
    I don't involve myself in her drama rather, she calls me at all hours of the day/night and sucks me in. Because I love her, I worry and get angry, sad and desperate.
    After my first meeting last night, I feel a glimmer of hope for me, but I know that her story will likely not have a happy ending. I need to detach but I am wondering if anyone has a suggestion/s on where to draw a line from saving her life, helping her with needs vs putting staples in her problems or enabling her.
    Sorry for the ramble...

  9. I don't want to be told what to do, and I want to get to the point I let people live with the dignity of living the life they want to live. It's none of my business. It really is between them and their God. I am barely able to take care of my own life and needs. The alcoholics and addicts in my life are living the life they want to live. It is useless thinking I can do anything to change them or cure them, or control them. If I hand cuffed myself to them, they would find away to use. They would find away to take me with them to hell. They are sick and this disease is pogressive and damaging. But one thing I know for sure, their not taking me down with them. I have one life, and this is my shot at living it. I hope they recover and choose a different path, but if they end up in a place that I never wanted them to be, I will choose to be OK! I will grieve and feel every emotion, but this disease is not going to rob me of all my joy.

    1. I feel like I need to write your reply down on an index card and carry it around with me all day. Thank you for writing it.

    2. Very true and Thx for it..

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  11. It is useful to try everything in practice anyway and I like that here it's always possible to find something new. :)

  12. Hi Syd. I was researching detachment to share w/ a family member and I happily found this blog post of yours. It's really good and I've shared it w/ her. Thank you for what you do w/ this blog!

  13. Thank you Syd. I just wanted to thank you for your blog. It contained information that has helped me tonight and I am sure has help others. I appreciate that I I was able to find it here. All the best to you on your journey~


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