Detachment for Surviving Addiction
You're tired of living with an addict but can't leave. It's so painful and you don't know what else to do. There is a solution. You can regain your sanity by practicing detachment.
What is Detachment?
Detachment is letting another person experience their consequences instead of taking responsibility for their problems. It's focusing on yourself rather than rescuing them. This concept helps whenever you are trying to change or stop someone else's behavior.
Detachment doesn't mean you stop caring. It means lovingly letting go of solving the problems associated with the addiction. It's not participating in the chaos. Whether it's missing work, neglecting personal commitments and self care, leave the alcoholic's problems alone.
Trying to control
By taking responsibility for the addict's behavior, you prevent them from experiencing consequences that could lead to hitting bottom. Sadly, there are no guarantees of sobriety but detaching can restore sanity in your home.
There is often an overwhelming fear that if you detach, the addict will die. This intense powerlessness is the hardest part. There's an Al-Anon saying,
"You didn't cause it, you can't control it and you can't cure it."
You're not responsible for the addict's behavior. It takes a lot effort to let them have their consequences. With the right support, it gets easier. In this article you'll learn valuable tools to minimize the impact of addiction.
Dealing with active addiction is incredibly frustrating and can trigger intense feelings. If you want more tools for keeping calm, check out my free 5 day email course on catching your anger before it creates more problems.
Detaching can help with:
- active addiction
- non-violent acting out behavior
- annoying habits and embarrassing behavior
- situations you want to control but can't
Examples of detachment:
- Not making excuses for them
- Letting them handle their own problems
- Not riding in a car with them when drinking
- Removing yourself and children before they become violent
- Stop provoking arguments (or responding) to get them to stop
- Realize that trying to change someone causes more suffering
What makes detaching so difficult?
- Assuming something bad will happen
- Thinking you know how to fix it
- Feeling overly responsible for the outcome
- Not trusting that anything will change
- Not having the support or tools to practice it
The pain of addiction
When you try controlling the addiction, problems often get worse - for you. The addict thinks everything is fine and doesn't see a problem.
This happens because the brain gets hijacked by the substance and impacts the ability to think and make decisions. These physiological changes make it impossible for the addict to see what's happening to them.
Alcoholism is a disease not a moral issue. Once the addict uses the addictive substance, they are no longer at choice.
The stress of trying to control the addiction is exhausting. Anxiety, depression, excessive people pleasing, poor self care and feeling like a "human doing" are signs of families with addiction.
If they'd only stop using, everything would be okay, right?
The problem is that no matter what you do, it doesn't get the addict/alcoholic sober. Even if they stop drinking, the problems are still there. It takes working a recovery program for the entire family for healing to occur.
How to start recovery
Recovery may include substance abuse treatment, individual & family counseling and 12 step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon.
It's common for the families get help before the addict. Not forcing treatment gives the addict the dignity to decide on his own. Hiring a professional to conduct an intervention is a great way to get additional support when the addict is out of control.
If you are tired of being sick and tired there is a wonderful resource in Al-Anon. It's a free support group that supports families struggling with addiction. They also have groups for young children effected by addiction.
Tips on detaching
- Silence helps. Before speaking ask yourself, how important is it?
- Recognize that helping doesn't work.
- Do something for YOURSELF instead. Go to the movies, go exercise, distract yourself!
- Refrain from giving advice or getting in the way of their use.
- Leave the room if you have to. It will save your sanity in the long run.
- Keep children safe by minimizing exposure when necessary.
If you are not comfortable in groups, that's okay. Talking about what's happened is painful and embarrassing. Seeking individual or family counseling can give you a safe place to get started.
How would detachment help your situation? Please add it in the comments below, I'd love to hear from you.
If you're wanting more in-dpeth help, check out my online course. It's a one hour video with handouts that walk you through how to heal codependency and put yourself first!