Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Practicing Detachment

I just discovered a very helpful explanation of detachment. Here is an excerpt from a larger post titled, How can I help a drug addict?

Practicing Detachment

One of the key principles that will help you in dealing with a struggling alcoholic or drug addict is detachment. The idea behind it is to separate yourself emotionally from the damaging effects of your relationship with the addict or alcoholic. It is not the same as complete disassociation or abandoning the relationship. The idea is to care for them while detaching emotionally. You can care for them but not feel like you are responsible for them. In other words, you are specifically trying to not get all wrapped up emotionally by an addicts destructive behaviors.

This is difficult.

Practicing detachment should make it easier over time. Here are some things that you can do in order to practice detachment with the struggling addict in your life:
-Don’t do things that they should be doing themselves.
-Don’t bend over backwards to rescue them or save them from natural consequences.
-Don’t cover up for their mistakes or embarrassing situations.
-Don’t rescue them from crisis or financial situations.
-Don’t try to fix them.
-Let go of any guilt you may have about them

Detachment is not about denying your emotions. If someone close to you dies, for example, you will probably feel sad. You can’t choose this feeling. It simply is. But we do have the power to affect the intensity of this feeling, by focusing on the positive aspects of the situation. We can also change our thinking in an attempt to eradicate irrational beliefs that might be contributing to our emotional turmoil.The goal is not to go without emotions, the goal is to achieve some level of emotional stability. We are detaching from the negative, irrational thoughts that stir up our emotions–like the guilt we might have if we think someone’s addiction is our fault.

Detachment is difficult and takes practice. I urge you to find local Al-Anon meetings and get involved with them, as those are the people who can help you the most. For some excellent follow-up reading, I highly suggest “Helping Family Members with Addiction“, which is a short but helpful article written by a doctor from Harvard.

Good luck to everyone out there and God bless.


  1. The Al-Anon pamphlet Alcoholism: A Merry-Go-Round of Denial has good information on detachment. Here is a link: cclive.typepad.com/recovery_at_cokesbury/amgrf.pdf

  2. The organization of Families Anonymous (www.familiesanonymous.org)is very similar to Al-Anon but is focused on parent's of addicted children. Their web site is "priceless" and provides specific literature to help parent's in understanding detachment. User ID is "member" and password is "detach."

  3. off topic.. (that yellow was sure hard to read in google reader)

  4. I was in Al-Anon for 2 years over my ex-husband's drinking. The sense that other people knew what I was going through was nice and reassuring, but the 12 Steps themselves aren't magic, and don't improve lives.

    I hope your son gets help for his behavioral problems, which I think might be easier if he wasn't constantly having people tell him he's powerless to change his life. This is nonsense.

    There is no such thing as a "spiritual disease" and there is no disease that is best treated by smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee in a church basement.