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Old 08-23-2010, 09:11 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Detachment with love

Found this in my archives - definitely worth sharing again!


Detachment with love:

One of the great gifts of the recovery movement is the concept of detachment with love. Originally conceived as a way to relate to an alcoholic family member, detachment with love is actually a tool that we can apply with anyone.

Al-Anon, a mutual-help group for people with alcoholic friends or family members, pioneered the idea of detachment with love. A core principle of Al-Anon is that alcoholics cannot learn from their mistakes if they are overprotected.

That word "overprotected" has many meanings. For example, it means calling in sick for your husband if he is too drunk to show up for work. Overprotecting also means telling children that mommy didn't show up for the school play because she had to work late, when the truth is that she was at a bar until midnight.

We used to call such actions "enabling," because they enabled alcoholics to continue drinking. Today we use the word "adapting," which is less blaming.

Originally, detachment with love was a call for family members to stop adapting. But as Al-Anon grew, people misunderstood detachment with love as a way to scare alcoholics into changing. Such as, "If you don't go to treatment, I'll leave you!" Such threats were a gamble that fear could force an alcoholic into seeking help.

For years the concept of detachment with love got stuck there. In fact, people still call Hazelden and ask, " If the person I love continues to drink or use other drugs, should I leave?"

My response is to ask family members to consider a deeper meaning of detachment with love. This meaning centers on new questions: What are your needs beyond the needs of the alcoholic or addict? How can you take care of yourself even if the person you love chooses not to get help?

Detachment with love means caring enough about others to allow them to learn from their mistakes. It also means being responsible for our own welfare and making decisions without ulterior motives-the desire to control others.

Ultimately we are powerless to control others anyway. Most family members of a chemically dependent person have been trying to change that person for a long time, and it hasn't worked. We are involved with other people but we don't control them. We simply can't stop people from doing things if they choose to continue.

Understood this way, detachment with love plants the seeds of recovery. When we refuse to take responsibility for other people's alcohol or drug use, we allow them to face the natural consequences of their behavior. If a child asks why mommy missed the school play, we do not have to lie. Instead, we can say, "I don't know why she wasn't here. You'll have to ask her."

Perhaps the essence of detachment with love is responding with choice rather than reacting with anxiety. When we threaten to leave someone, we're usually tuned in to someone else's feelings. We operate on raw emotion. We say things for shock value. Our words arise from blind reaction, not thoughtful choice.

Detachment with love offers another option -- responding to others based on thought rather than anxiety. For instance, as parents we set limits for our children even when this angers them. We choose what we think is best over the long term, looking past the children's immediate emotional reaction.

In this sense, detachment with love can apply whenever we have an emotional attachment to someone-family or friend, addicted or sober. The key is to stop being responsible for others and be responsible to them-and to ourselves.

--by Rosemary Hartman

Rosemary Hartman is the supervisor of the Family Program for Hazelden Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Center City, Minn., that provides chemical dependency information and recovery services.
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Old 08-23-2010, 09:15 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Perhaps the essence of detachment with love is responding with choice rather than reacting with anxiety.

The key is to stop being responsible for others and be responsible to them-and to ourselves.


I'm putting these in the keeper file...thanks!!!
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Old 08-23-2010, 09:23 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Detachment with love means caring enough about others to allow them to learn from their mistakes. It also means being responsible for our own welfare and making decisions without ulterior motives-the desire to control others.
Once I was able to really wrap myself around this concept, I was able to begin to detach with love from my son. Before I understood detachment, I would say that I did what I did for him out of love, but it was really equal parts love and fear. Some wonderful people here taught me that I could love my son right into his grave if I got in the way of his life lessons. I learned that the most loving thing I could do for him was to get out of the way so as not to interfere with the connection between him and his own HP.

Detachment is hard, but today I would tell you it's worth it.
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Old 08-23-2010, 10:19 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Perhaps the essence of detachment with love is responding with choice rather than reacting with anxiety.

I have that opportunity to love and respect myself more often than I like. It's still new to me and can leave me a little weak from the effort. It's like switching from toning muscle to strength training. My shoulders are tight and it's not from carrying burdens, it's from the effort to put them down gently.
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Old 08-23-2010, 10:35 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Thank you for this.....working on detachment.
gentle hugs
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Old 08-23-2010, 10:43 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CatsPajamas View Post

Perhaps the essence of detachment with love is responding with choice rather than reacting with anxiety. When we threaten to leave someone, we're usually tuned in to someone else's feelings. We operate on raw emotion. We say things for shock value. Our words arise from blind reaction, not thoughtful choice.

Detachment with love offers another option -- responding to others based on thought rather than anxiety.

Thanks for re-posting, Cats...I've always liked this one and found the above excerpt particularly relevant to my life--I am working on responding with choices rather than emotions...it is immensely powerful and liberating, I think.

Hugs.
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Old 08-23-2010, 02:37 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Detachment with love means caring enough about others to allow them to learn from their mistakes. It also means being responsible for our own welfare and making decisions without ulterior motives-the desire to control others.
How hard that was for me to put into practice, but it's probably one of the most valuable lessons I learned.

I learned that I couldn't live in my son's addiction and my recovery at the same time...so I let go of trying to control any of his choices and started making some better ones for myself.

That took me from being a victim, to becoming a survivor.

Thanks, Cats, this is exactly what I needed to read today.

Hugs
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Old 08-23-2010, 10:27 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I needed to read this today too.

I just started STEP ONE today! I found a temporary sponsor last night, and she gave me some assignments. I made a list of all the things I am powerless over. . . I thought it was not big deal until a few hours later, I spent a good half hour in the shower just bawling.

My ABF or RABF or whatever he is. . . I don't know, he may not want recovery right now. And it kills me. I just don't know why he wouldn't want it. And so then I kept thinking, "I have to leave, I have to tell him it's over, the sooner the better." And that may be true, but I just have to accept that I am not there right now. If I told him it was over, I would only be doing it to freak him out enough to hopefully jumpstart his recovery. . . big sigh.

Quote:
Perhaps the essence of detachment with love is responding with choice rather than reacting with anxiety. When we threaten to leave someone, we're usually tuned in to someone else's feelings. We operate on raw emotion. We say things for shock value. Our words arise from blind reaction, not thoughtful choice
This resonated with me. I don't want to threaten the end of this relationship. I want to choose the end of this relationship. And that is all I know for today.

I feel pretty sad, but trying to be hopeful too. Hopeful for myself.
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