what exactly is detachment, and how do I do it?

Old 05-30-2013, 01:02 PM
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Question what exactly is detachment, and how do I do it?

I'm struggling with detachment right now. What exactly is it and how do I do it?

AH has not been to AA for two weeks. He has been away on business for the last week. As far as I know he has been sober for 30 days, but doesn't like to share any of that with me because he says I "take things over"

I fully recognize that I have been trying to control his drinking. His life is tied to my life -he drinks, the kids and I suffer. I also get very excited about new things and like to dive in. I'm excited that he's not drinking. I want to share that excitement with him. We used to share all our excitements before he started drinking, I just want that back.

The addictions counsellor I see told me I should definitely be talking to him about his addiction, asking how he is doing and pushing him to go to AA. Buf it makes me tired and I feel like a nag. On the other hand I feel like if I don't I would never know how he is doing or where he is in his recovery -if anywhere at all.

Detachment to me means to totally pull back, ask no questions, show no interest, do not intervene in any way shape or form. But it also means if he fails, our family fails. He loses his job, we don't eat (my income is not enough) so just sitting back feels like I'm dooming us all.

I have "Codependent No More" requested at the library but I need help now.
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Old 05-30-2013, 01:08 PM
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He also says he's not as "serious an alcoholic" as some so I shouldn't be concerned about it. Are there varying levels of alcoholics?
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Old 05-30-2013, 01:16 PM
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Dear Wishful, I have an adult son who is currently in early recovery. NOTHING Irritates him more than for me to show any opinion or ask any question about his "program business".
I have learned to keep my mouth zipped!!

Of course, he is now 5 states away and we only talk on the phone. I know it would be more difficult if he were a spouse living in my house.

Personally, I don't get where your counselor is coming from. Is the counselor a recovering alcoholic--does the counselor work an AA program his//herself??

For me, I tend to trust the wisdom of long-recovering addicts the most. Lots of people have taken a course in alcohol counseling---but don't have real-life experience.

I'm just asking.......

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Old 05-30-2013, 01:18 PM
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For me, the most important piece of understanding 'detachment' was accepting that I was choosing, every day, to stay with my XABF, and to stay with all of the behaviors that came with him. Before that, I believed very firmly that how I reacted to his behavior would somehow have an effect on him, or upon the consequences of those behaviors. I believed I could save him, or me, or us, from the worst of those consequences.

When I began to let go of that notion, detachment was merely a matter of focusing more on me and my own responsibilities, interests, etc., and letting go of the emotional responses that came with my reaction to his behaviors. Getting angry at him simply didn't make him stop falling asleep on the couch with lit cigarettes. Getting upset didn't make him stop lying and hurting me and other people. Getting jealous didn't make him stop flirting with other women online. Instead of engaging with him on every little thing I perceived as his screw-ups and mistakes, I would instead leave the room. Read a book. Go out for a walk. Talk to friends. Write. Sleep. Dream. It was incredibly hard. My couch has a cigarette burn in it.

Eventually, not too long after I really started to detach, I made the choice NOT to stay with an active alcoholic with no intention of changing his own behavior.

I think it's important to note that detachment is not pretense. It's not a manipulation tactic to get the A to do something. It's more a way of being that moves your focus off of the A and onto yourself. You say, "it also means if he fails, our family fails." The hardest part of this whole thing is understanding that his success or failure is independent of anything you can do. That is the reality we must accept in order to make decisions about our futures.

You aren't dooming anyone. You are in a very tough spot, but you CAN come through this, and not in any prescribed manner, either. What works for one person is not necessarily what works for another. This is a long journey you're undertaking, and like the rest of us, you can only take it one step at a time.

Sending you strength and courage.
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Old 05-30-2013, 01:39 PM
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Yes Wishful, it is like SparkleKItty says: "his success or failure is independent of anything you can do". That is such a KEY concept.

"Detachment" is not a way to get him to do what you want him to do--it is not a manipulation. It is meant to protect you from the anxiety, effort and chaos of interacting with him over things that YOU HAVE NO CONTROL OVER. This includes stupid arguments --that you can never win, but, leave you upset, angry and exhausted!
Don't take the bait when he is QUACKING or trying to suck you in. Detachment is not going to change what he does (you can;t control that).

If his behaviors is taking the family down the drain--maybe, it is time to reconsider the living situation. You are not meant to sit there and be destroyed or to accept unacceptable behavior. It is your job to decide what you can or can't live with. The kids welfare is an important part of this, also. (In my opinion--the first consideration).

This is difficult stuff to cope with--the reason why you need all the help and support you can get.

We are here for you--24/7.

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Old 05-30-2013, 01:47 PM
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I would highly recommend you find another counselor for yourself. Not sure why YOU and not he are going to an addiction counselor in the first place and I canít imagine a counselor telling YOU to PUSH him to go to AA and not be telling you to focus on yourself and allow him to focus on his own recovery.

A counselor should be telling you that you donít cause him to drive, you canít control his drinking and you canít cure it.

A counselor should be telling you to focus on making a plan for yourself to keep a room over your head and food on the table in the event he begins drinking again and loses his job.

Putting your life solely into the hands of an alcoholic is a dangerous and scary way to live. Counting on an alcoholic to continue to provide for his family is scary. You always need a plan for yourself in the event life does not work out how are have dreamed it would. And a counselor would be helping you come to that conclusion not helping you be codependent on an alcoholic.
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Old 05-30-2013, 02:03 PM
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I'm not sure of my counsellor's background, it seemed impolite to ask ( silly I know). She was the one assigned to me when I called our provincial health care mental health intake office. I simply cannot afford another counsellor at this time.

AH also sees a separate counsellor once every three weeks. I'm not sure why not more, but I do know she is very booked up. This is also funded by my provincial health care tax dollars.

It feels so alien to me to even try to think this way. Mixed into all of this is my idea of moral obligations (if you see someone suffering do you allow them to continue to suffer or do you take their hand and help them) and my wedding vows, for better or for worse. It confuses the carp out of me! What is being selfish and what is taking care of myself and kids? What is allowing "natural consequences" and what is turning my back on someone who obviously needs help?

My religious upbringing isn't helping things either it seems.

Does any of this make sense? I feel like I'm crazy.
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Old 05-30-2013, 02:12 PM
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Wishful, if you haven't already read through the Sticky Threads at the top of the F&F forum, you should take some time to do so -- I can't guarantee you will feel any less confused afterwards, but it might ease your mind to know how much everyone's stories share in common.

In any relationship with an A, there are two people struggling. One struggles with an addiction and the other struggles with the fuzzier issues that arise from living with addiction -- financial, emotional, physical, etc. In some ways, the A's struggle is more straightforward. On the other side of the street, we have our own recovery to deal with. I think people are responding strongly to your counselor's advice because the counselor is treating you like you are just part of HIS recovery, when really, you have your own to do, and you should have a counselor who recognizes that yours is COMPLETELY separate from his.
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Old 05-30-2013, 02:13 PM
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Makes perfect sense. You're asking the very same questions most of us have asked. The short answer is that sacrificing yourself in order to help someone else may seem noble, but it's not healthy. A social worker friend of mine once told me never be willing to put more effort into helping someone than they are willing to put into helping themselves.

Have you read "Codependent No More" by Melody Beattie? There is so much great information and sound advice in that book. It will help you sort out your place in the situation. And it will also help you see that you are not crazy. I highly recommend it!

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Old 05-30-2013, 02:24 PM
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Wishful, something that took me a long while to learn. Marriage vows are not a mutual suicide pact. They don't require you to go down with him.

As for detachment, for me it was a process where I slowly learned to put down the telescope I was using so that I could focus on my AW and pick up a mirror and finally begin to focus on myself.

I have no control over her and she is an adult, I don't have the right to try and control her. Her drinking or not drinking is her choice and her choice alone.

How I choose to react is my choice.

Your friend,
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Old 05-30-2013, 02:28 PM
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Yes, Wishful, I concur with the above advice just given. I also understand your confusion and very important questions.

So much of what we were taught, growing up about what works in relationships--applies well in healthy relationships--BUT, can backfire in a relationship with an addict or alcoholic!!
This IS confusing--that is why reading all of the "stickys" at the top of the page and the Melody Beattie books can really help you.

We co-dependents are often enabling the alcoholic--completely unaware---because it looks to us like old-fashioned Christian kindness. I struggled with the same thing, at one time!

Not to get into religious discussion (we are not supposed to do that), but I don't know of any religion that requires that we live with destructive or abusive behavior.

Your questions and concerns are very logical and understandable; You will learn a lot (LOL)

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Old 05-30-2013, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Wishful133 View Post
He also says he's not as "serious an alcoholic" as some so I shouldn't be concerned about it. Are there varying levels of alcoholics?
You have already received some great answers to your other concerns, and I would like to address this question.

No, there are no levels of alcoholics, it is like being pregnant.
You either are pregnant or you are not.
You cannot be a little bit pregnant.
He could be in early stages, but saying he is not a "serious" alcoholic is drunk talk.
(I should insert here that I am an recovering alcoholic and have been married to an alcoholic/addict.)
Comparing one's drinking with someone who drinks more is called comparing out.
"Look, I am not as bad as that one!"
He is eligible for all the stuff that happens to alcoholics whether they are early or late stage.

Sober for 30 days, but has not been to AA for two weeks?

You have probably been the sole emotional support for the entire family.
I would advise you to take all focus and energy off of his recovery.
Your excitement about something new could be used to great advantage for your recovery.
I know you are waiting for Codependent No More, but there are many stickies here you can read.
Detachment is a difficult concept, but necessary for you and your children's future.

Maybe do a search for Al Anon and attend some meetings,
you will gain such strength talking to people who have been where you are and will walk you through the difficult concepts.
There is a program for you to get excited about.
AlAnon is about you. You and how you live your life.

As a result of working your recovery as hard as you wish he would work his,
detachment will happen.
You will know it and you will feel it.

We all must learn that we have NO CONTROL over others. None.
It is a humbling experience, but recovery is also about humility.
Learning we are not God (thinking we can control others) and the relief that comes with that realization is a wonderful feeling.
It was my experience anyway.
I still have to remind myself daily that it is not my job to "make" someone do something I think is right for them.
That is for my Higher Power.

I started this post to give a quick reply about being a little bit alcoholic.
And ended up talking to myself about detachment and recovery.
This is the beauty of the program.

For being here,

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Old 05-30-2013, 03:30 PM
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I know I have a long road ahead of me, but thank you all for being patient and kind with me.

thank you so very much.
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Old 05-30-2013, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Wishful133 View Post
He also says he's not as "serious an alcoholic" as some so I shouldn't be concerned about it. Are there varying levels of alcoholics?

Im not trying to be bluesy or downer here but I dont like that he says that. Not one bit.
Its a little unsettling when an alcoholic or recovering alcoholic says hes. Not like other alcoholics or not as bad as others
Ithink that is called the yets.
Example I havent been homeless yet
I havent lost my job yet and im not dying of liver failure yet
So im not that bad.

Its all bad because it can be bad and because its a lifelong horrible lying trick you disease.
So hopefully eventually he comes to terms with the fact that his addiction is not on a pedestal or ivory tower because bad things like others have "yet" to happen.
I do agree with your therapist that you two should be communicating about his recovery. Its Healthy and a benefit.
Detachment though is letting go of the illusion of control and letting this be about what he is to do for him and to do the same for you when need be...detaching so your health is not jeopardized.
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Old 05-30-2013, 09:20 PM
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I agree with all of the comments before me. For me, I found it impossible to give up trying to control my AH until I was also detached from the potential consequences of his decisions. When the quality of your life hangs on the irrational actions of another, you cannot help but be tense. There is no being at peace in that situation. And, that is the goal of detachment... an end to the chaos. Try to minimize those consequences for yourself and your kids as much as possible. Then, you will feel much freer to let your AH figure out his own path, and you can just be supportive rather than controlling.

However, I am also disturbed when an A starts minimizing his own problems by comparing themselves with others in worse situations. Really, there is only one person in the world who can't find anyone worse off than they are (wouldn't it suck to be that person?!). So, he's just using that as a way to avoid facing the seriousness of his own issues and the situation he has put his entire family in. That is not sincere recovery in my book.

Take care,
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Old 05-31-2013, 06:11 AM
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Wishful, I would like to second the advice to get to some Alanon meetings. I very much understand where you are coming from as regards being unable to afford counseling/therapy; that is my situation too. However, Alanon is specific to alcohol-related issues and is free.

There are the traditional face-to-face meetings, which would be the best place for you to start. Try a couple of different ones, as they tend to have different "flavors" to them and you'll like the feel of some better than others. I've been looking into alternatives to the face-to-face meetings, as my schedule does not work w/many of the ones in my area. There are email groups you can join, there are telephone meetings (someone here attended one of these over the holiday weekend and spoke well of the experience) and there are meetings called "telephony", which from what I can tell is roughly equivalent to Skype but w/o the video. Many different ways you can hook up with folks in Alanon to help get yourself pointed in the right direction.

I agree w/the others, it is not up to you to try to make your AH go to AA, or do anything else, for that matter! Your business is YOU and your kids.

As someone else suggested, please do read the stickied threads. Please do contact Alanon for YOU. Please keep on coming back here and let us know how you're doing.

Wishing you peace and strength today.
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Old 05-31-2013, 07:10 AM
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No, there are no levels of alcoholics, it is like being pregnant.
You either are pregnant or you are not.
You cannot be a little bit pregnant.
Wicked I love that!!!!!

That is so true and now thinking about the word that is used so often - functional alcoholic - I laugh thinking functionally pregnant....hahahaha
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Old 05-31-2013, 11:30 AM
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It is confusing - you get married because you trust this person with your life and create a bond with them, and now you - the Non-A are faced with having to reverse that bond!? And it makes the non-A feel guilty for being the one that has to do this because the A is happy with their bond to an enabler, they still trust us and wonder why we are so unhappy! Which makes us feel like the bad guy.
We have to face the reality of it - they are clueless!
It puts you in a Fog, but you will see clearer with more knowledge of this disease.
Its like someone said - our image of marriage kind of flies out the window when you are married to an active A!
It takes time for all of this to sink into our minds - but keep reading/posting here on SR and if at all possible, find some alanon meetings that you can attend. It calms the crazy!
It is a slow process, but what I have learned is you "don't just do something, stand there!"
Repeat the Serenity Prayer and take deep breaths.
When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves.
We understand are here for you :-)
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Old 05-31-2013, 04:33 PM
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Hi Wishful...

I'm still learning detachment too...just wanted to share that we recently discussed it at a meeting, and someone added something that was so helpful - detachment can also be detaching from our own old behaviors or reactions. Detach from your previous thoughts or way of doing things as they haven't been working and find a new way to do it.

I share the concern about something your counselor said - push your AH to go to AA. That seems contrary to letting your AH work on himself, his side of the street, etc. and you focusing on yourself. He needs to make decisions for himself. I know it is scary when you feel that if he fails, your whole family will fail, but this is part of the need to focus on yourself...so that you can be strong and be able to find a new path for yourself should that time come.
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