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What is "detachment"?

Old 09-10-2010, 03:16 PM
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What is "detachment"?

I found some good readings about detachment from Courage to Change:


May 3

Detachment. At first it may sound cold and rejecting, not loving at all. But I have come to believe that detachment is actually a wonderful gift: I am allowing my loved ones the privilege and opportunity of being themselves.

I do not wish to interfere with anyone’s opportunities to discover the joy and self-confidence that can accompany personal achievements. If I am constantly intervening to protect them for painful experiences, I also do them a great disservice. As Mark Twain said, “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”

I find it painful to watch another person suffer or head down a road I believe leads to pain. Many of my attempts to rescue others have been prompted by my desire to avoid this pain. Today I’m learning to experience my own fear, grief, and anguish. This helps me to be willing to trust the same growth in others, because I know first-hand about the gifts it can bring.

Today’s reminder:
Sometimes it is more loving to allow someone else to experience the natural consequences of their actions, even when it is painful for us both. In the long run, both of us will benefit. Today I will put love first in my life.
“All I have to do is keep my hands off and turn my heart on.”

…. In All Our Affairs
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Old 09-10-2010, 03:18 PM
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And this from Hazelden:

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 09-10-2010, 03:27 PM
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Detachment is a difficult concept. When I first thought about detaching, it felt really wrong, as though I was doing the exact opposite of being a loving, kind and considerate partner. And, in a way, that was true.

I came to understand that I couldn't be a part of a healthy marriage because a healthy marriage takes 2 healthy people. I could choose to be healthy, but that still wasn't enough because my partner wasn't healthy and wasn't willing to make some of the necessary choices. I made the decision to work a program of recovery and to become happy, healthy and whole - regardless of what he did.

Detachment meant that I started to disentangle myself from him. I started to see myself as a separate and unique individual. I started to not judge how I felt by how HE felt. I started to accept the responsibility of my own choices and my consequences, but not his. It was all very new and different to me.

Little by little, day by day, things changed. My life got better. His did not.
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Old 09-10-2010, 05:23 PM
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Detachment meant that I started to disentangle myself from him. I started to see myself as a separate and unique individual. I started to not judge how I felt by how HE felt. I started to accept the responsibility of my own choices and my consequences, but not his. It was all very new and different to me.
This is probably one of the best explanations I have heard on detachment.

Thanks Cats, it's amazing how enmeshed we become, their addiction becomes our addiction, their problem becomes a family problem, each intertwined with the chaos called addiction.

It took baby steps for me to detach, it took time before I could stay detached. But by working the steps and turning my focus back to my recovery, rather than his addiction...it all began to make sense and detachment became easier.

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Old 09-10-2010, 06:36 PM
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But I have come to believe that detachment is actually a wonderful gift: I am allowing my loved ones the privilege and opportunity of being themselves.
And...

Sometimes it is more loving to allow someone else to experience the natural consequences of their actions, even when it is painful for us both.
When I first heard these ideas a few months ago, they were huge for me. Big revelation. It was like having someone give me permission to let go. I all of a sudden understood that it was the RIGHT thing to do for the person I love. For both of us. Very freeing.
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Old 09-26-2010, 12:20 PM
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Okay i'm not sure i totally get it . Me and my addict boyfriend have alot of arguments over me finding out he gets to know girls ,be flirty with them. Each time i find out about something i'm so hurt,jelous and mad over it,on the other hand he talks his way out of it. Embarassed to admit but i always made excuses for him though there were things i couldnt accept but made myself to accept and tolerate mainly because of his drug problem,i thought if he would quit he wouldnt do things to hurt me so i made myself accept the flirting issues and focused on him recovering!! anway my question is, if i chose to not continue this relationship because of these reasons, considered a way for him to face the consequences of his actions and take responsibilty for it??!
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Old 10-04-2010, 04:26 AM
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I'm going through a detachment right now and letting go hurts but this is something i have to do for my own sanity and i will get through this ... sometimes you can only take getting hurt so much then it's time to let go and let the person be where their at .. wish them well and move on
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Old 11-06-2010, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by CatsPajamas View Post
I came to understand that I couldn't be a part of a healthy marriage because a healthy marriage takes 2 healthy people. I could choose to be healthy, but that still wasn't enough because my partner wasn't healthy and wasn't willing to make some of the necessary choices. I made the decision to work a program of recovery and to become happy, healthy and whole - regardless of what he did.

Detachment meant that I started to disentangle myself from him. I started to see myself as a separate and unique individual. I started to not judge how I felt by how HE felt. I started to accept the responsibility of my own choices and my consequences, but not his. It was all very new and different to me.

Little by little, day by day, things changed. My life got better. His did not.
This is so helpful!

My friend, whom I've know for four months and who's been sober for seven, just fell off the wagon. I've been feeling anxious, sad and overwhelmed. Trying to figure out how to handle this has been difficult. Your post has given me a a real sense of relief.

Thanks for sharing your path to good self-care!
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