Monday, June 2, 2008


The concept of detachment can be very difficult to grasp, especially for those of us who have grown up in alcoholic/addicted families. Living in an alcoholic/addicted family can be a very painful, frightening and frustrating experience. We are often witness to our loved ones repeated, self destructive behavior. Many of us determine to live a very different life which gives rise to our compulsion to control the people around us. We come to believe in a sense of power and responsibility; power that we have control over the behavior and feelings of others and that it is our responsibility to do so.

Many of us harbor the delusional belief that we are in control of every aspect of our lives and the lives of our loved ones. That it is our responsibility to order the lives of our parents, our partners, our children, our friends and anyone else that is in our world. We are oblivious to our own pain. We are happiest when every thing goes according to our perception of correct, and miserable and angry when it deviates from our plan. Many of us believe that control is our job and consequently we are out of control. The need for power and control leads to distorted and irrational thinking.

Father Martin said, “The only one sicker than the alcoholic is the alcoholic spouse”. That statement touches a nerve with many of us, our spouse is sick, but we have no idea how sick we have become. We believe we are powerful and in control. This type of distorted thinking leads to frustration and a deep sense of failure when we can’t control our loved ones’ behavior. Detachment requires that we do not interfere with the consequences of anothers actions. The goal is to recognize that it is our fear, guilt and outside pressure that manipulate us to intervene and prevent some terrible fate that might befall a loved one.

Learning to detach can be difficult and when we are in an alcoholic/addictive relationship it requires support. Twelve step recovery programs and professional counseling are usually necessary. Detachment is non judgmental and requires compassion for the alcoholic/addict; it means learning never do for someone what they can and must do for themselves; to allow others to be who they are not who we want them to be; to let go and establish emotional boundaries; to allow learning through natural consequences and resist the urge to rescue.

It is important to learn we are not responsible for anyone but our self. As long as we focus on someone else’s problems we are distracted and don’t have to take personal responsibility for our own behavior. The key to detachment is learning "love of self" and maintaining our own mental sobriety. We can find the wisdom to know the difference between what we can and cannot change if we focus on our own needs and problems, only then will we achieve mental sobriety.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I find so much in everything I read from you, Rita. Reading, thinking and then trying to put the toughts into action keep my life a sobering is a journey and best if sober, if by definition only! Keep up the encouragement of the journey!