Why and How to Detach With Love

When you love an alcoholic or addict, you probably experience a lot of unpredictability and pain in your life, including both extreme highs and extreme lows. You get caught up in frequent drama and are obsessed with trying to change situations you can’t control and you may spend time, money and energy trying to fix someone else’s problems. The worst part of all is the addict doesn’t want to be saved or changed. He or she barely seems to notice your efforts. The addict or alcoholic that you love is driving you crazy. If you’re spending hours pacing, worrying, tossing and turning, obsessing or raging, the problem isn’t really the alcoholic or addict. It’s your own reactions to the disease of addiction. You are reacting to choices another person is making that you can do absolutely nothing about. The more reactive you get, the unhappier you are, while the addict or alcoholic just keeps drinking or drugging. It’s time to put all that love, effort and energy where it can do the most good, and that is to turn it all on yourself. You deserve to be showered with love and attention. You deserve to have someone focused on your well-being. The object of your affection and attention needs to be you. But you can only reach a place of dedicated self-love by detaching from the unhealthy obsession you have for the addict or alcoholic. You need to back up and learn to let go. This is often easier said than done. On an intellectual level, you know that you have to stop focusing on the alcoholic in your life. On an emotional level, you feel completely unable to do this. In Al-Anon, you will be told you need to detach with love. What does that mean and how do you do that? Putting the words “detach” and “love” in the same sentence almost sounds contradictory. Whether the addict or alcoholic in your life is your significant other, your parent, your child, sibling or friend, your relationship with him or her is full of drama and pain. You may have reached a point that you’re so caught up in the actions and behavior of the other person that you have trouble separating yourself from their problems. Whatever problems the addict is having have turned into your problems. You make excuses, you cover up, and you try to make everything OK. You can’t stop thinking about the other person and their problems, and you can barely remember what else you should be thinking about. What a huge amount of energy you are spending on someone else’s life.

Learning to Detach With Love

The solution to all that obsessiveness is to learn to detach with love. Detaching with love doesn’t mean that you stop loving the other person. It means that you make a decision to back up and stop putting all of your time and energy focusing on someone else. It means not allowing the drama of someone else’s addiction to destroy your life. It’s a slow process that will require effort, patience and dedication. In Al-Anon, as in other 12-step programs, you can learn to face life one day at a time. You start to practice self-love a little at a time. As you learn to detach, you learn to allow others to be themselves. You allow them to make their own choices and live their own lives, and you save your energy to work on building your life and a sense of self-love. You continue to love the addict or alcoholic, but you don’t let him or her destroy you. Loving the other person doesn’t mean you have to fix or rescue them. You can grow in acceptance that changing or controlling another person is impossible. And it’s OK. You don’t have to save anyone else. The people you love have the right and the responsibility to live their own lives. You have the right and the responsibility to live yours By getting involved in support groups like Al-Anon, you can put the drama and the hurt behind you. You can learn that you are not alone. You can learn to detach with love.

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