October 23, 2010

Detachment Means Loving Me

I used to thank God that my dry drunk was sober.  But the day came when I had to admit she had kept her same destructive thinking. 

For years, I had mixed feelings about my decision to detach from her. I committed to building healthy relationships with friends, extended family and my own spouse and children. My personal life was a gift.  Secretly, I felt guilty at leaving my dry drunk to stand all alone by herself, like Limberger cheese in the game of Farmer in the Dell.

My guilt made me feel that I had to prove I cared. And so I kept coming back, trying to share my hope with my dry drunk.    I had to get close to them in order to try to bridge the difference between my happiness in my life and her unhappiness in her. That made me vulnerable to her frustration.  

She became verbally abusive, when she would experience our differences. The author of October 23rd's Courage to Change described it well:  "She accused, attacked,  and insulted, and I always defended myself. It seemed crucial that she understand.  But that didn't happen, no matter how much I argued, pleaded, or insulted in return.  I felt trapped and helpless. " 

I wanted a script that would make us both happy.  My problem was my ownership of my dry drunk's disease. I could not do the work of changing my dry drunk's thinking of me. She had to do that herself, and I had to live my own life in order to let her learn.

Al-anon talks of detaching with love. When I finally detached from my ill family member, I no longer felt love towards her. I detached in order to rediscover self-love. 

As I really learned  to live my own life, "I learned I do not have to accept the unacceptable, nor do I have to argue back or convince another person that I am innocent or right."   

Before I got into Al-anon,  I thought I had to remain in relationship with her to heal my guilt.   But in Al-anon I learned her willingness to change, depended on my healing the guilt in me. Gradually I learned to recognize the signs that were evidence my dry drunk was in the insanity of their disease.   Today I am better at detaching, , and don't let her criticism active old wounds in me or cause me to doubt myself.

I have choices, when cruel words fly.  "Perhaps I can say the Serenity Prayer to myself, or refuse to discuss the topic any further. I can listen without taking the words personally, change the subject,"   or talk with a Sponsor about alternatives.

What is an attachment? An emotional state of clinging caused by the belief that without some particular thing or some person you cannot be happy.

— Anthony de Mello


  1. I like your selection of de Mello. It fits. Detaching with Love is not all it seems at first.

  2. Most helpful! Thanks so much. Detach is easy to say, tough to do. But must do.


I welcome your thoughts. Keep me honest~