(Adapted for personal use from today's reading from Courage to Change in Alanon.)
Before I ever joined the 12-step fellowship, I knew many of my problems arose from my relationship with my "dry drunk." So I went to Al-anon. I was astonished to hear that the best way to help my family member, was to focus on me. That made no sense to me; it seemed either misdirected or heartless. I had no plans of turning my back on my loved one. That would mean I had stopped caring!
Then a member shared something that changed my mind. The desire to help another person can be well-motivated and compassionate, but our old ways of helping were not necessarily healing. I began to consider using different tools--from years of twelve-step traditions-- that might help.
My story was that I'd been trying to fix bridges between myself and my family member. But then I saw my effort was often motivated by guilt feelings (or resentment when my expectations were unrealistic, which was nearly always). My willingness to mend fences after I had been abused, kept her from facing the consequences of her actions. I didn't want to abandon her, I wanted to "help" her change so I would feel safe. She fought me as if I were her enemy; she no reasons to change for me, for that threatened her very identity.
Why was I so desperate to keep connections alive between us, at such a cost to my peace of mind? I was enmeshed and did not know where I ended and my family member began. Not knowing who I was, made me afraid to cut off contact with my dysfunctional (powerless) family member. When I looked at my motives, I saw it was my abandonment and my pain that I did not want to chance, not my family member's.
Is my eagerness to keep coming back to my family member truly loving towards them and myself? Or do I have motives I have not examined? If am trying to change another person or get them to meet my needs, it might be better to talk to a program person to offer perspective. My best hope in helping those I love, must begin with me focusing on myself. "Let it begin with me...."
Detachment with love means caring enough about others to allow them to learn from their mistakes. It goal is for us to look beyond the need of our dysfunctional family member, to ask ourselves what our needs are. We learn to be responsible for our emotional well-being and for making decisions that are not driven by ulterior motives--the desire to control others. Derived from Detachment, Seven Simple Steps