Detachment is Letting Go of Someone Else's Alcohol Problem

This concept from Al-Anon can be difficult to embrace

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For friends and family of a loved one dealing with alcohol addiction, detachment can be a difficult concept to grasp. In the context of the Al-Anon program, detachment is the idea that the family has to let go of their loved one's problem with alcohol. 

If you've dealt with with a loved one's progressive alcoholism and have tried everything possible to keep the situation from growing worse, it might be hard to imagine finding happiness while the drinking continues.

The reality of living with a loved one with alcoholism usually means dealing with one crisis after another.

But those who take part in Al-Anon long enough come to realize that detachment is important for the family's emotional well-being. 

Detachment Is Neither Kind Nor Unkind

As the Al-Anon literature says, "detachment is neither kind nor unkind. It does not imply judgment or condemnation of the person or situation from which we are detaching. It is simply a means that allows us to separate ourselves from the adverse effects that another person's alcoholism can have upon our lives."

Many times family members find that they have become too involved with the behavior of the loved one with alcoholism. The Al-Anon program teaches us to "put the focus on ourselves" and not on the person with alcoholism or anyone else.

By putting the focus back on yourself, you protect yourself from the abusive behavior of your loved one and stop enabling that behavior.

It's a way of taking some of the power away from the loved one with alcoholism so that they're not able to manipulate you.  

Ideally, detaching from this person will help them see how their negative behavior affects everyone around them. That's not always the outcome, but as Al-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous teaches, it's important to have the wisdom to know the difference between the things you can and can't change.


Does Detachment Really Help?

N ow that you're considering detachment, you might be concerned about what happens to your loved one after you detach yourself from them. Maybe you think all of these things you've have done all these years to "help" will be wasted. Your concerns are valid, but you have to put yourself and your family, especially if that family includes children, first.

As Al-Anon teaches, "detachment helps families look at their situations realistically and objectively, thereby making intelligent decisions possible."

Al-Anon members learn that no individual is responsible for another person's disease or recovery from it.

As they say in the program, "It's simple, but it ain't easy." You don't have to do it alone. There is probably an Al-Anon Family Group meeting nearby where you will find people who understand what you're going through. It's by no means an easy process to detach from a loved one with alcoholism. But don't try to go it alone. By sharing your experience with others who have been there, you can find strength and hope and deal with the situation.