Today’s Pearls from AlAnon: Detachment With Love

Posted on October 18, 2009. Filed under: Parent of an Addict | Tags: |

I finally made it to my home AlAnon meeting this morning – hadn’t been since August 1st.  So much has happened since then – most notably, Hayley entering medical detox on August 24th at a hospital 170 miles away, then leaving AMA (against medical advice) 4 days later and talking a cab driver in to driving her back here, to our home town.  I’ve had no contact with her since then, except for this text on my birthday, October 6th:

Mom, happy birthday. I thought tom was the sixth. I know it could be better with all the stress and worry I am causing.  I am   ok.  I love  you so so    much and miss u.

In my AlAnon group, we read, study, and discuss AlAnon literature.  The book we’re currently reading from is Discovering Choices, and today’s chapter was entitled Detachment With Love. I really struggle with this concept – – – don’t feel I have good judgment, practice, or balance in achieving this slogan.  I tend to either do too much for my addict, or completely shut her off, in a punishing and self-protective way.  How does one detach with love?

In the Serenity Prayer, we ask the god of our understanding to . “. . grant us the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”  Here are some excerpts from  chapter nine that help me better understand and practice detachment with love:

Alcoholism (addiction) is an illness we cannot change. Detachment with love is an application of this basic lesson.  With it, we can let go of trying to change what is beyond our control without blaming ourselves or the person suffering from the illness.  It is possible to love the alcoholic (addict) without loving the disease.

. . . detachment with love doesn’t mean that we cease to care about another person.  It simply means that we let go of our attempts to change what is beyond our power to change.  There is great love in accepting the alcoholic (addict) as a person trapped in an overpowering illness.

Detachment with love means letting go of unreasonable expectations for ourselves.  We can continue to love people and care about them.  Hurting ourselves by persisting in negative and stressful speculation, however, is not proof that we’re helping ourselves or anyone else.

It’s not wrong to hope for a positive outcome, but we also have to accept the limits of what we can possibly know.  We don’t know for sure if the outcome we desperately pray for will prove to be the most beneficial result for ourselves or the alcoholic (addict).  We do know from experience that failure and frustration often turn out to be the first steps in a process that ultimately brings more positive results.  While there’s no guarantee that every negative will turn into a positive, there’s also no guarantee that things will turn out to be as bas as we fear.  We just don’t know what the long-term results will be. They are out of our control. It doesn’t make sense to focus all of our attention worrying about something that may never happen – or if it happens, to worry about the consequences will be. Detaching with love also means detaching from the outcome that we – from our limited perspective – think will be the best.

We know that we can’t predict or control the future.  Why are we so convinced that we know what will be best for everyone?  What basis do we have for being so certain about what the future will bring?  When we focus on a future we can’t know, we prevent ourselves from knowing the satisfactions that the present day could offer.

. . . we don’t have to have the answer to everything.  There is wisdom in doing nothing if we don’t know what to do.  We can find serenity by accepting what we can’t change.

Detachment doesn’t mean giving up on love.  It means opening the door to the joy, hope, love, and kindness that are available to us every day.  We can detach from old ways of thinking that make our day’s challenges appear to be unmanageable.

More pearls from the recovering addicts/alcoholics in my AlAnon group today:

•what someone says or doesn’t say to the addict is not going to change the outcome;  the addict, themselves, is the only one that can initiate true recovery.

•”victims” willingly participate

•If you can’t help someone you love, then help someone else.

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2 Responses to “Today’s Pearls from AlAnon: Detachment With Love”

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My daughter was addicted to cocaine, to massive amounts, some of which resulted in her being rushed to hospital. I shan’t go into all that right now, but I want to talk about Alanon. For me it didn’t work; it was comforting being around others who had similar stories, but the detaching made no sense to me. I was not prepared to detach from my daughter, and I can tell you categorically that had I done so she’d be dead.
I did not have other kids at home, and I was divorced, so my stress was all mine and not spread about a houseful of people, so the choice was really mine.
I hung in, I persisted, I persevered. It was terrible, truly terrible, but she made it — and there were doctors who didn’t really think she would. Now an adult woman, married to a wonderful stable man, and the mother of 2 small children, she is a happy, healthy and balanced, and while she knows that some addicts do need “tough love” and detachment from their families, has often told me (and others) that had I followed that course she’d be dead.
It really depends on the make-up of the addict. All my instincts were to not turn her away or shut my door to her — (there were times when I actually locked her in, which is not easy with an adult child), and I did once call the police to have her arrested when she had locked herself in her apartment and was using dangerous amounts.
I used to leave Alanon meetings sobbing and sometimes enraged. I know they are a great blessing for some parents, but for me it didn’t work.

Thanks for taking the time tell me your story. It gives me such hope! I realize that nothing I say or don’t say to my daughter will save her. She has to be the one to seek recovery. However, how low will she go before getting the help she needs? That is such a terrifying and risky place – the so-called, “bottom”. I keep thinking that Hayley has hit it, but apparently not.

We have virtually no contact. She lives here in town, but I don’t know the exact location. I could find out, but why? Would I then deliver warm clothes to her and buy her phone minutes so we could stay in touch? Yes, I would love to hear from her, hear her voice, tell her I love her. No, I don’t want to hear from her while she’s still using. It’s torture for me – I never really know what to do. At the end of August, after I spent 72 hours getting her in to medical detox and reserving a bed at a treatment center in Seattle, she walked out of detox AMA. For me, that was the boundary – the line that had been crossed. Obviously, Hayley wasn’t ready for treatment – but, I think she wanted to try, for my (the family’s) sake. Yet, she wasn’t being truly honest. I question now whether she ever really intended on going to treatment, or was she just using detox as a “break” in her heavy drug use cycle and time to heal up injection sites?

Hayley is full of shame and guilt. She doesn’t want any contact with any family members. She met with her younger brother, Brian, the day after Labor Day when he was home for a few days. Brian seems to be the most neutral member of the family and tried to connect with Hayley a year ago when he paid for her to attend an Art of Living course and stay with him in California. As far as I know, Hayley hasn’t responded to any of Brian’s recent texts.

Your encouraging words reinforce the notion that the timing of authentic recovery is its own entity that cannot be controlled and that family members who think they’re ‘helping’ by “arranging” the addict’s treatment, often doesn’t work.


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