According to statistics, an estimated 10 percent of U.S. persons experience a substance disorder at some point in their lives. Addiction tends to be an unyielding, chronic disease, and once a person is afflicted, he or she will remain affected for life. Like other chronic conditions, addiction has a high rate of relapse. Although many individuals recover successfully for the remainder of their lives, they may inevitably encounter ups and downs along the way.
Persons who actively engage in addictive behavior often cause harm to their loved ones. It is not uncommon for those loved ones to help their addicted friend or family member, but unfortunately, they may do so at their own expense. For this reason, the loved ones of alcoholics and addicts must unburden themselves and regain control over their lives and emotional and physical well-being.
Unfortunately, addiction typically comes with adverse changes to an affected person’s personality and behavior. Addicted loved ones who were once caring may become uncommonly selfish and demanding. They may ask more of others around them than those persons are willing to give. Investing energy into these individuals can be difficult and ultimately lead to tremendous stress and emotional pain.
However, taking a step back doesn’t mean altogether leaving the loved one to their own devices. If this individual is leaning on you to sustain critical aspects of their lives, such as food, water, or shelter, withdrawing support is likely to worsen the addiction and their health and quality of life.
It’s okay to continue assisting addicts in these ways, so long as you avoid enabling their addictive behaviors. By exhibiting to them that you still love them, you may be eventually able to solidify their trust and let you assist them with seeking professional treatment. Your support may also be essential in keeping them motivated to do the required work to maintain long-term sobriety.
What Precisely Is Detaching with Love?
Detaching with love is a phrase that entails is the delicate process of stepping away from dysfunctional, codependent, one-sided relationships. In doing so, a person can make the conscious choice to invest less emotional energy in the loved one until they are willing to seek help for their active addition and become better able to reciprocate the affection and support you give to them.
Detaching with love means that an individual has decided to stop enabling a loved one’s substance abuse and addiction, break the cycle of codependency, and be free to have their one’s space and attend to their personal needs.
Despite one’s best intentions, continuing to invest time and energy into a friend or family member who is an active addict or alcoholic enables them to continue engaging in harmful behavior. While offering some support such as keeping them off the streets by providing a bed may be helpful, other activities, such as giving them money or lying for them, are probably not.
When you step back, you show them that you refuse to enable their addiction to the extent you once did. It also helps prevent one from unintentionally engaging in behaviors that only foster a somewhat toxic relationship.
Codependency can happen in relationships that do not involve substance abuse, but it is a condition that is closely associated with them. Codependency requires one member of a partnership to be an emotional manipulator to some extent. In contrast, the other member is more passive and feels it necessary to attend to others’ needs. Often, codependents are married or have significant others, but they can also be parents, siblings, children, or friends.
Codependency is exceptionally harmful to each person involved. Indeed, it not only enables substance use, but it also forces the codependent individual into a situation in which they are facilitating their own addiction to serving as a caretaker.
Stepping out of the codependence role can be very difficult, and both members of a relationship usually require therapy and counseling. Learning how to detach with love is a good beginning, however, and it may be the stepping stone needed to facilitate the process of long-term, sustainable recovery, and healing.
Taking Back Space
Wanting to assist loved ones is natural, but it is not healthy to do so at the expense of oneself. Individuals must be permitted to concentrate on their own physical and emotional well-being. Every person should be able to live a life that is not entirely devoted to another person—especially when doing so enables another or even harms them somehow.
How to Detach with Love
Detaching with love is an art that is about gently yet somehow firmly setting boundaries and adhering to them regardless of the consequences. Remember, you are—by far—not the only individual who has had to detach with love from an addict and alcoholic. You can find help and support from help groups, such as Al-Anon, that include family members and friends of alcoholics and other addicts who can offer encouragement and advice.
When detaching, remember not to accept responsibility for a loved one’s actions or blame yourself. It is not your fault. The development of substance abuse and addiction is multi-faceted, and many factors, including co-occurring mental health conditions, genetics, and repeated exposure to a substance, may come into play. Do not let self-guilt encourage you to bail them out of dire circumstances, time and time again. You should find a more detached way to show them you love them and care.
You can encourage them to get help, and they can do so when they are ready. However, you can’t force them—they are making that choice, and it’s not your fault if this person is not prepared to take responsibility for their well-being.
Among the most challenging aspects of detaching with love is learning how to say no. This may be difficult because you will likely have to watch your loved ones hurt themselves and others and suffer more in the process. They may also be angry and hurt and place blame upon you in an attempt to change your mind.
Once you are committed to saying no and establishing boundaries, you must stick to them. Failing to do so serves to enable the addict and undermines your commitment to loving them appropriately. Addicts are frequently delusional, manipulative, and selfish, and cutting them any slack will display to them that you are a person of whom they can continue to take advantage.
Stepping back can help both people involved, but remember that this is mostly for your well-being. It forces them to deal with their addiction independently and serves to protect you from additional abuse and harm inflicted by a loved one with a severe, chronic condition.
The act of detaching with love can be difficult. However, it’s also essential to make room for oneself and one’s needs, avoid enabling and still be there emotionally and spiritually for your loved one. In an ideal world, you would assist your loved one get professional treatment, but that’s not always immediately possible. Detaching with love offers the opportunity to remain a supportive individual in the loved one’s life without permitting them to drag you down into their issues, whatever they may be.
Getting Help for Addiction
Just Believe Recovery Center offers comprehensive, research-based programs designed to treat all aspects of an individual’s recovery, including dual diagnosis treatment, group support, and counseling. Addiction does not exist in a vacuum. Long-term abstinence requires much more work to ensure that an individual is stable enough to employ the skills needed to avoid succumbing to environmental and emotional triggers and relapse.