According to statistics, an estimated 10% of Americans experience a substance disorder at some point in their lives. Addiction is an unyielding, chronic disease, and once a person is afflicted, he or she will remain afflicted for life. Like other diseases, addiction has a relatively high rate of relapse. Although many people recover successfully for the rest of their lives, many will inevitably encounter ups and downs along the way.
People who are actively engaging in addictive behavior often causes harm to their loved ones. It is normal for those persons to help their friend or family member, but unfortunately, they may do so at the expense of themselves. For this reason, it is important for the loved of alcoholics and addicts to unburden themselves and regain control over their lives and emotional well-being.
Unfortunately, addiction often comes with adverse changes to an individual’s personality and behavior. Loved ones who were once caring and giving of themselves may become incredible selfish and demanding. They may ask more of others than those people are willing to give. Investing energy into these individuals can be taxing, and result in tremendous stress and emotional pain.
However, stepping back doesn’t mean completely leaving the loved one to his or her own devices. If this person is leaning on you to sustain vital aspects of their lives, such as food or shelter, withdrawing support is likely to lead to a worsening of the addiction, as well as their health and quality of life.
It’s okay to continue helping addicts out in these ways, so long as you do not enable their addictive behaviors. By showing them that you still love them, you may eventually be able to solidify their trust and let you help them seek professional treatment. Your support may also be vital in keeping them motivated to do the work that is required to sustain long-term sobriety.
What Is Detaching with Love?
Detaching with love is the gentle process of stepping away from toxic, codependent, one-sided relationships. In doing so, you make the conscious choice to invest less emotional energy in the loved one until they seek help for their active addition and become better able to reciprocate the attention and support you give to them.
Detaching with love means that a person has decided to stop enabling a loved one’s addiction, break the cycle of codependency, and be free to have their own space and attend to their own needs.
The experience of grief is unique and personal for each individual. However, there appear to be universal trends in how people tend to cope with loss. Psychologists and other researched have devised various models of grief. One of the most familiar models is what is known as the five stages of grief. Many counselors and therapists have leaned on this model to help a person work through their feelings at various times.
Despite best intentions, continuing to invest significant time and energy into a loved one who is an active addict or alcoholic is enabling them to continue harmful behavior. While offering some support, such as, say, keeping them off the streets by sheltering them, may be beneficial, other activities, such as giving them extra money or lying for them, are probably not.
When you step back, you show that you refuse to enable their addiction to the extent that you once did. It also helps to prevent you from unintentionally engaging in behaviors that only serve to foster such a toxic relationship.
Codependency can occur in relationships that do not involve substance abuse, but it is a condition that is closely linked to them. Codependency requires one member of a relationship to be an emotional manipulator to some extent, while the other member is more passive and feels it is necessary to attend to all the needs of the other. Often, codependents are significant others, but they can also be parents, children, siblings, or friends.
Codependency is extremely harmful to everyone involved. Indeed, it not only enables substance abuse, it also forces the codependent person into a situation in which they are perpetuating their own addiction to being a caretaker. Stepping out of a codependent role can be very challenging, and both members of a relationship usually require psychotherapy and counseling. Learning to detach with love is a good start, however, and it may be the stepping stone needed to facilitate the process of long-term recovery and healing.
Take Back Space
Wanting to help loved ones is natural, but it is not healthy to do so at the expense of oneself. People must be allowed to focus on their own physical and emotional well-being. An Individual should live a life that is not entirely devoted to someone else’s—especially when doing so enables another or even harms them in some way.
How to Detach with Love
Detaching with love is about gently but firmly establishing boundaries and adhering to them no matter what. Remember, you are—by far—not the only person who has had to detach with love from an addict. You can find help and support from groups, such as Al-Anon, that consist of the family members of alcoholics and other addicts who can offer advice.
When detaching, remember not to accept responsibility for their actions or blame yourself. It is not your fault. The development of addiction is multi-faceted, and many variables, including genetics and repeated exposure to a substance, come into play. Do not let self-guilt drive you to bail them out of bad situations, time and time again. You must find a more detached way to show them you care.
You can encourage them to seek help, and they can do so when ready. But, you can’t force them—they are making that choice, and it’s not your fault if they are not ready to take responsibility for their health and well-being. You cannot live a person’s life for them.
One of the most challenging aspects of detaching with love is learning to say no. Saying no is difficult because you will likely have to watch the loved one get hurt and suffer more in the process. They may also be angry, and inflict blame or shame upon you in an effort to change your mind.
Once you say no and establish boundaries, you must stick to them. Failing to do so further enables the addict and undermines your commitment to loving them properly. Addicts are frequently selfish, delusional, and manipulative, and cutting them any slack will display to them that you are someone of which they may continue to take advantage.
Stepping back can be beneficial for both people involved, but remember that this is mostly for your personal well-being. It forces them to cope with their addiction on their own but also serves to protect you from further abuse and harm inflicted by a person with a severe, chronic condition.
Detaching with love can be challenging, but it’s also important to make room for yourself and your own needs, avoid enabling, and still be there emotionally for your loved one. In an ideal world, you would be able to help your loved one get professional treatment, but that’s not always immediately possible. Detaching with love provides you with the opportunity to remain a supportive person in the loved one’s life without allowing them to drag you down into their problems.
Getting Help for Addiction
Midwood Addiction Treatment offers comprehensive, evidence-based programs designed to treat all aspects of a person’s recovery, including mental health support and family counseling. Addiction does not exist in a vacuum. Long-term recovery requires much more work to ensure that a person is emotionally stable enough to use the skills needed to avoid succumbing to triggers and relapse.
We are committed to ensuring that those who suffer receive the very best, most effective care available! If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, contact us today and find out how we can help!