Detaching is a big buzzword in the recovery community. I hear a lot from the women in our secret Facebook group that detaching with love is almost impossible because it requires you to remove your emotions from the situation and from the outcome.
So, let’s say your loved one starts making bad choices by having a few drinks. Your instant reaction is to get upset and feel like you’ve been punched in the gut again because they lied. They said they were going to get better. They said they weren’t drinking.
Your detachment would mean you go through that immediate process, and then you auto correct yourself, and you say, “I’m not going to go in there and nag. I’m not going to point out that they know that I know. I am not going to yell or scream or have a temper tantrum. I’m not going to sulk. I’m just going to let that dysfunction happen, and I’m going to move on.”
That’s ultimately what detachment is: it’s taking away your power from somebody else’s actions.
It’s saying, “I’m going to choose to be responsible and accountable for how I feel in this moment regardless of what’s going on around me.”
A lot of women in our community say, “Okay, Michelle, I get that, but then I can’t get back in touch with the love that I have for them because I’m removing all of my emotions to prevent getting hurt. So how can I let my guard down, be vulnerable, and trust them but detach at the same time?”
It’s super hard, right? It’s a point of tension where you’re vulnerable and having a moment of real connection.
You have a great weekend with the person you love, and you think everything’s going to be better. Then they come in, and they’re high. Or you catch them in a lie about their addiction, and you’ve been sucker punched. You think, “I should have detached. If I detached, I wouldn’t have felt that pain.”
I want you to know that these are normal feelings.
What I’m going to teach you today is all about how to get to the point where you’re not riding this roller coaster ride of vulnerability and detachment. I’m going to teach you how to respect yourself enough to honor your feelings regardless of what’s going on with your addict.
And the way you do that is to get busy. Stop trying to invest in whether they are going to get sober or not.
Lower your expectations for the one you love.
Start off by saying, “I completely accept the fact that the person I love might never get sober.”
That is a very hard thing to do. And I’m not saying that’s going to happen overnight.
But I want you to think about your next week, your next month, your next year, and then the next three years. I want you to imagine where you’re going to live, how old your children will be (if you have children), and, if you’ll be working, what kind of job you will have.
In all those milestones, I want you to imagine your partner is still sick. There’s no improvement. This disease is progressive, so if they don’t get help today or tomorrow, you know it’s going to be worse next week and the week after that.
I’m not trying to crush your hope. But what I am saying is that if you go into your relationship with those expectations, it’s a pleasant surprise if they ever get sober. It’s a wonderful, miraculous thing that occurred.
And if they don’t get sober, they remain struggling, and you choose to stay with them, this gives you the best chance of happiness. I know that sounds completely backwards, but it’s true because you’re no longer living in a state of disappointment.
The reason why you feel like you’re on this roller coaster ride is because there is some part of you that still hangs on to hope and believes they’re going to get sober tomorrow.
So, if you let go of the promises of good behavior, and you let go of any kind of hope they’re going to get sober for good, that allows you to get off the roller coaster ride.
It’s allowing you to say, “I fully accept that my loved one is struggling with a disease, and ultimately, I have no control over it. So if I am choosing to stay, I am choosing to accept this person for who they are today, their struggles and all.”
That’s the first step of detaching. The second step, once you’ve freed yourself of expectation, is to get busy. You need to join a gym, or you need to join a book club. Get involved with your grandbabies.
It doesn’t matter what you choose to do, but don’t sit around waiting like a hall monitor looking for all the ways or signs or symptoms they are still addicted. Get on with your life, and find joys in other areas.
If you’re like, “Michelle, I heard you say that before, and that’s not working well,” then you haven’t found something that ultimately gives you joy yet. You need to keep searching.
Ultimately, the goal is for you to have such a joyful life with passions, hobbies, friends, and self-care that it doesn’t matter what they’re doing. They could be totally sober or completely wasted, and either way, you’ve created this very rich, fulfilling life for yourself.
The lie that addiction wants you to believe is that you need a partner to have a joyful life.
You don’t need someone sober in your life in order to achieve that joy. That’s a lie. You can be alone. You can be a single mom, a single woman, or a married woman completely uninvested in their recovery and be surrounded by this very joyful life.
I hope this helps break down detaching in a way that makes it tangible for you. And I understand that what I wrote in this post is particularly challenging and could be devastating.
But I believe in being truthful with you. I believe in getting you to that joyful life, and sometimes that means hearing things that make us uncomfortable.
I love you, and I know you can have that life. You can have support and love in your life no matter what your loved one decided to do or not.