Detaching Without Frustration

Hey there everyone. It’s Michelle Lisa Anderson. I am very glad that you are with me today. Before we get started on our topic about detaching, I wanted to share with you an update about the situation that I discussed in one of the earlier episodes about bullying. I am so grateful that I decided to share that with you because I learned something while I was sharing.

So, for those of you who haven’t listened to that episode yet, I was experiencing some bullying from a person I don’t know very well at all who had gotten some misinformation and was deciding to text message me very cruel, very hurtful things— like beyond cruel. I’ve never been spoken to or handled this way before in my life, except for back when I was married to an alcoholic and substance abuser.

I didn’t know what to do with it, but there was something telling me that I needed to share this information with you and use it as an episode for the podcast to talk about bullying.

Well, what I realized after talking with you and recording that episode, and also sharing with three of my close friends who are like my tribe (my people) and also my husband, is that giving a voice to your pain is so important. It actually helped me. It wasn’t about what they were saying. They were all wonderful listeners.

It was the fact that I was getting it out of my system, the fact that I was giving voice to my struggles, that allowed me to be free of it.

It allowed me to regurgitate everything, which is such a terrible word to use, but that’s what’s coming to mind. And so it just freed me. I got out of the house, I went for a walk, and it was restoration for me. It took away the power that this person was having over my day.

And I am feeling great today. I realized that these are words, that I need to work on forgiveness now, and I feel like I’m close to that where I’m almost actually using humor about it, which is also a great tool, right— to laugh at this ridiculousness of the situation and joke about it with my friends and my husband. That’s bringing restoration to me as well.  

So, I wanted to let you know that I get why the secret Facebook group is so powerful.

I didn’t have one. This is how you’re going to know how old I am. You know I am 40, but Facebook was—I think it wasn’t even invented when I started my recovery in addiction.  Or maybe it was brand new, but I’m not sure if they had groups yet. Regardless, I didn’t get to have a secret Facebook group. I think I went to two meetings and felt like they really weren’t for me. So I didn’t have a community.

But now that I’ve used my community to work through what I was going through, it helped me so appreciate our secret Facebook group that we have with you sisters. Keep posting,  keep sharing, and keep encouraging one another and being there for one another. There is such healing in a sisterhood where we just say, “I got your back. I am here for you.” And almost even laugh about some of the ridiculousness that goes on in your life. So, I wanted to give you that update and let you know the lessons I learned from that.

And now we’re going to be talking about detaching.

Okay, so this is a big buzzword in the recovery community. And I hear a lot from the women in our group that detaching with love is almost impossible because detaching is removing your emotions and your emotional investment from the situation and from the outcome, right?

Let’s say your loved one starts to make bad choices by doing shots, and you know that they’re doing shots. A detaching would be saying— okay your instant reaction is to get upset, to 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. And then all of a sudden you hear them drinking, right?

Your detachment would mean you go through that immediate process, and then you auto correct yourself. You say, “but I’m not going to go in there and nag. I’m not going to go in there and point out that they know that I know. I’m not going to go in there and yell or scream or have a temper tantrum. I am 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 and be responsible and accountable for how I feel in this moment regardless of what’s going on around me.”

And 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 all the time as a safety mechanism, as a prevention from getting hurt. So how can I let my guard down and be vulnerable and trust them and then 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’re like, “Oh, I should have detached. If I were detached, I wouldn’t have felt that pain.” So these are normal feelings, alright?

And 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, vulnerability and detachment, where you can literally start to respect yourself enough to honor your feelings regardless of what’s going on with them. And the way you do that is you get busy. You stop trying to invest in whether they are going to get sober or not.

You lower your expectations for the one you love.

So basically, you start off with saying, “I completely accept the fact that the person that I am in love with might never, ever, ever get sober. I am accepting of that. I am working on understanding that.” That is a very, very, very hard thing to do. And I realize how difficult it is when I say— I’m not sitting here saying that that’s going to be an overnight thing.

But I want you to think about your next week and then your next month and then your next year. And then the next three years. I want you to think about where you’re going to live, how old your children will be if you have them, and where you’ll be in your work. And in all those milestones, I want you to think of your partner as still sick. So there’s no improvement. And 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 want you to have those expectations.

Because here’s the deal: I’m not trying to be cruel, I’m not trying to crush your hope, but what I am saying is that if you go into your relationship with those expectations, if they ever get sober, it’s a pleasant surprise. It’s a wonderful, miraculous thing that occurred. And if they don’t get sober, and they remain struggling, and you choose to stay with them, this gives you the best chance of happiness with them. I promise you. I know that sounds completely backward, but it is true because they’re not constantly disappointing you.

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 that believes that they’re going to get sober tomorrow.

That’s why when they choose to do their bad habits tomorrow, you’re devastated, right? You’re devastated because you actually think that there’s a reasonable expectation that they are going to say, “I’m going to stop this,” and they actually mean it and they stop.

So, if you let go of any promises of any behavior, you let go of any kind of hope that they’re going to get sober for good, it’s allowing 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. If I am choosing to stay today, 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 you need to get busy.

And what I mean by busy is you need to join a gym. You need to join a book club. You need to get involved with your grandbabies, whatever. It doesn’t matter, but don’t sit around waiting like a hall monitor looking for all their ways or signs or symptoms that 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. Let’s say you’re like, “Okay, I do that. I go for walks or long hikes, but then I still come back, and I still feel frustrated.” Well, then those hikes are not enough, and you need to add something else to the mix.

Ultimately, the goal is to get you to have such a joyful, filled life with passions and hobbies and 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 just created this very rich, fulfilling life for yourself.

And the lie that addiction wants you to believe is that you need a partner to do that.

That you need someone sober in your life in order to accomplish that joyful life. That’s a lie. You can be alone. You can be a single mom or single woman or married and completely uninvested in their recovery and surrounded by this very joyful life.

So, I hope this helps break down detaching in a way that makes it tangible for you. And I really understand that what I said in this episode 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 or things that we don’t want to hear.

And I promise that I will make the next episode really tender and really loving. This was a little bit a kick in the butt, and I’m so sorry, but I know what I felt like, and I know that I needed to hear this when I was in your spot too.

So, I love you. Do not unsubscribe because of this. I will make the next podcast episode super, super sweet. But, I love you, and I know, and I believe that you can have that life. I believe that you can have this joyful support and love in your life no matter what the one you love decides to do or not.

I love you, and I’ll talk to you next episode. Don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already. We have free episodes coming up every week. And check us out at Take care.

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