Learning to let go of responsibility for a loved one’s dysfunctional and self destructive behaviour is one of the most difficult things to do. It’s also one of the most important things to learn if you are to remain whole and healthy as an individual yourself.
Addiction doesn’t just impact on the addict/alcoholic. It impacts on all the people they are emotionally close to.
Detaching with love is a concept and crucially a set of healthy behaviours which allow the non addict to maintain healthy emotional and interpersonal boundaries whilst still relating to their loved one who is using.
Key to this is learning that the only person in the addictive relationship that one is responsible for is oneself.
Often to explain this we use the example of the instructions given in the event of an emergency on an airplane. The cabin crew will explain that an oxygen mask will drop down. They then stress the vital important of putting your own oxygen mask on first, before you help anyone else.
The ‘oxygen’ in the relationships to the active addict/alcoholic is bringing the focus back to oneself. Thinking about one’s own personal, professional, relational, financial etc needs. And then ensuring they are met. Through writing action plans, planning diaries, goal setting and so-on.
The ‘mask’ in this situation is help from others to remember to breathe! That ‘mask’ may come in the form of professional help, joining mutual aid groups such as Families Anonymous, Al-Anon, CoDA. In my practice both can and do work together in a mutually supportive manner.
There may be issues such as post trauma symptoms, depression, anxiety that require special input from a therapist such as myself. Then additionally getting broader social support from the mutual aid group.
So for today say
I will detach from my dysfunctional relationships and focus on my needs and wants