We can not overstate how addiction is truly a family disease.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence claims that addiction will stress the family to a breaking point which will impact the whole unit in all areas including mental and physical health, finances and even the family dynamics.
When there is an addict in the family, the family will adopt ways to cope with the addicts unpredictable and dysfunctional behavior patterns. In previous discussion, we looked at the six common role’s family members assume, consciously or unconsciously to cope and help the family get through.
To detach from the addict, these role’s have to be given up. The role’s themselves can be codependent behaviors that must also be addressed for the addict to recover.
Codependency and Detachment
Co-dependency is the one term that is normally a term that those in the psychology field don’t agree on whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. In our discussion, the co-dependent definition is mainly around the person that is normally labeled “codependent”
This person is the person, whether a family member or friend who will place the need for the addict over their own need and also willing to do anything keep a relationship in spite of the addiction, especially when the relationship is made difficult due to the addiction and sometimes abrasive. The Codependent are terrified at the thought of losing the addict and they will do anything to keep the relationship alive.
Make no mistakes, this role’s are not easy to just shrug off. codependency recovery in many ways is more difficult than addiction recovery. For one, it is very clear and measurable what the goal of the addict is; to stop using. It’s not as clear or measurable what the goal of codependency recovery is. Because most of the codependent behaviors are either picked in childhood or over a long period, denial is deeply entrenched and just like the addict, relapse is just as easy for the family members as they fall back to resentment, anger, self-pity, worry, bitterness and all other emotions without even noticing.
Codependent test: What are the signs a person is co-dependent?
There are many signs that will show that a person is codependent. In most cases, subconsciously, the codependent person doesn’t know that they are. It will take a self-test to see if you have any conscious or unconscious behaviors that are associated with codependency. Typically, these behaviors include:
- People Pleaser
- Lack of healthy boundaries
- Inflated emotional reactions
- Attempting to Change others
- Fear of rejection
- Distancing from any relationships
Note how this are all the typical behaviors assumed by the family members in the family role’s in addiction. This makes the role’s that the family members assume to take on a codependency role that unless treated will feed the addiction.
Detachment from an addict: What Is It and How?
What is detachment?
Taking care of someone with addiction is not only stressful to emotionally, it can take physical and financial exhaustion. The Overwhelming roller coaster in the addict’s behavior patterns will be one crises after another. This can lead to anxiety, depression and other health issues while also making it unsafe for your family.
When you are codependent (Assuming any of the family role’s), you are working towards fixing the addict. While it’s noble to help the loved one with addiction, it is very important to remember that your inability to help prevent their addiction does not mean you harm yourself or your family in the process.
Detachment is important in helping the family regain their healthy and live their own lives but also help them understand that they are not in control of the addiction. This helps the addict experience the consequences of their behavior instead of covering for them.
This is an important part of the recovery process for family and loved ones and also provide an option to restore the balance in how you relate to the addict and also start them starting self-care from where they are in addiction.
There are 3 ways I look at what detachment means in addiction:
- Detachment is not an indication of cutting your love for the addict. In some cases, it may not even mean physically leaving them if you don’t see the need. It is a demonstration you don’t approve of their behavior. You are stepping back from all the issues and crises associated with the addiction and you stop any attempts to solve them. You still love and care for them, but you must love yourself first to be able to love others.
- Detachment is your way of regaining the focus back and protect yourself from the addicts abusive behavior while also stopping the enabling. The addict will use everything to manipulate you and detachment is your way of taking the power back.
- The Goal of detachment is to help the addict see the effects of their negative behavior. It also helps you assess and gain the wisdom to know “the things you can change and the things you can’t change”
Detachment from an addict: How to Start
You have probably heard the heavily used phrase: “Detach with Love”. Detaching with love means to simply step back and deciding to put yourself first.
You take an emotional detachment where you continue to treat your addicted person with respect and love but you don’t get involved emotionally in their decisions or their mistakes. Unless physically necessary, (if they put you or children in harm), you don’t have to kick them out.
Detaching emotionally means that you let go of the anger and find ways to handle the stress of living with the addict if they are physically living with you. However, that does not mean you don’t have boundaries.
This are very hard and in some cases painful to implement with an addict but they are well worth to keep your dignity and self-respect.
Some detaching practice that works include things like:
- How you respond when attacked with verbal abuse, you may have to stay silent or leave the room.
- Don’t be quick to give advice or try to stop them from using. Let them make that call.
- Long term, they need to rescue themselves, not you.
- Take good care of yourself, you are only responsible for yourself and the children in your care.
- Most importantly, don’t go it alone. Find help or educate yourself on everything there is to be able to help yourself and also interact with the addict.
Strategies for Detachment:
The first thing that come to mind when you think detachment is mainly concerns on what happens to your loved one. After of the time, money and sacrifice you have put, all this will go to waste! Or even fear that might end up in Jail, dead or in a hospital. This is overwhelming and these concerns are valid. But you must put yourself first and more so if there are children involved.
There is no simple way of putting it, this is not easy especially when you know that the addict is lost in the disease but they need to want the change for themselves and find the help needed to change as that’s the only way it will work.
One of the best place to seek help is the Al-Anon. This is a global network that is available in almost all countries. You don’t have to do it alone. Find people that are going through the same thing and also learn what those ahead of you have done and what worked.
According to Al-Non, “Detachment helps families look at their situations realistically and objectively, thereby making intelligent decisions possible.
Remember, you have a goal to be there when they do need you. If you take care of yourself first, you will be available mentally, emotionally, and spiritually once they are actually ready for recovery.
Make no Mistake, this is not a walk in the park. It’s much harder to detach than you think, especially if you have been doing this addiction dance over a long period. You will need to be patient, love and support. AL-Anon has a saying that “It’s simple, but it ain’t easy.” That’s true but should not scare you just help you to get prepared.
Have you had to detach from an addict to protect yourself, please share your experience. If you have any comments, would love to hear from you.