Detaching With Love

All too often I hear people share in meetings about how one of their loved ones is actively suffering from the throngs of some type of addiction. Many of them talk about how they have tried everything to help those addicts and that it’s tearing their lives apart. Yet none of them realize that the best thing they can do to help those addicts is to stop enabling them and instead to begin the path of detaching with love…

So what does detaching with love look like? It means:

  • Holding back from the need to rescue, save or fix the addict from being sick, dysfunctional or irrational
  • Disengaging from an over-enmeshed or dependent relationship with the addict
  • Accepting that one cannot change or control the addict
  • Developing and maintaining a safe, emotional distance from the addict whom one has previously given a lot of power to affect their emotional outlook on life
  • Establishing emotional boundaries with the addict that one has become overly enmeshed or dependent with in order to develop one’s own sense of autonomy and independence
  • Not allowing oneself to be led into guilt or feeling responsible for the addict’s failures or falterings
  • Letting the addict that one loves and cares for accept personal responsibility for their own actions and to practice tough love by not bailing them out from their troubles

As soon as a person begins the path of detaching with love, an addict often attempts to dominate, manipulate, and control them a lot more to prevent them from doing so. My mother was the first example of an addict in my life that I experienced this first hand. There were many others I brought into my life after her that repeated these same lessons. What I had to learn how to do was emotionally detach from all of them but to do so meant changing many of my own behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes. For the longest time, I thought what this meant was to change the way I was acting so that I didn’t “trigger” them into doing more of their addict based behaviors. That is NOT what detachment means at all. Trying to change certain behaviors so as not to “trigger” an addict is actually enabling them further into their disease.

My path of successfully detaching with love from all those unhealthy and toxic addicts throughout my whole life began with me learning a set of principles that came from therapy, reading self-help books, and Al-Anon. They are:

  • I couldn’t fix, save, or rescue the addict
  • I was giving my power away every time I tried to fix, save, or rescue the addict
  • I was not responsible for the addict’s happiness, failures, shortcomings, or bad behaviors
  • Every time I had hope that things would change with the addict, I was living in an illusion and setting myself up for more pain
  • I was the one who was allowing the addict to convince me I was helpless, powerless, and incompetent
  • I could survive and thrive without the relationship with the addict, that life would go on, and that I wasn’t a bad person for doing so
  • There was no shame in walking away from a relationship that was destructive and toxic

The most important thing though, that I learned was critical if I wanted to detach with love, was the fact that I had to learn how to love myself a lot more so that I could see I deserved better. Once that began to happen, I began detaching with love from all of those toxic relationships with addicts by walking out of all of their lives.

If you are feeling at your wits end with someone you love who is suffering from any type of addiction, I encourage you to take a moment, breathe, and realize you will never be able to make that person become healthy regardless of how many acts of love you offer them. No matter what you ever do, you will never be able to save, fix, or rescue them. Detaching with love means loving yourself a lot more and reminding yourself that you deserve better. Pray to God to help you with this and know that if you end up walking out of that addict’s life, you don’t need to feel guilty. Not only is it going to be healthier for you, it will be just as healthy for them because it often become’s a great catalyst to driving them into recovery.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Cross-Talking

A few days ago a woman had raised her hand at the beginning of a big book AA meeting I was attending. For about ten minutes she shared a painful experience that dealt with her 30 year old son who was on a serious implosion with alcohol. She indicated that it was affecting her own ability to stay sane as well as clean and sober. Unfortunately, what came next that lasted for the duration of that meeting was quite a bit of cross-talking and not much in the way of loving support for this woman.

In general, cross-talking typically refers to when people speak out of turn, interrupt someone while they are speaking, or give direct advice to someone in a meeting. It’s supposed to be a cardinal rule that people don’t do this sort of thing during 12 Step recovery meetings. Sadly, that’s not always the case as it was the other day for this woman when several people gave her their own advice throughout the meeting in very direct and somewhat angry tones. Speaking about one’s own experiences that relate to what someone else has shared is quite acceptable during any meeting. But looking directly at someone and letting them know that you feel they should be handling things differently can be detrimental to that person’s recovery. In the situation with this woman, she had relapsed recently and had only a week sober so this was definitely the case. And I could tell as she left the meeting that she was worse off than when she came in.

I was extremely grateful though later in the evening when I ran into her in the plaza across the street from where the meeting was held. She was indeed quite upset from what had transpired and had felt the negative tone from many of the comments that were directed at her. I took the opportunity to tell her I was proud of her for what she shared and that I would pray for her situation. I also let her know that meetings are not supposed to be that way and provided her my phone number in case she wanted to reach out for help.

The bottom line is that cross-talking is harmful to the health of any meeting. The point of any 12 Step meeting is not to provide advice to others, to interrupt when someone else is speaking, or to speak out of turn. Doing any of this can harm the person who is sharing an intimate part of their recovery like it did for this woman. Thankfully, God put her in my path after the meeting was over which gave me the chance to help diffuse what happened.

Hopefully, she will come back and find a healthier meeting to attend…

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Are You Willing To Go To Great Lengths To Spiritually Share Yourself?

I often come by interesting parables and stories that have inspired me on my own quest to becoming more selfless and giving. One that I came across awhile ago was all about sharing spiritually. What sharing spiritually means is when an individual is willing to give up something because they care so deeply. It’s also when they don’t feel that are owed anything in return for what is being spiritually shared either. When an individual takes an action and shares in this way, it’s unconditional and done without any type of agenda. The following story is an example of this type of spiritual sharing…

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There once was a Rabbi who was invited into a house one day by its owner. There the Rabbi came across a room where he saw the clothes of a clown. He asked the owner about the clothes and the owner told him the following story:

“Many times, I try to collect money for those in need. A poor person can come to me and I will go out in the city trying to collect whatever I can for them. One night, a man came asking for money and like usual I went looking, but for some reason on this particular night no one would offer me a penny! After I returned home, another person came and begged that I go for him as well, so I went back but again failed. Still later, someone else came asking for help and this time I managed to at least gather up the amount the man had asked for. I gave it to him and collapsed onto my bed, exhausted and ready for sleep. Suddenly there was a knock on the door. It was an extremely poor man. I wanted to help, but I was so tired and I had already asked everyone I knew. He pleaded with me until finally I had an idea. There was a rich man in the city who loathed giving to charity, but maybe the Light would make him do so just this once. I went to look for the rich man and found him in a tavern, drunk. When I told him what was happening, he reminded me he never gave to charity. But then he added, ‘Since I am in such a good mood right now, if you do something for me, I will make an exception just this once. All I want is for you to wear these clown clothes and walk around the city!” The rich man laughed loudly. He thought nobody would do such a thing because they would be laughed at and ridiculed. But I thought to myself, ‘If I don’t do this, there will be a poor man left with nothing.’ So I took the clown’s clothes and put them on. Sure enough, I was laughed at, spat upon and ridiculed. But thank goodness I got the money for the man who was in need.” 

Upon hearing this story, the Rabbi told the owner of the house, “If you are buried in those clown’s clothes, your soul will go straight to Heaven.”

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The point to this story is that the blessing didn’t come to the man just because he had shared. It’s the lengths he was willing to go in his quest to spiritually share a part of himself. The man was willing to go so far outside his comfort zone because he cared so deeply, even for a stranger, even beyond the point of exhaustion.

While I definitely know I haven’t gone to that great of a length in my life with any of the spiritual sharing I’ve done, it is something I would like to strive for. In the 12 Step world, they talk all the time about being willing to go to any lengths to maintain one’s recovery from addiction. In the spiritual world, I feel the same principle holds true as it did for this owner who was willing to wear a clown costume solely for the purpose of helping a poor soul. It’s my goal in life to become willing to go to those same great lengths to spiritually share, no matter what the cost is to myself. It’s a big goal to pursue, but one that I know God can guide me successfully towards.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson