Detachment With Love – What is it really?

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“All I have to do is keep my hands off and turn my heart on” –…In All Our Affairs

Detachment is the ability to let go while living with or loving an alcoholic (or in any other destructive or codependent relationship).

In the lovely booklet Detachment: The Art of Letting Go While Living with an Alcoholic,  Evelyn Leite says, “Before you begin to list real solutions to the problems of living in an alcoholic family, you need to understand that nothing you can do is by itself going to stop the drinking.”

That’s pretty basic and crucial stuff to understand. Also not easy. Simple things in Al-Anon, or in codependency and abusive relationships for that matter, never are. It takes a while to let these things sink in. I know when I first started attending Al-Anon, it took me forever even to start to read the Big Book, How Al-Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics. It was easier for me to take in and understand the shorter bursts of Courage to ChangeOne Day At A Time in Al-Anon, or Hope for Today.

But that was enough. That, listening to the people at the other tables, and sharing my own story, got me through.

Detachment, however, at least physical detachment, wasn’t that difficult for me. One of my biggest survival strategies growing up was isolation, and I can still get into it if I’m not uber-vigilant today. It’s easy for me to walk out of a room, away from a situation that is too difficult for me, all in the guise of wanting a smoke, or checking my email, whatever.

Detachment, emotionally, has been trickier. Doing it with love I might classify as an Olympian event. 😉 I read in meditation book (can’t remember which one just now) that an Al-Anon-er thought she’d conquered detachment when she’d learned to leave her drunk spouse on the floor as he fell out of bed and step over him to get into bed herself. LOL I can laugh, see, because that sounds so much like me.

Later, as she grew in Al-Anon, she decided that detachment in love meant she still didn’t need to rescue him from the floor when he fell out of bed, but she could cover him with a blanket before she stepped over him.

When my nephew passed out in my house that day and could not be moved for the life of me (trust me, I tried), and I later shared about it at table of women at Al-Anon, I was surprised at the number of people who came up to me afterwards and said they would have “kicked the bum out” or “made him sleep on the porch.”

I understand people care about me and those are mostly knee-jerk responses, but to me that’s not even close to detachment with love. When he woke up – or came to – the next day on the couch, he felt terrible and to my knowledge has not had a drink since.

It’s possible to love the person and not like what they do. I know for a fact that not everyone likes what I do, but I sure hope they still love me. I make as many mistakes as the next person, probably more. That’s detaching emotionally, to be able to take a step back and say, “Without the alcohol (insert whatever behavior you need to here), this person is the one I’ve always loved.”

Peace out.

Undertow

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When I was a kid, out attending my sister’s wedding in Miami, when my nieces and nephew were still just a future twinkle, we all went down to the ocean.

I loved to swim. I mean LOVED it. Had been swimming since around three, and if there was water, it was nearly impossible to get me out of it. Every time we went on a family trip that involved an overnight stay, my parents tried to find a motel with a pool, because they knew I would make good use of it. And our neighbors, the Warrens, who still lived on Faust in Detroit, had a pool that we took full advantage of.

I was twelve years old this time, I think, and we were warned to stay close to the shore. To stay where we could feel the sand beneath our feet, was the warning I remember. But something  terrifying happened that day, something I remember with startling clarity.

I don’t recall exactly how it happened. I do remember that I couldn’t feel the sand under my feet anymore, and when I looked at the shore it seemed much further away than it had been just moments before. I was caught in an undertow, and it sucked me down, hard and fast. I managed to pull up enough to cough out a yell for help before being pulled under again. My sister, who was probably only feet away but seemed miles away, did what in retrospect was a very stupid thing to do and swam out to me.

Then she too got caught in the undertow. But she is 13 years my senior, and her first instinct was to save me. The lifeguard came out and rescued us both. I coughed up a lot of water that day, and could have killed my sister for coming out to get me. But I love her to death, and would have switched places with her had the shoe been on the other foot.

There are many things in life that draw parallels to “undertows” in life. Alcoholism is one such thing. It can drag us under if we are not careful. Finances, love, among other things.

Have you had an “undertow” experience? A real undertow or a metaphoric one? Care to share?

Chris’s Recovery Manifesto

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I wrote this for myself, but feel free to take and leave whatever works for you. We’re all in this thing called recovery together, right? We need to help each other as much as we can. 😉 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

CHRIS’S RECOVERY MANIFESTO

Boundaries are good. They’re important.

There is no such thing as too many meetings.

It’s okay to need people.

“No” does not require an explanation.

If you don’t mean it, don’t say it. If it comes out anyway, be prepared to make amends.

Always follow through.

It’s okay to be human; mistakes happen. What’s important is the getting back up part.

Call your sponsor.

Stop worrying about what other people think of you. It’s none of your business what they think of you.

Do the best you can; at the end of the day that’s all you can do.

Pray always. Pray about everything, the little things and the big things. Say thank you, regardless of what happens.

Never take the steps out of order. They were written that way for a reason.

Let go and let God.

Breathe. Breathe again.

Remember that you can’t save anyone, not even yourself. That’s God’s job.

Stop trying to control the moon and the stars. They were here long before you, and they function quite fine without your help.

People are who they are. Accept that and avoid much heartache.

Love them anyway.

Live big. Dream big. Laugh long and hard.

Have goals. Change them as necessary.

Always love and know that someone loves you.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Note: I reserve the right to add to and edit this manifesto as I grow and learn more about myself and this thing called life. 


Peace out.

Accepting the things we cannot change

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If I want people to accept me where I’m at, in all my mistakes and imperfections, then I’ve got to be willing to do the same for them.

The hardest lesson, the hardest thing I have had to accept is that we are who we are, we do what we do. People do not generally change. Past behavior is a strong predictor of future behavior. Addicts do what they do because they are hung up in their diseases, not because they are bad people.

When something recently happened with my nephew, an addict, I got all surprised – like DUH – what did you think would happen. And I confronted him on the behavior, which he denied. Did it make me feel any better? Did I feel vindicated? Did I feel I had helped my nephew see the error of his ways? No, no and NO. It made me feel stupid, if you want to know the truth.

All I can do is take really good care of myself. I can continue to attend my meetings, read my literature, call my sponsor, talk about what’s in my head so it doesn’t run around rent free, remember to place principles above personalities, and do the very best I can all the time. That’s about it. There’s not much more I can do.

Al-Anon not only helps in dealing with the alcoholics in my life. The thing about it is …. it spreads like a wildfire. It helps me when I’m standing in a long line at a checkout. It helps when I’m dealing with a not-very-nice person on the telephone. It helps with my volunteer work at the library. It leaks out into ALL the areas of my life, and for that I’m truly grateful beyond measure.

Peace out.