To the Mother and Father of an Addict
Often when new in al-anon, a twelve step program for friends and family members of alcoholics, mothers and fathers of alcoholics feel unable to relate to everyone sharing their stories about spouses. The concepts seem foreign and unable to apply to a parental relationship. Detachment is one of the concepts that parents balk most at. Thinking of “detaching” from their child seems unloving and irresponsible. Detachment is neither kind or unkind, it does not imply judgment. Detachment is simply separating ourselves from the undesirable effects of another person’s addiction. It is not letting ourselves get dragged every which way by the mere behaviors, or lack there of, of our loved one. It is setting healthy boundaries for ourselves so that we may begin to enjoy our lives regardless of the trial and tribulations that the alcoholic is going through. We try not to control or fix things that aren’t ours to fix. We didn’t cause the addiction, we can’t control the addiction and we certainly can’t cure it.
This does not necessarily mean physical detachment but it allows parents to pause, take a step back and observe the situation at hand realistically and objectively. We can still love the person without liking the behavior. For most of us dealing with an alcoholic in our lives is too much for us to handle that is why we look to al-anon Detachment allows us to let go of our obsession with the alcoholic’s behavior and begin to focus on some thing that we have control over which is our own lives.