Saturday, April 9, 2016

Detaching with love

I used to think that to detach with love meant to nicely cut off contact. "I'm not angry with you, and I love you very much, but I can't watch you kill yourself anymore."

First of all, I was to angry. I was mad as holy hell. So my nicely cutting off contact was me forcing a calm, loving voice through gritted teeth while seething inside. How could *she have done this* to us?!

When we detached, she didn't hit bottom as we had been taught she would. We waited and waited, for several years, and she only got worse, until eventually we were concerned for her life. We were walking this fine line between not wanting to "enable" but also being terrified that we were going to get "the call" any minute. 

Eventually my heart began to change in regards to this detachment process. I began to look at who I try to model my life after....the teachings of Jesus and I saw a compassionate man who accepted broken people in their brokenness. He met them and He protected them from the judgements of their peers. He stood with them and when they were ready and willing to surrender their wills to Him, He was there and He walked with them and showed them how to be the person that they had been created to be. 

I knew I didn't want to go back to my days of obsession, my fear driven actions, my endless tears....but I couldn't totally let my girl go either. If she was diagnosed with any other disease, I would have been encouraged to support her and stay by her side....if addiction truly is a disease as we all say it is, why was I encouraged to let her flounder by herself and resort to all sorts of awfulness just in order to survive? In the hopes that her suffering would make her miserable enough that she would seek change. 

I began to think in terms of "unconditional acceptance" of her as my child. Not of her choices, not of anything, other than the fact that she was, she is, still my child. Acceptance, kindness, didn't mean condoning. Contact, any act of friendship, was not enabling. It was relationship with a person I care about. I realized that anything I gave (emotionally or tangibly) had to be given with no strings attached. No manipulative attempts at "making her get better." Whatever I gave was a free gift with nothing tied to the other end. 

As I began to put these new thoughts into action, I began to realize that I felt better. I could detach emotionally, I had grown enough through the years of working my Alanon program and changing my own poor fear driven behaviors, that my own happiness and well being was no longer tied to how well she was doing or not doing. I could accept her as she came to me, and she accepted me as I was, with my limits in place, with my boundaries, and today, though it is far from perfect, we are able to share in each other's lives. It is a beautifully broken imperfect piece of art work in the making. Two broken women who share what they can with each other. 

I have come to believe that connection vs. estrangement, in my situation, is what is right for us. It's how we have to do this part of our journey. This is just my story, what is working for us and in no way am I saying that anyone else needs to do it this way. For my circumstances, this works and dare I say, it is what I feel "called" to carry out. 

Bless us all today.....

PS: Someone, an old blogger friend, had shared this article with me....which is what prompted this post, although I seem to talk about this a lot! Lol 


Tori said...

You are doing what is best for your family. What you can live with. You are doing your absolute best and you are simply amazing such an incredible person. Always praying for all of you.

karl said...

That post was beautiful.

Anonymous said...

You are so inspirational. Early in my recovery, I bought into the detachment/tough love idea. Ten years later, my daughter is still using, and now there's children in the picture. When she's sober, she's in contact, when she's using, nada. It's been over 8 months since I've heard from her this time--she lives in another state. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, I'm looking at detachment in a different light. Sandra

Mary Christine said...

I am so glad to read this. I sometimes think this "detachment" is the cruelest thing we can do - to ourselves and to our children.

I think we all can find our balance. When my daughter was using, there was one bill I would always pay for her, and that was her phone bill. I stayed in touch with her. She says now that was her ONLY lifeline when she was totally lost.

Your girl is on my daily prayer list, so I pray for her by name every day. And I feel such love for her - and you.

Mrs Dubose said...

I have come to believe that there is no right answer. I have learned a lot from many different approaches. I learned a lot in Al Anon, I learned a lot from The Compassionate Addict, which I read after you recommended it. I learned a lot in school. I have learned a lot in life. All of these bits and pieces have stayed with me and are all part of the bag of tricks I use to deal with my life as a mother of an addict. I have established very firm boundaries in that I do not want to have a front row seat to watching her be high. She is not allowed to live in my home. I do not give her money but I do pay for health insurance and her phone. I have learned to detach with love. The "detach part" is still an act for me because I worry all the time, but I have the love part down pat.

My daughter still lives many miles away from me, in the community where she first went to rehab three years ago. Unless she was in treatment she has not been sober, even for a day I don't think. This last time she relapsed immediately after leaving and having 6 months sober. I can tell right away just by pictures and by texts. I said nothing about her sobriety but kept in touch with her.

I went to visit her a few weeks ago and she was obviously high. I told her that I just can't watch it because it breaks my heart to see her like that. I said it with love and concern and with our judgement but I was firm. I saw her the next day and said good bye and as she walked away I wondered if that would be the last time I saw her.

Things unraveled very quickly and she went to a detox facility last week and just today went to a 30 day treatment. I have encouraged her throughout that decision. I just don't see how all of this would have happened if she didn't still believe that she was lovable, despite her addiction. I didn't enable, I didn't get angry, I didn't escalate things, I kept my dignity and my boundaries and I loved her, because honestly that's all I have left. Will it work? I have no idea. But for today, that is how I am dealing with it. With love.

I have learned a lot from your blog and our online talks. I want you to know that I appreciate all you share. It is a lonely lonely road being the parent of an addict and you have been enormously helpful to me. Many blessings to you and yours. I keep you and your girl in my heart.

Mrs. Dubose

Liz said...

I love this blog and I loved the article. Thank you Annette.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post Annette! I am going to share it with my husband and other two kids. I believe this is how we have to deal with our addicted son, this is how I want to deal with him! You have such a gift, writing such beautiful and moving posts. I'm so thankful I found your blog! Am praying for your girl and all addicts and POA'S.

Yvon Wagner said...

I don't know whether this is coincidence or devine assistance, but I just made the decision to do exactly what you spoke of - decided to connect without conditions, give without expectations of sobriety, or anything. This morning, only one day after my decision, I was searching for comfort....was this the right decision? What if I give (tangibly or otherwise) without expecting sobriety and it backfires right into enabling? AND THERE YOU WERE.... a message on my screen that affirmed my choice and brought me calm, at least for today. Thank you.