In Loved Ones of Alcoholics, Relationships

“Detachment is neither kind or unkind. It does not imply judgment or condemnation of the person or situation from which we are detaching. Its simply a means that allows us to separate ourselves from the adverse effects that another person’s alcoholism can have on our lives.” (Al-Anon Literature)

Whether you grew up in an alcoholic home or were effected by alcoholism later in life, many find it difficult to separate themselves emotionally from the behaviors of their loved one, especially when they are hurtful.

Despite efforts to improve our relationship or situation, many of us have developed patterns of behavior that do not serve us well and often perpetuate the very dynamic we wish to change. For example, we may not like conflict yet find ourselves engaging in an argument when the alcoholic is not in a rational state of mind. In addition, we may try and force them to see our point of view or validate something we said or did. (Ever hear the phrase “it’s like going to the hardware store for bread”?). Further, we often allow ourselves to personalize alcoholic messages or behavior that have nothing to do with us and everything to do with the alcoholics current mindset.

However, with the help of a mental health professional and/or Al-Anon (or another related 12-step program), we can begin learning how to loving detach from those who are actively in their disease while still maintaining a connection. It is important to keep in mind that detachment does not always mean severing a relationship, although in certain cases that may be the appropriate course of action. It also does not imply a lack of caring. In fact, we do so because we care about our personal well-being and we care about cultivating healthier dynamics with our loved one. It is merely a way to keep ourselves from suffering the consequences of alcoholism.