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Why Do I Need To Detach?

Which one needs to detach?

Adult Children of Alcoholics

Why Do I Need To Detach?

Porky And Sylvester, CN

Why Do I Need To Detach?

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In this picture, I always viewed myself as Porky the Pig. Other people, like my brother Ricky, were the Sylvesters. I thought he (because of his addiction) clung on to me for dear life, like I was some sort of pillar of strength and hope. Turns out, I had it all wrong. I am Sylvester. I cling to anyone within my reach, and I have to detach because I first became way TOO attached.

What Radical Over-Attachment Looks Like

Over the weekend, instead of spending a leisurely afternoon at the beach or strolling through a farmers' market, I spent a few hours I'll never get back talking myself out of being angry. "Detach. Detach." I told myself over and over again. It was a feeble attempt to regain peace. I was angry at my co-worker Jeff and my brother Ricky. These two separate problem relationships ran through my Saturday afternoon with out boundaries or consequences.

Over-Attached To A Small Problem

I'm stuck on this committee at work with a guy named Jeff. Jeff is a real jerk. He never returns my phone calls and instead only communicates with my boss. I'm constantly out of the loop and frustrated. This has happened at least 10 times in the last six months.

Jeff's not mad; he doesn't care. In fact, he probably had a splendid Saturday. I know I can't change Jeff, so I tried acceptance. I accepted that he is rude and I quit expecting him to be civil or nice.  Yet I was still getting angry. As I told myself to detach I realized:

This wouldn't be a problem if I hadn't attached myself to this guy to start with. I only have to detach because I get too attached.

Over-Attached To Heartbreak

My brother Ricky flirts with recovery. He quit drinking, but he doesn't seem to have any peace or serenity.

In order to keep loving Ricky, I've detached from the details of his life. I set firm boundaries. I give him lots of space to live life according to his terms. I don't give him unwanted opinions, and I trust that he knows what's best.

Three weeks ago, Ricky called me out of the blue. I always hope one day he'll come back to me and we'll have the relationship I dream of, but this was not that day. Instead, Ricky was ticked off at my Dad. He only wanted to gripe and complain about how difficult it is to live rent-free with our parents.

It's painfully clear Ricky is getting sicker, not better. After our phone call, my rescue habits kicked in. I wondered, what's he using? How can I find out? I needed to call my parents and alert them of the situation. I also needed to call Ricky's best friend to see what he could do to help. Then I stopped.

I can't do any of those things. They have never helped Ricky in the past, and they won't help him this time either. There's noting I can do to protect Ricky from himself.

My Part In The Problem

To say I love Ricky too much sounds noble. What a good little martyr I am...but the real question is:

Why I am so set on loving someone who doesn't love me back?

I am over-attached to Ricky. Never once in his phone call did he even ask about me. I haven't talked to him in six months and he can't even ask how I am? Why do I choose to love that type of treatment? Why do I spend time wishing for a relationship with someone who doesn't value me?

If I were more attached to healthy relationships and habits, I wouldn't need to detach from dangerous ones. Detaching is a rescue mission. If I really wanted to get healthier, instead of detaching in love, I should proactively only attach in love. I should love myself enough to set boundaries that keep me safe.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must go pry myself off of a few unhealthy relationships.


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Grace Silverstone is an adult child of an alcoholic, wife and mother. She's also recovering from co-dependency. Her path to recovery has included many 12-step meetings and mochas.

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