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How Detachment Empowers –

handing letting bird fly


How Detachment Empowers –

Letting a white dove fly is like empowering loved ones to grow Adobe

How Detachment Empowers –

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In recovery we talk about letting go and detaching, but we don't often add that detachment empowers. How can it empower when it seems the very opposite? It doesn't seem to make sense. For loved ones and family members letting go can feel like having to abandon the very deepest beliefs that we hold. For me, it's still as hard and anguish-making as….well, as it is for any substance user not to quit his or her drug of choice  Why is detachment from this disease so hard?

I’d say without my beliefs and actions, how do I know who I am? How do I know I’m a good person? How do I show I care? How can I keep the bad things from happening?

 5 Myths Parents Can’t Help Believing: 

  • Caring means taking action whenever there is a problem.
  • Loving requires complete attention, which often translates into dropping everything whenever issues come up and listening no matter what.
  • Being good parents requires self-sacrifice. That may mean skimping to give an adult child things he or she needs. Or postponing activities or fun things because a loved one needs them. For different parents self-sacrifice means different things.
  • Parents are responsible for keeping adult children alive no matter what the circumstances.
  • You can only be as happy as your saddest child.

For parents (or other loved ones) who believe the above myths, it requires a real emotional overhaul to think, let alone behave, any other way. Those five myths were the guides of my life, filled my head, and changed me into someone no one wants to be. As an enmeshed parent, I was no help to anyone.

So What Was In My Head Before Addiction Took Me Hostage?  

  • I loved the ridiculous.
  • I laughed and mugged around a lot. People thought I was funny.
  • I danced to the music and played the piano. I sang with the radio.
  • I was preoccupied with orchids, gardens, weeds, bread-making. Seasonal bounty.
  • I really liked food.
  • I cried at the drop of a hat: GE commercials never failed to make me cry.
  • I wrote about murder and mayhem, but not about substance use.

I didn’t feel myself changing into a different person altogether. I just slowly stopped loving the ridiculous. I didn’t feel funny, didn’t sing or play the piano. I didn’t water the plants. They all died, and I didn’t care. I stopped being a very diligent house cleaner. And I couldn’t even cry because crying meant I wasn’t up to the bigger task that was now set for me, which was to be perfectly totally vigilant in every way so the unthinkable, unbearable disaster wouldn’t happen to us. That was my job. And that’s magical thinking.

You know we have no control over happens, right? And you also know that trying to perfect is far from perfection. In fact, it's the opposite. Plus you lose whatever self was you.

What How Detachment Empowers

So, What does detaching and letting go look like for me? The first and foremost thing is allowing myself to trust that my loved ones can take over their own controls. That's not detachment. It's empowerment. I still love and care for and do positive things; but my head, and body, can go to the beach now. And my private headspace can fill up with….whatever nonsense appeals. Does that mean I can sing, dance and be funny again. Yes, I am funny and ridiculous again. And yes, if you really must know detaching was tumultuous and messy, and sometimes it looked as if we would not reach the recovery we all longed for. There was a lot of anger and fear, and not speaking, and lonely times. But detachment empowered us and brought us back together again in a much healthier way. 


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Leslie Glass is the founder of Reach Out Recovery and the winner of the 2016 ASAM Media Award. Leslie is also the creator of Recovery Guidance, the information website for those seeking addiction and mental healthcare for professionals nationwide. Leslie is a journalist, director/producer of award-winning documentaries, and the author of 15 bestselling novels. Leslie has served as Chairman of the Board of Plays For Living, was a member of the Board of Directors of Mystery Writers of America. She has served as a Public Member of the Middle States Commission of Higher Education, as a VP of The Asolo Theatre, and was a Trustee of the New York City Police Foundation.

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