One of the most difficult challenges for a loved one or family member who is trying to help someone overcome addictive behavior and its disastrous results – may be the challenge of learning to let go – which is based on the underlying principle of detachment. Detachment is a difficult concept to accept or to practice – because it involves acknowledging loss – but it’s the commitment to learning how to let go, and any individual who has a loved one with an addiction problem, must ultimately consider taking the necessary steps of learning to let go and detach.
Because addiction is both a psychological and a physical challenge, ultimately the psychological portion of addressing it and fixing the issues must come from within the individual who is addicted, from within their self-will as well as the motivational desire of the person suffering from addiction to learn to let go on their own of their addiction and to free themselves from addictive cycles of behavior which can limit their success and fulfillment in life. Detachment, as a loved one, is necessary for that process of personal growth that comes from experiencing the consequences of one’s behavior, and making the necessary corrections.
Without detachment, there can be no growth, and oftentimes co-dependence or the excessive emotional or psychological reliance on another person can become a form of “relationship addiction”, particularly if the relationships are one-sided, emotionally destructive, or abusive. Codependents tend to be attracted to other people struggling with a variety of problems, and it’s important to identify ways of thinking, emotions or behaviors that can enable addictive behavior on the part of a loved one. Recovery from codependent behavior is a multi-stage process that involves detachment, but overall detachment is a necessary path to overcoming co-dependent behavior.
Of course, detachment is a part of every stage of life, particularly for parents, who must provide intensive care and nurture for their children when they are first born, but then also manifest appropriate levels of detachment at key transitional moments so that their child can develop a sense of autonomy and self-governing control and will.
While parents experience pangs of emotion at all of these key transitional moments of detachment, from dropping a child off at their first kindergarten class, all the way up through taking a child to college, it’s healthy for the parents to take these emotions onboard and to allow their child the correct level of self-sustaining independence, so that they can develop a detached sense of self that is necessary to succeed in life. This same capacity for letting go, for detachment, is necessary to helping a loved one who has developed an addiction problem.
When a loved one, a child, or a family member, develops an addiction (such as to drugs or alcohol), compassionate care and devotion are important components to successful treatment, as social support is crucial to recovery, but at times it’s also important to realize that addicts must decide for themselves who they want to be. You cannot fix their problems for them. They have to take the important steps necessary to self-correct, to self-adjust, and to mature and grow and to channel their behaviors in a positive fashion.
And when their problems start to damage your life, if the addicted individual is too self-focused and too self-absorbed in their addictive behaviors to recognize the price that others must be paying for their behavior – then they are not caring and are not sharing in whatever kind of discomfort or pain they are causing to those around them. Ultimately this enables a level of indifference to the consequences of their actions, which can be a habit they practice in other parts of their life, leading to negative consequences for their mental and physical health. But there is hope. Please call Free by the Sea today at (360) 777-7050 for more information on learning to let go, because a better life is possible.
Dr. Richard Crabbe joined our team in 2019 as our psychiatrist and medical director. He attended the University of Ghana Medical School where he became a Medical Doctor in 1977. From 1978 through 1984, he was a medical officer in the Ghana Navy and provided a variety of services from general medicine to surgeries. He received his Certificate in General Psychology from the American Board of Psychology and Neurology in 2002.