1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Detachment - Letting Go of Someone Else's Problem

Learning to Change the Things We Can


Updated June 23, 2014

How to deal with an Alcoholic
Ken Whitmore Collection/The Image Bank/Getty Images
For the friends and family of the alcoholic, the key to serenity is finding the wisdom to know the difference between what they can and cannot change.

"... we discover that no situation is really hopeless, and that it is possible for us to find contentment, and even happiness, whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not."

The first time a friend or family member of an alcoholic hears these words -- read at the opening of virtually every Al-Anon meeting --they seem too good to be true.

For many who have spent years living with the progressive disease of alcoholism and tried everything possible to keep the situation from growing worse, the thought that finding happiness while the drinking continues seems inconceivable.

Chances are happiness seems like an unrealistic goal, something that only make-believe families on television shows have. For the alcoholic family reality can become one crisis after another. Pain, heartache, agony, stress, pressure, and emotional turmoil, we've got -- but happiness?

But those who hang around Al-Anon long enough find out that the opening statement can become reality in their own lives and in their own homes. One of the keys to that reality is detachment.

Neither Kind, Nor Unkind

As the literature says, "Detachment is neither kind nor unkind. It does not imply judgment or condemnation of the person or situation from which we are detaching. It is simply a means that allows us to separate ourselves from the adverse effects that another person's alcoholism can have upon our lives."

Many times the family members find that they have become just as obsessed -- and perhaps even more -- with the alcoholic's behavior than the alcoholic is with the drink. The Al-Anon program teaches us to "put the focus on ourselves" and not on the alcoholic, or anyone else.

If we put the focus on ourselves, we will no longer be in the position to:

  • Suffer because of the actions and reaction of others.
  • Allow us to be used or abused by others.
  • Do for others what they could do for themselves.
  • Manipulate situations so others will eat, sleep, get up, pay bills and not drink.
  • Cover up for anyone's mistakes or misdeeds.
  • Create a crisis.
  • Prevent a crisis if it is the natural course of events.
But what about the alcoholic? What happens if I stop doing all of these things that I have done all these years to "help?"

Has it helped? Al-Anon members learn that no individual is responsible for another person's disease or recovery from it. The simple answer to what to do about the alcoholic: "Let go, and let God."

As they say in the program, "It's simple, but it ain't easy." But you do not have to do it alone. There is probably an Al-Anon Family Group meeting nearby where you will find people who understand as few others can. They have been there, and by sharing their experience, strength and hope, help others to find their own path to serenity.

Related Video
What to Expect at a First AA Meeting
What Is Denial?
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Alcoholism
  4. Support for Families
  5. Denial, Enabling
  6. Detachment From a Family Member With Alcoholism

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.