“Detach with love.”

The first time I heard that phrase I was dumbstruck.
A former English major, I had to parse the words to make sense of it.

“Detach?”  You mean separate myself from my son? How does a mother detach from her children? And how do you do it “with love?” What does that even mean?

It happened at one of my earliest Al Anon meetings.
I can’t recall now who said it.

Maybe it was the mother of an adult daughter who was killing herself with alcohol and still living in her mother’s home.

Or maybe the mom was admonished by an older gentleman who’d had his own run with alcohol and was now seeking help because of a grandson.

Regardless, the reference was clear. It was a command meant for anyone enabling a loved one with addiction.

The phrase followed me home. It haunted me for days. It popped up at other meetings, too. And in my most challenging moments with Jacob, I let it whisper to me to pause, stop, let him go, let him find his way, because what I was doing clearly wasn’t working.

Even today, 11 years into his sobriety and 12 into my Al-Anon attendance, I say it often to myself. Active addiction is no longer part of my life and the phrase still has meaning.

Perhaps other parents can, but I find it so hard to part from my children when we’ve been together, no matter how long the visit. Both are adults and have their own lives. Both are healthy, productive, and caring members of their worlds, but I still feel an ache when I leave them.

Then I remember:  Lisa, detach with love.
It’s what parents are meant to do, even if addiction has never affected their lives.

Because “detaching” is “love.”

Even if it makes you dumbstruck.

3 Replies to “Dumbstruck”

  1. Hi Lisa,

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge on this subject. My mother and father figured out how to detach with love in 2011 and because of it I got sober for 6 years. When they let me go I had to figure out how to save my life on my own and as scary as it was for the first 5 minutes, I realized that I had the power to pull myself out of my addiction and no one could take the credit from me. I was filled with HOPE. I have given this advice to 3 sets of parents. I told all 3 sets of them not to let their son back into their home and none of them listened to me and all 3 of them OD’d in their parents house shortly after. I buried my best friend and 2 sponsees because of enabling. Now I don’t give anyone advice because they get mad at me for giving it to them. Instead now I tell them to go to AL alon. I refuse to say anything other than that now. I am writing my autobiography right now because God told me too. I’ve written about 30 chapters so far, over a 5.5 month period. I have about 15 chapters more before its finished. Is there any advice you could give me when it comes to publishing an autobiogrpahy?

    1. Hi Patrick. I am just seeing this and I know we have talked. You should feel proud of your journey.
      I am happy to talk with you any time.