Thursday, February 12, 2015

Detaching With Love

As our son progressed in his addiction we did not. We struggled with first one thing and then another. We tried loving him well, negotiating away his addiction, throwing him out of the house, tough love and anything else heard that might be a fix. Nothing improved until we tried what we had be told in the beginning, take care of yourself first.

Boundaries and detaching are critical steps to understanding where we as loved ones fit in the whole disease and puzzle of addiction. Detaching with love is easy to say but the big question for each of us parents is HOW?

Below is another reprint. "Detaching With Love". Learning to detach is learning to establish boundaries.

I have received many comments and personal e-mails asking me to explain exactly what or how do you detach with love. The other day I was again ask for an example of exactly how do you detach with love and I answered with a typically philosophical answer. That evening it bothered me because here I was answering the question again and I am not being clear to what people are asking. It finally stuck me to use the KISS it methodology. (KISS, keep it simple, stupid)

So I wrote about when detaching, enabling, boundaries, values, rescuing and a whole bunch of other things began to click with my wife and I. Below is how one step by step transformation occurredfor us and our son.

My son shoplifted to support his addiction. Needless to say he got caught several times. The first few times when he was a minor we'd get a call to come pick him up and he'd get a ticket and we'd pay a big fine and take him to court services for his probation and take him to a psychologist. This went on for a couple years.

When he turned 18 he was no longer a minor and with his record they'd take him to jail. He'd make that phone call from jail, "Please come and bail me out. I'm never going to do this again." Off we'd go. After a while this was getting expensive and no one was learning their lesson. I mean, Darlene and I were not learning our lesson. ;-) and by the way neither was our son. We were doing the same thing over and over, and our son was doing the same thing over and over, nothing was changing. He'd make the same promises, we'd take the same action and we couldn't understand why HE kept using!

This is where the idea of detaching and setting boundaries started with us. We are no longer going to pay bail. As a mom and dad it is very hard to think of your child sitting in jail. In Jackson County, MO jail he witnessed a person get stabbed. The food is universally bad at all jails, without money on your books you can't even get a toothbrush to brush your teeth, he had food stolen and had to fight at times for his food, spent 2 days in solitary for defending himself against another inmate that attacked him. Some jails they put the crazies in with the criminals like rapists and murderers, in with the drug addicts, makes no sense to me.

It's hard to think of yourself as being a loving parent when you know that for just a few hundred dollars we could get him out of those situations, but if you don't pay the bail are you really a loving parent? Finally the day comes when you don't pay the bail money. Once we let him sit in the Johnson County Resort for 11 days because we wouldn't post a $50 bond. Sounds mean doesn't it?

This is about detaching with love and not enabling.Your boundaries must match your values. It works for us this way. Overriding all is the value that we love our son. When you sit down to think about and discuss boundaries this goes at the top of the page. Every single boundary is tested against that value.

Another value we hold close and taught our kids, Stealing is wrong. Stealing carries consequences and it should. Bailing him out removes or minimizes the consequences. Contrary to our values we were bailing him out. But we hated what he was exposed to in jail. However, we had established a pattern, he got caught, he called, we jumped with cash in hand. It's not fair to change the rules without telling all the parties.

So Darlene and I sat down a determined where we would go and where we would no longer go. This began to establish our boundaries. You will never cover all of the situations, you just cover what you can and know that once you learn how to judge behaviors and rescuing against what it is you believe inside the exercise becomes easier and more natural.

Then you must sit down with your child, an addict that may or may not be high at the time and explain where you will no longer go with him. In fact you can even start each sentence with, "Because we love you........... we can no longer bail you out of jail. All your life we taught you that stealing was wrong and you know that in your heart so we cannot support your actions by bailing you out of jail when you do something you have been taught all your life is wrong. I hope you understand this and can accept our decision."

Each boundary that we had discussed the conversation went like that. Our son hated it when we turned off the TV and ask him to sit down at the table to talk. This satisfied our need to tell him our expectations and it told him what to expect from us. Yes, he still called begged, pleaded and cried from jail but what we had been doing in the past didn't work and was bad for us and him. We had to change the rules, but that didn't mean we loved him less. It meant we loved him more because it hurt us terribly to let him sit in jail.

Even with his begging and pleading we were still able to sleep at night and have a moment of down time. He was in jail and we knew jail was safer than being on the street shooting more heroin. We then began to see jail as "protective custody."

We detached from Alex's crimes and actions, we did not detach from him. We still loved him, took some of the $10 for 10 minute collect calls from jail. On those calls we always ended with that we loved him and please help yourself. We were doing all we could and all we knew to do. Detach from the actions, crimes, drug use, lying and every other terrible thing a drug addict does to himself and others. Love and support the person inside not the addiction controlling the life.

Does this help explain what detaching with love and how it works for us? Then you begin applying the same formula to all other areas in your relationship with your addicted loved one.

5 comments:

Ming said...

Your detaching story has perfect timing as I, too, have done this in the past. Most recently, my son has been doing better but having lived with this unwelcomed demon heroin for more years than I care to count, I live with a fear of its return, because it always returns.

Tonight, as I headed up to bed, turning off all the downstairs lights and making sure the door was locked, I put on my flannel nightgown and quickly jumped into bed under the covers to keep any warmth I could muster... it's cold here in PA!

After lying in bed for about 2 minutes, I heard what I thought was a muffled door shutting sound... and about 30 seconds later, that same muffled door shutting sound.

Needless to say, the hair raised on the back of my neck and I went to my son's room. Knocked once, then twice and a third time with no response. I tried to open the door but something was blocking it. That something was my son on the floor unresponsive to my calls.

I pushed the door open and began to hit his arm saying his name over and over. I finally was able to open the door enough to squeeze in and try to get under his arms and move him. He quickly jumped up and those old familiar eyes were back... my heart sunk, and I knew it... that demon heroin invaded my home once again.

I tried to call his counselor (we just had a family meeting earlier this week) thinking it was a cell phone but it was the office # and voicemail. I followed that up with a very tough email to write letting him know my son needed his help, help that I could not provide.

Yeah, its time to detach again. I call that survival. I hate it. If I wanted to be in survival mode, I'd be on Survivor.

Thanks for the repost... it's always a good time to post it. Please keep my son in your prayers... I so want him to be done with this demon heroin but my fear is that it will one day take him from me.

Anonymous said...


Thought provoking. I am happy that your son is in recovery and that you write a blog that reaches out and helps so many. Addiction confuses me. The statistics I have seen and statistics that were just recently taught in my nieces high school science class state that there is a ninety- five percent relapse rate for heroin.

My family member has been suffering for five years and I attend weekly therapy sessions and support groups. I've seen people totally detach and seen their loved ones recover only to relapse or die. I've seen people send family members to other states. They enter three -month rehabs followed up by living in a sober house.
I've seen people in year long programs. I've seen families who just pay to have their loved ones live elsewhere. And I've seen many addicts end up incarcerated. I've also heard of a few who decided to go cold turkey on their own. Sadly, I have also heard of the many overdose deaths in our state.

I've heard many people say at support group that addiction care is a billion dollar industry. This figure seems high to me but if there is so much money being thrown around why is there such a high relapse rate?
We need something other than detachment to solve the problems of this disease. Something other than incarceration. Something other than blaming family members for being enablers. Of the few who don't relapse I'm happy for them however I know some in this group of recovered addicts who shun those who've relapsed repeating the same dogma over and over again. There is always more than one way to solve a problem. Addiction care needs a fresh mindset. Too many people are dying to allow the status quo to continue.

Possibly, the current treatments and philosphies just doesn't work for all addicts. Not all cancer treatment works for all cancer patients. A lucky few get better and others die.

I honestly do not believe that relapse occurs because family members do not detach correctly. Our loved ones are ending up incarcerated and dying or maimed for life. I've had two family members die due to not taking their type II diabetes seriously. Yet, they never had to fear incarceration.

I made the extremely difficult and painful choice to nurse my family member through five years of reconstructive surgeries. While I felt like dying many times myself I'm glad I held in there.

Today my family member is finished their surgeries, in recovery and attending school part- time.
Still I know that the disease lurks. I am glad that I kept my family member in my home. For all of the hurt , drama and danger that this family member caused each day I tell myself to be grateful for a smile, a passing conversation, moments together in the kitchen. This is their life and if they might one day die of their disease or end up in jail they deserve not to live in a home filled with angry words. We have very strict boundaries set up within the home and I don't know how long we can hold up fighting this deadly disease however right now, this time I'm glad that my family member is home.

I hope never to have to kick this family member out because this person is disabled. Our shared goal is for independence and healing. God Bless and thanks for sharing your words.

Melanie said...

This is so timely. My daughter is currently living in a sober house, but I too, know the pain of wondering if today is the day. So many times she has been in recovery, only to relapse. And I struggled with the "detach or not to detach" debate. I feel like as her parent it is my job to advocate for her when she is not able too- for whatever reason. How am I helping her if I am removing myself from her? It took a lot of mental anguish for me to realize that in fact, I was helping her by not helping her. It has not been easy. It has been painfully hard, but when it is difficult, I just remind myself that it would be more difficult if she died. We all know that heroin ends one of three ways: Jail, Institution or Death. It doens't have to be in that order. It doesn't even have to be that the first two ways failed before the third happens. Heroin is a gamble, every day, every time. I learned tha tnot bailing her out, by not making it easy to use, I helped her find the incentive to stay clean.

Detaching from active addiction is not the same as not supporting your child. I support my childs goal in recovery, I do not help the drug keep her sick.

Syd said...

Thank you, Ron. You know yourself what has worked and what doesn't. You have been in the trenches with the disease.

Eliseo Weinstein said...

Thank you for this thought provoking write up, my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and we hope to read more of your wisdom in future. My wife has also been going through similar tough time and we always pray that god will grant her the strength to continue on. Thank you again for sharing this with us, thanks.

Eliseo Weinstein @ Jr's Bail Bond