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Detatching with Love

By: Ann-Marie Loose, MSW, LSW, CAADC, CCS, Director of Family Services

1 Your Role
I want to learn about treatment options for:

2 Basic Information
The Person is:
years old

graduated high school

3 Condition Information
Caron Treatment Centers accepts patients aged 13 years or older. For more information on services available to those 12 and under, please learn more about Caron's Student Assistance Program.

Family members are often confused by the term detaching with love. What do we mean when we say that? When someone we love has addiction, the typical family response is to enable and caretake. However, this disease THRIVES in an environment where there is a caretaker. Families need to learn how to react to addiction in a way that is often counterintuitive. It is not about loving someone less, it is about expressing love in a different way.

Imagine that your loved one is chained out in the middle of a frozen lake. The ice on the lake is thin and dangerous. Upon seeing this, the most organic reaction is to run out onto the frozen lake to try to rescue their loved one. This, however, is the worst thing someone could do. Now they have put more weight on the ice and their own life is also in danger. They cannot remove their loved one from the lake for they are chained out there. The BEST thing you can do in this scenario is get yourself off the lake. It will remove the extra pressure from the ice and ensure your own safety. However, this action, of leaving the lake while your loved one remains out there, often feels like a cruel act. This is NOT abandonment. This is NOT cruel. This is NOT selfish. This is kind and courageous. The only way to help your loved one is to help yourself.

Detaching with love is about loving someone without being tied to them. It is about loving someone without losing yourself. It is about being on solid ground even when your loved one is standing on ice. It is difficult to do because we want to caretake and be closely attached to our loved ones when they struggle – but the disease of addiction takes full advantage of that situation. So, we need to love and support differently. It is never about abandoning, but about accepting the situation and reacting appropriately. Detaching with love is an expression of love – and when used correctly allows the space for the family member and the addict to recover.