Many parents and loved ones of those struggling with substance use have gotten the message that to detach with love is the answer.
The justification given is that you cannot help your child until they are ready. When you detach from the pain and anguish that addiction can cause, you take care of yourself.
However, it sends the message that you shouldn’t try and help in any way. Your son or daughter has to want to change. They need to come to this conclusion completely on their own.
How many parents are actually able to detach from the children that they have raised since birth? And second, does it really help?
For me, staying close felt like the right option. I knew there was no way I was going to turn my back on my struggling child.
There is no one answer that fits all. Some parents may feel that they did everything they could or need a break.
But here’s why I chose not to detach with love.
1. To detach with love is a confusing message
The term, detach with love is vague with a multitude of interpretations.
What does it really mean?
Does it mean to acknowledge the drug or alcohol use but not to do anything about it?Or to tell your child you will not see them again until they are sober?Does it mean to kick your kid out of the house if they live at home, no matter what their age?Or should you let your child hit rock bottom?That, for me, is the rub. Parents without a background in substance use who learn about their child’s drug or alcohol use have no idea what detaching with love means. They may think that turning your back on your child is the first thing you have to do.
For parents trying to find their way on this very rocky and confusing path, how will they know they are making a good decision if they are being given a message with various meanings?
We know that many lives have been lost to addiction. When you turn your back on your child, the chances are greater that they will suffer more or possibly never recover from their drug or alcohol problem.
Parents need more than confusing suggestions. They need tangible answers. They need a way out of the tangled web that substance use can create.
2. Connection matters
Research has shown that staying close to your child and keeping the conversation going will help you move your son or daughter towards recovery.
Remember Johann Hari’s quote from his popular Ted Talk? “So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is a human connection.”
If you detach with love from your child, you risk breaking that connection. Some feel that doing anything to help their child means they are enabling them.
Many people in recovery have said that their family had the biggest impact on their decision to change their life. You can only help if you keep the conversation going and support your child’s change.
Maintaining a relationship with your child will give you the best chance of helping them realize that change is needed. Addiction can be a long road.
But staying connected in the most positive way possible will help your child feel they are not alone in dealing with their problems. They will know that they are still loved.And that bond is what can move a person towards recovery.
And you can allow your child to feel the consequences of their substance use while still staying connected.
3. Detaching, even with love, causes more stress.
Many parents I talk to have expressed that the message to detach with love caused them more stress because it felt counterintuitive.
Arent parents responsible for nurturing and protecting their children? They wonder how they can let go of the child that they have raised from birth. It could feel like losing a limb.
You may have had numerous sleepless nights worrying about your child, not knowing where they are or if they are safe. You may feel you need to go along with the message to detach, but many don’t feel good about it.
One mother told me that her son had relapsed, and a counselor told her to stop all contact with him. Following that advice caused her immense anxiety. She didn’t know where her son was or how he was doing.
When she finally did reach out, she found out that he was in terrible shape. She feels he could have easily died had she not made an effort to reconnect with him. Because she helped him get back on track, he has been in recovery for several years.
4. You don’t have to detach to take care of yourself.
One of the messages that the traditional support groups give that research also supports is that self-care is important. You need to make sure you are exercising, eating well, and taking care of your mental, physical and spiritual health.
But you can take care of yourself and still stay connected with your child. You don’t have to let go of your son or daughter to feel better and practice self-care.
Taking care of yourself is an ongoing process. Most parents will feel better when they know where their child is and when they are having regular conversations with them.
You will be better able to manage your stress if you have regular contact with your child. You can have a life that is not centered around your child’s drug or alcohol use. Carving out time for yourself is important too.
5. Research around detaching with love.
My new book answers many of the questions that readers of this post may have – including those about how to help their child find recovery. Click on the book for more information. I hope the book is helpful.Research has shown that staying connected with your child is helpful. You can be the catalyst for change.
Yet, there are many conflicting messages that parents receive when it comes to addiction. Many are traditional ideas, including detaching with love. Some are helpful, but they don’t have any research to support them.
So, how do we know that it works?
There may be people who have lost their lives because parents thought that turning their backs on their children was the right thing to do.
In fact, I’ll never forget what a parent said at one of my CRAFT training. She said that she felt her son would be alive today if she had used a more compassionate approach and stayed connected.
Our kids have a health issue. As with any health issue, it makes sense to take the time to look at what the research says has been shown to work.
Research shows that about 70% of families who participate in CRAFT can get their loved ones into treatment within a year (Miller, Meyers, & Tonigan, 1999CRAFT also helps family members improve their own lives, whether their loved one ends up seeking treatment or not.
And there are other programs as well that offer help while families are staying connected.
6. Take a break if you need to
Finally, staying connected doesn’t mean that you can never take a break or step away for a period of time. And if you’ve been at this for years, which many families have, and you feel you have done all you can do, then it may be time to get on with your life.
Yet, stepping away is never the first thing you should do, which causes confusion.
You may get burned out on trying to help your child if you become enmeshed with your child’s problems. Maybe you have tried to control every aspect of the situation.
Or you’ve yelled or thought to discipline your way out of the problem would be the answer. Those tactics don’t work either.
But having an ongoing conversation and focusing on the positive aspects does help.
When you do things to support your child’s recovery and take care of yourself, you will give your child the best possible chance to live a healthier life.
You don’t have to detach to make this happen.
You can encourage change while staying connected to your child.
Thank you for reading. I know you have many options on content. Don’t forget to sign up for the Sunday newsletter with information and inspiration to help parents. Sign up now.
By: Cathy Taughinbaugh
Title: Why I Chose Not to Detach With Love
Sourced From: cathytaughinbaugh.com/why-i-chose-not-to-detach-with-love/
Published Date: Fri, 02 Jun 2023 16:08:31 +0000
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