The phrase detach with love is one of the most common pieces of advice given to family, friends and partners of those suffering from unhealthy habits – and probably the hardest.
The reasoning behind it is simple: as long as we continue to take care of the problems for that specific individual he or she will never ‘learn’. It is often said that it I preferable for that person to hit rock bottom and finally realize that they need to change. This is easier said than done.
Especially when you know as a friend, partner or family member, that the consequences of letting go could be extremely serious, painful or even fatal.
Imagine going on a holiday with a loved one who has just come out of a nine week rehab program. Everything seems fine, but upon arrival at a faraway destination he or she relapses and turns the holiday into a disaster, including going missing and being admitted in the ER of the local hospital. What does ‘detach with love’ mean in such instances. Do you fly back home and leave the person? Do you call the police and have the person arrested for their own protection or safety?
The best advice I can give you is to follow your gut feeling. The level of crises and stress we can handle differs from person to person and from case to case. To me it is always very helpful t o apply one of the 12 step slogans: let go and let god. Things seem to have a way to sort themselves out. By letting go of the urge to control or change the situation and let things follow their course solutions often arise automatically – or miraculously if you prefer.
And last but not least: it is okay to put your own well-being first. There is not much use in you getting a heart attack or getting in trouble yourself as a result of trying to control people, places or things, or as another 12 step slogan says: let it begin with me.