Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Al-Anon gave me detachment. As I have been practicing detachment I have learned that I can be indifferent to what someone says. I used to "react" to what everyone or anyone said. I would react either in a verbal response or I would feel a response within my body.

But lately I have had some very different reactions . . . or should I say, "non-reactions."

When I can keep "me" from being "attached" to something, I find I do not react if someone says something negative or distressing about it. That is, if I keep myself detached from the object or what is being said, I find I can look at what is said, and what is being said about the "object" of discussion, and who is actually saying it, in its proper perspective.

I find there are two triggers in not being able to detach.

  1. First, there may be someone that I just don't like. When someone I don't like, or I view as negative or attacking, I could have a negative reaction to whatever they say. It would not even matter what they said. I would just associate whatever they were saying - as negatvie. There is a second side to this. If there was someone I liked or respected, whatever they said, I would find this positive.
  2. A second trigger could be something - an object - as some part of me. Usually this is because I put some effort or some time or my passion into the object. The object could be a letter, a proposal, the paint color I chose for a room. Some how I could get my "pride" or "ego" involved and the object would become part of "me." Now this is impossible physically as we all know. But who has not felt this at one time or another.

If I can be calm, look at what is said and who is saying it, and see what is said as not "me" I can be detached and not be offended.

Being detached is an interesting thing. You can almost literally watch words go by you. You can sit objectively and say, "Isn't that interesting. I am not being hit with these words. They just go by me."

I picked up a book everyone in the world has apparently read but me. I picked up Eckart Tolle's A New Earth. It talks about detachment and how the ego makes us "one" with certain objects. A great book. It provides information on how we become "attached" and how we can never find peace.

Now, this New Earth book, is not a book for people who are in the strife of alcoholism. But it does help in detaching and understanding how we can detach better.

I also have found that just because someone says something about me to me or about me to others, I am less likely to feel bad. This detachment thing is pretty cool. I do have my slips however, as I found my button(s) being pushed the other day by my qualifier. I only attached though, when I responded (reacted). That is, I felt emotionally charged when I responded. The response made me attach to what was said. Interesting . . . The next time, I will not respond. Therefore, I will not have attached to what was being said.

I hope this helps with detachment - More on this later -


Anonymous said...

I feel compelled to write and let you know how inspirational your blog is to me. I attended my first al-anon meeting on Saturday. It was for women only and it felt like a lot of women's organizations I have been involved with in the past. Although the dynamics are not yet clear, it appears some dissention exists in the group from a prior meeting. I attended the newcomers meeting scheduled prior to the main group meeting and I understand the recommendation of attending at least 6 meetings before making up your mind whether or not al-anon is "for you". I am a little skeptical of how human the interaction can be via the internet but the honesty of the entries I have read thus far are really persuasive.
I am close to the 30 year anniversary of my marriage to my primary qualifier. When we married I did not realize the dynamics of the family and that substance abuse issues were extensive in his background. I started practicing detachement a long time ago, which probably explains why I stayed in this marriage 30 years. We have three children together (all grown now)and I think I was more fearful of my loss of control over his contact with the children then my own loss of finding appropriate companionship if we did not divorce so divorce was not option. I created a life for myself and my children where we took many vacations and had many outings without him (his choice). The successes we experienced, with little to no involvement on his part, allowed us to maintain a facade of a functional family. I have always been open with my kids about my concerns about their father's substance abuse (alcohol and marijuana)so we did not have secrets. It has been tough for all of us. I don't think my children have good role models for what should be a most important relationship in life-your significant other (wife, husband life partner). Forunately they have two role models to observe, in terms of individual paths,and to make their own choices as a result. I am very, very proud of my children and they have made unconditional love such an easy thing for me to practice and believe in. But I am now at a crossroads as to whether to stay in a relationship with a man from whom I have been detached emotionally for many years. All of my excuses for staying are no longer here, yet I am still here. The tragedy of the person he could have been still causes me to think about the person he could be. The complications of leaving someone who is sick and honoring the vows of "in sickness and in health" still reverberate in my mind. The second guessing of enabling by continuing to facilitate what seems to the outside world as the success of our family. The recognition of my own shortfalls and imperfections and asking how can I judge anyone else. Maybe I have not detached at all.

Catherine said...

Thanks for sharing that, anonymous. I was not sure about AlAnon when I first started attending, either. One of the meetings actually seemed like a pick-up scene. However, I attended a few more meetings. It took a few meetings to, uh, get the rhythm. The literature helps.

Speaking of detachment, my qualifier just walked in. Today was the home opener of his favorite baseball team and he actually took the day off work AND THEN went out. So I knew what to expect. I'm pretty good at detaching under this circumstance -- I'll just go to bed -- but actually find it harder to detach out in the civilian world or at work when some unexpected criticism or slight happens.

Detachment is a beautiful thing, and when I've succeeded, it's really contributed to my happiness.

Syd said...

In Al-Anon we learn to detach with love. I think that sometimes is the hard part--to detach WITH LOVE. I have learned though that much of what the alcoholic says has nothing to do with me. Their anger isn't directed at me. So I can keep my mouth shut or tell them I love them but not buy into the drama or react in anger. I have learned to not react to things just because they are tossed by the alcoholic as bait.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more that what Syd shares in regards to detachment with love....

Someone very dear to my heart recently informed my that she needed time to work on her program, not wanting a relationship with me for the time being, and it came as quite a shock to me as I had no idea this was coming my way.

I initially didn't handle this very well, and became very self defensive, and said things that quite honestly should not have been said. My reaction actually was quite self-centered.

She has been sober and working her program for many years, so I have to take into consideration what she needs to get through the day, and at the same time focus on my needs as well. This is a very difficult balancing act to say the least.

I am still a bit numb by it all, however have been able to process through the intial convesation, argument, and emails. I let her know that I can give her that freedom with an open heart, made my feelings for her very clear. My strength through this is "let go and let god". I have no other option, and trust that he has the best interests of me and her at heart.

I am working on detachment with love this morning, we both deserve that....

Peace this Wed.


Maresie said...

I think I've spent my whole life in over reaction. As Stephen Levine suggest in many of his works I don't work on the 300 lbs weight straight away. Detaching from my family of origin is pretty hard going (even though I have had very little contact with them for decades). I start with the everyday stuff. How much I want it all to go my way, everything has to be exactly perfect all day or I have a fit. I work on detaching and getting better at it all the time.

For me al anon is the best resource for dealing with dysfunction whether it be at work or in my life (I am one year out of a relationship).