That term is a gift from Alanon. Detaching with love is like the gold standard of recovery, and it’s something we aim for but rarely achieve perfectly.
Years ago in Baltimore where I attended my first meetings my Alanon home group was one of the oldest Alanon meetings still in existence. Weekly I met with a group of women who were “Black Belt Alanon”. They had each worked the program a long time and many of them were still living with active alcoholics. They were tough. They were wise. They talked a lot about detachment and how they worked “detachment with love.”
I remember one of the examples they gave to newcomers who found this whole detachment thing confusing. This is what they would say:
If you come home from your meeting and the drunk is passed out in the driveway—again—detachment is stepping over them and going into the house and going to bed. Detachment with love is rolling the drunken person on their side so they don’t choke, covering them with a blanket and then going into the house and going to bed.
A pretty graphic example, but it is one that sticks in my head. For you too? I found I could translate that driveway scenario into other situations and use it to sort out, “What would be the equivalent in my situation of providing the blanket and still going to bed?”
All these years later, long into recovery, I still have to ask myself that question. And then pray for the courage and wisdom to act.
Today, on a little card, I wrote this note to myself:
What would detachment…
Read more about detachment and the lessons of Alanon in "Out of the Woods" published by Central Recovery Press.