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"Detachment, Can be hard to do!"
copyright 2011, all rights reserved

by Toby Rice Drews
author of the "Getting Them Sober" books

Parents of alcoholics/addicts (no matter what the age of the child) often understandably have much more difficulty with the idea of 'detachment'.... i.e., acting in ways that protect the family from the dire consequences of the disease... not-rescuing the alcoholic/addict, so that the alcoholic himself can more fully be the only one who feels the consequences......... which often ''ups'' the alcoholic's chances of 'crumpling' // asking for help.

The parents have many reasons for being so scared, of course, to let the alcoholic feel those consequences fully.

The parents are often scared that---------

a. They are scared that the alcoholic will see that the parent is rescuing him anymore---- and may be so angry about it that he never speaks to his parents again.

b. They are scared that the alcoholic will die if he is not rescued all the time from the results of his drinking.

c. They are scared that they won't know if the alcoholic is alive or dead....... or what.

d. They are scared that if they don't "watch him'' 24/7, that he'll get worse.

What are some of the ways to look at all this?

a. Yes, the alcoholic probably will be very angry if the parent stop the rescuing. But there is a greater danger of the alcoholic dying//becoming disabled, ill--- if he doesn't feel the full impact of what's happening to him.

b. More alcoholic women die in their living rooms than on the street.

c. There does not have to be a rigid approach to "letting go''-------- one does not necessarily have to adhere to some ideas that "one should have no contact with the alcoholic.'' Parents can make a quick contact (a phone call to see if he answers) to see if he's alive. I often suggest to parents that it is MORE "detachment from his disease" to make a quick call at 3 a.m. to see if he's alive-------than to sit up all night, sick to your stomach worrying------- and get some sleep!

d. "Watching an alcoholic'' usually does not stop him from getting his alcohol/drugs. And we do need to sleep. Their disease is cunning-------- and can wait til we get to sleep before he gets his alcohol. No one person can 'watch' them 24/7.

We CAN often deter them from getting into horrible scrapes and rescue, rescue, rescue them. But each drink makes the disease progress forward..... no matter how often or how much he drinks.

And-------- it does not have to be a 'black or white' thing. We usually need to discern when//if to rescue an alcoholic. For instance, if he's passed out and aspirating in his vomit, OF COURSE we don't let him die. But if it's not a temperature where he'll freeze, and he just "looks bad'', it's often a good idea not to put him on the sofa and cover him with a nice quilt. If you do, he'll wake up the next day, see that he is comfortable with a nice quilt, and figure that he ''isn't that bad off''.

It's usually when they are soooo embarrassed........... sooo feeling humiliated.... soo feeling "I can't do this anymore!"----- that they cry out for help.

Yes, one can do interventions, but if you do not have leverage--------- clout-------- i.e., something that he wants so much that he'll do what you say------- then you usually do not have any way to 'make them get help'.

There are other ways to intervene, of course........ calling the police when he is driving drunk and reporting him anonymously. But of course, it's always best to think things through to make sure YOU don't get terrible consequences from your actions.

*** YOU are not less important than he is.

So, what can help?

One of the first things to think about (and not much is written about this anywhere) is that the alcoholic often presents to the parents that he is MUCH worse off than he really is. He often presents to the parent that he has no income for food, for heat (and this may be true)-------- but often, he has more than he is saying. The alcoholic//addict's disease will get him to say anything (through the mouth of the alcoholic)--------- to keep the disease alive.

Here is an example that happened when I was present to witness this scenario-------

Years ago, I and some other women were at the old U.S. Public Health Hospital in Baltimore, having a meeting for the families of the guys in detox.

The guys were in the next room, and one of their mothers was in our room, crying and telling us that she absolutely could not stop rescuing her son. He was a Vietnam vet and had lost his leg and could only crawl around on the floor.

Well, we then heard a ruckus in the next room, and we went to the door that separated the two meetings rooms. We looked through the small window in the door--------- and saw her son holding his prosthetic leg, at one end of the room------- and then he hopped FAST across the room, laughing, while the guys all cheered and had their money out, betting on how fast he could go.

His mom's face turned white.

I will never forget that lesson. Hopefully, neither did she.

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