In the last article, Living with an alcoholic - Why detach with love?, we discussed the need to detach from the alcoholic. In this article we will discuss how to detach, what it means and how to achieve it successfully.
When you live with an alcoholic, almost inevitably, you become caught up in his drinking behavior. You will find yourself trying to second guess how much he is going to drink, when he will be home, what condition he will be in and what's going to happen when he does get home. When you live with an alcoholic you'll find it's almost a full time job thinking about it and worrying about the drinker and his drinking. You probably find yourself thinking about it all through the day. Even if he is not drinking at the moment you will be worried about it when he is going to start and, again, what's going to happen. If you live with an alcoholic worrying about the alcoholic and his drinking will be taking up much of your time and leaving little time and emotional space for anything else.
When you live with an alcoholic, if you are going to survive you need to give yourself emotional and sometimes physical space and time away from your drinker. You need to stop worrying about time, planning your life around him and his drinking, thinking about him all the time, being available whenever he needs you and generally living your life for the alcoholic. This is what detaching is all about.
To stop worrying or thinking about something is very difficult. It is not something that many of us can achieve easily. We can't just shut off their minds at will, if we could most psychologists would be out of a job.
Instead of stopping doing something we could do something different. In the Bottled Up program for people who live with an alcoholic we strongly advise that you begin to look after yourself. In bottled up we suggest that you take time to find yourself again. Often people who live with an alcoholic feel that they have lost their own identity that the person they once were has been swallowed up through looking after the alcoholic. Instead we suggest that you rediscover the things that used to interest you, and maybe still do, and find new things to stretch yourself and grow as a person.
Living with alcoholic can also cause you to become isolated. Since you feel there is a need for secrecy, to hide the nature of the problem from the rest of the world, you will very often have stopped talking to the people who can help you most -- your friends! In bottled up we strongly suggest that you renew your friendships. In doing that it will give you a sense of perspective, outside interests and a potential support network. In the next article we will discuss some of the barriers to detachment. If you want to learn more about detachment or bottled up go to the bottled up website.