Nothing Gives Us More Peace of Mind Than Detachment

“We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time.
When we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world, and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances of joy.
It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch something, and then, forgetting we chose to put them on, we complain that nothing feels quite real. Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable.”              Mark Nepo
From Saving Grace:

When I desperately wanted to save my family from the ravages of the disease of alcoholism, I would have gone to any lengths to force solutions, would have said anything, done anything. And I tried in all the ways I knew how, to adjust, to shape shift, to mitigate what was happening in our lives. The utter destructive power of the disease gave us not a moment, not a generation of rest. It’s still shredding our serenity at times. It’s a powerful disease and it often wins. How do I know? Witnessing slow deaths. Funerals.

Whomever/Whatever we love; people, places, countries, we tend to acquire a proprietary attitude toward them/it. We own and then wrap our expectations around our ownership. I love them so much, I have a claim on them. I love them so much, they owe me. I love it so much, it must be mine. People. Countries. Mine. Then I tie my happiness, my peace of mind to them, it.

And if my happiness, my peace of mind, my productivity and sense of safety are tied to you, then I need you to act right so I can sleep at night. My inventory of my day consists of a check in on how and what you are doing, so I know whether or not I can rest. Whether or not I can breathe.

I loved my father for his humor, his hard work, his generosity toward every helpless, hapless, hopeless creature that crossed his path. And when he drank he was awful. Violent and abusive, unleashing all of his pain and misery, every ounce of revulsion on us. Often on me. I was a target. I felt responsible and that sense of responsibility gave me a mistaken sense of power. I thought it was best I was a target. I thought I was tough enough to take it. Better I fight him than my sisters and brothers. The thing about alcoholism is that it is an uncontrollable disease. It’s like a hurricane. You can track it. Monitor it. You can develop some survival practices but you can’t stop a hurricane. Certainly not by standing in its path.

First, I removed myself from danger. I took my body and mind a thousand miles from the disease landfall. I put some distance between myself and ground zero. I got a different perspective. I got help. I learned new definitions. Diseases. Storms. Beyond our control.

Forty years ago, I still thought I had a claim on these people I loved until I accepted that their lives belonged to them. Fully and completely. I did not have a claim on their lives. They could choose and would choose for themselves whether to run, to find shelter, to get help, to hunker down or battle it out.

I came home to find my father much as he’d been when I fled. Flushed. Sick. Slurring. Hurting. There were things I needed to say. For myself. I loved him. I wanted him to live. I needed him. Will you go get help and stop drinking? His answer was a very impolite “no”.

I did not “give up” but I did let go. I released him in that moment, not as a survival maneuver, not in a resigned and “how sad” martyr-ish way, I just released him with love because he was not mine. His life was not mine. His life belonged to him and while I could ask whatever I wanted, could say what I needed to say, I had no right to demand anything of him. By the time he got help and sobered up, I was glad. For him. I had learned “loving detachment.”

The Paradox Of Attached Detachment

Here’s the paradox: You must detach yourself from the situation while still being able to be attached to the situation.

How can we begin to practice detachment?

  1. Meditation — Having a mindfulness meditation practice is, in my opinion, a must if you want to get better at the art of detachment.
  2. Journaling — Writing down whatever comes to you is a great way for the mind to come to a place of no-mind or flow. It helps you gain perspective on your emotions, thoughts, actions, and limiting beliefs.
  3. Practice planning for the worst case— In any situation, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” and come to terms with that. Can you deal with it? How can you remedy the worst case scenario?

4 Underrated Personality Traits You Need to Live Your Best Life

An Adult Guide to Detachment

5 comments

  1. Very much relating to your post. I used to take everything my ex alcoholic boyfriend did personally. Then I joined Alanon and after over a year, see that what he does has nothing to do with me and that he is struggling with this disease, which helps me have compassion, but also let go because his behavior takes me and my life down. I love him very much but cannot allow my life to suffer because of his disease.

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    • Very hard but wise choice. We see how lovable they are but they are caught up in living in a world of their own creation. I always recommend that we each spend a year without a romantic relationship to learn how to respond in a healthy way.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree that spending a year (or more) without a romantic relationship is healthy. But alcoholism is a dynamic that even a healthy relationship minded person can get caught up in very easily without even realizing it. I was single and celibate almost 5 years before meeting him. In my case, I had grown up in a dysfunctional family that led me to choose people that aren’t good for me. I did not realize this until this relationship, so it was a good lesson.

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