People who are family or friends of active addicts often find themselves involved in the disease process. Trying to help may be enabling, which means the addictive patterns are being supported. Enablers end up frustrated, angry, guilty, frightened, and lonely. Patterns of behavior are adopted to survive the confusion and chaos. The addictions field has been flooded with information, treatment options, and support groups to help these people deal with their feelings and behavior.


Al-Anon, the first support group for family and friends of alcoholics, understands the value of detachment. Detachment means that through education about addiction, you can separate yourself from the feelings and behaviors you developed to try to control the addict or deal with the situation. You learn you didn’t cause the problem, and you can’t cure it.


People learn to detach by taking the focus off the addict and concentrating on their own behavior. They use the same Twelve Steps of recovery to do this, and get help and support in meetings from others who share the same problems.

Support Groups

As Twelve-Step support groups for other addictions were founded, so were support groups for families and friends of compulsive gamblers (Gam-Anon), compulsive overeaters (O-Anon), and sex addicts (S-Anon).

Let Go

Experience has shown that it is rare for a person today to find himself with only one identity that has to do with addiction. Addicts are married to other addicts, have parents or children who are addicts, and have friends who suffer. So it makes sense that everyone can benefit from learning the tool of detachment. The slogan, “Let go and let God,” best describes it:

  • To “let go” does not mean to stop caring, it means I can’t do it for someone else.
  • To “let go” is not to cut myself off, it’s the realization I can’t control another.
  • To “let go” is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.
  • To “let go” is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.
  • To “let go” is not to try to change or blame another, it’s to make the most of myself.
  • To “let go” is not to care for, but to care about.
  • To “let go” is not to fix, but to be supportive.
  • To “let go” is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.
  • To “let go” is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes, but to allow others to affect their own destinies.
  • To “let go” is not to be protective, it’s to permit another to face reality.
  • To “let go” is not to deny, but to accept.
  • To “let go” is not to nag, scold, or argue, but instead to Search out my own shortcomings and correct them.
  • To “let go” is not to adjust everything to my desires but to take each day as it comes, and cherish myself in it.
  • To “let go” is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future.
  • To “let go” is to fear less and love more.

—Author Unknown

Detachment, see also: Al-Anon & Alateen, Contacts, Control, Coping skills, Intervention, Love & caring, Meetings, Priorities, Service & giving, Slogans, Sponsorship, Tools of recovery, Trust.

Update 11 Sep 2015

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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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