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How to Detach from an Addict with Love

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

When your loved one is struggling with substance abuse it can be difficult to prioritize your mental health. This is because addiction affects more than just the individual. Witnessing a loved one’s behavior, priorities, and appearance change drastically due to addiction can leave you in a bad mental spot.[1] Unfortunately, you may continue to put your own needs aside in hopes of helping your loved one recover. However, this can become extremely unhealthy for everyone involved.

Enabling is a term that describes the encouragement of unhealthy behavior.[2] Many loved ones of addicts display enabling behaviors without even realizing it. If you find yourself making excuses for your loved one’s addiction time and time again, you are probably enabling them unintentionally. This is why it is important to understand how to detach from an addict with love.

If you are having a hard time coping with the effects of your loved one’s addiction, healthy detachment is the solution.

What is Healthy Detachment?

If your loved one is struggling with addiction then you are no stranger to chaos. It is not uncommon for the loved ones of addicts to drop everything to help them while they are in the middle of a crisis. While you may think that you are helping them, this is only preventing them from experiencing the consequences of their addiction. In other words, you are enabling them to continue their behavior.

Healthy detachment is the process of loving the addict, but not their addiction. To explain, detaching from an addict looks like showing them support, but refusing to react when their behavior is unacceptable.

For example, let’s say your loved one spends all of their rent money on alcohol and begins to call you in a panic. They are worried that they will lose their apartment and ask you to pay your rent for them. While your first reaction might be to help them, both of you will be better off if you refuse. Instead of rescuing them every time their addiction puts them in a bind, let them experience the consequences of their addiction. This could help them realize the extent of their substance abuse issues and convince them to attend rehab.

The Benefits of Healthy Detachment

Healthy detachment benefits you and your loved one by creating an equal dynamic. When an addict is being enabled, they feel comfortable in their addiction. This causes an unequal dynamic, where the loved one is sacrificing their own time, resources, and mental health to allow the addict to continue their behavior without consequence.

The benefits of detachment include:

  • More time to focus on self-care
  • The ability to set and uphold boundaries with your addicted loved one
  • Allowing your addicted loved one to experience consequences
  • Ending enabling behavior
  • Allowing your addicted loved one to understand the severity of their addiction

How to Detach from Your Addicted Loved One

Detaching from your addicted loved one is not easy, but it is necessary to both your and your loved one’s health. Try taking the following steps to detach from an addict with love.

Stop Enabling

When your loved one is struggling with addiction, it can be difficult to stop bailing them out of messy situations. Watching a loved one struggle financially, lose jobs, or lose their housing is extremely distressing. However, it is important to remember not to bail them out. You can still provide them with emotional support, but not at the expense of your mental health.

Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries and sticking to them is extremely important when your loved one is struggling with substance abuse. Your loved one’s addiction can take a significant toll on your mental health without the use of healthy boundaries.

Examples of healthy boundaries you should set include:

  • Not allowing them in your home while they are using
  • Not allowing them around children in the family while they are intoxicated
  • Refusing to provide them with money or resources to obtain substances
  • Refusing to bail them out or pay for a lawyer when they get arrested
  • Not lying for them when they need a cover story

Stop Taking Responsibility for Their Addiction

You may feel responsible for your loved one’s addiction. This is extremely common for parents of addicted sons or daughters. It is important to remember that you did not cause their addiction and you cannot save them from it. While you can support them and advise them to attend treatment, they have to decide to get sober for themselves.

Prioritize Your Mental Health

One of the most important parts of healthy detachment is prioritizing your mental health. The loved ones of addicts often deal with high levels of stress, guilt, and even depression. One of the ways you can begin to place an emphasis on your mental health is by joining a support group. Additionally, attending individual therapy and family counseling is a great way to heal from the effects of your loved one’s addiction.

Find Help for Yourself or a Loved One Today

If your loved one is struggling with addiction, Carolina Center for Recovery is here to help. We utilize a combination of behavioral therapy, group counseling, and family therapy to help our patients heal from the effects of substance abuse. Contact us today for more information on how to begin treatment.

Family-owned and operated, we take pride in our commitment to healing families as a whole. Recovery is not only for those who have abused drugs and alcohol but also for those who have suffered the trauma of loving someone with substance use disorder. Let our family help yours!