No matter how hard we work our program, sometimes we need to detach from other people. This usually occurs because as we grow in our program, some of the people from our past do not accept some of the changes we have made in ourselves. For a multitude of reasons they want us to return to our old ways. Even though we politely and often firmly tell them that we no longer want to engage in “our old dance” they continue to escalate to force us to return to our old behavior. When this occurs it is best for us to detach in as loving a way as possible.
After a period of time, many of these people will begin to accept our changed self. We can reestablish our relationship with a new set of boundaries. This can often be the basis for an entirely new chapter in our relationship. Many newcomers are far too quick to jettison relationships with family, friends and colleagues because these people are not used to the sober person who stands before them. By separating from people for a limited period of time, we can, when possible rekindle our connection with them.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to detach from someone in my life for the time being?
Personal reflection is a big part of our program of recovery. Through self examination we have come to understand that we had many serious issues. These affected every area of our life. As part of our dysfunction we established many unhealthy relationships. Perhaps we associated with hypercritical or sarcastic people because of our feelings of inferiority. These people were just reaffirming what we knew about ourselves all along. We allowed them to demean us because on some level we believed we deserved it. Along the way we probably also picked up some rage-a-holics, victims of life and assorted others.
In recovery, we began the work of repairing ourselves. We also began to relate to people in a much healthier way. Changes really began to take root within us. What we discovered was that some of those “old friends” did not like these changes. They wanted us to return to our old ways. Often, when we responded to them in a sober manner, they escalated their unhealthy behavior. Over time, some of them changed because of the power of our example. Others however, remain entrenched in their behavior and deteriorated even more. Though it was painful, we needed to let go of that second group. Their dysfunction was a threat to our sobriety, which had to come first. We needed to detach with love, but we still needed to let go of them.
Personal Reflection: Am I holding on to someone I need to let go of?
The following story was told to me by another member of the fellowship. Though not specifically from the program, it is in total alignment with 12 step thinking.
Two zen monks were walking in the forest and came to a fast flowing deep stream. At the bank of the water was a beautiful women who said, ” kind monks, can you help me across the stream for the water is too fast and deep”. The older of the 2 monks carried her across the stream on his back and deposited her on the other side. As the two monks continued walking together, the younger one became very agitated. Over the next few hours his upset increased until he blurted out, “how could you carry that woman across the stream? We have taken a vow of chastity. Yet you had her climb onto your back”. The older monk replied, “I dropped her onto the bank of the stream hours ago. You’re still carrying her”.
We all face upsets and challenges in life. They are unavoidable. The deeper question is how quickly are we willing to let go of these events? We can be like the older monk who was totally in the moment. When he finished carrying the women he moved onto the next life event. Or we can be like the younger monk who continued to “carry” the woman long after she had been dropped off.
Personal Reflection: Which of the 2 monks do I most resemble?
You often encounter people that are not happy with their lot. Upon questioning, you find that their perennial dissatisfaction is totally focused on the behavior of others. They are wont to say, “if only that person had behaved differently then I would be so much happier”. These people are under the mistaken belief that their happiness is dependent on the actions of others. As a result they spend a lot of time attempting to control others. To their dismay they find that most people do not like to be controlled. Even when they find a compliant person, they discover that happiness is not found.
Our happiness and satisfaction in life is not dependent on others. We have learned this thru practicing the principles of the program. There is little value in expending our energy attempting to mold another’s behavior with the expectation that this will make us happy. Our time is far better spent on learning to detach from our expectations and desire for control. When we let go of our desire for control, we begin to find that things that upset us in the past now just roll off our backs. Through detachment we approach the serenity of acceptance
Personal Reflection: What area in my life do I need to practice detachment?