I went to my first Al-Anon meeting this week. It had never occurred to me to go to something like that before. I’ve dated alcoholics and drug addicts before, but they don’t seem to be a conspicuous part of my life at the moment, so why would I even think of Al-Anon?
But then I was talking to a friend about a recent failed relationship, and about my proclivity for wanting to fix people and save them and help them and cure them, and she said, you’ve got to come to a meeting with me.
I went more out of curiosity than an actual belief that it could help me. I was curious to see what one of these meetings would be like. I had a guide willing to shepherd me through the process, it was near my house and a women’s only group. It sounded ideal, so why not?
To my shock, it blew me away. The intimacy and the candor of the group moved me, as well as hearing story after story which, even if superficially different than mine, all had echoes of my own experience. I realized that I do date an awful lot of addicts, even if they aren’t alcoholics.
But what blew me away the most was one simple sentence read aloud from one of the Al-Anon readers: “Detachment is a gift you give yourself.”
I heard that, and it was as if everything else went silent. I wrote it down in my phone, as if there was a chance in hell that I’d forget it. Since that meeting, I say it to myself multiple times a day.
Detachment is a gift you give yourself.
Other people’s problems are not mine to fix.
Other people’s addictions are not mine to solve.
Other people’s families are not mine to worry about.
Worrying about myself, taking care of myself, is not selfish. In fact, it is healthy. It is essential. It is necessary. And the clarity of that statement, the simplicity of it, moved me. Detachment is a gift, a breath of fresh air that I can bestow upon myself, an unmooring of ropes that have kept me tethered to figures from my past, figures from my past who linger in my present.
I spent a year helping an ex work through his emotional struggles. I spent months helping another ex through a separate set of struggles and epiphanies. I seem to be a therapeutic tour guide, getting my significant others into therapy and away from bad habits and towards good ones. I do this because it feels necessary to me, because it is habit, because it feels right and good.
But it’s not necessary.
And it’s not good — for me.
Now, with crystal clear clarity and delicious simplicity, I can see that. I can see, with its true liberating potential, that the only person I need to take care of right now is me.
Detachment is a gift I give myself.