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One of the first tools taught in Al-Anon is detachment from the behaviors of the alcoholic. But there is much misunderstanding about this tool and how Al-Anon detachment works. Here we will explain what detachment is and the goals of the tool.

What is Al-Anon Detachment?

Al-Anon detachment means separating oneself from the effects of a loved one’s drinking problem. Al-Anon teaches family and friends of alcoholics they cannot control another person’s drinking habits. They cannot control another person’s behaviors of any kind.

Instead, one learns that the only behaviors one can change are one’s own behaviors. So instead of judging the alcoholic, people in Al-Anon learn to detach. They also learn to stop controlling the outcome of the alcoholic’s behaviors. They learn to allow the alcoholic to face the consequences of his or her actions.

Facing those consequences may be difficult for everyone involved. The alcoholic may lose a job or license to drive causing discomfort for the rest of the family. Or the alcoholic may have to face criminal charges if he or she continually gets into trouble with the law.

Is Physical Detachment Required in Al-Anon?

Physical detachment, or leaving the relationship is not promoted unless a person is in physical danger or being abused in any way. Detachment is a tool to create healthy boundaries in a difficult relationship. Al-Anon detachment teaches family and friends of the alcoholic to focus on their own behaviors instead of the behaviors of the alcoholic. By focusing on things on can change, one will feel hopeful again.

What Are the Goals of Al-Anon Detachment?

Al-Anon detachment is not judgmental, unkind, or condemning. It is merely a means to look at situations objectively and realistically. In Al-Anon, we learn that we are not responsible for another person’s disease. We also learn to focus on ourselves and stop obsessing over another person’s actions. By focusing on ourselves, we learn to live a healthier, more manageable life.

Part of living a healthier life is learning to love the alcoholic despite his or her behavior. To do this, we must learn to not do certain things.


  • Not to suffer because of the actions or reactions of other people,
  • Not to allow ourselves to be used or abused by others in the interest of another’s recovery,
  • Not to do for others what they can do for themselves,
  • Not to manipulate situations so others will eat, go to bed, get up, pay bills, not drink, or behave as we see fit,
  • Not to cover up for another’s mistakes or misdeeds,
  • Not to create a crisis,
  • Not to prevent a crisis if it is in the natural course of events.

Do You Want to Learn More About Al-Anon Detachment?

If you have an alcoholic in your life and would like to learn more about Al-Anon detachment, visit Al-Anon’s website or attend a meeting. Al-Anon will teach you many tools to bring peace back into your life without trying to change the addictive behaviors of another person.

If you would like more information on planning an intervention for a loved one struggling with alcoholism, call Northlake Recovery at (561)-770-6616. Addiction specialists will connect you with a professional intervention specialist who can answer your questions and meet with the alcoholic. Call Northlake Recovery today.

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