Anyone who has spent any time in 12 step addiction recovery meetings has at least heard a version of the term: “let go.” The actual meaning of this term can depend on either the speaker or the listener. To some, the act of letting go involves withholding affection. To others, letting go means looking the other way. Neither of these extremes has a positive effect. True letting go involves a process of clarifying priorities, learning how to respond, and expressing love positively.
The Myth Of Tough Love
Love is not always pleasant. Sometimes the act of love means taking actions the other person doesn’t like. Bishop Robert Barron says love is “truly wanting what is best for another person and then concretely doing something about it.” When a parent or loved one of an active addict or alcoholic finally says without equivocation: “We cannot continue to live this way”and offers the user a choice between getting help or leaving home they have demonstrated love and begun the process of letting go. A loving act like this is reinforced when a clear plan is laid out and followed through with. Sometimes when people try to act on tough love they do so from a place of anger and resentment. When “tough love” comes from an emotionally charged perspective, the person who needs help may only feel the animosity.
Feelings vs. Reality
The Carl Buehner quote: “They may forget what you said-but they will never forget how you made them feel” is helpful to remember when communicating with an addict. The ultimate goal is to help facilitate recovery. Addiction is a disease. Although a drug abuser can, and should, learn from consequences, he or she needs to know that help is available. Sometimes the person in need of help has a difficult time asking for it. Letting go without love can leave a person feeling lost and abandoned. Remember when letting go to do so with a spirit of love and compassion.