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  • Sarah Kingwell

Detachment, addiction and freedom.

What does it mean to experience detachment? When you first see the word do you, like myself, think about feeling detached from something, as if you did not care as much? How can we free ourselves from attachment and live freely with detachment? How can detachment relate to addiction?


In some ways we all experience some form of attachment, or addiction, as I have spoken about in previous blogs I have shared my relationship with alcohol and my journey of sobriety. Whether or not you have an addiction to drugs or alcohol, addiction can exist wherever we give energy to things that might not align with our true beliefs or desires. The definition of addiction ‘the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance or activity’, therefore perhaps we could see how addiction exists as a form of attachment to something, and our energy, and desires become attached to specific behaviors, objects and even people. Attachment is therefore a process that dominates our desires, and can lead to creating a state of addiction(1). So what is detachment?


“Detachment is experiencing our feelings without allowing them to control us……”


For me the first time I properly started to think about detachment was during my last therapy session, I had previous knowledge on attachment theory, and assumed that detachment related to feeling detached and lacking in passion or care for something. However I now have more of an understanding about how living with detachment means living freely, and how it actually enhances my passion and desires for things that align with my values and beliefs, rather than going against them. Finding the meaning of detachment in relation to addiction, gave me a sense of freedom with my choice of sobriety. Rather than feeling like I was resisting my desire, my attachment, for alcohol, I chose to find freedom in removing a desire, releasing my attachment, that contradicted my internal values and beliefs.


“...With detachment we can step back and look at things objectively. We can let go and accept what we cannot change. We detach ourselves from others' choices, knowing that their spiritual work is not ours to do….”


Aside from addiction, we can practice detachment in many areas of our lives, and this can be empowering. By practicing detachment, we can be kinder to ourselves, remove our self judgments and judgements we may have towards others. Again giving ourselves freedom, freedom from holding grudges, judging others choices that we may not agree with, and freedom to choose how we act rather than just simply reacting. The definition of detachment ‘the state of being objective or aloof’, ‘the action or process or detaching; separation’, both of these definitions elaborate on how detachment is a state of being, and action and is about separation. However the positive attributes of detachment are overlooked, even by myself, as it is a virtue that is a stepping stone in practicing self-development.


“...We can choose how we act rather than just reacting. We step away from harmful cravings. Detachment is a deep breath of peace and patience in response to unexpected anger….”



With detachment we can recognise how we feel, notice our thoughts and reactions, and then rather than reacting or collapsing into our emotions we are able to make the choice to not be ruled by either. With detachment you can experience your feelings without allowing these feelings to consume you, and with detachment you are free to choose how you act. It’s about using feeling and thinking together, so you can make healthy choices in how you want to respond(2).


“..We can listen without losing ourselves. With detachment, we see our mistakes honestly, make amends and start afresh. Detachment allows us to be in the world but not of it. It frees us to lead our lives with grace.”


The practice of detachment, for myself, comes first acceptance, acceptance of myself and how I feel. At times certain situations may arise, where I am left feeling strong emotional attachment, and the practice of detachment here comes with having awareness of these emotions, accepting that it is okay to feel this way, removing any judgment I have towards myself and not letting these feelings take control of me. Other times the practice of detachment comes from situations, experiences that others have, there was once a time where I would jump to give my opinion on what I believe to be right. However since practicing detachment as a tool for self-development, I have come to have more awareness about this internal desire, attachment, I have for being right. Thus the practice here of detachment is that I resist interfering with others beliefs, resisting imposing my own beliefs, and instead I listen to others in order to understand their perspective without judgement.


I am grateful for the gift of detachment, it brings me freedom, removes judgement, and brings awareness.


We are all on our own beautifully unique journey, there is no right or wrong, with detachment we can lead our own lives with freedom and as our soul chooses. (1) Gerald G.May, 1991, Addiction and grace, HarperCollins, San Francissco (2) Virtue of the Week: Detachment | St. Thomas Source (stthomassource.com)





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