Friday, July 27, 2012

Expanding the Circle of Care

by Miki Kashtan

Q: What is the ultimate in codependence? A: You’re drowning, and somebody else’s life is flashing in front of you. So runs a joke that captures something fundamental about so many people’s difficulties in putting their own life, needs, and well-being at the center of their attention.

At some point in my life in the early nineties, someone suggested to me that I might want to consider the possibility that I was codependent myself. Because some people very close to me were getting tremendous benefit from other 12-step programs, I decided to check it out. Knowing that I was likely to be skeptical and not see benefit, I decided, before even attending the first meeting, that, regardless of how I felt about it, I would attend one weekly meeting for two months straight before evaluating. At the end of the two months, I left the group. The choice to dedicate these weeks to that group was nonetheless hugely beneficial to my learning. What I learned on the very personal level was that I didn’t see myself sharing many behavioral patterns with the members of the group. I could see their shared experiences, and they were different enough from mine that I didn’t see that I would benefit from staying. “Codependence” was simply not my issue. I appreciated the freedom I got through that.

I also came to understand, through being in that group, something about the power of 12-step programs to bring about miraculous change in people’s lives. From my own small experience then, as well as what I’ve heard from others over the years, I now see at least three factors that combine in that: a community that people can truly feel at home in; a degree of acceptance of human fallibility that makes room for everyone, regardless of where they are on their path; and a commitment to honesty and deep sharing that supports truth and learning. I was and am in awe of what these groups can offer people who are isolated and in deep need of transformation.