Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Twelve Steps Help Caregivers Too

I was in a Twelve Step meeting yesterday and as I listened to how people apply the practice of the 12 steps to many parts of their lives like with their work, eating, kids, in-laws, money etc. I started thinking about how we can also apply the Twelve Steps to cancer and

If you’ve not been exposed to the original Twelve Steps that derive from Alcoholics Anonymous you can click on this link: 

I believe these steps of recovery can be applied to caring for someone with cancer.  As a long-time caregiver here is my interpretation:

1. We admitted we were powerless…powerless over Cancer, over illness, over some doctors. And note that it says “we”…have to let that “we” into caregiving. I know how hard that is.
2. Came to believe…yes we need to believe in something bigger than us and bigger than cancer. Maybe it’s God or a Higher Power or maybe its Grace or Nature or the Ocean…just bigger than me. (just don’t make the doctor your Higher Power )
3. Made a decision to turn it over…humility here..asking for help and surrender. Not giving up but surrendering that allows the universe to move and help us.
4. Made a searching and fearless inventory…what of my stuff is getting in the way? My resentment? Being a control freak? Anger I am ashamed to admit to? Don’t be afraid to name it.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being….this is the Support Group step. If you have felt it, said it or done it someone else has too. Reaching out to others, finding a safe place to say all of it.
6. Entirely ready to have …asking for spiritual help too. A pastor, chaplain, spiritual director, wise friend. Note: not a family member.
7. Humbly asked…again, the support group. “I don’t know what to do?” “I don’t think I can keep doing this.” “Has anyone ever had to…”
8. Willing to make amends…yes you will snap at people, gossip, bring up old crap, be mean to the person you care for, …comes with the territory. So does, “I’m sorry.” And “Bear with me.”
9. Made amends…Ditto
10. Continued to take personal inventory…in a safe place with safe people. Yes, again the support group. You don’t have time to NOT go to a support group.
11. Prayer and Meditation…yes, prayer and meditation. Every day. Even a little bit. “Please help me.” in the morning and “Thanks for getting us thru this day” at night.
12. Carry this message…even while you are in the worst of it you can help another caregiver. You can confirm their reality. You do this in waiting rooms, ICU centers and yes, in your support group.

Do these Twelve Steps click for you? Let’s keep this conversation going.

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