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Posted July 5, 2013
New Book Advocates Using Twelve Steps to Heal from Divorce
When I first heard of Micki McWade’s book Getting Up, Getting Over, Getting On: A Twelve Step Guide to Divorce Recovery, my first thought was, “Of course the Twelve Steps would help people cope with divorce. Why didn’t anyone think of this before?” That thought comes not because I’ve ever dealt with divorce—I admit to never having been married—but because I know from personal experience how powerful the Twelve Steps are, having worked through them myself for workaholism, and knowing many people who have benefitted from them in programs like AA and Al-Anon. So even though I have never gone through divorce, I know the stress, anxiety, and loss that people undergo that the Twelve Steps help people with, and I can affirm that this book will be a great help to countless people in learning how to deal with the losses experienced by divorce.
Micki McWade herself first decided to apply the Twelve Steps (originating in Alcoholics Anonymous and used with slight modification by many other Twelve Step groups today including Gamblers Anonymous, Codependents Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, and countless others) because she was familiar with the Steps from Al-Anon, and her knowledge of them helped her to get through her own divorce. She explains the Steps’ relevance to divorce by stating that they help people to cope with loss—alcoholics undergo the loss of alcohol in their lives; for me, I had to let go of the adrenaline rush of overworking in my life—and for divorced people, it is the loss of a spouse and everything else associated with that situation, which might include a loss of friends, one’s in-laws, financial losses, the loss of one’s home, etc. The situations are very similar and anyone familiar with the Twelve Steps will automatically start to make the connections for how the Twelve Steps can help someone undergoing a divorce.
For those not familiar with the Twelve Steps, information and the list of the Steps themselves is readily available so I need not detail them here. McWade walks the reader through each of the Twelve Steps, explaining what the Step means and how to apply it to one’s life when undergoing a divorce. She believes two main things are needed to work this program—the Steps themselves and a support group based on the Steps.
The first several chapters of the book discuss divorce and go in-depth on the Twelve Steps. The latter part of the book discusses how to set up a support group, how to lead the group, attract members, and the elements of Twelve Step groups that make them work such as confidentiality, no crosstalk, no judging of others, and no dating within the group. McWade goes into detail on all of these elements. That she herself started a Twelve Step group based on the Steps and uses it as her source material to explain how and why this process works makes the book invaluable. Like The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and the other Twelve Step groups’ books, this book also includes the stories of many people, using their first names only, of how this program helped them. These stories will resonate with the reader, giving hope, and helping him or her to realize there are others going through the same issues. Groups are incredibly important for us to feel we are not alone; they don’t offer quick fixes, but rather, they allow us to have witnesses that authenticate our experiences; I know for many they have been lifesavers. As McWade points out, for every five years of marriage, it generally takes a year to recover from divorce; a group can provide longtime stability for people going through the divorce process and its accompanying stages of grief and other issues.
Some of the points that most resonated with me in this book were in the sections about how the Twelve Steps apply to divorce. McWade discusses how it is inherent in human nature to want to control things and how we have to let go of that need to control. We have to admit that our lives are unmanageable in the First Step and then let go of the need to control and turn our life and will over to God, which is Step Three. Of course, McWade realizes the idea of God does not appeal to everyone, so she discusses the concept of a Higher Power and spirituality in ways that will make people okay with the term, as well as let it be okay not to be okay with it. Perhaps best of all, however, is that McWade discusses how divorce can be the gateway to a wonderful new life. It is not uncommon for people who attend Twelve Step groups to be welcomed with words such as, “Congratulations on beginning your journey.” That is what using this Twelve Step Divorce program will do for many—start people on a journey of healing from the past, but also one of creativity, growth, and being open to all the possibilities that yet await them in life.
Finally, the book is easy to read and is written by someone who knows what the reader is going through in a divorce. McWade mentions Melody Beattie’s wonderful book The Language of Letting Go, and I can say I have read all of Melody Beattie’s books and I was struck by how McWade wrote in the same gentle, honest style. Reading her book was like talking to a friend who listens and makes you feel you are not alone. She doesn’t pretend to have all the answers or tell us how to do anything; she just presents the material with the option for the reader to gain from it. Her voice and message are authentic, and I greatly appreciate that.
I have absolutely no doubt that Getting Up, Getting Over, Getting On is going to help countless individuals and their families to heal from divorce. It astounds me that no one thought of applying the Twelve Steps to divorce before. I know I will recommend this book to several people, and I am sure that within a few years, Twelve Step Divorce groups will be common across the country just like other Twelve Steps are. Please, if you are going through a divorce, read this book, and congratulations on starting your journey toward the gateway of possibilities that awaits you.
Posted October 28, 2003