A 12-Step Program for Strong Black Women

If this were a 12-step meeting for StrongBlackWomen, I’d be saying, “Hi, my name is Chanequa and I’m a StrongBlackWoman. I have been in recovery for almost eight years now. But at most, I’ve probably only accrued a few days of being clean at once. I relapse constantly, maybe even daily. I don’t know if I’ll ever break free of this thing. But I’m here. And just for today, I will make at least one decision in favor of my physical, spiritual, emotional, and relational health. Just for today, I will try to let go of my need for control, to become aware of when I need help, and to ask for help when I need it. Just for today, I give myself permission to cry when I’m sad, to scream when I’m frustrated, to smile and laugh when I’m happy, and to dance like I’ve got wings when the Spirit moves me. Just for today, I will reject the mandate to be a StrongBlackWoman. Just for today, I will simply be.”

Being a StrongBlackWoman is an addiction, a force of habit ingrained in many of us from childhood. Moreover, it is reinforced by our families, friends, co-workers, and churches – all those people who praise our strength and continuous self-sacrifice. And it’s especially lauded and reinforced by those who benefit from our caretaking. Our healing, then, is not a one-time event, but rather a lifelong process. It seems appropriate, then, to develop a 12-step program for StrongBlackWomen. Here’s my first attempt:

1. We admit that we are powerless over our compulsion to be strong — that our physical, spiritual, emotional, and relational health are suffering.

2. We acknowledge that we are not divine, that there is a Power greater than ourselves who can restore us to right relationship with ourselves and others.

3. We make a decision to turn our will and our lives, and those of the people we care for, over to the care and protection of the Divine.

4. We practice self-awareness, making a searching inventory of ourselves and our relationships.

5. We admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our compulsions and the traumas and fears that drive them.

6. We are ready to have the Holy One heal us.

7. We humbly ask the Almighty to remove our need for control and to nurture in us a commitment to self-care.

8. We make a list of all persons we have harmed and continue to harm through our excessive caretaking, and we become willing to make amends to them all.

9. We make direct amends to such people wherever possible by allowing them to assume responsibility for their own lives.

10. We continue to practice self-awareness and when we relapse, we promptly admit and correct it.

11. We seek through prayer, meditation, and journaling to nurture our connection with the Divine, praying for knowledge of Her will for our lives and for faith in Her protection and care.

12. We try to carry this message to the strong Black women in our lives and to embody these principles as an example to them and to the generations that follow us.

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