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Michaele offers women 16 steps to empowerment

Free course: Michaele Parfitt-Smith is offering a solution to women suffering from co-dependency (Photograph supplied)

For any woman in an emotionally destructive or abusive relationship, Michaele Parfitt-Smith is offering a solution.

She’s behind EmPower Me Bermuda, a free support group for females who suffer from co-dependency.

To guide them, Ms Parfitt-Smith will draw on the 13 years she was addicted to crack cocaine, and the 16 steps for discovery and empowerment laid out by Charlotte Kasl in her book, From Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12-Steps.

“It's really about women empowering themselves instead of relying on professionals because what I found is that being able to access mental healthcare is not an option for everybody,” she said.

“People are having to prioritise; choose between their personal care. Mental health is becoming expensive. The cost of living is becoming expensive.”

With some co-pays “as high as $90 per session” not everyone will be able to access care, Ms Parfitt-Smith said.

“What I found through my own experience is that it’s so important for people to be able to relate to one another.

“So, while talking with professionals is still very helpful, it's not the same as talking to another woman who has been through the same thing, someone who has been through what you're going through.

“And my experience is that I am someone that’s recovered from a 13 year crack cocaine addiction.”

It’s why she decided to include the teachings of Dr Kasl, a world renowned psychologist and author who died in 2021.

“[She is] somebody that's been through her own struggles and she created this book and these steps from her own experience and profession.

“[Moving Beyond the 12-Steps] focuses on any co-dependent behaviour. We're talking about addiction. Addiction in all forms – sexual addiction, materialistic addiction, people addiction, toxic relationships, substance abuse … It’s for people that are looking to evolve their mindset and really just find their own internal joy and wisdom and power.”

Ms Parfitt-Smith “made a conscious decision to turn [her] life around from drugs” and then followed Narcotics Anonymous’s 12-step programme.

“I changed my life around over the course of about eight years of ups and downs, of failing and retrying – what we would call a relapse.”

Charlotte Kasl’s 16 steps

1. We affirm we have the power to take charge of our lives and stop being dependent on substances, habits, or other people for our self-esteem and security.

2. We come to believe that God/the goddess/universe/great spirit/higher power awakens the healing wisdom within us when we open ourselves to that power.

3. We make a decision to become our authentic selves and trust in the healing power of the truth.

4. We examine our beliefs, addictions, and dependent behaviour in the context of living in a hierarchical, patriarchal culture.

5. We share with another person and the universe all those things inside us for which we feel shame and guilt.

6. We affirm and enjoy our strengths, talents, and creativity, striving not to hide these qualities to protect others’ egos.

7. We become willing to let go of shame, guilt, and any behaviour that keeps us from loving ourselves and others.

8. We make a list of people we have harmed and people who have harmed us, and take steps to clear out negative energy by making amends and sharing our grievances in a respectful way.

9. We express love and gratitude to others, and increasingly appreciate the wonder of life and the blessings we do have.

10. We continue to trust our reality and daily affirm that we see what we see, we know what we know, and we feel what we feel.

11. We promptly acknowledge our mistakes and make amends when appropriate, but we do not say we are sorry for things we have not done and we do not cover up, analyse, or take responsibility for the shortcomings of others.

12. We seek out situations, jobs, and people that affirm our intelligence, perceptions, and self-worth and avoid situations or people who are hurtful, harmful, or demeaning to us.

13. We take steps to heal our physical bodies, organise our lives, reduce stress, and have fun.

14. We seek to find our inward calling, and develop the will and wisdom to follow it.

15. We accept the ups and downs of life as natural events that can be used as lessons for our growth.

16. We grow in awareness that we are interrelated with all living things, and we contribute to restoring peace and balance on the planet.

On February 21 she will celebrate the tenth anniversary of that decision. In the period since she has “done a few courses” and plans to further her studies in the near future.

“That whole time, it's just been learning about addiction. I'm actually working on becoming an addictions counsellor and I’m very excited about that.

“One of the reasons why I started this support group is that I know there is a need in the community. There is such a great need for more resources for women when it comes to co-dependency.”

She believes it’s a unique offering which has an edge over traditional care.

“In Bermuda we constantly ask people for directions down the road they’ve never travelled before. I believe that all of my experience actually counts. I can relate to those people versus a professional who has the ‘training’ to deal with [them]. So I'm just as [good], just in a different [way].

“I do want people to recognise experience as part of that contribution to training because we constantly overlook that in Bermuda: ‘Oh, she's not a professional, she can't help me.’ It's not always being a professional that matters, it's the relatedness that helps people.”

Also known as a “relationship addiction”, co-dependency is described as “an emotional and behavioural condition that affects an individual's ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship”.

According to Ms Parfitt-Smith, it covers more than drug and alcohol abuse and affects many people living here.

“It’s a very diverse group. Alcohol and drugs is just a very small part of it; co-dependency runs deep in this island,” she said.

“You find people that are co-dependent on their children. Their children determine how their day will be every morning, depending on how their children's moods are. So we need to be more mindful and become more aware of how it runs in our society and our lives.”

Ms Parfitt-Smith believes it is the community’s responsibility to create “more support groups for different areas”.

“I'm doing this all by myself. It's a passion of mine. I feel like this is what I'm called to do so I'm stepping into my purpose, fully.

“[The problem is] there is a lack of resources all over for women so we should start looking into helping ourselves versus relying on government or other outside entities because it just doesn't seem to be happening.”

EmPower Me Bermuda meets every Tuesday from 6pm to 7pm at the Women’s Resource Centre. For more information e-mail hopefitnessbda@gmail.com. Follow empowerme_bermuda on Instagram

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Published May 01, 2023 at 7:39 am (Updated May 01, 2023 at 7:39 am)

Michaele offers women 16 steps to empowerment

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