In Buddhism there is a practice called “Bodhicitta,” that is essentially the desire and attempt to bring happiness and relieve the suffering of others as much as possible. Although that sounds like codependency, it really isn’t. Codependency involves the attempt to move an unwilling person in the direction we think they ought to go. Whether we are right or wrong, it is up to individuals to change themselves; we can’t do it for them.
Bodhicitta, in comparison, is more aligned with compassion, a response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help. That’s the sort of feeling that is hopefully engendered when we get into recovery.
Addiction is a dark, lonely place. As it progresses, we become single-minded about pursuing the object of our compulsion, whether it’s a chemical, a person or an addictive behavior. This causes us to retreat from others — first from those who don’t see eye-to-eye with our pursuits, and eventually from pretty much everyone and everything not connected to our addiction. It turns us into reclusive, evasive liars, and deep down we know it. Practically every newcomer to the rooms is coming from this place of isolation and loneliness, lacking trust in others, and convinced that if we learn the sort of person they really are, we’ll reject them.
In recovery we become supports, sponsors, and friends to these folks, but most of all we are examples. We show them, simply by being sober, that freedom from their misery is possible. We tell stories that they can relate to. We listen to their stories, and are there for them when their head monsters start dragging them around by their thoughts. We joke and laugh about the unskillful things that we did in our active addictions. We have learned to accept ourselves, and it shows. That’s a beacon in the darkness of the soul for “those who still suffer.”
In the fellowships, helping others consists of learning and sharing what we’ve learned. We demonstrate by the way we live that we have sobriety — what a Buddhist would call patience, morality, generosity, enthusiasm, concentration and wisdom. We don’t need any special skills, apart from a genuine desire to be good examples and help others. All we have to do is pay attention, and truly practice the principles in all our affairs. That’s Bodhicitta, or compassion, if you will — One Day At A Time.