Codependent Forevermore: The Invention of Self in a Twelve Step Group

Hardback
In the same week that his father died, Alex came home to find his live-in fiancee in bed with another man. Paul is a divorced single parent who was recently forced to go on disability. Liz left an abusive husband and then found herself involved with yet another controlling man. These three, along with many others, have found a kind of salvation in Codependents Anonymous. The text asks whether this is self-indulgent psychobabble or legitimate therapy?; are Twelve Step groups helpful communities or disguised addictions?; and what exactly is codependency, the psychological condition that has apparently swept the United States? Leslie Irvine went inside CoDA to find out. The book is thus an insider's look at the world of people in recovery and the society that produced them. Through interviews with CoDA members, case studies and the meetings she attended regularly, Irvine develops a perspective on contemporary Americans' sense of self. She explores the idea that selfhood is a narrative accomplishment, achieved by people telling stories to themselves and about themselves. She shows how Alex, Paul, Liz and many others create a sense of self by combining elements of autobiography, culture and social structure all within the adopted language of psycho-spirituality. By following the progress and tribulations of CoDA members, Irvine seeks to get to the heart of widespread American conceptions of relationships, selfhood and community. Amidst the increasingly shrill criticism of the Twelve Step ethos, her analysis of these groups reveals the sources of both their power and their popularity.