Karen Casey, winner of a 2007 Johnson Institute America Honors Recovery Award, is a sought-after speaker at recovery and spirituality conferences throughout the country. She has written 19 books including All We Have Is All We Need: Daily Steps Toward a Peaceful Life and It's Up To You: A Practice to Change Your Life by Changing Your Mind. In this helpful and healing paperback, Casey explores the problem of codependency, which is when we "spend our entire life letting the actions or words or mere glances of others trigger my behavior, feelings, my attitude, my self-assessment, and thus my plan for each day, as well as my imagined future." An antidote to this powerlessness is detachment which she defines as "the ability to care deeply about a situation or another person from an objective point of view. We are able to care but not be controlled by or invested in how another person responds to us."

Casey uses the stories of people caught in the pain of enmeshment to illustrate how to get out of that trap and taste freedom. The Twelve Step programs of Al-Anon and AA have been of great help in her 35 years of recovery. The art of stepping back or detaching from a person, place, or thing is not a simple process. When one is addicted to approval, it is hard to break the habit. Equally difficult is getting off the "brain train" of trying to analyze and control every event and outcome. The power of detachment enables us to set our own priorities and find our own inner strength instead of being so reactive.

There are plenty of men and women in Al-Anon and AA who model the liberation that comes when we stop comparing our lives to others or judging them. One special tool is the use of slogans such as "live and let live," which can serve as a shorthand for the practice of detachment. This all sounds like the Buddhist spiritual practice of equanimity, which emphasizes the same refusal to get too attached to people or ideas. Being able to lay down the burden of partiality is a good thing.