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Co-Dependents Anonymous 12-Step Recovery Program

Medically reviewed by

David Hunter, MA.Ed, LPC

January 23, 2019

Codependence is a condition which has been progressively recognized in recent years and is increasingly seen in recovery treatments. Though there is no hard definition, simply put, codependency is when a person puts the needs of others around them, before themselves, in a way that becomes not only detrimental to their wellbeing but typically to those around them.

Traditionally, codependency arose from dialogues pertaining to addiction, specifically, the mannerisms and negative patterns, and at times enabling behaviors, that occurred between an addicted individual and their loved ones. Now, however, it is recognized that codependency can affect anyone, regardless of an affiliation to a drug or alcohol addiction. Despite this, codependency and addiction are often co-occurring disorders.

Though many people may struggle with the effects of codependency, you can free yourself from its bonds by taking careful and mindful steps towards recovery.

Patterns And Signs Of Codependency

Who, then, is in need of help for codependency? Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) asserts that the people most often searching for help for codependency are those who have recognized that codependence is a “deeply rooted compulsive behavior,” and that it is sometimes borne out of family functionality issues. Further, CoDA suggests that codependent persons may have used those close to them, such as family, spouses, or friends, to define their own identity and to feel any sort of value in life.

Co-Dependents Anonymous offers no single definition of codependency, and instead allows members seeking treatment to evaluate their feelings and personality characteristics, in order to better understand how codependency uniquely affects their lives. These signs are listed in five groups of patterns, including: denial, low self-esteem, compliance, control, and avoidance. For a full list of characteristics of each pattern, visit the CoDA website. Here are a few signs of each pattern:

  • Denial — difficulty identifying feelings; minimizing, altering, or denying feelings; labeling others with negative traits; or masking pain in numerous ways, such as anger, humor or isolation
  • Low self-esteem — difficulty making decisions, being embarrassed to receive recognition or praise, needing to seek validation from others, or looking to others for a feeling of safety
  • Compliance — staying in harmful situations for too long due to fierce loyalty, compromising personal values for fear of being rejected or making someone angry, or giving up truth to avoid change or to get approval
  • Control — believing people are incapable of taking care of others, attempting to convince others what to do or feel, using sexual attention in order to get approval or attention, or using blame or shame to control others at an emotional level
  • Avoidance — acting in ways that incite others to anger, rejection, or shame; judging others harshly, avoiding all types of intimacy to create distance, or believing displays of affection and emotion are signs of weakness.

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Recovery For Co-Dependents: A 12-Step Program

With so many characteristics present in the five patterns of codependence, knowing where to begin with treatment may seem discouraging. However, Co-Dependents Anonymous offers a 12-step, comprehensive recovery program. It focuses on not just surviving life, as codependents have previously learned to do, but instead on learning how to enjoy living life. Members of CoDA adhering to the 12 steps pledge to engage in the following Twelve Promises.

As paraphrased from CoDA’s website, they are:

  1. Knowing a new sense of belonging—upholding this promise will help me eliminate loneliness
  2. No longer letting fears control me—instead, overcoming fears and facing situations with courage, dignity, and integrity
  3. Knowing and enjoying a new freedom from codependency
  4. Letting go of bonds to past and present, such as worry and guilt, and being mindful not to repeat it
  5. Practicing love and acceptance of self and of others
  6. Practicing seeing myself as equal to others—in my new and future relationships
  7. Recognizing my capability to have and maintain healthy, functioning relationships
  8. Learning that I can change and mend, and choosing to communicate in a safe and healthy way with my family
  9. Understanding that I am a person of value in this world
  10. Realizing that I do not need to seek validation from others for my sense of worth
  11. Trusting in my higher power, and seeking guidance from it
  12. Experiencing (in time) serenity, strength, and spirituality every day

CoDA believes that in implementing the Twelve Promises, and creating new, healthier and positive patterns within their recovery, people can learn to benefit from the freedom of a codependent-free lifestyle.

How To Get Started In A Program

If you have decided to seek help with Co-Dependents Anonymous through their 12-step program, first you will need to find a meeting to attend. Through a search map on the website, you can easily find meetings closest to you, so that you can take advantage of this outreach and support.

Meetings entail a small group format, consisting of at least five people, and no more than 25. They are facilitated by a leader, and last about an hour to an hour and a half. At the beginning of meetings, members and new members introduce themselves, and may or may not share a bit about their experiences or struggles. Sometimes there are readings, which may include the Preamble, the Welcome, the Twelve Steps, or the Twelve Traditions.

The important thing to remember, especially for persons who are skeptical about seeking treatment, or for those who are uncomfortable sharing their personal stories, is that these meetings ensure a no-pressure environment. No one is required to speak or share, and all information shared within the group is confidential. Members explicitly understand not to discuss elsewhere what is shared within the group.

Additionally, Co-Dependents Anonymous emphasizes the fact that the program is spiritual, not religiously based. The part of the program which calls for members to recognize a higher power allows members to implement their own meaning and association for this higher power. Instead, CoDA asks that, “members keep an open mind about spiritual matters.” The higher power is referred to as “God,” however, members are encouraged to find their own identification for this source of spirituality, and the organization does acknowledge that some members work through the program with no profession or belief in God.

Meetings allow people to share their experiences, draw upon those of others, and to ask questions, within a safe and supportive environment. After each meeting, members may choose to pray, The Serenity Prayer being common at this time, and to sign up for other meetings. Beyond this, CoDA offers flexibility, ensuring that anyone that needs help, has access. If you can’t make a meeting in person, they offer what they term “Alternative Format Meetings,” meetings that take place over the phone or online.

Seeking Help For Codependency

If you have been silently struggling with issues you could not name, and find some of this information to be familiar, you are not alone. Though research varies on the exact number, codependency does affect a good number of people, and many have begun seeking help to free themselves from it. It may not be easy to admit you have a codependency issue, but the sooner you do, the sooner you may find help.

If you or a loved one are struggling with codependency, get help and contact us today. We want to listen to your struggles, and to help you find the appropriate treatment to help you enjoy a more balanced and fulfilling life. If you have any questions about substance abuse or addiction, we can help you find more information on these subjects as well.

CoDependents Anonymous (CoDA) - The Welcome of Co-Dependents Anonymous

CoDependents Anonymous (CoDA) - The Twelve Promises of Co-Dependents Anonymous

CoDependents Anonymous (CoDA) - Recovery Patterns of Codependence

CoDependents Anonymous (CoDA) - Patterns and Characteristics of Codependence

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