CODA – Co-Dependents Anonymous is a 12-step support group program for people who want to grow functional and healthy relationships. CODA was established in 1986 in Phoenix, AZ by Ken and Mary, who were long time members of AA. CODA meetings are now active in more than 40 countries around the world, and have roughly 1,200 active groups in the US. Co-Dependents Anonymous was formed to help folks who grew up in all forms of dysfunctional families, not just those concerning alcoholism or drug abuse.
Some of the typical characteristics of a person suffering with co-dependence may include:
- They are not conscious of how they feel
- They usually have trouble identifying their feelings.
- They have difficulty in expressing their feelings.
- They tend to minimize, alter or even reject the truth about how they feel.
- They give control over their own personal feelings to others.
Also, codependents generally:
- Are not aware of what they really want.
- Have difficulty in asking for what they really want.
- Are more concerned with what others want.
- Find it easier to ask what others want.
- Tend to put other people’s wants and needs before their own.
- Look to other peoples wants or desires in determining what to do or say.
It’s generally understood that we become codependent by living in dysfunctional families with rules that prevent personal development to some degree. The system is usually created by parents and relatives in response to some problem such as alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness or some other secret or problem. The dysfunctional system establishes rules that prevent healthy relationships and personal development emotionally and spiritually. Some of these general rules may include:
- It’s not okay to talk about problems
- Feelings should not be expressed openly; keep feelings to yourself
- Communication is best if indirect
- Be strong, good, right, perfect
- Make us proud beyond realistic expectations
- Don’t be selfish
- Do as I say not as I do
- It’s not okay to play or be playful
- Don’t rock the boat.
Many families have one or more of these rules in place within the family. These kinds of rules can constrict and strain the free and healthy development of people’s self-esteem, and coping skills. As a result, children can develop dysfunctional behavior patterns, have problems solving challenges, and react to situations in adult life inappropriately. If not treated they will go on to repeat the cycle as adults.
CODA has one book approved for use as set literature in the organization, entitled Co-Dependents Anonymous. In addition, there are several CODA-endorsed pamphlets and booklets including a workbook and a book of daily meditations.
There are several different types of CODA meetings and some of them include:
Speaker Meetings: This type of meeting features an individual story of recovery shared by one person. Speakers share their personal experience, strength, and hope in the program. The meeting may or may not include open sharing after the speaker, depending on the length of story shared.
Open Share Meetings: This type of meeting often has no topic or individual speaker, giving members an opportunity to share their experience, strength, and hope on their recovery as they wish.
Topic Share Meetings: This type of meeting opens with the facilitator or a member of the group suggesting a specific topic, i.e., the Steps, setting boundaries, sponsorship, etc. The facilitator will usually begin the sharing.
Step or Tradition Study Meetings: In this style of meeting, the group uses the Conference Endorsed CODA literature and or the CODA Book as a foundation for study, discussion, or sharing related to CODA’s Steps and or Traditions. For example: the group may elect to read a portion of this material out loud and then have an open sharing session.
If you or someone you know is suffering from codependency you can be encouraged because there is help available. There are many CODA meetings whose members have traveled a similar path ahead of you and while each person’s painful experience is unique, sharing in the pain and successes can be a tremendous healer. Even if you are not ready to share yet, you may find that outside support will be helpful later.
To find a CODA meeting in your area visit the CODA.org Meetings Page.