Sometimes I wish our program had a different name. So many people would benefit from CoDA, but because of our name they don't’ know they belong. The word codependency conjures up so many different meanings in people’s minds. Many people confuse this with addictive relationships. Other's think it is for people who get treated like a door map.
Co-Dependents Anonymous held it’s first meeting in Phoenix, AZ on October 22, 1986. Our third tradition states - “The only requirement for membership is a desire for healthy and loving relationships”.
The founders Ken and Mary R., a married couple who were active in other 12 Step programs and were also in the field of addiction recovery, were successfully finding recovering from their own codependent behaviors through working the 12 steps. They were also treating patients whom were delving into their childhood memories as a way to prevent relapse and to break the denial of their own codependent behavior.
They were finding a new freedom from a self-defeating lifestyle by looking deeper into their childhoods and the trauma they experienced. They were encouraging other addicts and alcoholics to do the same. There were no 12 step meetings whose identification with each other was that of talking about the emotions losses of their childhoods and the compulsive control of their present poor relationships. Through inventory we began to see the origins of this control stemming from the messages that we received in childhood.
Most of us came into these rooms on a break up from a significant relationship. In our excruciating pain we “admitted ...that our lives had become unmanageable”. Some of us stay only long enough to get into the next relationship without working the steps. Those of us who stayed to do the work in CoDA, realized that “we were powerless” but over much more then others. We come to know the insanity of our shaming messages from our childhoods, that were all but invisible to us in the beginning. We become acutely aware of what drives our co-dependence, and renders us incapable of maintaining anything like a healthy and functional relationship.
CoDA has allowed me to address my arrogance, stop avoiding commitment, ask for what I need with containment. Has made me a much better parent and a better adult child to my own parents. This program has allowed me to weather my desire to relapse in my other addictions and I have learned how to feel all my feelings without calling myself weak or damaged. In short - CoDA has taught me how to really love myself and others just as we are - which has created harmony in my relationships throughout my life.
If you have difficulty with close relationships or difficulty knowing yourself and expressing your feelings you may want to try a meeting of Co-Dependents Anonymous and see if the shoe fits!
- Michelle E. - Active member of CoDA and AA since January 15,1987