Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) – 12 Step Program

What is Co-Dependents Anonymous?

Co-Dependents Anonymous is a 12-step program that was created for individuals who struggle with codependency. Although codependency is defined as excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, it doesn’t necessarily limit relationships with partners or spouses. Codependency can result from individuals dealing with addiction in families or dysfunctional families. Some members struggle with codependency that stems from their childhood, causing them to be incapable of forming healthy relationships throughout their entire lives.

For some members, along with forming unhealthy relationships, using other sources to cope with codependency were problems as well, including drugs or alcohol. Using others as a source of value or to try and heal from emotional trauma in childhood can also be considered codependency. Regardless of when or why the problem began, Co-Dependents Anonymous focuses on giving members tools and methods to begin living happier lives without being codependent. The only requirement for membership is the desire for healthy and loving relationships.

When did CoDA start?

The fellowship Co-Dependents Anonymous began in 1986 in Arizona. In the first year, it had over 100 meetings. Now the program is available worldwide in 60 countries. The first CoDA National Service Conference was held in 1987. In 1991, Charles Whitfield developed a checklist that was adapted from the Co-Dependents Anonymous checklist “What is Codependency?” and is used to help identify characteristics of codependents for newcomers.

How is Co-Dependents Anonymous helpful?

One of the goals of the fellowship is to help free members from the emotional bonds of the past. Because this is so important in the process of recovery, the program offers many tools that will help individuals who are struggling with forming and maintaining healthy and loving relationships. Members are reminded that because this can be such a sensitive issue to begin working on, it is a process – it does not happen overnight.

Working the 12 steps of the program is going to help members begin living improved lifestyles that are no longer self-defeating. Although the 12 steps are the same for every member, it’s important to work them at an appropriate pace. While some members go through the steps quickly, others can move slower. Getting a sponsor in the program can help members understand the fellowship and what it has to offer, provide a source of support and encouragement, and assist in working the steps through the recovery process.

One of the reasons Co-Dependents Anonymous is so effective is because it provides a place for individuals to meet with others who suffer from the same problems and experiences, despite their minor differences. Giving members a place to share their own experiences, strength and hope is not only helping the individual in recovery, but it shows others that they can overcome these issues and there is hope for a solution. For new members, obtaining a copy of “Co-Dependents Anonymous” can help show some of the stories other members have to share, as well as more insight into the program.

What happens in Co-Dependents Anonymous meetings?

Like other 12-step programs, the meetings follow the same format. The 12 steps and 12 traditions are generally read, as well as the introduction for newcomers, the Preamble and a welcome which talks a little bit more about codependency. For newcomers, a list may go around the room to collect names and phone numbers from existing members. This is a way to build a support group of contacts that are able to be reached for questions, concerns or asking advice.

Members are not required to speak or share their stories; it is simply an option and most newcomers are encouraged to listen to others so that they can understand what the program is about, how it works and how it can help. Everyone in attendance has been there for their first meeting at least once, so nothing is expected of any member but the desire to show up. Although the fellowship of Co-Dependents Anonymous does mention God often, it is not a religious program, it is a spiritual one. It is up to each member to find how their spirituality can work for them in deciding what they want to call a Higher Power.

Although it is up to each individual to decide if the program is right for them, members are generally encouraged to attend at least six meetings before making a decision. This can give them more background and information on the fellowship, as well as allow them to listen to different kinds of experiences and solutions that might be helpful to them. Some other important things for members to know:

Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) FAQs

Is Co-Dependents Anonymous free?

Co-Dependents Anonymous requires no dues or fees for membership. The only requirement for membership is the desire for healthy and loving relationships. Because the program is self-supporting through their own contributions, they decline outside contributions and allow members of the program to contribute when they can. If a member is unable to contribute to a basket that is passed around the room during meetings, there is no judgement or question. Everyone is able to do what they can, when they can.

How can I start a Co-Dependents Anonymous meeting?

A meeting handbook is available on the Co-Dependents Anonymous official website for individuals who are looking to start their own meetings. Because healthy service is shared, it is recommended that a group has already formed and decided how to split the work evenly when it comes to starting a meeting. Finding the right location and time can help guarantee members will attend. Once a meeting has been scheduled, it can be registered online to help others interested attend the meeting.

Are there online meetings?

Because of the uncertain times, it can be difficult to know if meetings are available face-to-face. A meeting directory is available on the official website, but it is best to call ahead in case of cancellations. For those unable to attend face-to-face meetings, online meetings are available at all times of the day, as well as phone meetings. Although it’s important to attend meetings as often as possible, things happen. For members who simply cannot attend a meeting, there are meetings in print available so that the content can be readily available at any time of the day and can be found here.

What are the 12 promises of CoDA?

Co-Dependents Anonymous is a 12-step program, so along with the 12 steps and 12 traditions, the program provides 12 promises that members can begin seeing fall into place as they begin making an honest effort to work the program.

1. I know a new sense of belonging. The feeling of emptiness and loneliness will disappear.
2. I am no longer controlled by my fears. I overcome my fears and act with courage, integrity and dignity.
3. I know a new freedom.
4. I release myself from worry, guilt, and regret about my past and present. I am aware enough not to repeat it.
5. I know a new love and acceptance of myself and others. I feel genuinely lovable, loving and loved.
6. I learn to see myself equal to others. My new and renewed relationships are all with equal partners.
7. I am capable of developing and maintaining healthy and loving relationships. The need to control and manipulate others will disappear as I learn to trust those who are trustworthy.
8. I learn that it is possible to mend – to become more loving, intimate and supportive. I have the choice of communicating with my family in a way which is safe for me and respectful of them.
9. I acknowledge that I am a unique and precious creation.
10. I no longer need to rely solely on others to provide my sense of worth.
12. I trust the guidance I receive from my higher power and come to believe in my own capabilities.
13. I gradually experience serenity, strength and spiritual growth in my daily life.