12 Step Codependency
12- Twelve Steps of Codependency
One of the most effective and proven ways to recover from codependency is to work the 12 Step of the Fellowship of Codependents Anonymous. These Steps not only provide the principles and the tools to recover from codependency on a daily basis, but offer suggestions on how to live an authentic and fulfilling life. This article provides an overview of the 12 Step codependency based on the 12 Step of Codependents Anonymous, summarizing Steps 1 and 2 in order to familiarize you with the nature of the problem and the solution to how to recover from it.
- 12 Step of Codependents Anonymous
- Foundation of recovery – Steps 1 & 2
12 Step of Codependents Anonymous
The 12 Step of Codependents Anonymous, reprinted from the website www.CoDA.org, spell out that Fellowship’s program of recovery. Please bear in mind, though, that Codependents Anonymous (CoDA) has neither reviewed nor approved the contents or views expressed here.
1. We admitted we were powerless over others – that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understood God.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other Codependents, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Foundations of recovery – Steps 1 & 2
The first two Steps in all 12 Step programs are known as the foundation Steps. Step 1 introduces the addict to the nature of his or her problem and Step 2 offers the solution on how to recover from it. The remaining Steps, namely Steps 3 to 12, are suggestions for actions that pave the way towards recovery and its maintenance on a daily basis. Apart from Step 1, which specifies particular addictions like drugs, alcohol or compulsive behaviors, the remaining Steps are the same in all 12 Step programs. This is because these programs address the root causes of addiction, which is our abnormal way of thinking, our obsession with particular drugs, behaviors or people. Steps 1 and 2 are designed to help the addict break free of denial and come to an understanding of the particular problem creating havoc in his or her life. Once this is accomplished, the path to recovery is the same regardless of the type addiction. These programs are based on the proposition that the real problem is the addict’s way of thinking, and distorted view of life and that the particular drug or behavior is only a symptom of the real problem.
Below is an overview of Steps 1 and 2 of Codependents Anonymous. This information will help familiarize you with the nature of your problem as described by this Fellowship, along with suggestions for recovering from it.
Step 1- Problem
“We admitted we were powerless over others – that our lives had become unmanageable.”
- Codependency is a complex type of addiction. It goes beyond a single type of substance or behavior such as alcohol, food, or sex. Rather, codependency encompasses the broad and varied world of our relationships with others. Furthermore, though many addicts resist admitting powerlessness over a substance or behavior, the actual concept of being addicted to a drug or a compulsive behavior is simple because they are tangible. But powerlessness over our relationships is a complex matter, one that manifests itself in many forms and facets. For instance, I can say I am powerless over crack, heroin, food or gambling. These are things and activities that are specific. But codependency shows itself in various ways in different people that can make it difficult to pinpoint a specific definition. At its heart codependency is about the view we have of ourselves and subsequently our relationships with others. Our lack of self worth and esteem leading us to depend on others in unhealthy ways that manifest itself in our controlling behaviors. As with any type of addiction, codependency is a problem each has to understand and accept on his or her own. It is up to the codependent to acknowledge how and in which ways their relationships have become dysfunctional and detrimental. As is the case with those suffering addiction to a substance, the codependent is more likely to admit they have a problem if the circumstances of their lives have become dire — if they have reached rock bottom. This is the condition of the codependent who has tried each and every way to control others only to find his or her life more unmanageable.
- As explained in Codependents Anonymous, the root of codependency is to be found in our upbringing in addicted or dysfunctional families, which causes us to lack self-esteem and an authentic identity. The result is we grow up with faulty beliefs about ourselves and others, which in turn affects the way we relate to the world. Our low self-worth leads us to see ourselves as less than, and others as superior. In response to this feeling of unworthiness, we devalue ourselves and undermine our integrity by relying on others to provide us with a sense of security and wellbeing. We become caretakers, people pleasers, martyrs or victims, all in the quest that others will take care of us and provide us with the love we don’t have for ourselves. Instead, though, we find ourselves in relationships that are dysfunctional or abusive.
- Once we become dependent on our relationships for our sense of wellbeing and worth, we abandon any efforts at taking care of our lives and ourselves. Believing other people are more worthy than us, their wellbeing takes precedence. We cater to them, while ignoring our own needs and wants. By making others our primary focus, we forget to take responsibility for the happiness and fulfillment of our own lives. The result is inevitable: over time our lives become unhappy and unmanageable. The unmanageability in our life takes many forms. We may end up emotionally drained or physically ill. Our low self worth issues may have led us into abusive or violent relationships. Our lack of interest in our own affaires, meanwhile, creates all sorts of financial and living problems. Finally, our intrusive actions into the lives of those around us puts us in constant conflict with people, with the result that all parties feel resentful and we wind up isolated. In short, our codependency has made our lives unmanageable.
- By working Step 1 of the Codependents Anonymous program, we slowly give ourselves permission to put the focus on ourselves and address our wants. We begin to let go of our dependence on the good opinion of others or our need to control them. The result is we discover a new freedom to live the life we want. Working Step1 enables us to begin to detach from others, and to become aware of our own power. We start to identify boundaries, limits, and what is our responsibility and what is not. While working Step 1, we begin to practice claiming responsibility for ourselves and letting others be responsible for their own lives. Step 1 is about facing our fears, meeting our needs, and setting boundaries to protect ourselves. Recovery from codependency is about leaving behind the victim role. When we accept our powerlessness over those around us, we become empowered to take care of ourselves. This helps us stand on our own two feet, taking ownership and responsibility of our lives. We are then able to live the authentic life we were meant to live. We start our recovery from codependency by working Step 1, and it is always there for us to return to, whenever we feel our codependent behaviors returning. All the Steps are a practice. We work our program one day at a time. Step 1 contains the words “we” and “our”, reminding us that we are not alone with this condition. There are many others who have gone through what you have gone through and experienced what you have experienced, and they are successfully working this program towards a solution and a new freedom.
Step 2 – Solution
“Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
- Step 1 explains the nature of our problem of codependency, asking us to confront the illusion that others have the power to make us feel worthy, to make us feel good about ourselves. Step 2 points us to the solution to our predicament, namely, that a God of our understanding can lift our obsession and put our distorted thinking back on the road to sanity. For reasons that likely have much to do with our upbringing, we have wasted years believing that if only we pleased others, then maybe they would treat us well and we could be happy. We have hung on to this illusion desperately, only to discover that all our people-pleasing and controlling ways have availed us nothing but heartache and hardship. Having reached this raw awakening, we feel angry and at a loss as to how to proceed. But Step 2 offers hope, for it proclaims that there is a way out of our codependency and misery.
- All 12 Step programs are based on the belief that the root of addiction is in the mind of the addict, in the baseless beliefs and insane way we think about people and things. Drug addicts turn to drugs to fill the hole they feel inside, to make themselves feel confident and able to cope with life. Meanwhile, their drug use is eating away at what little self-esteem or chance for real happiness they may have. A behavior addict has a similar delusional attitude. For example, gamblers may chase the dream of a big score, believing that prosperity and happiness are just another bet away. Reality, though, is financial desperation and a chaotic life – but that doesn’t stop them. A codependent’s distorted belief is that other people have the power to provide them with what they are missing, namely self-love and self-acceptance. Codependents depend on others for a sense of worth and identity, never understanding that each of us has the power to determine our quality of life – and that no one else can do it for us. Family members are often under the illusion that they have the power to stop a loved one’s addiction. Suffering from codependent traits, these members will go to dire lengths in pursuit of this unreachable goal, often resulting in their own lives becoming chaotic. Step 1 in all 12 Step programs asks people to confront the truth about their condition, namely their powerlessness over their addiction. Step 2 then offers a solution and a way to recover from it.
- Step 2 of the Codependents Anonymous program asks us to “come to believe” that a power greater than ourselves can restore to normality our distorted beliefs and ways of thinking. If we question whether we really need to be restored to sanity, we need only look at what we admitted to ourselves in Step 1. We should reflect on the consequences our addiction has had on our lives and see how our way of thinking has led us to some dark and miserable places. When we look at how we have related to the world, we will have to admit that we have not been very reasonable or sane in our behavior or the manner in which we have conducted our lives. But there is a way out of addiction — and the solution does not lie within us. We need a power greater than ourselves to restore our distorted beliefs back to reality. What the situation requires is a source of power that we can tap into that will overcome our deeply embedded belief that others are responsible for our happiness. But this is not something we can do ourselves, using willpower alone. Depending on our own resources, we’ve tried many ways to fix ourselves, and nothing has worked. We need to rely on an external source in order to recover, and that source is a God of our understanding.
- Step 2 is a process, a change in attitude that happens over time. As it says in the Step, we “came to believe”. Having relied exclusively on ourselves for so long, we may find it difficult to believe that anything other than our own efforts and willpower can be trusted. Putting faith in a power greater than ourselves may be particularly difficult, especially since some of us may be agnostics. And those of us who do believe in a God may long ago have become disenchanted with him or her, believing God has abandoned us. We have been abused or hurt for so long that the idea of putting our trust in anything or anyone may be daunting. In fact, though, Step 2 does not ask us to rely on others. This Step is more about starting to trust ourselves and to come to believe in a God of our own understanding. Some of us will be more ready than others to surrender to this process, to let go of our belief that we alone are in a position to deal with our problems. Those of us in the direst of circumstances may be ready to let go completely and allow God to restore us to sanity. Yet for most of us the process of believing in God takes time. We take small steps in faith, trusting a little at a time to hand over our life to a Higher Power. When we see the effectiveness of this approach, when we get results, we take courage to let go more. As we realize this is not a religious program but a spiritual one, we may completely change our definition of God. We are at liberty to define our own Higher Power. We can nourish our concept of God with whichever philosophy, religion or anything else that appeals to us.
- Being restored to sanity will mean different things for different people. It’s a notion that varies as we progress in our journey into recovery from codependency. For some of us, being restored to sanity will mean that we begin to look after ourselves first, as opposed to taking responsibility for an addicted loved one’s life. For others, sanity will take the form of attending to ourselves, looking after our own needs and wants, as opposed to expecting others to take care of us. The definition of sanity for some of us may be abandoning our victim stance, breaking free of negativity and hopelessness. Fundamentally, as far as our codependency is concerned, sanity means owning our power in relationships and learning how to avoid being controlled by others, no matter how well intentioned they may be. When we have taken responsibility for own lives, when we have acknowledged our true worth and value as human beings, and when we have stayed true to our own identity, then it can be said that we have been restored to sanity and are on our journey into recovery from codependency.
- For details of some of the Farsi speaking Codependent Anonymous meetings throughout the world, please refer to: Farsi Meetings
- Apart from Codependents Anonymous there are other fellowships that offer a program of recovery to people affected by other types of behavior addictions. For further information on various other behavior Fellowships, please refer to: Fellowships booklet, Behavior Fellowships