Benefits & Potential Downsides of Attending CoDA

Approx 11 minute read

“Hello my name is George and I’m codependent.”

CoDA – Codependents Anonymous – is based on the widespread “12 Step” principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. There can be benefits but there are also significant dangers. Knowing them will help you chart a course that best helps you. The lessons also apply to other therapies and groups.

  • What happens at a CoDA meeting and how to find one
  • But does it help?
    • Six potential benefits from attending a CoDA Codependents Anonymous Group
    • Four potential dangers and how to avoid them

What Happens at a CoDA Meeting

There are different formats to meetings but the most common is called ‘open share’.

People are friendly and relaxed while everyone is gathering and setting up the room. But to avoid dissolving into chit chat, the meetings themselves are structured in a set format.

There is a definite start moment when a meeting begins, usually with the famous Serenity Prayer or a variant. So be on time or you might feel awkward coming in late, especially if it is a small group.

After a bit of explanation about how the meeting works, there is a round of introductions. People only use their first names as part of the principle of anonymity. As a newcomer, you might be invited to introduce yourself first but you don’t have to. Otherwise, the introductions will probably go round the circle. Instead of the famous “My name’s John and I’m an alcoholic” phrase you have seen in films, they might say “My name’s John and I’m [a] codependent.”

There is some reading out of the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions as a reminder. Some groups share the reading so a piece of paper might be passed round with the 12 Steps on. You might be invited to read a step off the list and the pass the paper on. Just follow everyone else’s lead.

If it is the most common ‘open sharing‘ format, everyone then is invited to say or ‘share’ what they are experiencing at the moment. You don’t have to share if you don’t want to. If you are a newcomer, though, members will probably make sure you have an opportunity to speak – and possibly extra time – if you do want to. When someone is sharing, everyone else stays silent and listens until the speaker signals they have finished or their time is up. Don’t offer any suggestions, ask questions, or refer to what anyone else has said when it is your turn. It is not a discussion. It is a chance to be heard.

After everyone who wants to share has spoken, things begin to wind up with thanks, donations towards the room hire, a final reading of the Serenity Prayer, and a few other things.

The atmosphere then relaxes back into feeling more social like at the beginning. But remember meetings are anonymous. Sharing is for its own sake, not to invite advice or discussion. It can be nice to be sociable, but resist bringing up something someone shared or to asking questions that might breach their anonymity like “What do you do?”

You may bump into other members around town. It is fine to say hello, but again, hold back from talking about the meeting or anything that came up unless you are sure it is OK.

How to Find a Meeting

You can find a meeting locator on CoDA’s website.

Groups are self organising, though, and most are not registered so you should also search online for CoDA or Codependents Anonymous in your area.

There are online groups. But people tend to write most when they are struggling so beware of getting dragged down by others. (See “You become like the people you spend time with” below.) Also, the beneficial effects of being heard, slowing down and so on are generally much weaker online.

But Does It Help?

Some people have had great success from the various 12 Step programs that have grown out of Alcoholics Anonymous. So it might be wonderful for you.

But they are often presented as the only solution along with an assumption that if it doesn’t work for you, that is your fault.

By understanding both the potential benefits and harms, you can maintain your autonomy and find the right path for you.

Potential Benefits

1 Making a start

Making a Start

Deciding you want to change is a huge step. CoDA provides a great opportunity to honour this. Even if you do nothing else, simply turning up means you are sending yourself a message “I’m not happy with this aspect of my life. I’ve made a decision and I’m doing something about it.” It signals a start.

2 Normalising – “Me too!”

Difficulties can make you feel alone. And, well, weird. Then you end up with two problems – your original one plus “Why am I such a freak / loser / lunatic?”

Hearing other people’s struggles helps you feel more normal. It can be therapeutic to know you are not alone. It gets your troubles out of your head and into objective reality.

3 Recognising

Like the fish that has no awareness of water, if you have done something all your life it can be easier to see it in others than to see it in yourself. Recognising clear, specific unhelpful behaviours, thoughts and feelings gives you something tangible you can work on.

4 Listening to learn

We learn through stories and other attendees’ stories will mirror your own so listening can help you indirectly absorb

  • insights from their reflections
  • warnings from when they have fallen down
  • encouragement from their successes

5 Soothing your story

Sharing your experience can be valuable but friends can find it hard to listen because they are too close and keen to offer advice. CoDA’s structured format allows you to simply be heard by a non-judgemental, accepting group of people. This can help you

  • Externalise your thoughts and so you can become more objective and reflective
  • Slow your thoughts down through speech instead letting them whiz ever faster round your head
  • Reassure your emotional brain that you are acceptable as a person
  • Remember to be compassionate towards yourself. (People tend to be much kinder to themselves out loud than they are in their heads!)

6 Keeping on it

Personal Trainer

Why do people book personal trainers when they could just exercise by themselves? Partly for the advice. But mainly to get focussed training time in the diary and make sure they put their good intentions into practice.

CoDA groups can help in the same way. Attending can remind you that it is important to you and be a time in your week to check in with yourself and review how it is going.

Potential Harms

But alongside possible benefits, what about the potential harm?

Twelve Step groups are incredibly popular and some people get great benefit but there is no evidence they are effective on average. The best research into CoDA’s 12 Step inspiration, Alcoholics Anonymous, puts its success rate at around 5-10%. An authoritative review of many studies between 1966 and 2005 and found ““No experimental studies unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of AA.”

Low average efficacy is not a reason to stay away, though. What matters is what is right for you, where you are right now. You might be one of people who get huge benefit.

But there are significant problems you need to be aware of to avoid unwittingly stumbling into difficulties.

1 You become like people you spend time with

People with overweight friends are much more likely to become overweight themselves. If you spend a lot of time with depressed people, you are more likely to feel depressed yourself.

The same goes here. The people in the room are there because they are experiencing similar difficulties to you. Sharing struggles can be helpful, but there is a risk of the blind leading the blind and unconsciously reinforcing each others’ unhelpful patterns and attitudes.

Instead As well as hearing others’ struggles, learn from people who are already good at boundaries and self management. The people who don’t go to CoDA. Observe what they do. Ask them for advice. Listen when they tell you.

2 It gives you a label

“Hi. I’m George and I am codependent.”

The boost of identifying a problem has a hidden downside. You slap a label on yourself as being someone with a problem or even worse someone who is a problem. It anchors your identity to the same problem you are trying to leave behind. Imagine smokers trying to stop smoking by constantly repeating “I am a smoker”!

Identity can change. Over time, even someone who identifies strongly as a smoker can come to genuinely see themselves as a non smoker.

The same goes for you. You may currently have a collection of behaviours and thinking that means you fit into the box of “codependent” but that is not who you are.

You can become more than a ‘recovering codependent’. You can become a self responsible, free, empowered person. You should be careful not to slip back into old habits and patterns. But you don’t have to be held back by what you were. Having worked through your bad habits, you can become more aware and more skilful in relationships than most.

Instead Your behaviours, thoughts and history are not you. You are bigger than that, more changeable than that. As you progress, you should be moving from a general label to becoming clearer and more specific. For example:

  • “I’m often too self critical”
  • “I tell myself I’m not as important as everyone else”
  • “I find it difficult to maintain boundaries”
  • “I tolerate too much before I say ‘no’”

A label “I am codependent” leaves you stuck. Breaking it into specific thoughts and behaviours gives you something you can work with. For example “I need to learn to calm my inner critic and get better at maintaining boundaries.”

As you fill your skills gaps, you can begin live into your new identity.

“Hi. I’m George and instead of continuing on autopilot like most people, I have taken some time to consciously develop healthy relationship habits.”

3 Taking it on faith

Twelve step programs are rooted in Christianity. You surrender to a power great than yourself. You seek to atone for your sins. Sharing works as a kind of group confession. There is nothing wrong with that if it helps you.

But like religious commandments, the steps are considered immutable and universal. The original steps and traditions were not created based on any evidence and are not reviewed in the light of new findings. Members often say “It works if you work it.” By implication, if it is not helping you, then that is your fault for not working it.

Instead Be your own judge. If you have always tended to put others first, people please, and not rock the boat, much of your progress is going to be about you taking charge, making decisions, and not blaming yourself if something is not right for you.

Experiment to see if attending a group helps you. If it doesn’t, that does not mean there is anything wrong with you any more than if a therapist or life coach were not right to you. It is your life. You get to decide what helps you and what doesn’t.

4 Shame

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Six of the twelve steps focus on things you have done wrong. Making amends where appropriate is a good thing. But as codependent patterns thrive on shame, low self esteem and excessive self criticism, doubling down on feeling bad about yourself is likely to make things worse.

Instead Don’t waste energy beating yourself up. Become your own ‘change coach’ and learn to nurture a supportive attitude towards yourself.

Six of the 12 Steps

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.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

You are captain of your ship

Steer Your Own Ship

Your journey is one of taking more responsibility and becoming more empowered.

Going to CoDA could give you a kick start. And regular attendance could remind you not to slip back into old habits. But the codependent label and belief you have to keep on attending meetings could hold you back in the longer term.

Start with the end in mind. Your aim is to be free. Seek help on the way, but make sure it is bringing you closer to what you want.

If you attend a CoDA meeting or see a therapist, remember help is not a ‘one size fits all’ thing. It is more a question of finding the right jigsaw pieces to fit your particular gaps. If something isn’t right for you, don’t be afraid to speak up. Use it as an opportunity to practice taking control and making your own decisions about what works for you.

54 thoughts on “Benefits & Potential Downsides of Attending CoDA”

  1. Very interesting I attend Al-Anon which is where my codependent thoughts are being addressed and I am a long time sober member in AA and realise that I have had unresolved codependent issues around my dad as I am an adult child.I read codependency literature in Al-Anon and a daily reader by Melody Beatie which helps . It’s difficult and lonely at times and my new sponsor in Al-Anon has helped me see this codependent thinking. I might well attend a meeting in my area I’m definitely not ruling out more recovery in this area I want peace of mind.

    • Sounds good, Karen. You’re changing a longstanding habit so it’s normal to find it difficult for a while. Be kind and supportive to yourself while you’re learning.

      • Super helpful and clear reflection. I’ve attended different 12 step groups off and on for years and every single quality you named as pros and cons has been my lived experience. Thank you for for the clarity!

      • My experience attending CODA was very positive. For me it was THE most helpful tool in terms of therapy. I believe it has an important place on our road to healing. People need to remember that these groups are run by the group of people attending which means that everyone there is Codependent. One needs to stay focused on WHY you are attending. Its a SELF help program, not counseling or professional therapy. My advice is to use it in the right way…..don’t go there to make friends or expect help from the group or an individual/s, don’t forget that the reason the others are attending is because they have their own co-dependant issues. It’s pretty logical not to get too close with any of the members. One of the things I learned at CODA was to choose positve, supportive people as friends, there will always be positive and negative people in a group that is run by the group. It is not an alternative for professional therapy. If you need CODA , you most likely should be seeing a professional therapist at the same time.

        It’s good to be exposed to the normality of day to day life, where you constantly meet and interact with people who are not perfect and have issues.It’s part of the learning process for Codependants.

        One of the things that should be updated is the use of the word “God” in their literature…….. You do not have to believe in God to make this program work for you. You do however need to believe that there is some form of a higher power. It is a spiritual program, not a Christian program.

    • Hi Dee. I see lots of benefits, as I wrote. I also see a risk in a participant adopting as an identity the very thing that they’re trying to move away from. The same would be true of other ‘-Anon’ models. CoDA is probably the best known approach and many people find it helpful, but I didn’t want someone to feel like a failure if it wasn’t right for them when there could be other reasons.

      • I definitely understood what you meant when you described the potential dangers. I think it is really important for people to understand everything you said in that part of your article. What you mentioned is what I was already wondering when I was trying to decide to get involved and attend my first meeting. Thank you for the very honest and helpful article. I really appreciated it.

      • andrew hasnt had positive expieriences is 12 step fellowship and for what ever reason has chosen to write abot coDa, move on dear and aa would be far more succesful if there wasnt so much stigma and discrimination

    • I disagree as well. It undermined my sense of self, self-trust, and left me estranged and alienated from my parents and family and most from my own heart, which I came to doubt, deeply and excruciatingly. Yes, for some there are dangers. I’m sorry, I do not want to say it is not right for you or many others, but for me it was completely wrong. I have barely begun to start trusting myself again, and deprogramming, but I have hope.

      • I would agree that CoDA is not for everyone. I joined seeking help for my codependent behavior. I realized that I had a problem, and the group that I joined were helpful at first, just preferred to focus on negativity. I have issues with my codependent behavior. I had some bad relationships but overall it did not ruin my life. So reading through the blue book, one would think they are a psychopath that destroyed everyone’s lives whom they come in contact with (which for me was not the case).

        Another area of concern that I found it more helpful to read up on Codependency, Counterdependents, Narcissism and other personality disorders. Codependents tend to attract a certain type of person whom they try to “fix”. Learning to deal with oneself is the upmost important tenet but CoDA fails to assist the Codependent with dealing with others who may prey upon our vulnerability. This was not encouraged. I encountered a significant number of people who displayed Narcissistic tendencies that were leading the meetings…which is fine if you’re recovering but I left some of these meetings at times feeling worse than when I went in. Therapist felt it was best to try something else. It may work for some but it is not a good fit for me.

        • Frankly I can’t understand what you feel. The way you’ve written is confusing and contradictory due to sentence construction. Sorry not helpful. Perhaps write a bit more clearly if you did or didn’t like it.

          • Juni’s response was very readable and coherent. Everyone has a right to their own opinion. If CoDA works well for you… that’s fantastic! But that doesn’t mean it’s for everybody.

  2. I’m sorry Dee but I wholeheartedly disagree with you. I went to coda 8 years ago and while I agree it was a wonderful start to my recovery certain people caused me a great deal of emotional pain. My sponsor went through a period of not returning any of my calls or messages which hurt me deeply. I realise now that I had been pinning too much hope on people that where simply struggling through their own issues. It was only once I started therapy and got consistent help from a trained professional that I really started to truly heal. In no way is Andrew belittling the good that these groups do… But if I had read an article like this 8 years ago I might have been more readily prepared to deal with certain situations. For me the real danger in these groups is believing that that are infallible.

  3. Thank you so much for this balanced post on Coda. I have had a similar experience to Gayle, unfortunately I attended a meeting that was cliquey and chose sponsor who was very controlling. She would gaslight. It was a painful experience that fortunately propelled me into finding a professional counsellor. I’m now thriving. I would be cautious of coda groups if you have had any significant trauma in your life. I’m not saying do not attend, but take your time. If something does not feel right about a meeting, don’t be afraid to question it. It’s a not a “one size” fits all program. It does not suit everyone.

      • I went to Acoa years ago and it was somewhat helpful. I just attended my first coda meeting yesterday. The negatives I’ve seen in these groups are that it can be too cultish and some treat it like it’s the only solution. I also lost a close friend due to her dramatically detaching from me once she was all in in Alanon. It was tremendously hurtful, since she had leaned on me probably way too much when she was dealing with her SO’s drinking, and I on her for other issues. For me, CODA is one tool in the tool box. Also, I get turned off of black and white thinking of the AA concept and also in many parts of society. And BW thinking is one of the issues of being codependent. We can get benefits from Coda and not like certain aspects of it at the same time. Just like we can like someone, but not like everything they do. We don’t seem to do well with this idea increasingly in our society. I also haven’t liked the Christian bent of this program. I do wish there was a new model of meetings especially around CPTSD. Many of us with CPTSD also have codependency among other issues. In general, we are lacking resources in this country.

  4. CoDa has benefited me……service has made me focus and face up to myself…..on a simple level it reinforces my belief in the kindness of strangers……

  5. Point 2 – you’re quite wrong about because in fact CoDA encourages exactly the self realisation of very specific traits such as mistaking sex for love and having poor boundaries.

    Point 3 – faith in a power greater than yourself is anything, the universe for example. Do you beleive the universe is a power greater than yourself? That’s all you need. We are not Christians.

    Point 4 – it’s not about shame, it’s about being able to get out of the front door. As addicts we have left behind us a pile of unresolved destructive interactions and, unaddressed, they cause fear in our daily lives. In order to walk down the street you have to remove the rubble. Once it’s gone, no one will be reminding you about it, so no, we don’t use or encourage shame.

    Generally the article above is obviously written from the perspective of someone who has just read a bit about CoDA, and doesn’t understand it deeply and hasn’t gone out there and properly researched the fellowships.

    • Thanks for writing Alex. I hope it’s clear I’m not against CoDA in any way. I know lots of people find it helpful. Sounds like you do, which is great. But some don’t. As well as pointing out the benefits, I hope the article also helps those people not to blame themselves when there might be another reason.

      • Hi Andrew. As humans are involved in CODA there will always be positive and negative experiences. I wanted to correct a misrepresentation of the facts about CODA. In CODA meeting scripts read out at every meeting it states “CODA is a spiritual not a religious program” – higher power of your own understanding/ choice (spiritual) even though the word God is used it is referred to as a higher power. Religion is a divisive word and CODA is not a religious program

        So you are aware a therapist in Australia is quoting your article which means inaccuracies are being spread. The CODA US website has info you can get ‘from the horse’s mouth’ as i am but another person sharing a view with you so you cannot be sure it is fact until you check/ how many CODA meetings have you attended or is your article based on peoples reports to you? Thanks, Scott M – Australia

        • Thanks for writing Scott.

          Are you referrring to where I say “Twelve step programs are rooted in Christianity. You surrender to a power great than yourself.”? That is factually true, as far as I know but I can see it could use a clarification.

          Happy to add an edit to clarify based on what you’ve written “(Edit – It’s been pointed out to me that although the word God is used, attendees are reminded that it can be a higher power of your own understanding, not necessarily a religious one.)”

          I attended several meetings, yes. The article was a result of disentangling why it wasn’t working for me. I hope it helps other people for whom it’s not right avoid blaming themselves too much, which would be a classic pattern and wouldn’t help anyone.

    • The best part about these comments is the restraint to offer unsolicited advice I’ve of the very things that codependents can struggle with . Just because it may not be your’s ok for Author to have his. And with shows me that I am learning to filter y tendencies

  6. My experience with Coda and the 12 step program has been very positive. The beauty of it is being with like minded people on the same journey to wholeness and wellness. I get your point though that it’s not for everybody and some people are sicker than others. That’s ok though because we do recover. We definitely do not have have the monopoly on recovery. We have an answer….not The answer. They say at the 12 step meetings…stick with the winners but that’s not a judgement on anybody a bit less unrecovered. It’s all about spiritual growth and freedom…also learning to love and take care of ourselves and cultivate loving relationships. Much respect and best to all?

    • ”some people are sicker than others”. This feels like an indirect way to say. Well if it doesn’t work you’re too sick. That’s not the truth or the point of the article. Which rightly states it may not suit you. Without declaring how sick you are. These are invisible, intangible things anyway, so who are you to judge how ”sick” someone is?

      You sound sanctimonious ”we have an answer”. Bully for you!

    • Hi AJ. I don’t know either. It might be more useful to think in terms of what issue you would like to resolve. e.g. processing the separation, learning to talk better with your spouse or a future partner, addressing personal patterns that might have got in the way, rediscovering yourself as an individual. If you decide what problem you’d like the address or you’d like the outcome to be, that will probably help you decide what kind of help to look for.



  7. Thank you so much for writing this article. I just attended my first Coda meeting, due to the pandemic, it was a phone meeting. I have ptsd and it effects my voice, which I explained when I was speaking. I was corrected every time I spoke because I mentioned my husband (not his name, just something he did) which is a violation I guess, then I mentioned al-anon in my second comment which apparently also was a violation. I felt so chastened and self conscious. A few of the women did speak up and give me their phone numbers, reaching out I think in kindness. I might text one of those ladies or try a different meeting but next time I’m not going to speak.

    • My pleasure. Many people find it helpful but important to know it’s not the *only* approach.

      Lots of good work being done on PTSD now. I hope you have some support with it.

      “Trauma is Really Strange” by Steven Haines is a clear, short way to get an understanding if that would be helpful. Not a resolution, but it is a good starting point. Or look on YouTube for one of the many good short talks on Stephen Porges’ polyvagal theory. (His book is quite dense – the short summaries are probably more helpful!)

      • Thank you. Trauma is really strange, lol, completely lives in your body weirdly… ordered the book and will check out the videos. I see a therapist (phone, pandemic and it’s cheaper, USA “insurance” and take meds but it’s a hard slog at times) thanks again. At least I am trying for my own sake now

  8. Duck. I went to a coda group for years then there was a big bust up and with Corona virus it is a no go area. 10 years down the drain because of egos and not sorting things out.

  9. Thank you very much for writing this article. It really needs to exist so that people can read something that is contrary to the idea that a group for co-dependents should work for all co-dependents. My current experience (having gone to Coda Meetings and reading up on Co-dependency and seeing a psychotherapist) is that there is an overwhelming vibration of shame in the meetings. and the claim is it can be alleviated by taking to task their ‘commandments’. And that if it’s not working for you, then it’s definitely Your misstep.
    While it’s fantastic they offer a space that is non-judgemental for me to speak my truth, I’m not sure that throwing everyone the same assembly-line answer is a good fit. Compared to the meetings, upon seeing a psychotherapist … I felt better after just one session, because someone was their to meet my very individual needs, mirror, then process what I was verbalising and figure out what i was emoting and subsequently too scared to openly emote. I could then have a back and forth with someone trained and lisenced to hold space for me and asked said therapist to point out my blind spots as we worked through my codependency together.
    These needs that I needed were never met with Coda meetings where the overall feeling was – ‘you should just fall in line, ok?’.
    Of course, each meeting is different and maybe is good as those conducting them who are recovering co-dependents themselves. I think others might have had a very positive experience with their groups but that wasn’t my experience.

    • Glad you’ve been having a good experience with your therapist, Chrissie. Yes whenever there’s a well-known approach there’s a risk that if it doesn’t help someone, they feel like that’s *yet another* failing on their behalf rather than seeing it simply wasn’t a good fit. Glad you explored further.

  10. The entire notion that “your instincts are wrong and you can’t trust yourself, we can teach you” totally f*cked me up. Cult-ish, while also talking about how the world and culture is a cult, which is partly true. I did ACA too. Very harmful. Very grateful you wrote this and are brave enough to challenge the supremacy of CoDA and the 12-steps. It DID NOT HELP ME. It made me lose even more of my self-trust. Your article is a great encouragement and resonates. Personally, I wish there were more accounts of people’s awful experiences with CoDA and ACA. Thanks for writing this.


  11. This article is just so bang on. THANK YOU. Finally, it’s like being allowed out of a prison, allowed to honor my heart and desire to connect and to stop pathologizing all my feelings with intense scrutiny and fear and shame and then blaming it on myself that I feel like dying because of that! I want to internalize the freedom in this article. Wish there were way more accounts and articles like this. Thank you.

  12. There are three kinds of 12 steps fellowships: all those which deal with addictions; CoDA; ACA (I know nothing about al-anon).

    Each of them can fall into a major drawback as follows:
    1. to trade spiritual awakening for abstinence;
    2. to identify oneself with the co-dependent’s behaviors lists;
    3. to trade the concept of God for the one of “inner child” or “loving parent”.

    Apparently, the drawback inherent in CoDA seems to be the less dangerous …. apparently.

    Remember … anything you do or don’t do can help only if you experience SPIRITUAL AWAKENING (not religious devotion).

    But usually, people set for less than they deserve …

    • Thanks for your comment. I would like to know more about how 12 steps programs calls “to trade spiritual awakening for abstinence” despite step 12 in n each programs is a spiritual awakening?

      And how to experience spiritual awakening?

      • No one can explain how to find spiritual awakening, it’s a personal experience. What I believe is that you need to seek the spiritual truth. When you seek it with deep desire and perseverance you will find it, and experience a spiritual awakening.

  13. I found this a clear and balanced article. I would add that the meetings are divided into sections, so over time you’re programmed to accept their way. It’s a subconscious programming, which you may not consciously even want.
    People are proud to belong for years, so are effectively replacing one dependency for another.
    I do not agree with its premises of taking a fearless moral inventory etc.. Because by definition we are blind to our blind spots. It also traps you into endless introspection which has no evidence of effectiveness. Eternal navel gazing only helps bind you to the fellowship, whose purpose is to continue to exist. Finding our faults is also harmful, because we are too good at that. In a subtle way such a programme is undermining your agency and self worth. By making you dependent on something outside yourself e.g. the fellowship and higher power. What if you don’t believe in either?

  14. I’ve been in therapy for years and then recently attended a CoDA meeting. The meeting itself was okay but I am also part of a Codependency Recovery FB group and find that space to be extremely oppressive. I’m an independent thinker, and there are a number of aspects of the program that are a red flag for me, one being that we can’t label others in our lives as toxic or narcissists. The reason for that is because people are far more complex than some of their behaviors that might be abusive or toxic. By labeling them as such, we are focusing on being the victim rather than focusing on our ow power and agency.

    If this is true then why are we encouraged to label ourselves? How does that not also position us as victims in our own lives. Secondly, labeling the narcissist in my life as that was one of the most empowering acts for me ever because it opened a door into a whole cache of information – I was finally able to decode the narcissist’s behavior instead of getting swept up in their crazy making. In addition, by imploring us to see people as not just abusive, but this complex being deserving of our compassion, we are most likely delaying our own healing. People with codependent traits don’t have boundaries, we are usually too compassionate, ad scrambling to put other people before ourselves. By encouraging people to see the humanity in our abusers, CoDA is telling people who are probably already doing that to the point of harm to their own selves, and telling them to do it a bit more. I find it very disconcerting and irresponsible. Potentially exploitative.

    Overall, the different discussions I’ve seen in the CoDA FB group have confused and alarmed me. There were a few times that I wished to object to the comments but the realized it was the group admin that were forcing some philosophy dow some other member’s throat. I’ve learned to trust my own voice in therapy and I feel like people in the group are constantly told not to trust themselves and instead, trust a higher power. That’s a pretty slippery slope right there. Don’t trust yourself, instead, trust random strangers on FB. Hmmmm. It feels cultish and, as you said, dangerous.

    • Thank you for eloquently validating some of my very own thoughts. I’m open minded enough to allow other people’s opinions into my life but what I’m not good at is establishing my self worth from within myself and not from living my life focused on validating everyone else for thier happiness…. excepting the trauma and moving forward with healthy boundaries…. not brushing the abuse under the rug and ignoring the accountability of my abuser. I was researching Coda as an option, but this article and your comment made me decide that my first therapist just wasn’t a right fit for me and I’m gonna try find another one. Thanks

  15. Thanks Andrew for a wonderful article and healthy forum for people to express their concerns and experiences with Coda. I believe there are many avenues to emotional healing and spiritual awareness and it is our own responsibility to honor ourselves enough to find the one(s) that work for us. I am a long-time member of Coda and love the benefits I receive from my life in the program, but I don’t think it’s the only way to recover from codependency. We are a program of attraction, not promotion, so I don’t try to force or coerce people to stay or commit to it. If it’s not for you, I wish you the best in finding what is. My healing work from the 12 steps and counseling has allowed me to heal the toxic shame that needs to label things as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and position myself as ‘one-up’ or ‘one-down’, or even to judge things so much. When you have a spiritual awakening and experience authentic love for yourself, there is enough to go around, you don’t need to take everything personal and others thinking differently isn’t so threatening. I am glad you gave so many people a healthy way to identify, validate, resolve and move forward in their own caring process. 🙂

  16. I’m learning that codependency is THE ROOT of ALL addiction. I believe codependency is actually emotional immaturity. It is using outside sources (people, food, drugs, alcohol, shopping, religion, porn, cheating, 12step programs etc) to fulfill an inside need. 12 step programs are designed to help you become a productive member of society (adult). They teach you to connect with God (not religion), yourself & others. The problem is most people attend them to recover from their “addiction” and don’t live by the steps. The solution to codependency is self discovery!! Learn to accept & love yourself just the way you are today, stop looking for outside resources for your worth. Discover who you really are and change what you don’t like, one day at a time. Learn communication skills & healthy boundaries.


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