What is Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA)?

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Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) is a membership community for people who share the common desire to develop healthy and functional relationships. Co-Dependents Anonymous is a non-professional fellowship that offers a 12-step program for codependents.

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Co-Dependents Anonymous does not offer a definition or diagnostic criteria for codependency. But Mental Health America defines codependency as “a learned behavior” that can be hereditary. 

It’s “an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship.” In other words, codependency is a relationship addiction. It was first identified as a disorder about a decade ago.

People who are codependent may find themselves in one-sided relationships that are toxic on an emotional level. They may learn this behavior by watching and imitating other family members who display it. Codependency often affects the loved ones of someone afflicted with alcohol or drug dependence.

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Whatever the case, codependency is emotionally destructive. If left untreated, codependency can only further hurt you and those around you. 

Co-Dependents Anonymous exists to help co-dependents unlearn their behaviors and form happier, healthier relationships. The first Co-Dependents Anonymous meeting back in 1986, in Phoenix, Arizona, welcomed 30 people. Within a month, 100 people had joined. And before the end of the year, there were 120 groups. It’s only grown in popularity since.

People join Co-Dependents Anonymous from a variety of different directions. Some come out of curiosity. Others come out of a crisis. Some are urged by their family members, friends, and loved ones. Others are encouraged by their physicians, psychiatrists, or therapists. What they all have in common is that they come seeking help for their problem with codependence.

Who is Co-Dependents Anonymous for?

Co-Dependents Anonymous is for anyone who is struggling to form healthy relationships or loving relationships due to codependency. Co-Dependents Anonymous helps members form and maintain nurturing relationships with themselves and with others.

Many people who join Co-Dependents Anonymous wonder if codependency defines them. If you or someone you know is on a journey of self-discovery, Co-Dependents Anonymous may be for you.

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How Do I Know if I’m Codependent?

Codependent people tend to have low self-worth and self-esteem. They may find it difficult to be their authentic selves. And they often look to outside sources to help them feel better about themselves. This may include seeking validation from others or abusing alcohol and drugs.

Some codependents may also develop compulsive behaviors, such as workaholism, hyper-active sexuality, and gambling. They also tend to take on the role of martyrs and become “benefactors” to others in need. 

For example, you may find yourself covering up for an alcoholic partner or making excuses for a troubled child. With time, they develop a sense of satisfaction from “being needed.” But they soon become helpless in their relationships, feeling unable to break away.

Co-dependent behaviors include:

  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility to help others in need
  • A tendency to mistake pity for love
  • A desire to “rescue” others
  • A tendency to always do more than their share
  • An extreme need for validation, approval, and recognition
  • An unhealthy dependence on relationships
  • A sense of guilt when being assertive
  • A need to control others
  • A lack of trust in themselves and/or others
  • A fear of abandonment and/or loneliness
  • A difficult time adjusting to change
  • A difficult time with intimacy/boundaries
  • Chronic anger
  • Dishonesty
  • Poor communication skills
  • Crippling indecision

Of course, not all codependents will embody all  of these traits. And not everyone who experiences the above is codependent. Only a qualified professional can diagnose you as a  codependent. 

What is Cross Talking?

Co-Dependents Anonymous defines cross talking as “any verbal or physical response to another person’s sharing.” This includes interrupting, asking questions, and offering unsolicited advice. Cross talking minimizes others’ feelings and/or experiences. Plus, it can be a trait of codependency that members are trying to break.

Co-Dependent’s Anonymous combats cross talking with strict guidelines against it.

Types of CoDA Meetings

There are various different types of Co-Dependent Anonymous meetings you can explore.

Newcomer Meetings

Newcomer meetings are for first-timers who are coming with curiosities. If your loved ones or medical professionals suggest you check out a Co-Dependents Anonymous meeting, the newcomers meeting is where you’ll get started.

Face-to-Face Meetings

You have the option to do meetings in different ways with Co-Dependents Anonymous. Face-to-face meetings allow you to meet with other members in person.

Phone Meetings

Phone meetings occur over the phone. These are strictly audio-based meetings. There are daily meditation groups that you can dial into if you want, as well.

Online Meetings (Virtual Zoom Meetings)

Online meetings occur over the internet on your phone, tablet, or computer. You can choose to do a virtual Zoom call, using video, to meet. There are also online meetings that you can tune into.

What Happens at a Codependents Anonymous Meeting?

Here’s what you can expect at different Co-Dependent meetings:

Speaker Meetings 

At speaker meetings, a member shares their experience, strength, and hope for the other members in the room. 

Step or Tradition Study Meetings 

Step or tradition study meetings involve groups of codependents who work together through the Twelve Steps (and usually the Twelve Traditions) in a structured format. Step Study groups are different from other meetings in several ways:

  • The groups may be facilitated by a Step Study group member 
  • There may be co-facilitators or rotating facilitators
  • The groups are usually closed to new members
  • There are usually weekly assignments for Step work
  • Groups may also choose to use non–conference approved materials in addition to The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions Workbook and the Co-Dependents Anonymous

Open Share Meetings 

In open share meetings, members can share their experiences, ask questions, and engage with one another. These meetings don’t have topics or individual speakers. It gives people the opportunity to share personal stories.

Topic Share Meetings 

Topic Share meetings are meetings that focus on a particular topic related to codependency.

Benefits of CoDA for Codependency 

Codependency is typically rooted in your childhood, so treatment generally involves diving deep into childhood issues and your current relationships. There are various ways to do this. 

While therapy is key, Co-Dependent’s Anonymous is a community where you can rediscover yourself alongside others in similar situations. With other codependents in your position, you can work on identifying and breaking self-defeating behaviors. 

Plus, Co-Dependent’s Anonymous offers a whole host of resources for codependents. These include educational materials, a forum for sharing, and audiovisuals with others’ positive recovery stories.

How to Join CoDA

It is never too late to reach out and ask for help along your path to recovery from codependency. And you can take it one day at a time. To get involved in Co-Dependents Anonymous, visit their site at CoDA.com.

To find a treatment center near you, send the program a message through the website. Or give them a call at their phone number: +1 888-444-2359.

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Resources +

Anderson, SC., et al. “The Lived Experience of Codependency: an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.” International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, Springer US, 1 Jan. 1994, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11469-018-9983-8.

“Co-Dependency.” Mental Health America, www.mhanational.org/co-dependency

CoDA.org, 21 Oct. 2020, coda.org/.

CROSSTALK, www.codawa.org/literature-docs/literature-docs-wa/crosstalk_statement.htm

“Meeting Materials.” CoDA.org, 25 Sept. 2020, coda.org/meeting-materials/

Panaghi, Leili, et al. “Living with Addicted Men and Codependency: The Moderating Effect of Personality Traits.” Addiction & Health, Kerman University of Medical Sciences, Apr. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5115643/

Wright, Paul H., and Katherine D. Wright. “Measuring Codependents' Close Relationships: A Preliminary Study.” Journal of Substance Abuse, JAI, 9 June 2010, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0899328910800057.

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