Recovery From Codependence: A Brief Introduction

Do you think you may have codependent behavior? This phenomenon isn't as uncommon as many believe. If you find yourself controlling others or bending over backwards to help others at the risk of your own health or sanity, a codependency group may be just what you need to get yourself back on track toward living a happier, more fulfilling life.

Any codependency group will tell you that there are two types of codependents: those who seek to please and those who seek to control. While they may seem like opposite behaviors, they both stem from the same source. Children who come from dysfunctional families often display these behaviors as adults. This is because they work hard their entire lives to anticipate the needs of their parents to avoid punishment, disapproval, or neglect.

As a result, they carry this tendency into adult relationships, which is a common topic discussed in codependency group meetings. Those who seek to please are constantly insecure in themselves, believing that, no matter what they do, it's never good enough. Controlling codependents are those who believe that they've grown so skilled at serving others that they obviously know what's best for everyone. When in a relationship, they believe their partner doesn't know how to get along without them, and so when their advice is scorned or ignored, they feel defensive, resentful, and angry.

The longer your codependency goes untreated, the more destructive its influence becomes. You may begin to resort to other avoidant methods to forget your feelings of anxiety, depression, resentment, and anger. These include developing dependencies on drugs, alcohol, or food. Other activities include over working, exercising too much, spending money, gambling, and more. Along with helping you to understand and overcome your codependent tendencies, a codependency group is dedicated toward helping you to learn not to rely on these addictions in order to be happy.

One of the biggest advantages to being in a codependency group is that you have an entire group of people to give encouragement, praise, and suggestions throughout your ordeal. Even more constructive is that you are also encouraged to participate as others tell their problems. The more you help others in the codependent group with their problems, the more you will learn about your own. As time passes, eventually you will no longer feel the need to validate your existence with excessive slavish or controlling behavior. In time, you will finally be able to be happy with yourself and learn how to live independently. Learn more about codependency group gatherings in your area today!

Patterns and Characteristics of Codependence

These patterns and characteristics are offered as a tool to aid in self-evaluation. They may be particularly helpful to newcomers.

Denial Patterns:
I have difficulty identifying what I am feeling. I minimize, alter, or deny how I truly feel. I perceive myself as completely unselfish and dedicated to the well-being of others. I lack empathy for the feelings and needs of others. I label others with my negative traits. I can take care of myself without any help from others. I mask my pain in various ways such as anger, humor, or isolation. I express negativity or aggression in indirect and passive ways. I do not recognize the unavailability of those people to whom I am attracted.

Low Self Esteem Patterns:
I have difficulty making decisions. I judge what I think, say, or do harshly, as never good enough. I am embarrassed to receive recognition, praise, or gifts. I value others’ approval of my thinking, feelings, and behavior over my own. I do not perceive myself as a lovable or worthwhile person. I constantly seek recognition that I think I deserve. I have difficulty admitting that I made a mistake. I need to appear to be right in the eyes of others and will even lie to look good. I am unable to ask others to meet my needs or desires. I perceive myself as superior to others. I look to others to provide my sense of safety. I have difficulty getting started, meeting deadlines, and completing projects. I have trouble setting healthy priorities.

Compliance Patterns:
I am extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long. I compromise my own values and integrity to avoid rejection or anger. I put aside my own interests in order to do what others want. I am hyper-vigilant regarding the feelings of others and take on those feelings. I am afraid to express my beliefs, opinions, and feelings when they differ from those of others. I accept sexual attention when I want love.

I make decisions without regard to the consequences. I give up my truth to gain the approval of others or to avoid change.

Control Patterns:
I believe most people are incapable of taking care of themselves. I attempt to convince others what to think, do, or feel. I freely offer advice and direction to others without being asked. I become resentful when others decline my help or reject my advice. I lavish gifts and favors on those I want to influence. I use sexual attention to gain approval and acceptance. I have to be needed in order to have a relationship with others. I demand that my needs be met by others. I use charm and charisma to convince others of my capacity to be caring and compassionate. I use blame and shame to emotionally exploit others. I refuse to cooperate, compromise, or negotiate. I adopt an attitude of indifference, helplessness, authority, or rage to manipulate outcomes. I use terms of recovery in an attempt to control the behavior of others. I pretend to agree with others to get what I want.

Avoidance Patterns:
I act in ways that invite others to reject, shame, or express anger toward me. I judge harshly what others think, say, or do. I avoid emotional, physical, or sexual intimacy as a means of maintaining distance. I allow my addictions to people, places, and things to distract me from achieving intimacy in relationships. I use indirect and evasive communication to avoid conflict or confrontation. I diminish my capacity to have healthy relationships by declining to use all the tools of recovery. I suppress my feelings or needs to avoid feeling vulnerable. I pull people toward me, but when they get close, I push them away. I refuse to give up my self-will to avoid surrendering to a power that is greater than myself. I believe displays of emotion are a sign of weakness. I withhold expressions of appreciation.

The Twelve Steps of Co-Dependents Anonymous
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.

The 12 Traditions of Co-Dependents Anonymous

  1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon CoDA unity.
  2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority -- a loving higher power as expressed to our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
  3. The only requirement for membership in CoDA is a desire for healthy and loving relationships.
  4. Each group should remain autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or CoDA as a whole.
  5. Each group has but one primary purpose -- to carry its message to other codependents who still suffer.
  6. A CoDA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the CoDA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary spiritual aim.
  7. A CoDA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
  8. CoDependents Anonymous should remain forever non--professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
  9. CoDA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
  10. CoDA has no opinion on outside issues; hence the CoDA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
  11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
  12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions; ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

The 12 Promises of Co-Dependents Anonymous

I can expect a miraculous change in my life by working the program of Co-Dependents Anonymous. As I make an honest effort to work the Twelve Steps and follow the Twelve Traditions...

  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 as 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.
  11. I trust a guidance I receive from my higher power and come to believe in my own capabilities.
  12. I gradually experience serenity, strength, and spiritual growth in my daily life.

To find a 12-step meeting for Co-dependents near you, click here.

Submitted by Sandra Lenington, 12 Step Program Guide

The Patterns and Characteristics of Co-Dependents Anonymous is reprinted from the website with permission of Co-Dependents Anonymous, Inc. (CoDA, Inc). Permission to reprint this material does not mean that CoDA, Inc. has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication, or that CoDA, Inc. agrees with the views expressed herein. Co-Dependents Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women whose common purpose is to develop healthy relationships and is not affiliated with any other 12 step program. Copyright © 1998 Co-Dependents Anonymous, Incorporated and its licensors - All Rights Reserved

Author's Bio: 

Sandra Lenington, MA is an authority on the psychology of recovery with a purpose of assisting others to experience the psychic change that is sufficient to assure a life of irresistible joy and balance . As a life-long learner and lover of new and fun techniques, she insists that recovery be joyful...otherwise, why do it? The bottom line? If it doesn't work, try something else!
She also trains other coaches and previously has worked as a physical therapist as well as having owned several companies that develop websites; she has worked for NASA as a research engineer.
International author
Overcome Addiction Now and
End Emotional Eating: 40 days to freedom from food
For more information, visit