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Yes, Virginia, There’s a 12-Step Group For Codependents

Before you can get really excited about knowing there’s a 12-step group for codependents, you have to know if you or someone in your family suffers from codependency. Are you a codependent?

Many of the people who need treatment for substance abuse struggle with the cravings that compel them to use, and they also face the well-intentioned assistance from family members who cover up and excuse everything they do.

Let’s say it more clearly: If you are a codependent family member, you may be prolonging your loved one’s substance abuse because you constantly find ways to minimize his use, you make excuses for his use, and you cover up his use.  He will never accept the need to stop using and work toward recovery as long as he has you to save the day.

Codependent people exhibit tendencies such as:

  • Minimizing what they value, so that their loved one who uses drugs will not be angry at them or reject them.
  • Low self-esteem, which makes them feel that if their drug-using loved one rejects them, then they have no worth.
  • Oversensitivity, which means they overreact in situations that the drug user should handle on his own.
  • Loyalty, so that they never draw boundaries for the drug user.
  • Control, because helping the drug user boosts their feelings of importance. 

The tendency to take control of situations was purposefully noted last:  People who exert control generally are considered to be strong-willed people. The other qualities of the codependent may seem to be more often associated with weaker personalities.  The codependent—not a weak person—is  endlessly driven to control the person who is using, because it validates his own sense of worth. He is frustrated when his struggle to control the situation continually results in disaster because the drug user keeps using.

If you know someone who needs treatment for substance abuse, you need to conduct your own fearless moral inventory–Step 4 of Alcoholics Anonymous— and ask yourself if you are really helping the person you love. Maybe you need to step back and quit making excuses for them. If you have trouble with that, then Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) can help.

CoDA holds meetings, just like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.  All over the country, including Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, there are CoDA meetings. CoDA also promotes a 12-step philosophy adapted from that of AA, with the first step discussing the need to admit that you are powerless over others, and that your life has become unmanageable because you have not accepted this.

If you are the loved one of someone who needs treatment for substance abuse, it’s vital to acknowledge that your own responsibility ends with letting that person achieve sobriety and work on recovery with a licensed, certified substance abuse counselor. Your job, while that goes on, is to participate in family counseling and learn ways to let go. You have to let go of the need to control this other person, to make excuses for him, to let him stand or fall on his own.

Maybe you’re not the codependent or the addict in the family—but you see it going on within the family. If that’s the case, you can turn to Co-Anon. This is an organization patterned after Al-Anon, intended to provide strength and support to the helpless onlookers—because substance abuse, after all, is a family problem.

For more information on CoDA, visit www.coda.org. You can learn more about Co-Anon at www.co-anon.org.

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