It is the beginning of a new year, people are motivated to work on themselves, make the changes they believe they are ready to make, and then...EXCUSES. Sound familiar? Why is it so hard to make changes in our lives?
The meetings we hold have women of all ages, from every region of the globe and the one common thread beside the obvious ones is change. We all decided that we were ready to do the work, set a boundary, stand up for ourselves, and speak our truth. We had the desire to change and found the structure that happened to work for us, here at Women Empowering Women CoDA and ACA.
The twelve-step group format works for many individuals and has done so with success since the first group for Alcoholics Anonymous began back in the 1930's. Our two twelve-step groups are different than other programs for two reasons: we are a group of women serving other women and we voted in our group conscience to remove "GOD" to "Higher Power" in all of our materials used in our meetings. Why? Because we want to be inclusive to all women and their existing or nonexistent belief systems of what they see as their higher power is their business. By creating a group environment that is supportive to all in attendance, we create a solid foundation that can support our growth.
By creating a group environment that is supportive to all in attendance, we create a solid foundation that can support our growth.
The twelve steps are similar in every program yet the two programs we offer are very different in context and application. CoDA is a Fellowship for those who have difficulty in maintaining healthy, functional relationships with others, regardless of whether those others have alcohol, drug or other problems (Codependents Anonymous, 2015). The twelve step structure looks at all relationships usually from childhood onward, however, your recovery and those relationships you choose are up to you. It is my experience that doing a deeper dive for your first round of steps will uncover more. Not everyone is ready nor should they go so deep, this is a personal call as it should be. Many of us have never taken the time to focus on our own needs, so the concept of going back to the beginning can be overwhelming. However, the goal of CoDA is to deal with relationships by revealing the patterns and characteristics of codependent coping skills we all have picked up along our journey into adulthood. Most everyone will find that theirs began in childhood.
The steps isolate the roles we play, the reasons we started to believe they worked and why we keep using them.
The first relationships we have outside of the one with ourselves is the ones with our caregivers and family. A 1998 reported forty million adults (mostly women) were labeled codependent (Hughes-Hammer et al.1998), yes it was an old report but new research is lacking for statistical numbers and I felt a baseline for understanding its predominance in our country was needed. For dysfunctional families to "work" requires everyone to do their job, role, and to serve their function. The steps isolate the roles we play, the reasons we started to believe they worked and why we keep using them. The reality is they DONT work or we would have great relationships and would not be surrounded by others having similar issues. The severity of people pleasing aka codependency has in our lives is vast. I was a SEVERE codependent and others may only have issues with romantic partners, those they are friends with or family. However, through working the steps many become aware of how insidious codependency is, how it is literally in every aspect of our lives. Through maintaining our awareness and addressing the codependent behaviors head on, with the help of our fellowship and our sponsors, counselors, etc., we can maintain healthy lives and relationships and realize the PROMISES are actually true. Now for ACA, drum roll please...
One in every five adults have grown up with an alcoholic in their family (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2019).
The ACA Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families is a program that some are unaware of and others have avoided because they could not come to honor that a caregiver was an alcoholic. Many families are dysfunctional regardless of alcoholism or drugs being involved. One in every five adults have grown up with an alcoholic in their family (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2019). A shocking 70-80% of people report their families as being dysfunctional (Conti, 2015). This means you will likely feel at home in the meetings and may feel seen and understood for the first time in your life, like many who I know (myself included) that share in the experience.
We can shed the old roles and behaviors we learned and embrace a new understanding of who we are and heal our inner child.
The steps are similar, however, the content addresses our inner child and their understanding of the world, while at the same time looking at our adult relationships. The work will expose why so many issues we struggle with are the consequences of us clinging onto the way we defined our role (the way we walk through and experience the world) and how determined our inner child is that "it will somehow work." The truth is many of us never feel safe in relationships or we settle in relationships that mirror our childhood and find we are still getting the outcome of abandonment (usually by emotional neglect) and further encouraging the false belief that somehow we are broken or just not good enough. We do however recognize that we have experienced some form of trauma (usually unrecognized), a history of bad relationships (toxic, abusive), and may need counseling in addition to our step work. This program suggests counseling and uses trauma-informed material. It provides a chance to have our experience's of childhood validated (not argued that it wasn't bad, or that we are exaggerating) and also helps us release the blame and resentment we carry for our caregivers; whether overtly or covertly. The step work helps us find freedom from our past, offer forgiveness to our caregivers for doing the best they could although NOT excusing their abuse. We can shed the old roles and behaviors we learned and embrace a new understanding of who we are and heal our inner child. It is POWERFUL and I cannot begin to tell you how cathartic it was for me.
A shocking 70-80% of people report their families as being dysfunctional (Conti, 2015).
Some individual's wonder if I have abandoned CoDA and I always tell them no...because I haven't. I can thank CoDA for helping me find the strength to leave a history of toxic relationships behind, discover my voice, rid myself of the unhealthy relationships I had with alcohol and drugs, and discover a healthy adult life because I finally can honor my inherent worth. The program of CoDA saved my life. I discovered ACA long after CoDA and it helped me heal on a deeper level. I have done extensive therapy and continue to do so. I have had a lifetime of trauma and like other deep wounds, they have their way of taking a particularly long time to surface. Through my twelve-step groups, my fellowship (sisterhood) of women who support my growth as I support theirs, I have found my serenity. I believe in these programs so much I started Women Empowering Women in 2018 and have an amazing group of sponsee's and sponsor's, members and an expanded group that is non-recovery based but an extension of our community that embraces a lifelong passion for learning and growing that I cherish.
Through my twelve-step groups, my fellowship (sisterhood) of women who support my growth as I support theirs, I have found my serenity.
The step work may seem like a lot at first, it always does. The difference is you are not doing them alone. We have two step study groups for each program and they complement each other. Whether you do them at the same time or if you take them one at a time, they will benefit your life IF you are ready to do the work. As we say at the end of our meetings: "It works if your work it, and you're worth it." - you are worthy and if you are ready, we hope to see you in the zoom rooms.
Kimberly Sprintz, Founder & Director
Women Empowering Women Support Groups
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (2019). Alcohol use in families. Facts for Families, No. 17.
Codependents Anonymous. (2015). Am I codependent? [Pamphlet]. https://coda.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Am-I-Co-Dependent.pdf
Conti, R. (2015). Family estrangement: Establishing a prevalence rate. Journal of Psychological and Behavioral Sciences, 3(2), 28-35. https://www.doi.org/10.15640/jpbs.v3n2a4
Hughes-Hammer, C., Martsolf, D., & Zeller, R. A. (1998). Depression and codependency in women. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 12(6), 326-334. https://www.doi.org/10.1016/s0883-9417(98)80046-0