The decline of Co-Dependents Anonymous in the late 90s

and the state of recovery in CoDA in 2007

"As I explore CoDA meetings here in San Diego, what I am seeing is many people - who have gone to meetings for years - that only have a rudimentary intellectual understanding of codependence.  They do not actually know how to live codependency recovery in their lives because they have not gone beyond simply working the 12 steps.  Working the 12 steps of CoDA is not enough to help people actually start living in the solution - to stop giving the past the power to dictate how they are living today.  The meetings are structured in such a way that the sharing stays almost exclusively on an intellectual level - and anyone challenging the structure is seen as "threatening the Unity of the group."  It is very sad to me that there is so little actual codependency recovery in the CoDA meetings I have attended here."

"It is also sad to me, that many people who attend CoDA are as closed minded as people in AA  - and are not even open to searching the internet for resources because they think they have to do recovery strictly according to the 12 steps.  Unfortunately the 12 steps of CoDA as written do not address the core issues."

"In the early to mid 90s, codependence was the hot buzz word and people were flocking to CoDA meetings.  CoDA - Co-Dependents Anonymous - began in the fall of 1986 in Phoenix Arizona.  By the time I went to Treatment (30 days in the Desert) in spring of 1988 there were between 15 and 20 CoDA meetings in the state of California. (All the meetings were listed on 1 side of one sheet of paper. LA County where I lived at the time, had 3 meetings.)   When I moved from the Central Coast back to Taos in the summer of 1992, there were 18 meetings a week in San Luis Obispo county alone - 3 in Cambria which I had started.  When I moved back to the Central Coast in late 1995 there were only 3 meetings in SLO county.  Now there is one.

This is a trend that has occurred pretty much across the country.  It happened for a variety of reasons in my understanding."

"Another problem with CoDA was that it adapted most of it's literature almost word for word from AA - which left it with a version of the 12 steps that isn't really too accurate in describing the process of codependence recovery - as well as other literature which didn't really apply."

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The Web Site of Spiritual Teacher, codependence counselor, grief therapist, author, Robert Burney and Joy to You & Me Enterprises.

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Robert Burney is the author of a Joyously inspirational Spiritual book - Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls.  He has pioneered innovative, powerful, life-changing tools and techniques for inner child/emotional healing & Spiritual integration.  On the Joy2MeU web site he shares a wealth of information on codependency recovery/inner child healing, twelve step & new age spirituality, healthy & dysfunctional relationship dynamics, grief process, fear of intimacy, and much more.

Some quotes from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney:

"This dance of Codependence is a dance of dysfunctional relationships - of relationships that do not work to meet our needs.  That does not mean just romantic relationships, or family relationships, or even human relationships in general.  The fact that dysfunction exists in our romantic, family, and human relationships is a symptom of the dysfunction that exists in our relationship with life - with being human.  It is a symptom of the dysfunction which exists in our relationships with ourselves as human beings."

"We are not sinful, shameful human creatures who have to somehow earn Spirituality. We are Spiritual Beings having a human experience."

"In order to start be-ing in the moment in a healthy, age-appropriate way it is necessary to heal our "inner child."  The inner child we need to heal is actually our "inner children" who have been running our lives because we have been unconsciously reacting to life out of the emotional wounds and attitudes, the old tapes, of our childhoods."


In my November 2006 Update Newsletter, following some experiences I had after moving to the San Diego area in September, I felt the need to add a section in that Newsletter about the effect that black and white thinking has had on the evolution of Co-Dependents Anonymous.  In February 2007 I am adding that section to this page - along with a quote from an e-mail I received some time ago - because it makes me sad that what is said in this quote is the Truth as I see it.
"I read thru much of your website and I am very inspired by it.  I have been feeling that something is missing from the 12-step CoDA meetings and now I know it is true."
As I explore CoDA meetings here in San Diego, what I am seeing is many people - who have gone to meetings for years - that only have a rudimentary intellectual understanding of codependence.  The do not actually know how to live codependency recovery in their lives because they have not gone beyond simply working the 12 steps.  Working the 12 steps of CoDA is not enough to help people actually start living in the solution - to stop giving the past the power to dictate how they are living today.  The meetings are structured in such a way that the sharing stays almost exclusively on an intellectual level - and anyone challenging the structure is seen as "threatening the Unity of the group."  It is very sad to me that there is so little actual codependency recovery in the CoDA meetings I have attended here. ~ Robert 2/11/07
This is an excerpt from my November 2006 Update Newsletter:
"Another page I made some changes to is my article: Assignments for Jump Starting Codependency Recovery.  I realized recently that when I did some editing to that page so that I could print out copies of it to hand out when I spoke at a CoDA mini-convention in the fall of 2005, I had taken out some links at the end of each of the sections of that page and not added them back in.  I took out the links to make the handout I was printing shorter - and more affordable to copy.  I did them on the page I had posted to the internet - instead of just printing them off my computer - because I wanted the web site address to be on the handouts.

This was my way of getting around a rigid application of the 12 traditions that causes CoDA conferences to invite me to speak, but forbid me to tell people that I have a web site or book - or do anything to "self promote."  Unfortunately in many ways, CoDA has become as rigid as AA in terms of turning the written word into dogma that is the only "right" way to do things.  The history of the planet is full of spiritual beliefs that once written down got turned into dogma that caused wars between people fighting over the "right" interpretations.

This brings to mind a paragraph I wrote in one of the articles that were included in my inner child e-book (Inner Child Healing The Path to Empowerment, Inner Peace, and Freedom from the Past) - an article that is similar enough to articles on my site that I haven't added it to my site, but a little different including this paragraph.

"I state in my book, that I believe that many aboriginal cultures were far more functional in terms of the Spiritual, mental, and emotional health of the individual members of their societies, than any of the so called civilized societies on this planet have been.  The thought that occurred to me as I was writing this article, is that maybe there is also a correlation in regard to a society having a written language.  In tribal societies with an oral tradition, stories were told - parables - that passed on the values of the society.  Histories that are written down in words are subject to the interpretations and translations of individuals who had their own agendas.  Words became set in stone - and often the spirit of the message was lost, distorted, and manipulated." - Inner Child Healing Part 18 - Spirituality
It is sad to me, that one of the core dynamics of the disease of codependency - black and white thinking - is the very thing that has negatively impacted the growth and effectiveness of CoDependents Anonymous.  Actually, the effect has been to cause CoDA not to grow - but to actually shrink over the years.  This is something I mentioned in a piece of writing that is linked from my page: Finding Co-Dependents Anonymous & Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings.
"Another problem with CoDA was that it adapted most of it's literature almost word for word from AA - which left it with a version of the 12 steps that isn't really too accurate in describing the process of codependence recovery - as well as other literature which didn't really apply.   The thing that AA had going for it when it first started, and still does, is that it deals with a black and white issue.  You drink or you don't drink.  Codependence recovery is not black and white - and in fact, is a lot about getting away from black and white thinking.  This is an inherent difficulty in structuring the program.  People with time in recovery in other programs came into CoDA and wanted to make it just as rigid as the programs they came from.  People who had no clue what recovery was about when they first came to CoDA, were looking for someone to tell them how to do it "right."  As CoDA grew the controllers won out and made it more rigid.  I passed up the opportunity to have my story in the CoDA Big Book because I was so unhappy with how things were evolving.

And still CoDA meetings were a most important part of my recovery.  I wish there were more available to attend now.  I hope that someday there is a renaissance of CoDA . . . . ." - The decline of Co-Dependents Anonymous in the late 1990s

It is also sad to me, that many people who attend CoDA are as closed minded as people in AA  - and are not even open to searching the internet for resources because they think they have to do recovery strictly according to the 12 steps.  Unfortunately the 12 steps of CoDA as written do not address the core issues.  The 12 steps of any 12 step program do not address the real core issues - codependency - but they can help people to deal with the symptoms (like stopping drinking), and help them start living the 12 step spiritual principles in their life.  That is the real key - and where the magic in the 12 steps lies - in learning to live the principles in our life.  That is what the formula for spiritual integration I teach is based upon - living the 12 step spiritual principles in one's life.  That is what works.

Working a 12 step program is what helped me start living life in a spiritual context - start seeing life as a spiritual growth process.  That is what is so transformational about the 12 step process - not a rigid strict adherence to words written decades ago.  I will be eternally grateful for the 12 steps of AA as a starting point in my recovery - but that is what they are: a starting point / foundation that can be built upon.  Not the be all and end all - the final words.  I fully respect the importance of the 12 Traditions in early AA - and know that AA probably wouldn't have survived without them.  But to see them as dogma written in stone is limiting.  I will include a short segment I wrote a while back at the end of this section in which I share my personal position about one of the Traditions.

So anyway, I put those links back into that page - and I have stopped speaking at official CoDA functions.  I have been checking out some CoDA meetings here in San Diego, which is part of the reason I am addressing this - I have been sad about what I am finding available.  I also received an e-mail recently that said the following:

"Last year when I was doing some research on line I came across the acoa world service. I was very disappointed with it. It said very little to me. It just made me feel really guilty, where as your site speaks volumes and had been an enormous help. The world service really should have a major place on their front page for your site, it is leagues better that theirs."
The Traditions prevent Adult Children of Alcoholic (ACOA) - or CoDA - from linking to, or using, "outside sources" or "non-approved" literature.  There are some good reasons for that - but when taken as a rigid black and white rule, it is limiting and restrictive in an unhealthy way also.

I still consider CoDA my primary program, because it is the 12 step program that is most closely focused on cause instead of symptoms. And I will continue to go to meetings of various varieties because they are a place where people are growing and learning - 12 step anonymous groups are possibly the healthiest organizations on the planet.  It is just sad to me, that they aren't as effective as they could be - and that there are so many suffering codependents in 12 step recovery who do not know how to focus on their core issues.



Although my book and articles make reference to Alcoholics Anonymous, the principles and Twelve Step program of A.A., this does not mean that A.A. has reviewed or approved the contents of this writing, nor that A.A. agrees with the views expressed herein. A.A. is a program of recovery from alcoholism only - use of this material in connection with programs and activities which are patterned after A.A., but address other problems, or in any other non-A.A. context, does not imply otherwise.

January 8, 2005 - a message from Robert.
I included the above disclaimer in my book - and on any of the pages of my site where I am writing directly about AA or the twelve steps - out of respect for Alcoholics Anonymous.  However, it is the black and white thinking of codependency that causes many in AA to be rigid and closed minded - to insist for instance, that drugs not be discussed in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings (alcohol is of course a drug.)  Since many of the people who started CoDependents Anonymous came from AA, there is a certain level of black and white thinking that sometimes comes up in CoDA business meetings and affairs.  Because of this type of right and wrong / black and white thinking, I included this note at the bottom of the page in one of the articles in my series on The Miracle of The Twelve Step Recovery Process.

"I am inserting a note here for anyone who feels offended by what they see as a violation of the Eleventh Tradition of AA's Twelve Traditions.  The 11th Tradition of AA is:

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.
I routinely break my own anonymity in regard to the fact that I am a recovering alcoholic / addict and codependent because I do not believe I would be alive today if Betty Ford had not broken her anonymity in the late 1970s and brought the subject of alcoholism out of the closet into public view.   She is one of the people I dedicated my book to because I believe that I personally owe her a debt of gratitude for her courage and honesty.  Breaking my own anonymity is one way that I carry the message of hope that saved my life.   Anyone whose black and white thinking is causing them to rigidly interpret the Twelve Steps and Traditions enough to be offended, desperately needs to get into codependency recovery in my opinion." - Robert Burney 2/10/04 The Miracle of The Twelve Step Recovery Process  Steps 10 thru 12 - The Maintenance Steps Part 1"
The following excerpt where I discuss the decline of Co-Dependents Anonymous meetings is from the personal journal that I write for my Joy2MeU Journal.  I have had a short excerpt of it at the bottom of my Referral to Local Healers page but it didn't really belong there - so I decided to move it in August 2002.  In moving it, I decided to share a longer excerpt - one which was really too long for the Finding CoDA Meeting page.  Thus this page.

In the first paragraph below - which was written in May 2000 - I mention that there was then only one CoDA meeting in the county - there are now 5.  Progress.

"In the early to mid 90s, codependence was the hot buzz word and people were flocking to CoDA meetings.  CoDA - Co-Dependents Anonymous - began in the fall of 1986 in Phoenix Arizona.  By the time I went to Treatment (30 days in the Desert) in spring of 1988 there were between 15 and 20 CoDA meetings in the state of California. (All the meetings were listed on 1 side of one sheet of paper. LA County where I lived at the time, had 3 meetings.)   When I moved from the Central Coast back to Taos in the summer of 1992, there were 18 meetings a week in San Luis Obispo county alone - 3 in Cambria which I had started.  When I moved back to the Central Coast in late 1995 there were only 3 meetings in SLO county.  Now there is one.
This is a trend that has occurred pretty much across the country.  It happened for a variety of reasons in my understanding.

One is that people hit the second level of powerlessness (see 1,2, 3, 1, 2, 3, article about 12 steps) where it was necessary to do the emotional healing - and they didn't know how to do it.  They did not have a framework in which to do the inner child healing.  That is why one of the testimonials for my book said that I had taken inner child healing to the next level, because that is what my work is - the next level that people were missing, a framework to do the emotional healing.  People really didn't know an effective way of doing the grief work and integrating themselves as an empowered adult.

A second is that CoDA meetings were run by codependents.  Many of those codependents were rigid and controlling.  Some were people pleasers and rescuers.  Others were irresponsible and unable to make a commitment.  The ones that were willing to commit to be the secretary of a meeting were more often than not the controllers and people pleasers.  The controlling people tended to try to control and ended up chasing people away.  The people pleasers didn't have good boundaries and ended up feeling used.  For some people it was a mark that they were getting healthier when they stopped being the secretary of a meeting.  Without a secretary who will show up to unlock the door and make sure the meeting takes place, meetings die out very fast.

The very nature of codependence recovery worked against the movement.  AA has always had lots of codependents to do service work (opening meetings, making coffee, literature, etc.) - in CoDA the codependents who got healthy enough started letting go of keeping meetings going for the sake of others who weren't responsible enough to make a commitment.  Meetings started disappearing.

In addition, during the early to mid 90s when lots of CoDA meetings sprang up, what happened was a lot of lonely, hurting people came together in one place.  That led to a lot of dysfunctional relationships with other people in CoDA - which led to break ups that made people feel uncomfortable to go to meetings "they" might be at.  (What I saw happen over and over again, was both people in an ex-relationship avoiding meetings out of fear of the other being there, so that both people stopped coming.)

Problems didn't just occur in romantic relationships.  Because of not having people with long term recovery to learn from and as role models, because of not having a healthy framework within which to do the emotional healing, many people got way out of balance. People made friendships in CoDA and then ended up feeling betrayed and abandoned by other CoDA members.  It was not at all unusual for people to use "being honest with their feelings" as an excuse for abusing other people.

Some of the people that claimed to have been in recovery the longest were often the most controlling and abusive.  When I first moved to Santa Barbara there was a guy there who claimed to have 9 years in recovery and thought of himself as the grand old man of Santa Barbara CoDA.  It evidently really upset him when I started two new meetings there because he had not been able to keep a meeting going.  The first time I ever met this guy, he came up to me after the meeting and asked if he could share something with me - and then proceeded to criticize how I shared in a meeting.  This is a gross violation of the traditions and principles of 12 step recovery, and showed me just how screwed up this guy was in his control issues.  It is usually a warning signal when someone in recovery asks if they can share something with you - it usually means they are about to blast you in the name of being honest about their feelings.  It is bullshit and codependence at it's worst, and I saw way too much of it.

Another problem with CoDA was that it adapted most of it's literature almost word for word from AA - which left it with a version of the 12 steps that isn't really too accurate in describing the process of codependence recovery - as well as other literature which didn't really apply.   The thing that AA had going for it when it first started, and still does, it that it deals with a black and white issue.  You drink or you don't drink.  Codependence recovery is not black and white - and in fact, is a lot about getting away from black and white thinking.  This is an inherent difficulty in structuring the program.  People with time in recovery in other programs came into CoDA and wanted to make it just as rigid as the programs they came from.  People who had no clue what recovery was about when they first came to CoDA, were looking for someone to tell them how to do it "right."  As CoDA grew the controllers won out and made it more rigid.  I passed up the opportunity to have my story in the CoDA Big Book because I was so unhappy with how things were evolving.

And still CoDA meetings were a most important part of my recovery.  I wish there were more available to attend now.  I hope that someday there is a renaissance of CoDA . . . . ."

My Unfolding Process - May 2000 - The Path of one Recovering Codependent ~ the dance of one wounded soul
Magnificent Unicorn that was designed for the cover of Joy2MeU Journal. An excerpt from the story of Robert's Spiritual Path published in the Joy2MeU Journal.
The reference above to the second level of powerlessness (Journal article 1,2, 3, 1, 2, 3, about the 12 steps), is information that is now included in the web site article:  The Miracle of The Twelve Step Recovery Process
"It is also unfortunate that some people, who are involved in codependence or Adult Child recovery, use emotional honesty as an excuse to be abusive. . . . . . These are people who think they are being emotionally honest but have no concept of emotional responsibility.

We need to learn to be emotionally honest so that we can take responsibility for our feelings - not so that we can inflict them on others." - Discernment in relationship to emotional honesty and responsibility part 1

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Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney is copyright 1995.  Material on Joy2MeU web site (except where otherwise noted) is copyright 1996 through 2010 by Robert Burney  PO Box 235401 Encinitas CA 92023.