Step 9-Amends Are Changes Not Apologies

“Made direct amends to such people, wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” Step 9

Many people find this step… challenging. Fortunately, in CoDA, we have a method for making amends.

  • Acknowledge our harmful behavior.
  • Acknowledge the other person’s feelings in the matter.
  • Follow that with a change in our own behavior.

It helped me to hear someone say at a meeting, “you don’t apologize to the Constitution, you amend it”. That illustrated that the amends I make are not just simply the “I’m sorry” kind. Although an apology might happen, the critical part is the change I’m making in my behavior.

The previous Steps and CoDA’s Recovery Patterns of Codependence help me get ready for change because change is hard for me. Sometimes the amends come as changes in how I show up with others but a lot of my amends involve changes in how I show up for myself. Can I turn self-judgement into self-compassion? Can self-blame become self-forgiveness? Can my old behaviors transform into new, healthier ones? With my Higher Power’s help the answer can be yes! It is with my Higher Power’s help, because I could not do this by my own will alone.

One change I’ve noticed recently is that I am considering my interests and feelings when asked to participate in another’s plans. The act of listening to and valuing myself in this way is an amend to me. In the past, I would drop what I was doing or wanted because in my codependence, the other person was more important to please than myself. If you are happy, then I am safe. People pleasing was a survival mechanism growing up and it no longer serves me in relationships. In fact, it hurts me. This amend is a long time in coming. Through the power of the program and my own inner healing work, I am now free.

In this moment, I trust my Higher Power to guide me in making sincere
and honest amends. In this moment, I experience my gratitude for
Co-Dependents Anonymous and the Twelve Steps of recovery, knowing
that as I am willing to live this program, share the fellowship,
and walk with God, I am free.

Step 9 Prayer

Step 8

~adapted from the Twelve Steps Handbook of CoDA

In this moment, I see the impossible become not only possible, but real.
As I forgive myself for my shortcomings, I am able to forgive others,
opening the way for a true and lasting change in my behavior.
Thank you, God.

Step 8 Prayer

Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

Amends… not mere apologies, rather changes in our behavior.

First make a list. Include everyone who had been harmed by our personal unmanageability. Our own name comes first. Why? We had been least able to escape our codependence and in most cases, we received the greatest injuries. A change in behavior toward ourselves would have to come first.

This is not the Step in which we face those we had wronged. The purpose of this Step is to focus attention on becoming ready to face them. Often the names come from our 4th Step work.

Some people find it helpful to make 3 lists. A list of people with which we can easily approach, a list of those with which we might be willing to consider making amends and an “oh hell no” list. We make the list and then with our Higher Power’s help, find a way to become willing. In the next Step, we can start with the easy list and work up to the others. With each one, the practice deepens our recovery and we become more open. We can allow our Higher Power to guide us in that process.

Some questions that may be useful in Step 8 are:

  • What would my motive be in making amends to those I have harmed?
    Would it be to clear my conscience? to rid myself of old guilts?
    Or do I want to acknowledge my wrongdoing as a step in altering my behavior?
  • Can I count on myself to avoid using this step to justify my past behavior?
  • Am I capable of separating what I did from what was done to me?

If needed we can go back to Steps 6 & 7 to discover what behaviors or old beliefs we are still holding onto that are blocking us from becoming willing to change. Self-forgiveness is instrumental in moving from codependence into healthy relationships.

Breaking the barrier of perfectionism

Shame is the birthplace of perfectionism.

Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown

I’m a double winner of sorts…recovering co-dependent and a recovering perfectionist.
Codependents often are other-focused. We often care too much about what others think about us. We believe the lie that our value comes from outside ourselves so it’s important to us that we appear perfect.

As a codependent, my perfectionism has roots in approval seeking and a fear of being rejected, criticized or perceived as not good enough. I, like many people, grew up being praised for achievement and performance. Straight A’s, clean room, good manners, etc… my parents never had to worry about me. I was the “good one”. As time went on, I developed the belief that I had to earn my worth through accomplishment and that my worth was based on how well I performed. I got attention and affirmation for a “good job”. The chase for the gold star became addictive.

Some people think there is a positive side to perfectionism. That is not my experience. Brene Brown writes a lot about perfectionism in her books. I like how she explains the difference between “healthy striving” and perfectionism. Self-focused, healthy striving asks How can I improve? while the other-focused nature of perfectionism asks What will they think?

Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, live perfectly, work perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.

The frustrating reality is…there is no such thing as perfection. Shame, judgment and blame happen to everyone. When I experienced shame, I often would believe it was because I wasn’t perfect enough and try harder to achieve the unachievable or worse, not try at all. I have seen my perfectionism hold me back time and time again. The fear of making mistakes, failing and disappointing others kept me from moving forward or taking risks. A part of me (the “don’t try” part) still sometimes says don’t put yourself out there, if you do it “wrong” it’ll be too painful.

In CoDA, I’m learning to love the self. I’m learning that mistakes are how I learn. Self- compassion practice helps me cope with the feelings of fear that come up and the pain when I do make mistakes. More often now, I am choosing to feel the fear and do it anyway. I’m practicing “good is good enough”. Coming into CoDA was a huge step out of my comfort zone and it’s here where I am practicing and developing new skills with curiosity and gentleness. I try to remember that what others think of me is none of my business. I love the reminder that it’s progress not perfection that we seek.

A fun, new way I’m practicing imperfection is with CoDA’s new coloring book, Joy in the Journey-Recover in Color. As I am coloring, I am noticing my imperfection and acknowledging as I do it that it’s okay to relax and allow my hands to color loosely. No one is judging me. I’m doing this for me. I affirm as I play that there is no right or wrong way to do it. Outside the lines work helps me accept myself as I am. Perfectly imperfect.

I know that one of the biggest barriers to working towards mastery of something is perfectionism. Barriers can be broken down. The tools of the program and support of my fellow travelers on the journey are helping me.

I affirm that I am perfectly human, not a perfect human.

Steps 6 & 7

adapted from CoDA’s “12 Steps Handbook”

The message is clear – get ready to change…

Step 6: “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
What does it mean to be entirely ready? In CoDA, we learn that it means completely prepared. The first five steps are a large part of that preparation. What we need now is willingness.

What are our defects? Some of us turn to the Recovery Patterns of Codependence to answer this. We see behaviors and old beliefs that we developed to avoid pain. Through this process, we come to recognize that all of our character defects are products of our self-will. Many of them may be things that helped us survive in our dysfunctional relationships. Self-righteousness replaced low self-esteem. Resentment protected us from invasion. Fear kept us on alert for things that might hurt us. But like an old cocoon that clings to a butterfly’s wing, we come to see how these old patterns are holding us back from living. We become willing to let them go.

In this moment, I am entirely ready to be freed of all my shortcomings. In this moment, I am ready to surrender these defects of character to God, knowing that the power of willingness to heal is great. Each new Step I take in my recovery, no matter how small it may appear, is an affirmation of my wholeness.

Step Six Prayer

Step 7: “Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.”
True humility allows us to see things as they truly are. After doing the work of the previous steps, we now get to ask something of God. We don’t beg or demand but rather humbly ask that our Higher Power remove the things that block us from our peace and happiness. We trust God’s timing. We can take this step with a sponsor or recovery friend. A prayer like the Serenity Prayer may be helpful. We can make contact with the God of our understanding and without pride or expectation, ask for our shortcomings to be removed.

If we find we are still clinging to a behavior or belief, we can go back to Step 6 and try again to ask for the willingness to let it go. Notice the line in the prayer below… “relieving me of the burden of my past”. We come to understand that hanging on to these old ways of behaving, while they may have served us in the past, is no longer helping us. Like a child’s life preserver that no longer fits, we can put them aside. With the help of God, we are learning to swim!

In this moment, I ask my Higher Power to, remove all of my shortcomings,
relieving me of the burden of my past. In this moment, I place my hand
in God’s, trusting that the void I experience is being filled with my
Higher Power’s unconditional love for me and those in my life.

Step Seven Prayer

The Nature of Our Wrongs

Step 5 states… “Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

So taking from CoDA’s Twelve Steps Handbook and recapping where we’ve been:

  • Step 1 we admitted our powerlessness.
  • Step 2 we became willing to acknowledge that our self-will was out of control.
  • Step 3 we turned our will over to God’s care.
  • Step 4 we put our predicament on paper.
  • So now we come to Step 5 where we uncover and expose the nature of our wrongs to God, ourselves and another person. And in doing so, we have the chance to have our shame and guilt transformed into humility.

Let’s clarify a couple of words in that last one.
1. Nature: The dictionary defines Nature as… “The forces and processes that produce and control these phenomena.”

2. Humility: Researcher and author, Brene Brown, defines Humility as… “Openness to new learning combined with a balanced and accurate assessment of our contributions, including our strengths, imperfections and opportunities for growth.”

So Step 5 gives us a chance to uncover the forces and processes that produce and control our codependent behaviors and to share that information with God, ourselves and another human being. When we do this, we can transform our shame and open up to new learning and gain a more balanced view of ourselves.

In the CoDA Big Book, we read that this step is one of cleansing, accountability and awareness. “Fears are natural”. “It is important to complete the step with someone outside our families” who can be an “objective, loving, caring and compassionate” listener. “Someone who has an understanding of codependency, it’s devastating effects and the recovery process”. “We must remember we are allowing our Higher Power to cast a healing spiritual light on our darkness”.

I give myself a gift in Step 5. The gift of spiritual and emotional freedom. A freedom that comes from releasing the secrets about what motivates my codependency. The forces and processes which underpin my choices, actions, beliefs and patterns of living become clearer. This gift allows me to grow in grounded confidence and opens the door to healthy relationships.

In this moment, I will acknowledge myself for doing what was most difficult for me. I will rest in the accepting presence of my Higher Power. I know I have deepened my commitment to the journey of recovery by opening my self and my heart to a fellow human being.

Step Five Prayer

Have Your Way

by a recovering co-dependent 🙂

This song by Britt Nicole helped me when I was new to recovery and going through a difficult time in my life. I was learning how to develop trust in a Higher Power. Surrender was unfamiliar to me. Fear of the unknown future was paralyzing. The lyrics, especially in the chorus, were a cry for help when I didn’t know how to let go of my will or to love myself. Take what you like…

Feels like I've been here forever,
Why can't you just intervene?
Do you see the tears keep falling?
And I'm falling apart at the seems.
But you never said the road would be easy,
But you said that you would never leave.
And you never promised that this life wasn't hard,
But you promised you'd take care of me.
So I'll stop searching for the answers,
I'll stop praying for an escape,
And I'll trust you, god, with where I am,
And believe that you will have your way.
Just have your way.
Just have your way.
When my friends and my family have left me,
And I feel so ashamed and so cold.
Remind me that you take broken things
And turn them into gold.
So I'll stop searching for the answers,
I'll stop praying for an escape,
And I'll trust you, god, with where I am,
And believe that you will have your way.
Just have your way.
Just have your way.
Even if my dreams have died,
And even if I don't survive,
I'll still worship you with all my life.
My life.
And I'll stop searching for the answers,
I'll stop praying for an escape,
And I'll trust you, god, with where I am,
And believe that you will have your way.
Just have your way.
Just have your way.
I know you will.
I won't forget.
You love me.
Have your way.

Step 4

Step 4 requires us to do a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. This is the step where we begin to see our part in our own lives and relationships. In our inventory we include our behaviors and character defects that have been harmful. This step is not an invitation to be overly critical or harm ourselves, but rather to speak our truth. The inventory process is one of the most loving things we can do for ourselves.

CoDA’s 12 Steps and 12 Traditions Workbook

We are encouraged to take our time. Pray, meditate, talk to our sponsor or co-sponsors. When we are ready, begin slowly and carefully. For me, I like the Recovery Patterns of Codependence (RPC’s) as my guide in beginning a 4th Step Inventory. The RPC’s list codependent behaviors I have used throughout my life with myself and others. In the beginning, I reflect on specific relationships and people and go down the list of patterns. I mark the ones that I use or used to gather information on how I tend to show up with others. I’m gathering information about myself. I’m looking for trends. Am I heavy control in work relationships? Am I compliant with love relationships? Do I tend toward avoidance? And with whom? I get to see with which specific relationships I acted codependently. With whom were my behaviors most intense or numerous?

After gaining insight into my behavior patterns and trends, I can go deeper into the individual behaviors that show up most frequently for me. Were there behaviors that I used “across the board”? Sometimes several patterns seem to be my “go to” behaviors. I notice them with love relationships, at work, with friends, family and even acquaintances. They may be things like difficulty admitting a mistake or lying to look good, remaining in harmful situations too long or valuing other’s approval over my own. “Across the board” behaviors may be good ones to look closely at first as they may have caused the most damage to relationships and may hold clues to old beliefs and unhealed areas in our lives.

Discovering the roots of my codependent patterns of behavior can show me why I have tended to act in ways that harm myself or others. I also uncover the underlying feelings that drive them such as fear, shame, grief, anger, etc. I can then go back to the patterns and journal on when I first started noticing them and what benefits I received (protection, attention, the illusion of control or safety, etc) as well as the consequences to the relationship and where I can go from here.

However you get there, it is worth the work! Some of us use the CoDA Workbook while others find help from workbooks like “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie and some, like me, create their own ways to work through this step. A helpful new tool being developed by CoDA is called “Working Steps 4&5 using the 40 Questions”.

And don’t forget to stop along the way to take stock in the positive traits, behaviors and areas where you’ve grown! A CoDA 4th step need not be a shaming experience. Rather it is a way we lovingly deepen our understanding about ourselves in an effort to identify obstacles to our peace and happiness. Take it slow and gentle…with lots of self-compassion.

In this moment, I am willing to see myself as I truly am: a growing, unfolding spiritual being resting in the hands of a loving God. I can separate who I am from what I’ve done knowing that the real me is emerging—loving, joyful, and whole.

Step Four Prayer

Benefits of Attending CoDA?

By John R.

Three immediate and huge benefits for attending a
Co-Dependents Anonymous Meeting:

  1. You’re not Alone; You’re immediately accepted the way you are and the way you aren’t.

    Whatever it is that makes your life difficult right now, you will find people suffering the same things in a similar way at a meeting of Co-Dependents Anonymous. You will be automatically welcomed and immediately included. You gain instant membership with very little asked of you in return. Your sharing and your silence are both welcome here. At first it might seem weird.

    There is no trick, no hidden offer. There will be no obligation placed on you. If you’re like me you already have a full plate of obligations and it will seem like finding an oasis in the desert: Zero expectations.

    And … it’s free. We don’t want your money. We just want you to come back.
  2. You’ll get No Advice

    At first it might seem weird. Every other place you go in this world is full of advice. Your mother, your life partner, your siblings, your friends, your boss, your co-workers, your therapist, your doctor… a steady stream of advice is aimed at you. You are probably full of advice. You probably give yourself advice. Advice is a form of addiction. I know people who can’t stop giving advice. I also know people who are compulsive advice shoppers, people who can’t cross the street on a green light
    without a chorus of advisors’ approval.

    So in a CoDA meeting we ask that you take a short vacation from advice. Without the constant noise of advice you’ll soon notice a new kind of listening is present in the room and available for your own application. (Did you know there are different kinds of listening?) It’s a really nourishing kind of listening. It nourishes both the listener and the person who is finally being listened to without judgement or advice. Most of us just want to be heard and known. Most of us don’t want to be fixed or changed.

    Codependents are learning to live without constantly seeking approval and guidance from outside themselves. They are also learning how to live a life that is built from individual choosing, instead of one steered by expectations, obligations and fearfulness. Some of us have found we no longer use the word “should”. We find better things to say to the people in our life.
  3. You’ll quickly find new ways to “Be” that don’t include complaints, comparisons,
    reasons, explanations, justifications and excuses.

    Nobody ever got to Heaven, or found Happiness by complaining. Noticing and giving voice to the shortcomings of others does not produce healthy self-esteem in the fault-finder. Excuses don’t excuse. Justifications don’t justify. Explanations don’t explain much of value. None of these behaviors are fun to be around, they don’t actually work. So why do they persist? The answer to that question isn’t all that interesting, it’s just another explanation.

    A better question is what practices actually do work? The answer to that question might seem weird: When you find yourself sincerely asking that question in your own words and for your own benefit and not to look good or win approval, new ways of being begin to arrive in your life. If you keep attending meetings and you start to “work the 12 steps” you will start to see whole new worlds open up for your choosing. If you do the work, you will start to receive the 12 Promises of Co-Dependents Anonymous.*

    And did I mention? … It’s free.

*Look it up. Don’t expect me to do your work.

Figure It Out is Not a Step

My recovery lies in being true to myself and to my Higher Power

The promise of our program is that when we are diligent in working the program, we will achieve recovery over personal problems of codependence. This occurs differently for everyone.
A common denominator is that codependents who work and follow the program increase their own spirituality.

Adapted from the Newcomer’s Handbook

“I just need to figure it out”, “If I can figure out what to do…” Sound familiar? Most of us have said things like this at one time or another in our recovery journey.

The 12 Steps of Co-Dependents Anonymous are the way we find serenity in our lives. Steps 1-10, help us shift the focus from others to the God of our understanding, a power greater than ourselves.

It begins with admitting where we are powerless and where we actually have power. We identify how our lives become unmanageable when we try to control the uncontrollable and fix the unfixable. We learn that “if I am not the problem, there is no solution.” Step 2 opens us up to the possibility that there may be another way to live and we take time to define our own personal concepts of spirituality and a Higher Power. The decision we make in Step 3 is our way of becoming willing to turn away from our old ways of doing things. The key here is simply to make a decision. We are choosing to surrender to our Higher Power, however we define that power to be for us. The how of turning our will and life over is up to our Higher Power. So next we can begin to clear away the blockages to our peace and happiness, the things that keep us stuck…our codependent behaviors, beliefs and patterns… by working through Steps 4-10.

In Step 11, we can now discover what it is our Higher Power wants us to do. God brings us experiences that we can learn from and which may help us to deepen our recovery. We pray only for God’s will for us and the power to carry that out… even in times when we desperately want our own will. Prayer (talking to God) and mediation (listening to God) help us to grow spiritually and to continually improve our conscious contact with God.

We allow time for our spirituality to develop. It unfolds as a result of the Steps, not by trying harder or “figuring it out” but by letting go little by little. We learn to let our Higher Power do for us what we can’t do for ourselves. By practicing and using the tools of the program, the Steps, Traditions, meetings, fellowship, sponsorship, service, literature, conscious contact, affirmations and more… we see the 12 Promises of the program come true in our lives.

Step Three Prayer 
In this moment, I can choose my own Higher Power. I can set aside all the old beliefs about who I am not and be who I am—a child of God. I can remind myself that a faith in a Higher Power becomes a faith in me, and that my recovery lies in being true to myself and to my Higher Power.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests
in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world,
and am free.

by Wendell Berry