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

Came To Believe

In this moment,
I can believe that I am never alone;
I can experience the sense of freedom that having a Higher Power offers me.
I can remind myself that believing is also an action,
and if I am willing to practice it, one moment at a time,
I will develop faith.

Step Two Prayer

In Step One, we admitted we had no power over another. We acknowledged that focusing on others to feel good about ourselves had become a compulsion over which we had become powerless.

In Step Two, we learned our resources alone were not sufficient for recovery. We were offered an alternative, one for which we had been unknowingly seeking, a relationship with a Higher Power and the assurance that we were not alone.

Although coming to believe may have been gradual, in the beginning all we needed to attain it was the willingness to attend CoDA meetings and keep an open mind.

Step Two tells us there is hope. Little by little, one day at a time, we come to believe that we can count on the promise of a loving Higher Power. We are offered a new way of life, one in which we need not be alone.

Excerpt from the Twelve Steps Handbook, Co-Dependents Anonymous

This Valentine’s Day, Give Yourself a Gift… Self-Compassion

Take a Self-Compassion Break

Learn more

Think of a situation in your life that is difficult, that is causing you stress. Call the situation to mind, and see if you can actually feel the stress and emotional discomfort in your body.

Now, say to yourself:

1. This is a moment of suffering
That’s mindfulness. Other options include:

  • This hurts.
  • Ouch.
  • This is stress.

2. Suffering is a part of life
That’s common humanity. Other options include:

  • Other people feel this way.
  • I’m not alone.
  • We all struggle in our lives.

Now, put your hands over your heart, feel the warmth of your hands and the gentle touch of your hands on your chest. Or adopt the soothing touch you discovered felt right for you.

Say to yourself:

3. May I be kind to myself
You can also ask yourself, “What do I need to hear right now to express kindness to myself?” Is there a phrase that speaks to you in your particular situation, such as:

  • May I give myself the compassion that I need
  • May I learn to accept myself as I am
  • May I forgive myself
  • May I be strong.
  • May I be patient

This practice can be used any time of day or night, and will help you remember to evoke the three aspects of self-compassion when you need it most.

Take 5 minutes for yourself and listen to a Tender Self-compassion Break audio from Dr. Kristin Neff

How do I get a sponsor?

This is a common question in our fellowship. Newcomers to our program often wish to find a sponsor quickly. Some of us in the program have found that sponsorship in CoDA can take many forms and proceeding slowly and carefully is advised. One-to-one sponsorship in our program can be tricky due to the nature of our disease. For a sponsee, it is easy to enmesh with or become dependent on a sponsor. A sponsor must be working a strong program to avoid falling into rescuing, caretaking, advising, or other forms of codependent behavior. Good boundaries are important for sponsors and sponsees alike. CoDA’s 12 Tips for Sponsors can be a helpful tool for those sponsoring.

Here are some descriptions from CoDA World about sponsorship. If you are in need of a sponsor, perhaps the information below can provide you with some direction.

Traditional Sponsorship

The place to begin the search for a sponsor is often in your home group or local meetings. Some meetings offer a list of CoDA members willing to be sponsors but many members who are eager and qualified to be sponsors are not on the list.  One to one sponsors can be specially helpful as we learn the CoDA Program or if we are navigating a difficult relationship challenge.

After you attend at least six CoDA meetings, listen for people who consistently share their recovery in a way that’s understandable to you. Talk with these people outside of the meeting to help you decide if you can feel safe working with them. Then ask one of these people if they would be willing to sponsor you. It may take time to get to know someone well enough to consider them for a sponsor. It is important to remember that no sponsor is “perfect”, as our program teaches us that all people are “perfectly imperfect” human beings.

We may find ourselves in a group in which there are no members willing or able to sponsor. In this case, we can travel to another CoDA group in the area or perhaps a CoDA event like an Intergroup meeting or MinnCoDA Meetup. Other options are to attend a phone or online meeting and try to find someone there with whom you identify.

Co-sponsoring (adapted from Sponsorship Booklet)

Co-sponsoring occurs when two CoDA members sponsor each other. Co-sponsors meet or call regularly to share what they are learning about the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. They share experience, strength, and hope equally, growing in their own way and at their own pace.

As in all sponsor relationships, the recovery goal in CoDA co-sponsorship is to have a mutually beneficial relationship. Working the Steps, changing our behavior, and growing spiritually frees us from advising, controlling, and rescuing.

Co-sponsors may choose to have another CoDA member guide them, especially through difficult situations or when they get stuck.  Sometimes co-sponsorship is a good model for sponsorship when utilized in conjunction with a Step-Study Group.

Step Study Groups (adapted from The Meeting Handbook)/Sponsorship Groups

Step Study groups are groups of codependents working through the Twelve Steps, Twelve Traditions, or other CoDA material in a structured format, usually outside of a regular meeting. Step Study groups often have the same objectives as co-sponsors, but with more people, and members often make contact outside the group. Please see the Step Study Group section of the ORG for information and details on starting a Step Study Group. Once a group has completed the steps together, some people may wish to continue working together as a sponsorship group. Some of us in CoDA find group sponsorship to be very helpful in our recovery journeys.

Temporary Sponsor  (adapted from Sponsorship Booklet)

One way to become comfortable with a sponsor is to investigate temporary sponsorship. Often the time period for such an arrangement is left open-ended. We might want to commit to being sponsors for a couple of months and then re-evaluate the relationship.

Another form of this is to ask someone to commit to sponsoring you in completing a portion of your step work, just the first three steps or just step 4 for example.

and remember…

If your prospective sponsor is unable to take the commitment, they will tell you. Please do not consider this a personal rejection. People with recovery place limits on the number of CoDA members they can sponsor. Others may feel unready in their own recovery to guide someone else. Keep looking and asking. The “right” sponsor will emerge.

For more info on sponsorship, take a listen to some archive materials from CoDA’s sponsorship workshop from February 11, 2023.

Feelings wheel

Codependents often have difficulty identifying what they are feeling.

In recovery, I am aware of my feelings and identify them, often in the moment. I know the difference between my thoughts and feelings.

There are many tools to help as we learn to identify, honor and express our feelings. Here is one some of us have found useful. Being able to name feelings is an important part of our recovery. It can take courage, time and practice.

Remember all the feelings are allowed. They will flow through if we don’t try to stop them or force them away. Be gentle and patient with yourself as you grow.

Step in 2023 with intention

May I try to _____ as best I can today.

As we step into 2023, we are likely to focus on the ways our lives have fallen short of our expectations.  We may dream of everything we want to accomplish or changes we would like to make so that the year is happier and more fulfilling than the last one.

Feelings of satisfaction often stem from our core, aka personal, values.  We tend to feel satisfied when we are living in accord with our values – things like service, connection with nature, friendship, family, love, honesty, health – and dissatisfied when we are not.

In recovery, it may help to set our intention to get inline with our values.  To let go of behaviors or circumstances that are no longer serving us, and to take actions that allow us to thrive.

What are the core values that give meaning to your life? Some suggestions are listed below. You can also use CoDA’s Recovery Patterns of Codependence or the 12 Promises to get ideas. Try writing an intention to live in accord with your values in the form of a wish like:

“May I try to… as best I can today.”

Once you’ve written your intention, you can say it first thing when you get up in the morning, before bed and also include it in your 10th step inventory…reviewing the big and small ways you were on or off track that day.

We need to be very self-compassionate when we notice we’ve strayed from our intention—no shame or judgement, it’s only human—and then remind ourselves to refocus on the positive intention again.

Below is a list of core values some have found helpful. This list is not exhaustive, but it will give you an idea of some common core values. Try selecting no more than five to focus on—if everything is a core value, then nothing is really a priority.

Core Values List

  • Authenticity
  • Acceptance
  • Achievement
  • Adventure
  • Autonomy
  • Awareness
  • Balance
  • Beauty
  • Belonging
  • Boldness
  • Boundaries
  • Challenge
  • Citizenship
  • Community
  • Competency
  • Contribution
  • Courage
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Determination
  • Equal Relationships
  • Fairness
  • Faith
  • Forgiveness
  • Friendships
  • Fun
  • Gentleness
  • Growth
  • Happiness
  • Health
  • Honesty
  • Humor
  • Integrity
  • Inner Harmony
  • Justice
  • Kindness
  • Knowledge
  • Leadership
  • Learning
  • Love
  • Loyalty
  • Meaningful Work
  • Openness
  • Optimism
  • Peace
  • Pleasure
  • Poise
  • Recognition
  • Religion
  • Reputation
  • Respect
  • Responsibility
  • Security
  • Self-Compassion
  • Self-Respect
  • Serenity
  • Service
  • Spirituality
  • Stability
  • Success
  • Trustworthiness
  • Wealth
  • Wisdom