Step 11-finding my higher power

By Terrie C.

The principle of Step 11 is SPIRITUAL AWARENESS.  Prayer means asking.  Meditation means listening.  One of the things I love about this step is that it gives permission to define our own Higher Power.  What does my spirit tell me?   

Many experiences over the last 40 years of recovery work have brought me gifts of awareness.  Early, I recognized that I had rejected my female self and began to heal with naming my higher power GODDESS.  I also liked the non-gender words such as HP, creator, etc.  I learned this from a woman in my Al-Anon group and it has truly helped me. 

Many of the members of that group were talking about how meditation was helping them.  I could never seem to accomplish that.  Another recovery group that was non-12 step that I began attending started with a reading of the trusted servant’s choice and someone chose Original Blessing by Matthew Fox.  I got the book and there was a whole chapter on ART AS MEDITATION.  It changed my life.  I had not done art for about 20 years at that point and knew that it had always worked to calm me.  I began doing art again and have not stopped.

A couple of years ago, I listened to a YouTube Video by Bessel Van der Kolk on healing trauma and he talked about how trauma survivors often have difficulty with meditation.  This helped me to understand myself better from those years when I could not accomplish it. I still have difficulty staying present during standard meditation practice.  He also describes that childhood trauma needs to be called DEVELOPMENTAL TRAUMA DISORDER not PTSD and that there is a difference between the outcomes of childhood trauma and trauma that happens to adults.  Mostly, I still refer to it as PTSD because it takes less explanation; my spirit knows that my trauma took place during early development and it helps me to know how that affected my spirit.  My therapist changed the words to Developmental Trauma RESPONSE.  It helps to think of it that way instead of being disordered.  Words matter!

I use art to meditate with.  It has been a portal into more calm, and also was very important years ago when doing inner child work and affirmations of myself.  I used old pictures of myself to draw portraits to help me see how little and vulnerable I was when the repeated trauma was happening.  One of those I collaged onto a piece of newsprint advertising homes for rent.  One of the ads said pets allowed.  On the newsprint, I wrote the affirmation SHE DESERVES THE GOOD STUFF.  A great fear was being homeless and it did not only mean shelter. 

In an Ernie Larsen workshop years ago, he was teaching about affirmations.  He said we need to figure out who is driving our bus (the original message) and then write an affirmation to replace that message.  He said we all deserve the good stuff.  And, of course the image on my art piece was me when I was young.  A lot of my negative messages came from my mother.  I left home when I was 16 to escape her, but I had taken her messages along with me and was acting out the beliefs she instilled.  Ernie impressed on me that it does not work to say we are not going to believe that old message anymore.  We have to replace it with something new.  I kept that piece of art up next to the bathroom mirror for years and looked at it every day. 

All of these examples are gifts of SPIRITUAL AWARENESS.

I have not talked about my husband very much in these meetings.  Meeting him was one of the best gifts of my life.  What neither of us knew was that he was a practicing alcoholic and I had very severe PTSD.  We met in June 1979, he moved in with me in November 1980 and shortly after that his employer sent him to treatment as a requirement of employment.  Since we were living together, I got to go to treatment as his significant other.  That experience gave me the gift of recovery. The counselor for the significant others said if we needed help to call him.  A year after treatment I did call for help. He recommended a specific Al-Anon (Women only) meeting for me and a woman pastor to check out at Plymouth Congregational Church.  How did he know I needed to heal the female spirit in me?  I only know that he was an angel and I followed his advice to a T.  That is how I came to the Goddess language that I still need to use!  I asked for his help and he saw what I needed.  An important part for me was asking for help! We married in 1983 and have both been seriously working recovery. It has saved our lives and our marriage!

Each recovery group that I have been in over the years has given me different gifts…at the moment that I needed them.  Too many to enumerate, but I know for sure that I have been getting help from HP.  I also know that I still have recovery work to do. 

Another non-12 step recovery group that I was in for over 20 years disbanded in 2016.  A good friend from that group started attending Co-dependents Anonymous and told me about it.  Another gift!  Here I discovered the Recovery Patterns of Codependence.  One of the best tools for my spirit. A way of identifying my behaviors that I want to change, and an affirmation of how.  Ernie Larsen would be proud of CoDA!

This year I have recognized that I still hold myself back and have difficulty reaching out.  I made a decision to change that and have been implementing it.  One of the people I reached out to from my CoDA meeting told me about TARA BRACH.  She is truly feeding my spirit.  I am listening to her talks on her website several times a week.  One of her talks called HEALING SELF DOUBT describes the Buddha as praying to the Goddess!  How happy I felt to hear that. She has many talks on healing fear and recognizing how alike we all are in having fears.  A human condition.   Her voice is soothing and each talk has an element of self-compassion and kindness!  I have been calling her my new HP. Her talks are spiritually focused. 

I am feeling that group attendance in CoDA has brought me in touch with many people I can learn important lessons from.  My success in outreach since I made the decision to do it more has been a rich experience in feeling more connected.  That does not mean I have not been afraid! It is outside my comfort level! A recent Tara Brach talk titled SPIRITUAL HOPE is what I feel emanates from my CoDA group. 

For about a year before I volunteered to be a Group Service Representative, I started going to all of the intergroup meetings.  I met someone there that became very important to my recovery.  We never know what gift of recovery that we will get by attending meetings.  I can look back on so many over 40 years.  The Goddess is with me!

AWARENESS comes from recognizing that we have had a higher power who cares for us, even when we may not be in touch with that knowledge.  Writing this piece has reaffirmed all the times in my life when my needs were met and now, I can thank my Goddess for being there.   This answers my question at the beginning. What does my spirit tell me?

Some quotes to close with…
A recent book by Nobel Prize Winning Neuropsychiatrist has found in imaging and QEEG studies that both creating art and beholding art affects our brains…

“Color and color combinations can have profound emotional effects” and “abstract art triggers rich completion by the observer….”

Eric R. Kandel  Reductionism in Art and Brain Science

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.  The mind that responds to the intellectual and spiritual values that lie hidden in a poem, a painting, or a piece of music, discovers a spiritual vitality that lifts it above itself, takes it out of itself, and makes it present to itself on a level of being that it did not know it could ever achieve.”

Original Blessing by Matthew Fox in the chapter on Art as Meditation

MAY YOU GIVE YOURSELF YOUR OWN PERMISSION TO DISCOVER WHAT WORKS AS YOUR HIGHER POWER!

Finding Guidance in Troubled Times

Once again, we can look to our Traditions to guide us as we navigate through difficult and uncharted ground.  When faced with difficult life circumstances and relationship issues, the 12 Traditions can be the principles of our meetings as well as our interactions with others.  Who hasn’t benefitted from Tradition 12’s reminder to place “principles before personalities”? 

What more controversial topic is there right now than how and when to reopen our world after the last months of lockdown?  There are so many stories and opinions as well as triggers for codependent behaviors.  CoDA wisely lays out the guidance in Tradition 10 offering us no opinion on outside issues, which helps us keep the focus where it needs to be, our personal program of recovery. 

As we keep the focus on our primary purpose, to carry our message of recovery to those who still suffer, we are opening up our local recovery community to even more options where people can discover the gifts of the program of Co-Dependents Anonymous.  Fortunately for us, we live in a time of advancement which allows us to have choices.  As face to face meetings resume, some local zoom meetings will also continue to be available on an ongoing basis.  This allows each individual to make the choices that are right for themselves.  MinnCoDA’s “Staying Connected” page will become our “Local Online Meetings” page and links to join zoom meetings will be able to be accessed there.

Of course, each group is autonomous and can discuss and work out the details of how that particular meeting will move forward using the group conscience process.  When we gather in our meetings either face to face or online, it is wonderful to know we have a safe place to express our feelings about what is happening in our lives.  I invite you to find your voice in light of the 12 Traditions of Co-Dependents Anonymous, CoDA’s Guide to Sharing and the Recovery Patterns of Codependence. In order to ensure the emotional safety of those present, we refrain from advice giving, controlling or debating, etc.  We recognize that other people are capable of managing their own lives and that we can accept the thoughts, choices and feelings of others even if we are not comfortable with them.

Ultimately, the tools of the program which include the Serenity Prayer, 12 Steps and Traditions and many more are here to help each of us find our recovery from our codependence.  They remind us where we are powerless and where we have choices.  We grow in our trust of a Higher Power of our own understanding.  They guide us to learn to take care of ourselves and allow others to do the same.   

Welcome to Recovery From Codependency | The Phoenix Spirit

I had difficulty in my love relationships, friendships and relationships with co-workers and my family. Everything felt so difficult. Why did I keep getting
— Read on thephoenixspirit.com/2020/03/welcome-to-recovery-from-codependency/

phone a friend

Remember that game show? Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? They’d give the contestant 3 “life lines” one of which was to “phone a friend”.

In recovery, it can sometimes seem like the hardest thing to do to pick up a phone and call someone to talk. Why is it so hard to ask for help?

For me, it’s part of my “dis-ease” to wrestle with the thoughts that I might be bothering someone. So I don’t reach out for help. Or maybe it was that family “rule”…the don’t talk one. So I don’t reach out for help. It could be the belief that no one understands that leaves me feeling terminally unique and alone in my misery. So I don’t reach out for help. For some of us, when we’ve reached out for help in the past, we’ve been shamed, disappointed or abandoned. So we stopped reaching out for help.

In CoDA, when I go to a meeting, I find an important “life line” there. A phone list of people in the program who are willing to share their experience, strength and hope with others. I don’t need to worry about “bothering” them because they get to decide when and how they respond. It’s actually good practice for them in setting boundaries. If the first person doesn’t answer, I can go on to the next. I don’t take it personally, I take action to get the help I need.

It’s helpful to know the phone list has people who will relate to my struggle with codependency and I can identify with their stories. I find I’m not alone. Part of the program involves practicing things like asking for help when I need it and developing trust in those who are trustworthy.

Sometimes, chatting with someone else who understands or who takes time to listen is all I need to change my perspective. Often I already know what it is I need or want to do. Talking it out with someone else, who isn’t as invested in the outcome, can be all I need.

It can help to have another voice in my head besides my own. That old tape keeps playing in the background until I do something to quiet it. Sometimes calling a recovery friend is the something I need.

Codependents often don’t consider the consequences of our actions or decisions. Talking with a recovery friend can sometimes allow me to consider the consequences before I make decisions.

It’s getting harder for me to find excuses not to use this tool of recovery…thanks to technology. Nowadays people often text before calling and this makes picking up the phone even easier. When you feel alone, triggered, confused, hurt, even happy and just want to connect with someone, whatever…shoot out a text first to see if the person is open to a call… go ahead, use the life line…phone a recovery friend.


I’d love to hear how this tool has helped you. Or if you have a hard time with it, what stops you from reaching out?

Just for Now

By Stephanie

Just for now,

Rest in me,

Nowhere to be,

Nothing to do,

No one to save.

Just for now,

Quiet your mind,

No answers needed,

Nothing to figure out

Nothing to prove.

Just for now,

Relax your whole being,

Knowing you are held,

In an eternal embrace,

By something greater than you.

Just for now,

Open your heart,

Feel love encircle you,

Feel love move through you,

Reminding you that you are deeply loved.

Even though it’s hard to believe,

This is all that matters…

Just for now.

the second arrow

by Rita E.

“In life, we cannot always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. And with this second arrow comes the possibility of choice.”

~The Buddha

We cannot control the painful experiences we endured as children or mistakes we made in the past, and because we are human beings we cannot expect to live life without encountering pain in the future. What we can learn to control, however, is the second arrow, our reaction to the pain we encounter. 

Through attending CoDA meetings, I learned how to breathe through dark feelings like sadness and fear rather than avoid them, and to share my experience with others who are also on a path of emotional healing.

The first arrow of pain is part of the human emotional experience, but the second arrow of suffering is a choice.

Rather than suffer alone in silence or numb the painful emotions with excessive food, technology, work, alcohol, or drugs, we can attend a meeting and feel the common humanity and support of others who are working to live life fully. As the first CoDA promise says,

“I know a new sense of belonging. The feeling of emptiness and loneliness will disappear.”

step one

Step One
In CoDA that is Step One.

We admitted we were powerless over others- that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step One of Co-Dependents Anonymous

My home group focuses on the step corresponding to the month. January is one, February…two, etc. So this week’s CoDA Tool Tuesday piece is on step one.

Step one is a tool I use all the time. All my problems are first step problems. I’m trying to control someone or something that I have no power over. When I do this, my life becomes crazier.

The antidote to this behavior is not to try harder or to keep fighting or even to get creative with my problem solving. No, it’s to surrender. Yes, give up. If you are like me, giving up and surrendering seems like failing. I hated the mention of it. Not an option.

After finding recovery in CoDA, I now know that surrender is really the only way to win. I just need to take the first step. That means recognizing where I have power and more importantly, where I don’t.

So here’s how it works…when I’m ready to share and release my painful feelings, losses, experiences…you know…the yuck, then I can begin to accept my past, and start to act in healthier ways. CoDA has an awesome list of questions to ask yourself in the section of the big book on step one. Things like “Where did I learn to control others for my sense of well-being?” and “Where and how did I learn that having a relationship would make me whole?”
These questions and others can help lead me to reflect on the roots of my behaviors and see how my powerlessness and unmanageability started in childhood and flourished in adulthood.

As a kid, like kids often do, I truly believed I was responsible for the behavior and feelings of others. It happened when adults used blame or shame. You know how someone would say, “you make me so mad!” or “if you… you will make her so happy.” It happened when something upsetting occurred and my mind needed to figure out what I did to cause it so I could prevent it from happening again. If I make my bed quicker, my mom won’t rage at me… It felt real. If I was a good student, I got positive responses from adults. If I fought with my brothers or disagreed with a grown-up, I would see the reaction ‘I caused”. I started to see how I could “control” the behaviors and feelings of others by changing what I did and said. And I used this superpower to survive for a very long time. Unfortunately, this false power began making my life unmanageable as I grew up. Control, manipulation, people pleasing, fixing,,, it damages relationships and steals joy. Step one has shown me that realizing where I am powerless and where I truly have power allows me to stop fighting against what is happening and hang on to my serenity.

So here’s some things I’m struggling to accept my powerless over today..
-whether my teenage daughter turns in her homework…or not.
-my aging body and all the joys that go along with that.
-when Netflix will run a fourth season of Stranger Things.
-that people I love will sometimes disagree with me.
-how my ex-husband spends his money.
-how Minnesotans can’t seem to properly zipper merge.
-that people get sick and even die.
-the fact that pain is a part of life.

Basically, it boils down to this…
where we do not have power is the thoughts, choices, feelings and actions of OTHER people. It is only in MY thoughts, MY choices, MY feelings and MY actions where my power lies. Sometimes I feel like my feelings are not in my control. That’s okay too. Then I just accept my powerlessness over my feelings and let them be felt.

Powerlessness. Once I have recognized what it is and how it started, I can take the step toward accepting it. Then and only then can I find and embrace my true power.

Coda Tool Tuesday…CoDA Meetings

This is not a self help program. It’s mutual support. I can read and learn on my own and that’s all fine and dandy but for me, it can’t replace the experience I get in attending regular CoDA meetings.

I, like so many, had read Melody Beattie’s book, Co-dependent No More. If that’s all it takes to heal then we’d all be living happily ever after. If only it were so easy. No offense to Oprah but just because I “know better” doesn’t mean I can “do better”.

I discovered in therapy that codependency may be at the heart of my struggles. If that’s all it took then my therapist wouldn’t have needed to suggest I get my butt to a CoDA meeting.

When I entered the program of codependents anonymous, I was blown away by how much I didn’t know about my part in my dysfunctional relationships. I was both excited and horrified. Excited to learn others like me existed and horrified to know the path to recovery would be lifelong.

It was in meetings that my progress really accelerated. Listening to the experience, strength and hope of others took me out of my own narrow perspective and gave me so many new insights. Without meetings, I don’t think I could have made the life changes I needed to make.

Meetings allow me to connect with others in recovery. I get to practice speaking and feeling my feelings in a safe place where others won’t try to fix me…they just listen with understanding.

People often ask me how to find a sponsor in CoDA. My response is always… go to meetings. Listen to what others share. For me, meetings were the place where I identified people who would become my sponsors or co-sponsors.

In meetings I can practice with the other tools I’m gaining like service, boundaries, asking for help and caring without caretaking. Hearing the crosstalk guidelines helps me remember to keep the focus on myself. And the “Welcome” reminds me that codependence is a most deeply rooted, compulsive behavior…which helps me be patient with myself and reminds me to dig down to the underlying beliefs and pain that often drive my behaviors.

Meetings are a great place to find supportive friendships and feel that sense of belonging that we all so desperately need. I love the acceptance I feel when I’m in a meeting with other codependents and I share my pain or my joy. Meetings show me that I’m not a freak. I’m ok right where I am. I’m not alone.

CoDA Tool Tuesday!

There are so many tools to help us in our journey of recovery from codependency. Every Tuesday, we hope to post an article highlighting one or more of these tools. Kicking off this new feature, just in time for the holidays, we start with an excerpt written by the CoDA communications committee….


How do codependents take care of themselves during the stress of the holidays? Here are some suggestions:

1. Go to as many meetings as you need.

2. Call other members including your sponsor.

3. Set boundaries that you are willing to observe.

4. Consider reading CoDA literature and reflecting on the Steps and Traditions.

5. Take care of yourself; YOU come first!

There are also daily online and phone meetings which you can look up on coda.org. Others use the meeting phone list to reach out to newcomers with a brief message of reassurance. If needed, choosing to spend a limited time around one’s family of origin may lower holiday stress.

Making sure to take the time for sufficient sleep, and giving ourselves plenty of time to exercise, meditate and read CoDA literature are ways to remind ourselves that in CoDA we may learn to have different priorities than other folks at these sometimes difficult family holiday gatherings.

At times, the difference between having a sad holiday and having a more upbeat one is simply a matter of choosing to use program tools to help, in each challenging moment, to do things differently today, and to decide that right now serenity is your #1 priority. That includes reaching out to your CoDA family!