Sharing the Experience, Strength and Hope I’ve Found in a CoDA Step Work Group
My name is Kay and I’m a recovering co-dependent. I have been in the fellowship for just under three years.
I joined the fellowship following a bad break-up which left me broken spiritually, untrusting of my own judgement and merits and without hope for the future. Just a few weeks in CoDA saw a marked improvement in the way I felt about myself and my situation, but there was still something missing.
I didn’t see how I could work the programme properly without a sponsor and sponsors were very thin on the ground. I’d tried working with a remote sponsor in America but I found that was expensive and impractical. So, gathering my courage, I decided to end that sponsor relationship. But I still knew I needed support if I was going to take the 12 steps on board properly and make a real change in my life.
I decided to hand it over and see what would happen. Then the London region ran a sponsorship workshop. Here, a group of us decided to put together a Step Work Group to keep us moving forward through the 12 steps.
We meet once a month. At the first meeting, we set out ground rules and decided to use the 12 traditions as the blueprint for our meetings. We start each meeting with the serenity prayer to give it structure and end in the same way. We check in briefly then go on to share our work for that month.
Together, we’ve worked right up to step 9. We use the questions from the CoDA work book, work the questions and share our responses. For me, this has really helped. Not only do I have the support of four fantastic women who support me through my highs and lows and offer me their experience to help me see how I can manage my dis-ease, I also have the experience of their perspective on the programme.
I am a practicing Christian, but watching my fellows work through steps 1, 2 and 3 made me appreciate these steps more deeply, challenging my faith and increasing my understanding. Steps 1-3 have been a real foundation which I’ve turned to whenever I’m in a stick.
Step 4 came after we’d been working together for three months. In that time, we’d started to build a real trust and the safety produced by using the 12 traditions made me feel safe enough to trust that the confidentiality needed for step 4 could be maintained by the Step Work Group. I shared my fear at this step and drew on the knowledge that we were all heading into these waters together as I took bigger and bigger Step 4s.
Each month, we set ourselves a subject – an area to explore, using the questions from the CoDA book and another book which we decided to use by Group Conscience. We’d share our step 4 and then, if we wanted to, we asked for feedback from the group. This helped to give me perspective and clarity over my responsibilities and my part in events. When asked for feedback, we carefully shared similar experiences, giving examples which paralleled situations rather than dictating how people should feel.
We tackled many difficult subjects including family, physical relationships, colleagues, friends. We started with less emotive subjects before tackling the big family members category.
The step 4 work was painful and detailed. We worked steadily, supporting one another between our Step Work Group evenings with phone calls and also ran into each other at various CoDA meetings in the area. Because this remarkable group of women was pushing on with the work, it kept me going too. Their company on my journey helped me to take many difficult steps, knowing that I had their support and, of course, the unfailing support of a loving Higher Power who would restore me to sanity.
Steps five to nine followed on over the next four months. We used the same model as we had for steps one to three, working from CoDA literature and using our other literature to build our understanding of the step. However, when we got to step 9, we found it became difficult to work together at the same pace. Step 9 is for me a very personal step. I make direct amends as and when I am ready to and when the right opportunities arise. So we weren’t all able to work at the same pace.
We’ve decided to keep working together but are currently working through the 12 traditions with the CoDA work book. As and when I approach a step 9, members of the group are there to support, before and after the amend is made. We share our feelings about the amend we’re working through, and our concerns about the future. Voicing these has helped me to move forwards in my relationships and where I have made amends, those relationships have invariably improved.
It’s not all been easy. We’ve had fallings out. But we’ve used “I” statements and CoDA principles to keep us on track. Suspending judgement has helped and we’ve successfully kept out of each others lives enough to maintain some level of anonymity which means that when asked to give feedback, that feedback isn’t clouded by knowing the other person in the situation, only the patterns of our fellows and how we’ve reacted ourselves in similar situations. Using the 12 traditions has helped us to reflect – our individual progress depends upon CoDA unity.
People within our group have sponsees. Again, this has been a positive thing. We’ve been able to share our experiences of how difficult it is to sponsor without controlling! Because the Step Work Group is run using CoDA principles, it’s made these principles more familiar to me and I’ve found it easier to use them when sponsoring.
I find one of the things which makes the group safe for me is that it’s an all women group. This helped me when it came to the more personal elements of Step 4 and I believe that my disclosure in Step 4 would not have been as complete with men present.
When we started the group, we decided that we would work together and see how it goes. We haven’t had anyone leave throughout the process and we also haven’t had anyone join. For me, I feel it would be difficult for anyone to join us now. But, we’ve decided that should anyone ask to join us, we would put it to group conscience and let our Higher Power steer the group where we need to go.
And, so far, so good. Every day of my recovery has its challenges, but I know that I can draw on the support, the experience, strength and hope of some incredible women. I don’t limit my support group to the Ladies Step Work Group. I still go to regular CoDA meetings and I am happy. Just for today.