In August of 98 I embarked on a personal quest to operationally define codependency in 25 words or less. This is what I came up with. As always, take the best and leave the rest.
First of all I figured that, if it is important to abstain from codependent behavior then I needed to know exactly what I was supposed to abstain from, and I needed it short, to the point, and easy to remember and apply. In 1990 I was diagnosed as codependent by a therapist who informed me that codependency is an obsessive-compulsive disorder, so I started with that premise.
As I understand it, an obsession is an unwanted, unpleasant thought. A compulsion is an act designed to get rid of that unwanted, unpleasant thought. The compulsion works for a while, but then the obsession comes back and the whole thing starts over again. Doing the same thing expecting different results. If only they were different then I would be happy. Yeah, that sounds like the tune.
So I figure codependency has two parts: A persistent attention to whats wrong with somebody elses thoughts, feelings, or actions, combined with repeated attempts to influence somebody elses thoughts, feelings, or actions.
No surprise that this manifests in strained relationships.
I can use this definition 24 hrs. at a time. I can quit trying to influence others by overt or covert means. This I can abstain from while I work on my program and I can share it with those I sponsor. This definition also helps me apply AA wisdom to my issues, which I find helpful. In AA they can say "Don't drink and get to a meeting." Now I can say "Don't try to influence anybody else and get to a meeting." Just like the alcoholic has to abstain from alcohol, but the desire for alcohol is only lifted through working the Steps, so to do I have to abstain from attempting to influence or change other people. Period. The desire to change them will be lifted as I work the Steps.
CoDA is for people who realize that they are in a strained relationship and that what they are doing isn't working. CoDA is for people who want to stop attempting to influence or control how someone else acts, thinks or feels.
CoDA is not for people who want to make someone else "understand." It is not for people who want to "manage" the relationship better. It is for people who want to quit altogether the incessant anxiety, worry, and futile attempts to influence or change another person.
That doesn't mean I must stop caring or that I must tolerate abuse. I can ask for what I want, but if someone does not give me what I want, I seek it elsewhere. I can voice my thoughts and feelings, but if someone doesn't understand or care, I drop it and move on. I don't ignore the needs of others, but I consider my own needs first and I try always to act in my own best interest.