Family and Forgiveness


In the company of family and friends, we will be with them in body and mind.

SLAA 5th Promise

We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. ..We will intuitively know how to handle situations that used to baffle us.

AA Promises (CoDA Book page 81)

To have healthy and loving relationships, we must decide that this is truly what we want. Keeping this desire in our hearts and minds helps us to replace our desire to protect ourselves at all times, and at all costs.

Before recovery, we lived life according to what others wanted in a relationship. By placing our desire for a healthy relationship with ourselves first, we are learning a new way of life. When we love and honor ourselves, we have healthier relationships with others. A loving relationship includes honesty, openness, willingness, acceptance and taking care of ourselves, so that we can go freely to others. We learn to release the need to be filled from the outside, learning instead to be filled from within, before coming into relationship with another. Loyalty to ourselves needs always to come first.


Healthy relationships need healthy boundaries. As adults we need to set these limits for ourselves. No-one else can decide what is ok for us. By setting clear boundaries on our own behavior and on the behavior that we will accept from others, we begin to take back our lives from being controlled by other people’s thoughts, feelings and problems. We claim ownership of and responsibility for ourselves.

Setting limits doesn’t mean intolerance or selfishness. It means making our own choices, refusing to allow ourselves to be harmed, accepting responsibility for our own beliefs, feelings and actions and learning how to take care of ourselves, one day at a time.


“If I accept my parents as they are I do not have to seek them in other people. I think we work out issues with our parents in our current relationships. I was pursuing a relationship for years because of this – he was the perfect combination of both my Mother and Father. My child within still searches for the perfect parent. Recovery in CoDA is teaching me to be my own parent. No one but me knows what I need. If I become dependent on anyone to validate me and give me what I need, I will always come up short.”


“Something was beginning to change in me – my therapist and my support system in recovery were chipping away at my denial about my family. Maybe they were not so healthy and loving; maybe they were actually abusive. As the illusion about my family started to crumble, I felt more pain, and I began to get in touch with my rage.”

“I tentatively began talking about my new awareness with my sisters and brothers and met with mixed results. Sometimes they seemed to understand, and other times, they discounted me. Because my family’s pattern seemed to be that we did not get help until one of us was suicidal, things did not change until my sister and later my brother, got in touch with their feelings of pain and went to treatment. The whole family was asked to participate and I made a commitment to myself that I would use the opportunity to further my recovery. My mother (a family therapist) told her clients’ families that they were powerless over the addicts in their lives and therefore needed to focus on themselves; yet she told me just the opposite - that we were going to work on my sister. I argued with her and felt crazy until I realized how crazy-making the argument was.”

“And now after many years, my relationship with my family has improved greatly but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I have difficulty being around my parents for long periods of time. When old stuff surfaces, or I start hearing crazy-making messages, I tend to protect myself in old ways, and I can say mean things. I have learned that one of the ways I can make amends to my parents is to not put myself around them for extended periods of time.”

In This Moment - I love and accept my Family

I was a low priority on my Mother’s list. When I metaphorically said “knock, knock” I heard no response. There was no sharing of anything meaningful, no intimacy in this mother-daughter relationship. Now, with my mother in her 80’s our relationship is evolving. My mother talks to me and even expresses feelings. I listen well thanks to CoDA. I’m learning so much about my Mother’s strengths: She’s emotionally stable, retains old friendships and has developed a support system for dealing with my father’s dementia. I am grateful that I have come to know my Mother better – I value our new and renewed relationship.


“My first step took over a year to look at the effects my childhood had on me and how I had integrated so many destructive behaviors in order to survive. I didn’t want to feel those feelings I had locked away for so many years. I felt that by looking at my past, I would be disloyal to my parents. It took some time to realise this work was not about blaming my parents, but about holding them accountable for their behaviors. I learned that codependence is inter-generational, and that my parents were doing what was taught them. Their dysfunction had been handed down to them, just as they had handed it down to me, and as I had passed it on to my children. This work was simply about stopping the cycle.”

Mary’s story


Working on forgiveness before making amends is very important. As we let go of the past, accept the truth about it and learn about our freedom of choice in recovery today, we begin to feel a new inner peace. This opens the door to restoring relationships with ourselves and others. Without forgiveness, we harbor resentments and our amends may not be genuine. This is not a time to “act as if”.

Forgiveness comes in its own time. First we need to work through and experience fully our feelings. We need to figure out what the lesson is for us and what our new behaviors and responses need to be so that the abuse or mistreatment does not continue. Often the lesson is learning to own my power to take care of myself with people. This is a grieving process, done in stages that begin with denial and move us into anger and sadness. Once we have done this we are ready to forgive, but not until then. Forgiveness done too soon will be ineffective and will require re-doing.


It was difficult for some of us to let go of the past. We wanted to move on, but still felt stuck with the desire to punish ourselves or others for the pain we had so long endured. Steps Six and Seven offered us the chance to release our old ways of coping. We just needed a little help in order to “be entirely ready for God to remove all our defects of character”

  • In this moment I can choose to let go of the desire to blame myself or others.

  • I let go of the need to be defensive

  • I make peace with myself as I practice forgiveness

  • I am accepting, loving and forgiving

  • I am filled with tolerance for myself and others.

  • No matter what my life experience has been, I grow in forgiveness.

  • As I learn to trust my Higher Power and to release my fear of others, love and acceptance fill my being.

  • Other people are not meant to be a source of satisfaction. I can share my own sense of satisfaction and joy with others but/and I am not dependent on others for this joy.

  • Self-forgiveness “I love and accept myself. I have taken responsibility for my behavior with ………, and I am now free to let the past go”

  • Forgiveness of Others “I have dealt with my feelings towards…….., and I have forgiven them. I have let go of my feelings towards them and I allow peace and love to settle into our relationship.”

  • God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change !