COSA History

COSA is an anonymous, international Twelve Step recovery program for those whose lives have been affected by compulsive sexual behavior. The COSA fellowship is steadfastly autonomous; it is not affiliated with any other organizations. We are also self-supporting, sustained entirely by voluntary donations of time and money from our members.

COSA’s Origins

COSA was founded in 1980 as a Twelve Step recovery program for men and women whose lives have been affected by another person’s compulsive sexual behavior.

Adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon, COSA is a program for our spiritual development, no matter what our religious beliefs. As we meet to share our experience, strength, and hope while working the Twelve Steps, we grow stronger in spirit. We begin to lead our lives more serenely and in deeper fulfillment, little by little, one day at a time. Only in this way can we be of help to others. The only requirement for membership in COSA is to have been affected by compulsive sexual behavior.

While there are no dues or fees for membership, most groups pass a basket for contributions since COSA is entirely self-supporting and declines outside donations.

About the Acronym, Steps, and Traditions

Over the course of a few years during the late 1990s, the COSA fellowship worked on developing an approved version of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of COSA. A brief history of the process follows.

At the first Winter Board Meeting in 1997, the Board members recognized that COSA didn’t have one distinct set of the Steps and Traditions. Many groups were using different variations in their meetings, and the literature had different versions. There was even disagreement as to whether “C.O.S.A.” stood for ‘Codependents of Sex Addicts’ or ‘Co-Sex Addicts.’ An approved version was needed for unifying our COSA literature. The board voted on a single version to present to the groups, which was then included in the next Delegate Packet. The 1997 Delegate Packet asked the groups to vote on the Steps, Traditions, and meaning of COSA.

At the 1997 Annual Delegate Meeting, the strong debate over what “COSA” meant and what our Step One should say indicated a lack of fellowship-wide group conscience in the matter of who we are and what we stand for. Unfortunately, the votes of absentee delegates (who did not have the opportunity to participate in the discussion) outweighed the delegates who were present, and the version in the delegate packet passed (by a close margin on some points).

At the 1998 Winter Board Meeting, the board recognized that the fellowship needed another opportunity for input. A questionnaire about the wording of the Steps and Traditions was included in the 1998 Delegate Packet. The Board members decided that the questionnaire results would not be counted as a vote; all voting needed to be done by delegates who attended the Annual Delegate Meeting.

At the 1998 Annual Delegate Meeting, the groups’ responses to the questionnaire were presented. There was only a short time to discuss the results, so the delegates and Board members present decided that the board would be responsible for future actions based on those results.

At the 1999 Winter Board Meeting, Board members discussed the topic at length and unanimously agreed on the new, approved wording of COSA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions and the meaning of COSA. In summary, the official name of our organization is now “COSA,” not “C.O.S.A.” It is no longer an abbreviation. The Steps and Traditions listed on the ISO website show the new version; wording changes were made in Steps One and Seven, and in Traditions Three and Five. These changes are meant to honor the differences that exist in how COSA groups choose to define themselves; the new version attempts to be as inclusive as possible. This material is what will be used in ISO of COSA literature as the “official version,” with the understanding that individual COSA groups have the right to “take what you like and leave the rest” (since each group is autonomous). Each COSA member may choose to define him/herself as a codependent of sexual addiction, as a co-sex addict, or simply as a member of COSA, according to his or her own personal experience and conscience. It has been quite a process to come to this approved wording. We feel we’ve done our best to honor all opinions and information. It is the Board’s hope that the COSA fellowship will understand this process and accept the outcome. We ask the group members to keep in mind Tradition One: “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon COSA unity.”