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ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) Held the Key for My Understanding My Addiction

Alcoholics Anonymous started in 1935 and has spawned over 200 different types of twelve step meetings. One of the first to deal with feelings was ACA–Adult Children of Alcoholics. It was a formula designed to touch on a lot of emotion–adult, children and alcoholic. Our reality is in our feelings. Our emotional patterns are established in our childhood. I believe that addiction starts from these patterns begun in childhood.

Codependency means being part or dependent on someone else for our emotional completion. Being reared in a home with frequent emotional strife means being reared with emotional healing issues.

At some level we have each experienced feelings of abandonment, difficulty trusting others, having boundaries, trouble standing up for ourselves or feeling shameful because of others’ actions. We may have learned these emotional choices in our family of origin.

ACA’s  main book is my 2nd favorite book in recovery. It is for sale at the ACA world service organization here.

Ths site also lists meetings available woldwide here.

From this site:


“Many of us found that we had several characteristics in common as a result of being brought up in an alcoholic or dysfunctional household. We had come to feel isolated and uneasy with other people, especially authority figures. To protect ourselves, we became people-pleasers, even though we lost our own identities in the process. All the same we would mistake any personal criticism as a threat. We either became alcoholics (or practiced other addictive behavior) ourselves, or married them, or both. Failing that, we found other compulsive personalities, such as a workaholic, to fulfill our sick need for abandonment.”

“We lived life from the standpoint of victims. Having an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, we preferred to be concerned with others rather than ourselves. We got guilt feelings when we stood up for ourselves rather than giving in to others. Thus, we became reactors, rather than actors, letting others take the initiative. We were dependent personalities, terrified of abandonment, willing to do almost anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to be abandoned emotionally. Yet we kept choosing insecure relationships because they matched our childhood relationship with alcoholic or dysfunctional parents.”

“These symptoms of the family disease of alcoholism or other dysfunction made us “co-victims”, those who take on the characteristics of the disease without necessarily ever taking a drink. We learned to keep our feelings down as children and kept them buried as adults. As a result of this conditioning, we confused love with pity, tending to love those we could rescue. Even more self-defeating, we became addicted to excitement in all our affairs, preferring constant upset to workable relationships.”

“This is a description, not an indictment.”

“Adapted from The Laundry List”


“As ACA becomes a safe place for you, you will find freedom to express all the hurts and fears you have kept inside and to free yourself from the shame and blame that are carryovers from the past. You will become an adult who is imprisoned no longer by childhood reactions. You will recover the child within you, learning to accept and love yourself.”

“The healing begins when we risk moving out of isolation. Feelings and buried memories will return. By gradually releasing the burden of unexpressed grief, we slowly move out of the past. We learn to re-parent ourselves with gentleness, humor, love and respect.”

“This process allows us to see our biological parents as the instruments of our existence. Our actual parent is a Higher Power whom some of us choose to call God. Although we had alcoholic or dysfunctional parents, our Higher Power gave us the Twelve Steps of Recovery.”

“This is the action and work that heals us: we use the Steps; we use the meetings; we use the telephone. We share our experience, strength, and hope with each other. We learn to restructure our sick thinking one day at a time. When we release our parents from responsibility for our actions today, we become free to make healthful decisions as actors, not reactors. We progress from hurting, to healing, to helping. We awaken to a sense of wholeness we never knew was possible.”

I recently met a classmate from high school–we graduated in 1958–and I was sharing some of my growing up experiences. She said that it was hard for her to believe what I remembered about my core family as she viewed us as the perfect All-American family. I guess we were better at the cover-up than I thought. I remember feeling so guilty in grade school as I cried on the way to school that I couldn’t save my mother from the arguments my parents had. It never entered my mind to wonder why she couldn’t save herself. Or me.

I have been asked to publish a link to the ACA Arizona Retreat to be held Sept.11-13 on Mingus Mountain. Check it out.

Photo credit.