The ACA Red Book Changed My Life

In my recovery journey since 1976, two books have helped me the most: (1) The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (this link is the book online) and (2) Adult Children of Alcoholics (this link is where you can buy this book).

On Wednesdays I am going to deviate from my normal content curation style and post short excerpts from the ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics} red book. I retyped much of my copy of the book so that I could post the excerpts online. My hope is that these Wednesdays will be an awakening for those of us who truly don’t know the devastation of growing up in a troubled family. Alcohol was in control of my family and we all suffered.

So, lets begin at The Problem:

The problem as stated in ACA is:

‘Many of us found that we had several characteristics in common as a result of being brought up in an alcoholic or other 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 .

PS. This is from an earlier addition of the Red Book which I no longer have as I keep giving them away. I think the co-victim part is not correct. We are victims but without having any idea we have a choice.





  1. Thank you so much for doing this. I’ve been sober in AA since 1988. I have the BRB and all the other ACA and AA books. I look forward to your sharing on this. I do not want to feel like a victim or be at the mercy of my emotions. I’ve been following you for a long time and truly appreciate your insight.



  2. I did not think my father was an alcoholic but trauma in childhood develops that same addiction to things being crazy out of control

    Anxiety and fear were companions so many excitement drugs


      • He was a Filomena narcissist
        My first wife was the female version of my father
        She was a narcissist

        I live with my daughter and three grandkids

        Their father is a narcissist

        They can spot us and we crave what is familiar from our caregivers


      • I believe we are opposite sides of the same coin, each completed the other. I believe children in a troubled home choose to be codependent or narcissist. Not chose like they wanted to ,but chose because they had to make this choice to survive emotionally.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I believe children abused like me are never easy going

        We either repeat what happened to us or become the opposite

        Of course this is total black and white view in reality we are hybrids of them


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