ACA 2: The Laundry List-Part 1

From ACA Red Book

ACA cofounder Tony A. wrote the 14 traits of an adult alcoholic in 1978. When read in New York at the first ACA group, an adult child said :”Oh, boy, that’s my laundry list!” Since that time, the 14 traits have been referred to as The “Laundry List”.

From the descriptive power of the traits, ACA was born and created. In just 260 words, The Laundry List describes the thinking and personality of an adult reared in a dysfunctional family. A sample of the 14 traits reveals how we judge ourselves and others harshly. We remain in destructive or loveless relationships because we fear abandonment.

The term “adult child” means that we respond to adult interactions with the fear and self-doubt learned as children. This undercurrent  of hidden fear can sabotage our choices and relationships. We can appear outwardly confident while living with a constant question of our worth.

In ACA, we believe the experiences of growing up in a dysfunctional family affect us as adults. many of us have had successful careers but still feel disconnected from life. Some of us experienced regular failure. We lived with a self-created calamity mixed with self-harm and self-hate. Many of us have been in the middle of success and failure. We have had fine jobs and homes, but we wondered why others appeared to be enjoying life while we guessed at what was normal. We felt like we were on the outside looking in. Whatever our path, we found no lasting help until we found ACA.

Since its first writing, The Laundry List has been adapted by various groups and authors. West Coast ACA groups placed The Laundry List in a narrative form known as The Problem, which is read at the beginning of ACA meetings throughout the fellowship. The Laundry List traits are also known as the common behavior characteristics among ACA members.

Tony A. included his list in his book, The Laundry List: The ACOA Experience.

The list is:

a. We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.

b. We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.

c. We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism

d. We either become alcoholics, marry them, or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs.

e. We live life from the viewpoint of victims and are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.

f. We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves. This enables us not to look too closely at our own faults.

g. We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.

h. We become addicted to excitement.

i. We confuse love with pity and tend to “love” people who we can `pity” and “rescue”.

j. We have stuffed our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much (denial).

k. We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.

l. We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us.

m. Alcoholism is a family disease and we became para-alcoholics and took on the characteristics of the disease even though we did not pick up the drink.

n. Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors.


  1. You have described most of childhood PTSD symptoms

    There does not need to be alcohol for an abused kid to harbor most of these symptoms


    • That is well documented in the ACA book–that this book is for all who grew up in a troubled home. The book was written in 1986 so was very clearly ahead of its time. I have another post comparing the Laundry List and PTSD symptoms I wrote a few years ago. They are very similar.

      Liked by 1 person

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