please take what you need and leave the rest...


The "Laundry List"

14 Characteristics of an Adult Child

  1. We become isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.
  2. We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.
  3. We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism.
  4. We either become alcoholics, marry them, or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs.
  5. We live life from the viewpoint of victims and are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.
  6. 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, etc.
  7. We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.
  8. We became addicted to excitement.
  9. We confuse love and pity and tend to "love" people we can "pity" and "rescue."
  10. 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.)
  11. We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.
  12. 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.
  13. Alcoholism is a family disease and we became para-alcoholics and took on the characteristics of that disease even though we did not pick up the drink.
  14. Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors.

~ Tony A., 1978 ~


The Problem

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

retrieved from on April 4, 2018


Came to Believe... ACA Statements for the Fellowship Text

1.We believe ... this book (ACA Big Book) represents the most complete description of the ACA experience from our fellowship view. (pg. ix)

2.We believe ... this discussion (on the greater meaning of ACA Recovery) will lead to new levels of clarity for Adult Children. (pg. ix)

3.We believe ... that ACA has the potential to help the suffering Adult Children of the world on the magnitude that Alcoholics Anonymous brought relief to hopeless alcoholics in the 20th century. (xiii)

4.We believe ... that once a recovering Adult Child meets and shares his or her story with another Adult Child seeking help, that adult cannot view co-dependence the same again. (pg. xiv)

5.In addition to focusing on ourselves through the Twelve Steps, we believe ... that the family system is open for inspection as well. (pg. xv)

6. We believe ... that each of us is born with a True Self that is forced into hiding by dysfunctional parenting. (pg. xv)

7.We believe ... it is through the Twelve steps program of ACA that we no longer live life from a basis of fear. We live with self-care and love. (pg. xx iv)

8.In ACA we believe ... the experiences of growing up in a dysfunctional family affect us as adults. (pg. 3)

9.Adult children from all family types not only feel shame deeply, but we believe ... we are shame. (pg. 10)

10.We believe ... that we will be safe and never abandoned if we are nice and if we never show anger. (pg. 11)

11.We believe ... that the long-term effects of fear transferred to us by a non-alcoholic parent can match the damaging effects of alcohol. (pg. 23)

12.We believe ... that hitting, threats, projection, belittlement, and indifference are the delivery mechanisms that deeply insert the disease of family dysfunction within us. (pg. 27)

13.We believe ... that something is wrong with us even though we cannot voice what the thing is. (pg. 30)

14.We ... either believe ... that the way we were raised has a direct link to our compulsions and co-dependence as adults, or we do not believe it. (pg. 33)

15.Yet, if we believe ... there is a connection, we can choose ACA and pick up the tools of recovery. (pg. 33)

16.We believe ... the solution of inclusion rose from the spiritual depths of ACA meetings and group consciences. (pg. 63)

17.We believe ... that the disease of family dysfunction is a spiritual dilemma rather than a moral deficiency to be solved by proper living. (pg. 75)

18.We don't believe ... we have a mental health problem to be cured purely by science. (pg. 75)

19.Many of us believe ... that our actual parent is a Higher Power, who is patient and loving. (pg. 75)

20.Most of us no longer believe ... that God is punishing, abandoning, or indifferent. (pg, 75)

21.We believe ... that family dysfunction is a spiritual disease that best responds to surrender, self-acceptance, and consistent effort by the adult child to make conscious contact with a Higher Power. (pg. 76)

22.We don't believe ... that family dysfunction is a moral deficiency of the parents or that changing our behavior is merely a matter of self-will. (pg. 76)

23.Adult Children of Alcoholics believe ... that recovery from the effects of growing up in a dysfunctional home requires spiritual intervention; however we do not propose to be the authority on what works best for each individual. (pg. 78)

24.We are God's children despite mistakes made. Through such affirmations and Twelve Step work, we come to believe ... in our self-worth. (pg. 93)

25.We wrongly believed ... we solved the problems from our birth family by keeping our own homes in order. We may have even eliminated alcohol or other dysfunction from our home. Our children, who often act out in addiction or aggression, give us a clue to our failing. We unintentionally passed on our family insanity or distorted thinking. (pg. 134)

26.We came to believe that this behavior was normal when it was insane by the standards of decency or true parental love. (pg. 135)

27.We are not aligned with any religious, mystical, or spiritual systems of belief; however, we believe it is imperative that the recovering adult child find a Higher Power to help him or her find healing from growing up in a dysfunctional home. (pg. 141)

28.We do not believe our brains are missing any elements. We start with the premise that we are whole and that we had a normal reaction to an abnormal situation of being raised in a dysfunctional home. (pg. 143)

29.In ACA, we believe we were born whole and became fragmented in body, mind, and spirit through abandonment and shame. We need help finding a way to return to our miracle state. (pg. 143)

30.We believe in a spiritual solution for the disease of family dysfunction. (pg. 143)

31.In addition to a deep sense of shame and abandonment, we believe that most of our emotional and mental distress can be traced to our steadfast nature to control. In ACA, we realize that control was the survival trait which kept us safe or alive in our dysfunctional homes. (pg. 143)

32.We believe our best hope is seeking a spiritual solution in concert with other recovering adult children. (pg. 148)

33.We are an autonomous program founded on the belief ... that family dysfunction is a disease that affected us as children and affects us as adults. (pg. 333)

34.We believe ... that the fear and confused thinking of the co-dependent is one of the mechanisms that pass on alcoholism and other family dysfunction even when alcohol is removed from the home. (pg. 335)

35.ACA believes ... there is a direct link between our childhood and our decisions and thoughts as an adult. (pg. 338)

36.As discussed in Chapter Two, we believe ... that some of our stored feelings become a drug, driving us from the inside to harm ourselves or others. This is the para-alcoholic nature of co-dependence. (pg. 457)

37.With this knowledge of the body, we believe ... that fear and other emotions can act as a drug. (pg. 458)

38.We believe ... when the time is right, that teen leadership will form meetings for abused and neglected young people wanting what ACA has to offer. (pg. 475)

39.In ACA, we believe ... connecting with our feelings and Inner Child are just as important as working the Twelve Steps and Sponsorship. (pg. 558)

Our feelings of self-worth and adequacy start to grow as we successfully reparent ourselves, and we begin to trust our ability to love and serve others. We give service just by being present to support and encourage other members of the program as they make the transition from frightened adult children to whole human beings who are capable of acting with the spontaneity of a child and the wisdom of a mature adult. This central concept underlies and supports all forms of service. (pg. 354)

A healthy relationship involves talking about feelings, mutual respect, and a commitment to trust and honesty. There are many other elements to a successful and intimate relationship, but these are a good start. Not surprisingly, these are the tools and principles included in the ACA program: feelings, respect, trust, and honesty. (pg. 403)

In ACA, we are more alike than different. The common denominator among all adult children involves the sense that we have failed at fixing our families or that we helped cause our family problems. Believing we could have controlled outcomes or restored our family is a common error in thinking among adult children from all dysfunctional family types. Our common solution is a spiritual awakening brought by seeking a God of our Understanding through the Twelve Steps. We must also reparent ourselves and help others to continue our spiritual growth. These are the foundational truths of our fellowship put in place from the beginning. These experiences have sustained us and carried us ... as Adult Children of Alcoholics. (pg. 646)

We believe that learning to make relationships work is at the core of full recovery. Doing so takes skill and skills are learned. (pg. 15, Stage II Recovery Life Beyond Addiction, Earnie Larsen)

retrieved from April 14, 2018

Title: Emotional Sobriety

Title: The Flip Side of The Laundry List

The Flip Side of The Laundry List
1) We move out of isolation and are not unrealistically afraid of other people, even authority
2) We do not depend on others to tell us who we are.
3) We  are  not  automatically  frightened  by  angry  people  and  no  longer  regard  personal  
criticism as a threat.
4) We do not have a compulsive need to recreate abandonment.
5) We stop living life from the standpoint of victims and are not attracted by this trait in our
important relationships.
6) We do not use enabling as a way to avoid looking at our own shortcomings.
7) We do not feel guilty when we stand up for ourselves.
8) We  avoid  emotional  intoxication  and  choose  workable  relationships  instead  of  constant  
9) We are able to distinguish love from pity, and do not think “rescuing” people we “pity” is
an act of love.
10) We come out of denial about our traumatic childhoods and regain the ability to feel and
express our emotions.
11) We stop judging and condemning ourselves and discover a sense of self-worth.
12) We  grow  in  independence  and  are  no  longer  terrified  of  abandonment.  We  have interdependent relationships with healthy people, not dependent relationships with people who are emotionally unavailable.
13) The characteristics of alcoholism and para-alcoholism we have internalized are identified, acknowledged, and removed.
14) We are actors, not reactors.

Title: The Flip Side of The Other Laundry List

The Flip Side of The Other Laundry List
1) We face and resolve our fear of people and our dread of isolation and stop intimidating others with our power and position.
2) We realize the sanctuary we have built to protect the frightened and injured child within has become a prison and we become willing to risk moving out of isolation.
3) With our renewed sense of self-worth and self-esteem we realize it is no longer necessary to protect ourselves by intimidating others with contempt, ridicule and anger.
4) We accept and comfort the isolated and hurt inner child we have abandoned and disavowed and thereby end the need to act out our fears of enmeshment and abandonment with other people.
5) Because we are whole and complete we no longer try to control others through manipulation and force and bind them to us with fear in order to avoid feeling isolated and alone.
6) Through our in-depth inventory we discover our true identity as capable, worthwhile people. By asking to have our shortcomings removed we are freed from the burden of inferiority and grandiosity.
7) We support and encourage others in their efforts to be assertive.
8) We uncover, acknowledge and express our childhood fears and withdraw from emotional intoxication.
9) We have compassion for anyone who is trapped in the “drama triangle” and is desperately searching for a way out of insanity.
10) We accept we were traumatized in childhood and lost the ability to feel. Using the 12 Steps as a program of recovery we regain the ability to feel and remember and become whole human beings who are happy, joyous and free.
11) In accepting we were powerless as children to “save” our family we are able to release our self-hate and to stop punishing ourselves and others for not being enough.
12) By accepting and reuniting with the inner child we are no longer threatened by intimacy, by the fear of being engulfed or made invisible.
13) By acknowledging the reality of family dysfunction we no longer have to act as if nothing were wrong or keep denying that we are still unconsciously reacting to childhood harm and injury.
14) We stop denying and do something about our post-traumatic dependency on substances, people, places and things to distort and avoid reality.


Title: Fearful Emotions Treatment


Step 4 Gentleness Breaks

The ACA Fourth Step involves a balanced look at our family of origin and our own behavior and thoughts. The emotions, events, and self-blame stirred by this Step can seem overwhelming for some. As you work Step Four, we urge you to be rigorously honest, holding nothing back, but we also remind you to be gentle with yourself. Remember you are not alone, and you have not done or thought anything that someone else has not done or thought. You have character assets and abilities that help balance disturbing aspects of your life.

In Step Four, we ask you to balance any shameful or fearful memories that might arise with the knowledge that you have honesty and courage in your life. ACA is not an easy program to work, but your courageis apparent and show in working this Step and tegh Twelve Steps of ACA. Adult children have an inner strength that has always been there. dThat inner strength, which some choose to call a Higher Power or Divine Spirit, is with you now as you face this liberating inventory of your life. We suggest that you remain focused during this process, but take gentleness breaks and stay in contact with your sponsor or counselor. During this break read the Eleventh Promise of the ACA promises out loud. Also read the ACA Fourth Step Prayer. (You will find the ACA promises at the front of the Workbook).

Promise Eleven: "With help from our ACA support group, we will slowly release our dysfunctional behaviors."

Fourth Step Prayer:

Divine Creator. Help me to be rigorously honest and to care for myself during this Fourth Step process. Let me practice gentleness and not abandon myself on this spiritual journey. Help me remember that I have attributes, and that I can ask for forgiveness. I am not alone. I can ask for hlep. Amen.


Mindfulness of Emotions

We often start to learn mindfulness skills by focusing our attention on our breath, our bodies, the environment or activities.  Being mindful of emotions helps us to stand back from the emotion, understand it, not to fear it or struggle against it, and it can have the added benefit of reducing the distress (although the aim is to learn to accept the experience, rather than lessen the distress).

Set aside a few minutes when you can be quiet and won’t be disturbed.

Start by bringing your attention to your breath.  Notice your breathing as you slowly breathe in and out, perhaps imagining you have a balloon in your belly, noticing the sensations in your belly as the balloon inflates on the in-breath, and deflates on the out-breath.

Notice the feelings, and what it feels like.

Name the emotion:  

What is it?

What word best describes what you are feeling?

Angry, sad, anxious, irritated, scared, frustrated...

Accept the emotion.  It’s a normal body reaction.  It can be helpful to understand how it came about – what it was, the set of circumstances that contributed to you feeling this way.  Don’t condone or judge the emotion.  Simply let it move through you without resisting it, struggling against it, or encouraging it.

Investigate the emotion.  

How intensely do you feel it?  

How are you breathing?

What are you feeling in your body?  Where do you feel it?  

What’s your posture like when you feel this emotion?  

Where do you notice muscle tension?  

What’s your facial expression?  What does your face feel like?  

Is anything changing? (nature, position, intensity)

What thoughts or judgements do you notice? Just notice those thoughts.  Allow them to come into your mind, and allow them to pass.  Any time you find that you’re engaging with the thoughts – judging them or yourself for having them, believing them, struggling against them, just notice, and bring your attention back to your breathing, and to the physical sensations of the emotion.

If any other emotions come up, if anything changes, simply notice and repeat the steps above.  Just notice that the feelings change over time.

As you become more practised, you can use this mindfulness technique when you feel more intense emotion.
© Carol Vivyan 2010. Permission to use for therapy purposes.


Title: To Joy!

Affirm Yourself

Use the book "Daily Affirmations for Adult Children of Alcoholics" by Rokelle Lerner as a guide "for the renewing of your mind." Distortions take place within the perceptions of family members in the alcoholic home - perceptions toward oneself and toward reality, in general. ACAs can have a lot of self-pity. Their self-esteem can be subterranean. They are filled with should messages.They feel victims and feel they have no options. They need to put new material into the 'tapes' within their minds.

Write out affirmation statements and repeat them throughout the day. Here are some examples: I am a person of worth. I can cope. I am OK.

David Semands, author of Healing for Damaged Emotions tells that in the British navy, a "still" is blown, just before any combat. A whistle blows and a moment of silence follows. Each person repeats these statements to himself: I am British. I am trained. I can do it.

Dr. Seamands suggests that in a moment of crisis or anxiety we blow the "Christian still." It would go thus: I am a child of God. I am equipped by the Holy Spirit. I can handle whatever comes.

from pages 184-185 of Healing for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Sara Hines Martin.


Title: To Joy!

Expect Miracles

A devotional that I read pointed out that if we start looking for a certain thing, such as the color blue, blue items will start jumping out at us. If we learn a new word, we will hear it again within twenty-four hours because our ears will pick it up. Likewise, if we look for miracles, we will see them. Think of the difference within your own mental and physical responses when you think hopefully, prayerfully. Image yourself and your loved ones as whole and healthy emotionally.

from pages 184-185 of Healing for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Sara Hines Martin.

Title: To Joy!

Cooperate with Nature

Catecholamines are biochemicals that the brain secretes when a person is under stress of any type. Catecholamines actually collect within the body, causing physical illnesses. Endorphins are the natural tranquilizers are the natural painkillers that the brain secretes when a person experiences pleasure in thought or behavior. Production of endorphins flushes out catecholamines. Do everything you can to increase the flow of endorphins in your system.

Physical exercise, meditation, positive thinking, listening to music, looking at a beautiful picture, focusing on nature as you drive, reading positive and inspirational materials, singing a hymn, reciting affirmative statements  mentally, laughing, playing with animals and/or children, doing a hobby, sharing your feelings with another person, and praying are some examples. Whatever brings a pleasurable response for you will produce endorphins. You will feel more relaxed, more positive, and actually be healthier physically. You will be better able to cope with whatever stresses exist in your life.

Say several peaceful statements to yourself.  "Be still" and "I trust in God" are good examples. Notice what happens to your bodily responses when you make those statements. Do you feel yourself getting calmer and more powerful in contrast to feeling out of control or powerless?

Now say, "Things are really hectic." "Everything's a mess." Notice your bodily responses. We can have control over our minds and our bodies by the words and thoughts we put into our minds. Notice the difference in the words "peace" and "panic". Hearing certain words produces a definite emotional response within. Keep calming statements handy - in writing or in your mind - to pull out when you feel your anxiety levels rising.  Put laughter therapy into your daily schedule. Check out books from the library of collections on humor, and laugh for five minutes before going to bed each night.

We cannot control the actions of another person, but we can choose how to think. We can retrain our minds to think positively.

Follow good nutritional guidelines. Many ACAs become addicted to food, sweets, caffeine, or chocolate.

We can have control over our minds and our bodies by the words and thoughts we put into our minds.

from Healing for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Sara Hines Martin.


Step Ten reminds you to focus on the present and live in the moment.

{___your name here_____}, you live one day at a time in ACA. By living one day at a time, you are free to focus on yourself and handle the challenges of life as they come. Step Ten helps you avoid feeling overwhelmed by staring too long at the past or obsessing on the future. One day at a time you make progress in your emotional, physical, and spiritual life. Your past can be your greatest asset, but you remember to focus on the present. You begin to actively participate in your life and in the lives of others seeking fulfilling relationships. As the Twelve Promises of ACA state, you learn how to have fun and play. You fear authority figures less, and you discover your real identity. You feel more connected to yourself, and you believe that a God of your understanding is available to you. You are learning how to set boundaries and how to keep them. In relationships, you are learning to choose people who love themselves and can be responsible for themselves. Gradually and slowly you are releasing your dysfunctional behaviors with the help of your ACA group and your Higher Power. These are ACA's great promises, which are being filled among you daily.

{___your name here_____}, you are learning to love yourself and extract Love from within yourself to share with Life. Real choice means you give up control and trust your Higher Power to provide the love and help you need to live with flexibility. Real choice is a spiritual continuum beginning at denial and leading to self-honesty, humility, wisdom, and finally discernment. Step Ten is part of that continuum of spiritual discernment. You inventory your motives and trust your Higher Power, so answers begin to emerge for you. Solutions will appear. By practicing Step Ten and all the ACA Steps, you intuitively learn how to address problems which once baffled you. You learn to avoid being enmeshed in the unhealthy dependent problems of others. Gossip is less appealing because you don't have the need to become transfixed on the problems of others to avoid looking at yourself. You trust yourself to stand steady and to be patient. You recognize manipulation - your own and others' - more quickly and take a different path. You learn to inventory your motives before taking action. Sometimes you take no action which is the best action. These are the elements of choice and discernment found in Step Ten.

(from pages 150-151 out of the Yellow Workbook, Twelve Steps of Adult Children)


Second Step Prayer

Heavenly Father, I am having trouble with personal relationships. I can’t control my emotional nature. I am prey to misery and depression. I can’t make a living. I feel useless. I am full of fear. I am unhappy. I can’t seem to be of real help to others. I know in my heart that only you can restore me to sanity if I am just willing to stop doubting your power. I humbly ask that you help me to understand that it is more powerful to believe than not to believe and that you are either everything or nothing. (p. 52:2, 52:3, 53:1, 53:2)




The Stages of Recovery

Most people recovering from addictions and other disorders can recover more sucessfully by first stabilizing these for a time, since otherwise these problems are usually distractions from being able to focus on ACA recovery issues and work. We call this stabilization period Stage One recovery work, which may take from several months to years to complete.

Many others may have no particular addictions or disorders and come to a recovery perspective because they are hurting or even "bottoming out" from emotional pain and having desire to change. These can usually enter directly into ACA and trauma effects recovery work, which we call Stage Two, and which usually takes a number of years to complete. The goals of Stage Two work include: 1) realizing our True Self, 2) grieving our ungrieved hurts, losses, and traumas, 3) finding and fulfilling our healthy needs, and 4) working through our core recovery issues.

The final one, Stage Three recovery, is about refining our relationship with self, others, and God from a spiritual perspective. It usually becomes easier to realize a loving relationship with our Higher Power once we have done most of our Stage Two recovery work. This is because the false self or ego cannot experientially relate to or know God, and the only part of us that can do this is our True Self, which we come to know in our Stage Two work. While the false self may at best try to intellectualize a relationship with God, our True Self does it from its heart, with fewer words needed.

(from p. xxviii of the Big Red Book for Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families)


August 24

"It is my bias that no one deserves to live a life of fear and shame." BRB p. xviii

Many ACAs go from blaming, shaming, complaining, and condemning ourselves and others to finally learning to name what is really going on. By doing so, we begin to come out of our victim and/or victimizer roles. We ask our Higher Power to help us remove and release our unhealthy behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. We let go of the justifications we created in our minds for our actions, thoughts, and emotions. Yes, we experienced abuse or neglect as children, and maybe as adults, but we know that does not excuse our dysfunctional behavior now.

As we gain strength and recover, we become healing survivors and then thrivers. We gradually and sometimes more quickly, develop new capacities for healthy wellbeing in our lives. We learn that we deserve a happy, full life. We learn that we have always deserved this. We don't have to do anything to be worthy, we just ARE.

As thrivers, we now know that our Higher Power is there for us. We learn to have unconditional love for ourselves and others.

On this day I acknowledge that I am worthy and deserving of a happy, full life.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email me: send mail
Thank you for visiting. Higher Power blessings.
May your dear spirit be forever blessed.