Adult Children of Alcoholics: The Promise, The Problem, The Steps

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

  • 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 ourselves, married them, or both. Failing that, we found other compulsive personalities, such as a workaholic, to fulfill our sick need for abandonment.
  • We lived live from the standpoint of victims. Having an over developed sense of responsibility, we preferred to be concerned with others rather than ourselves. We got guilt feelings when we trusted ourselves, giving in to others. 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. We keep 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 keep them buried as adults. As a result of this conditioning, we often 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 solutions.

This is a description, not an indictment.

Adult Children of Alcoholics – ACOA: The Promise

  • We will discover our real idenities by loving and accepting ourselves.
  • Our self-esteem will increase as we give ourselves approval on a daily basis.
  • Fear of authority figures and the need to “people-please” will leave us.
  • Our ability to share intimacy will grow inside us.
  • As we face our abandonment issues, we will be attracted by strengths and become more tolerant of weaknesses.
  • We will enjoy feeling stable, peaceful, and financially secure.
  • We will learn how to play and have fun in our lives.
  • We will chose to love people who can love and be responsible for themselves.
  • Healthy boundaries and limits will become easier for us to set.
  • Fears of failures and success will leave us, as we intuitively make healthier choices.
  • With help from our ACA support group, we will slowly release our dysfunctional behaviours.
  • Gradually, with our Higher Power’s help, we learn to expect the best and get it.

ACOA: The Twelve Steps

  1. We admitted we were powerless over the effects of alcoholism or other family dysfunction, that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand God.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to our selves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and, when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understand God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry it out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others who still suffer, and to practise these principles in all our affairs.

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