The ACA Promises

  1. We will discover our real identities by loving and accepting ourselves.

  2. Our self-esteem will increase as we give ourselves approval on a daily basis.

  3. Fear of authority figures and the need to “people-please” will leave us.

  4. Our ability to share intimacy will grow inside us.

  5. As we face our abandonment issues, we will be attracted by strengths and become more tolerant of weaknesses.

  6. We will enjoy feeling stable, peaceful, and financially secure.

  7. We will learn how to play and have fun in our lives.

  8. We will choose to love people who can love and be responsible for themselves.

  9. Healthy boundaries and limits will become easier for us to set.

  10. Fears of failure and success will leave us, as we intuitively make healthier choices.

  11. With help from our ACA support group, we will slowly release our dysfunctional behaviors.

  12. Gradually, with our Higher Power’s help, we will learn to expect the best and get it.

The ACA Serenity Prayer

God (Higher Power) grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know that one is me.

The ACA Twelve Traditions

  1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on ACA unity.

  2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority – a loving God as expressed in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants, they do not govern.

  3. The only requirement for membership in ACA is a desire to recover from the effects of growing up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional family.

  4. Each group is autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or ACA as a whole. We cooperate with all other Twelve-Step programs.

  5. Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the adult child who still suffers.

  6. An ACA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the ACA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

  7. Every ACA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

  8. Adult Children of Alcoholics should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

  9. ACA, as such, ought never be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

  10. Adult Children of Alcoholics has no opinion on outside issues; hence the ACA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.

  11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, TV, films, and other public media.

  12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

The Laundry List

  1. We became 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; 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.

The Other Laundry List

  1. To cover our fear of people and our dread of isolation we tragically become the very authority figures who frighten others and cause them to withdraw.

  2. To avoid becoming enmeshed and entangled with other people and losing ourselves in the process, we become rigidly self-sufficient. We disdain the approval of others.

  3. We frighten people with our anger and threat of belittling criticism.

  4. We dominate others and abandon them before they can abandon us or we avoid relationships with dependent people altogether. To avoid being hurt, we isolate and dissociate and thereby abandon ourselves.

  5. We live life from the standpoint of a victimizer, and are attracted to people we can manipulate and control in our important relationships.

  6. We are irresponsible and self-centered. Our inflated sense of self-worth and self-importance prevents us from seeing our deficiencies and shortcomings.

  7. We make others feel guilty when they attempt to assert themselves.

  8. We inhibit our fear by staying deadened and numb.

  9. We hate people who “play” the victim and beg to be rescued.

  10. We deny that we’ve been hurt and are suppressing our emotions by the dramatic expression of “pseudo” feelings.

  11. To protect ourselves from self punishment for failing to “save” the family we project our self-hate onto others and punish them instead.

  12. We “manage” the massive amount of deprivation we feel, coming from abandonment within the home, by quickly letting go of relationships that threaten our “independence” (not too close).

  13. We refuse to admit we’ve been affected by family dysfunction or that there was dysfunction in the home or that we have internalized any of the family’s destructive attitudes and behaviors.

  14. We act as if we are nothing like the dependent people who raised us.

Tony A's Twelve Steps

  1. We admitted that we were powerless over the effects of living with alcoholism and that our lives had become unmanageable.

  2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could bring us clarity.

  3. We made a decision to practice self-love and to trust a Higher Power of our understanding.

  4. We made a searching and blameless inventory of our parents because, in essence, we had become them.

  5. We admitted to our Higher Power, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our childhood abandonment.

  6. We were entirely ready to begin the healing process with the aid of our Higher Power.

  7. We humbly asked our Higher Power to help us with our healing process.

  8. We became willing to open ourselves to receive the unconditional love of our Higher Power.

  9. We became willing to accept our own unconditional love by understanding that our Higher Power loves us unconditionally.

  10. We continued to take personal inventory and to love and approve of ourselves.

  11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with our Higher Power, praying only for knowledge of its will for us and the power to carry it out.

  12. We have had a spiritual awakening as a result of taking these steps, and we continue to love ourselves and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

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.

The Solution

The Solution is to become your own loving parent. 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 reparent 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. By attending these meetings on a regular basis, you will come to see parental alcoholism or family dysfunction for what it is: a disease that infected you as a child and continues to affect you as an adult.

You will learn to keep the focus on yourself in the here and now. You will take responsibility for your own life and supply your own parenting. You will not do this alone. Look around you and you will see others who know how you feel. We will love and encourage you no matter what. We ask you to accept us just as we accept you. This is a spiritual program based on action coming from love. We are sure that as the love grows inside you, you will see beautiful changes in all your relationships, especially with God, yourself, and your parents.

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 ourselves, 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 that out.

  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others who still suffer, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The Workplace Laundry List

  1. We confuse our boss or supervisor with our alcoholic parent(s) or qualifier and have similar relationship patterns, behaviors, and reactions that are carry-overs from childhood.

  2. We confuse our co-workers with our siblings or our alcoholic parent(s) and repeat childhood reactions in those working relationships.

  3. We expect lavish praise and acknowledgment from our boss for our efforts on the job.

  4. Authority figures scare us and we feel afraid when we need to talk to them.

  5. We get a negative “gut reaction” when dealing with someone who has the physical characteristics or mannerisms of our alcoholic qualifier.

  6. We have felt isolated and different from everyone around us, but we don’t really know why.

  7. We lose our temper when things upset us rather than dealing with problems productively.

  8. We busy ourselves with our co-workers’ jobs, often telling them how to do their work.

  9. We can get hurt feelings when co-workers do things socially together without asking us, even though we have not made an effort to get to know them and join in the social life.

  10. We are afraid to make the first move to get to know a co-worker better, thinking they will not like us or approve of us.

  11. We usually do not know how to ask for what we want or need on the job, even for little things.

  12. We do not know how to speak up for ourselves when someone has said or done something inappropriate. We try desperately to avoid face-to-face confrontations.

  13. We are sensitive and can get extremely upset with any form of criticism of our work.

  14. We want to be in charge of every project or activity, feeling more comfortable when we are in control of every detail, rather than letting others be responsible.

  15. We may be the workplace “clown” to cover up our insecurities or to get attention from others.

  16. We are people-pleasers and may take on extra work, or our co-workers’ tasks, in order to be liked and receive approval from others.

  17. We do not know how to be assertive in getting our needs met or expressing a concern. We may have to repeatedly rehearse our comments before delivering them.

  18. We have felt that we do not deserve a raise, promotion, better workspace, or a better job.

  19. We do not know how to set boundaries, and we let others interrupt us. We can accept more work without knowing how to say ‘no’ appropriately.

  20. We are perfectionists about our own work and expect others to be the same and have the same work ethics and values.

  21. We become workaholics because it gives us a feeling of self-worth we did not get as a child.

  22. We may jump from job to job, looking for the perfect position as the substitute for the secure and nurturing home environment we did not have.

  23. We get upset when people do things that affect us or our work without asking us first.

  24. We have a high tolerance for workplace dysfunction and tend to stick it out in an unhappy job because we lack the self-esteem to leave.