Adult Children of Alcoholics®/ Dysfunctional Families
ACA for inner peace and serenity.
Success in ACA is not measured with money or social status, but with inner peace and serenity. We share our experience, strength and hope with each other as we laugh together, cry together and know that we are home.
What is an Adult Child?
The concept of Adult Child came from the Alateens who began the Hope for Adult Children of Alcoholics meeting. The original members of our fellowship, who were over eighteen years old, were adults; but as children they grew up in alcoholic homes.
Adult Child also means that when confronted, we regress to a stage in our childhood.
ACA History– an interview with Tony A., 1992
An adult child is someone who responds to adult situations with self-doubt, self-blame, or a sense of being wrong or inferior, all learned from stages of childhood.
Without help, we unknowingly operate with ineffective thoughts and judgments as adults. The regression can be subtle, but it is there sabotaging our decisions and relationships.
The following questions can help you decide if alcoholism or other family dysfunction existed in your family. If your parents did not drink, your grandparents may have drank and passed on the disease of family dysfunction to your parents. If alcohol or drugs were not a problem, your home may have been chaotic, unsafe, and lacking nurture like many alcoholic homes.
Am I an Adult Child?
Do you recall anyone drinking or taking drugs or being involved in some other behavior that you now believe could be dysfunctional?
Did you avoid bringing friends to your home because of drinking or some other dysfunctional behavior in the home?
Did one of your parents make excuses for the other parent’s drinking or other behaviors?
Did your parents focus on each other so much that they seemed to ignore you?
Did your parents or relatives argue constantly?
Were you drawn into arguments or disagreements and asked to choose sides with one relative against another?
Did you try to protect your brothers or sisters against drinking or other behavior in the family?
As an adult, do you feel immature? Do you feel like you are a child inside?
As an adult, do you believe you are treated like a child when you interact with your parents? Are you continuing to live out a childhood role with the parents?
Do you believe that it is your responsibility to take care of your parents’ feelings or worries? Do other relatives look to you to solve their problems?
Do you fear authority figures and angry people?
Do you constantly seek approval or praise but have difficulty accepting a compliment when one comes your way?
Do you see most forms of criticism as a personal attack?
Do you over-commit yourself and then feel angry when others do not appreciate what you do?
Do you think you are responsible for the way another person feels or behaves?
Do you have difficulty identifying feelings?
Do you focus outside yourself for love or security?
Do you involve yourself in the problems of others? Do you feel more alive when there is a crisis?
Do you equate sex with intimacy?
Do you confuse love and pity?
Have you found yourself in a relationship with a compulsive or dangerous person and wonder how you got there?
Do you judge yourself without mercy and guess at what is normal?
Do you behave one way in public and another way at home?
Do you think your parents had a problem with drinking or taking drugsDo you think you were affected by the drinking or other dysfunctional behavior of your parents or family?
If you answered “yes” to three or more of these questions, you may be suffering from the effects of growing up in an alcoholic or other dysfunctional family. We welcome you to attend an ACA meeting in your area to learn more.
The questions above were taken from the trifold “25 Questions: Am I an Adult Child?” This and more literature can be found at local meetings, in the Literature Tab, and in our online store.
In addition to alcoholic and addicted families, there are at least five other family types that can produce Adult Children.
“Militaristic” types include those homes with ritualistic beliefs, harsh punishment, and extreme secretiveness, often with ultra-religious or sadistic overtones. Some of these homes expose children to battery and other forms of criminal abuse.
“Sexual Abuse” types include covert or actual sexual abuse, including incest and inappropriate touching or dress by the parent(s).
“Perfectionistic” types can be shaming homes in which expectations are often too high and praise is typically tied to an accomplishment rather than given freely.
ACA is an anonymous Twelve Step and Twelve Tradition fellowship. Our meetings offer a safe environment for adult children to share their common experiences. By attending meetings regularly and by sharing about our lives, we gradually change our thinking and behavior. By working the ACA program, we find another way to live.
Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics
Adapted from Adult Children of Alcoholics, by Janet G. Woititz, Ed.D., 1987.
1) We guess at what normal behavior is. Because of our environment, we had no role models for normalcy, so we acted the way we saw other people act, people we thought were normal, and continue this performance into our adult lives.
2) We have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end; we procrastinate. Procrastination in the usual sense is the result of laziness. Adult children of alcoholics have never been taught how to solve a problem in systematic, manageable amounts. It was always all or nothing. Consequently, we don’t have adult life skills.
3) We lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth. Lies, specifically lies of denial, were used to benefit the alcoholics and para alcoholics of our homes.
4) We judge ourselves without mercy. Since there is no way for us to meet the unattainable standards of perfection we have internalized from childhood, we are always falling short of the mark we have set for ourselves. If we are responsible for some positive outcome we dismiss it by saying, “Oh, that was easy,” and so on. This is often confused with humility but is actually poor self-esteem. We should keep our poor self-esteem in mind when taking the Fourth and Fifth steps.
5) We have difficulty having fun. For most of us having fun was just a childhood fantasy. We were always imprisoned by
the anger and hostility of alcoholism, even if physically removed from the alcoholic, the disease was already part of us.
6) We take ourselves very seriously. The normal spontaneity of childhood was squashed so many years ago by the pressure to be adult. Living with one or more addicts forced us to be on guard constantly. Seriousness was the only option. Now we can’t have fun.
7) We have difficulty with intimate relationships. For most of us the only reference of intimate relationships was that of our parents. Our inconsistent parent child relationships caused us to feel an overwhelming fear of abandonment. We are left too inexperienced and fearful to let ourselves get close to anyone.
8) We overreact to changes over which we have no control. As young children the addict’s life was inflicted on us as part
of our environment. Our only recourse was to try to take control totally. Now any change which we are unaware of or
have no control over leaves us feeling desperate and vulnerable.
9) We constantly seek approval and affirmation. The love we received as children was very erratic. The affirmations we didn’t get on a day to day basis as children, we interpreted as negative, leaving us with low self images. If someone likes us, gives us affirmation and accepts us, we usually judge them worthless. Our low self images thrive on this.
10) Because of our secretive childhood sufferings, we thought that things were always better in the “house next door.” NOBODY could possibly feel the same way as we did. Therefore, we felt unique, not a part of the group, and always looking in through an imaginary barrier.
11) We are super responsible or super irresponsible. So much of our lives are all or nothing when trying to please our parents we did more and more and more; some of us realized early in our childhood, that there simply was no pleasing them, so we did nothing. We people please until we burn out for two basic reasons; one, because we don’t have a realistic sense of our own capabilities or, two because if we say NO, we’re afraid someone might find out how inadequate we feel and no longer like us.
12) We are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved. Since starting a relationship is so difficult and frightening, when we do so we expect it to be permanent. This loyalty is usually caused by fear of abandonment. At home we always “hung in there” enabling the addict and denying the disease.
13) We are impulsive. As children our impulsivity was usually denied or covered up by our parents. We seldom suffered the consequences for impulsivity, leaving us with no deterrent, and we allow our impulsive behavior to continue in our adult lives.
Adapted from Adult Children of Alcoholics, by Janet G. Woititz, Ed.D., 1987.
ACA Nederlands – ACA Intergroup IG#711
ACA Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families
ACA is a Twelve Step, Twelve Tradition support group focused on understanding the specific behavior and attitude patterns we developed while growing up in an alcoholic or other dysfunctional environment. These patterns continue to affect us today.
By attending regular meetings we come to a better understanding of our past so we can more effectively restructure our lives today. We begin to see more clearly what is positive and healthy in ourselves.
ACA is not a replacement for addicts working an abstinence program in other Twelve Step fellowships. However, Adult Children of Alcoholics is often the only program for many adult children recovering from the effects of alcoholism or other family dysfunction, including the effects of alcoholism and drug addiction. (Adapted from the ACA Fellowship textbook.)
Meetings are intended to be safe places where we can share our experience, strength and hope without judgement or criticism. We have the right not to share unless we are ready.
This program is grounded in spiritual guidance and not affiliated with any specific religion. We are individuals struggling through rigorous honesty to become the best we can be. We respect one another’s anonymity. Who we encounter at meetings and what they have said there is treated confidentially.
We meet together to share our experience, strength, hope and fear; we offer friendship and understanding. We love one another in a very special way. We welcome you to join us.
Since each meeting is autonomous, and each meeting is a different experience, we recommend that you try as many different ones as possible before deciding if the ACA program can be helpful to you in your journey from discovery to recovery.
Keep coming back.
ACA’s literature terms
Inner Child, – Loving Parent, – Reparenting, – True Selves, – Emotional Sobriety, Emotional Detoxification, – Emotional Intoxication, False Self, – Critical Parent, Para alcoholics, Codependency., Twelve Step program, Twelve Traditions, Principles, Higher Power, Dysfunction, Alcoholism, Addiction, Neglect, Abuse, Unhealthy Behaviour, People Pleasing, Approval Seeking, Self-sacriﬁcial, Judgmental
Is Something Missing in Your Recovery?
Recovering alcoholics or addicts owe their lives to the 12 Steps. But over time, many of us battle a vague sense that something is missing in our sobriety. Even as we go to meetings, defects and twisted emotions stubbornly remain.
If you grew up in an alcoholic or dysfunctional family, there is hope. ACA is an anonymous 12-Step fellowship that helps you find Emotional Sobriety—the deep healing of mind, body and spirit first envisioned by Bill W.
In ACA, children of dysfunctional families experience unconditional self-love, with the help of our Higher Power. We slowly release the distorted thinking and discontent that are legacies of our upbringing.
Working these ACA Steps and ACA Traditions means developing an understanding of how these Steps apply to us in our daily lives. Working these Steps and Traditions requires reading, writing, sharing, and living our understanding of these Steps and Traditions. We do so with the tools that follow in the light of our identification with “The Problem” and our understanding of “The Solution”
ACA is not a substitute for alcohol or any other addiction sobriety, but it strengthens our recovery in finding our True Self.
How to Be Your True Self in a Society That Worships False Selves?
As adults, most of us seemed to have relationships in which we dominated people or worshipped people. Most of us were discreet about these two extremes. But when we think about it, we can agree that we have been near one end or the other of these two positions. There seemed to be no middle ground or equality in our relationships with another person. Many of us thought we were either superior or inferior. We seemed to never feel like we were good enough for our friends or others and we realize we’re not being honest with ourselves, our True Selves. When the realization comes that True Self is in hiding, the “False Self” is, a defense designed to protect the True Self by hiding it, and people don’t know how to be the True Self in Society that is where ACA can help. To lay down the defense mechanism the “False Self” to go for the solution of ones own re-parenting to become ones own Loving Parent, becomes meaningful by allowing to meet and then become your True Self.
A Feeling and an Unfeeling Self
To protect ourselves from the disorienting effects of living with confusion and pain, we divide into a feeling and unfeeling self and isolate ourselves from our own vulnerability. We alternate between the extremes of wanting to escape our isolation and the need to stay securely hidden in our familiar prison of pain. Our beliefs and behaviors become rigid and inflexible, and we swing from the depths of isolated depression to frantic attempts to find help in the outside world. We endlessly repeat the cycle of frustration, rage and despair, but the goal of the divided self remains the same as it was in childhood: to become whole once again and to find happiness, peace, and joy.
The disease of family dysfunction manifests itself in dependency, addiction, and dissociative personalities. As adults we continue to control ourselves and our relationships in an unhealthy manner. We relied on controlling our feelings and emotions to survive in our homes and relationships.Control meant a sense of safety and predictability. This brought and brings abandonment or predictable turmoil.
We believe in a spiritual solution for the disease of family dysfunction for coming into our True Self. The ACA adapted Steps are designed specifically to help the adult child to become our True Self. They are designed to address trauma and neglect in addition to addressing the addictiveness of the adult child personality. The ACA Twelve Steps address shame, abandonment, fear, and a deep sense of being flawed, while also leading the Step worker to self-worth, self-forgiveness, and a true connection to a Higher Power through the Inner Child
In ACA we reparenting ourselves, to further remove the “buttons” that have been pushed by others to manipulate us or to get a reaction out of us. To become our own Loving Parent and through a Loving Parent inside, we gain greater independence from codependence. We find the skills to support our need to become independent people. We intuitively know what we need and what we can live without. We will learn to act as an actor to people, places, things and circumstances. We learn to truly see, listen and understand the present moment, the point between past and future. We learn to live and let live and become our “True Self”.
Not longer responding to life with childhood survival traits that gives unsure feelings about oneself. Learning on another way to respond to people, places, things and circumstances. To become Emotionally Healthy, living in full harmony with ones own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors for coming into our True Self. For more information please visit
In addition to alcoholic and addicted families, there are at least five other family types that can produce Adult Children:
• Homes with mental illness in the parent(s).
• Homes with hypochondriac parent(s).
• Homes with ritualistic beliefs, harsh punishment, and extreme secretiveness, often with ultra-religious, militaristic, or sadistic overtones. Some of these homes expose children to battery and other forms of criminal abuse.
• Homes with covert or actual sexual abuse, including incest and inappropriate touching or dress by the parent(s).
• Perfectionistic, shaming homes in which expectations are often too high and praise is typically tied to an accomplishment rather than given freely.
Thank you for being here. It is time to give ACA a go and to work the ACA program. Working these ACA Steps and ACA Traditions requires reading, writing, sharing, and living our understanding of these ACA Steps, ACA Traditions and ACA Concepts.
To find ACA Emotional Sobriety— the deep healing of mind, body and spirit in becoming your “True Self”. To be Happy Joyous and Free at last
Call to Service for ACAFellowworldtravelers.com
ACAFellowworldtravelers.com is an International English speaking ACA Group. We are expanding and looking for English speaking people from anywhere in the world that would like to step-up for service for this world wide group inclusive to all nationalities.
If you would like to help and do service as chair, meeting leaders, back up chair, back up meeting leader or helping out on meetings with screen sharing, mic monitoring for existing or new meetings it doesn’t matter where you live in the world, please let us know.
We are looking for people from all over the world that would like to step up for existing or new meetings on existing or new time slots.
Please write to us on ig711 @ protonmail .com
ACA Nederland, ACA Holland, Dutch ACA, Nederlandse ACA, Nederlandstalige ACA, Nederlandssprekende ACA, ACA International, ACA Global, ACA Worldwide, ACA Europe, ACA West Europe,
What Does ACA Recovery Look Like?
By working the Twelve Steps of ACA and by attending meetings regularly, we begin to realize that ACA recovery involves emotional sobriety*. That is what ACA recovery looks like. But what is emotional sobriety?
To understand emotional sobriety, we must first understand emotional intoxication, which is also known as para-alcoholism. Para-alcoholism represents the mannerisms and behaviors we developed by living with an alcoholic or dysfunctional parent. As children, we took on the fear and denial of the alcoholic or nondrinking parent without taking a drink.
Emotional intoxication can be characterized by obsession and unhealthy dependence. There also can be compulsion. Even without drugs and alcohol, we can be “drunk” on fear, excitement or pain. We can also be drunk on arguing, gossip, or self-imposed isolation.
In essence the Laundry List, the 14 traits of an adult child, offers a textbook example of the behaviors and attitudes that characterize an emotionally intoxicated person. We fear authority figures and judge ourselves harshly while being terrified of abandonment. Without help, we seek out others to reenact our family dynamics. We can recreate our family dysfunction at home and on the job indefinitely until we find ACA. This means that our adult relationships resemble the template relationship we developed as children to survive an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional home. We find others to create chaos, conflict, or unsafe relationships.
Emotional sobriety involves a changed relationship with self and others. We measure emotional sobriety by the level of honesty, mutual respect, and the acceptability of feelings in our relationships. If our relationships are still manipulative and controlling, we are not emotionally sober no matter what we tell ourselves about our recovery program. Emotional sobriety means that we are involved in changed relationships that are safe and honest. We feel a nearness to our Higher Power. We cultivate emotional sobriety through the Twelve Steps and through association with other recovering adult children.
“Emotional sobriety was formally introduced to the ACA fellowship through the Identity Papers. The 1986 paper, “Finding Wholeness Through Separation: The Paradox of Independence,” shows the genesis of emotional sobriety. The possibility of emotional sobriety is created through the broadening and deepening of the Steps and Traditions.
The Bill of Rights for Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families
This document is in development and will be subject to review by ACA WSO Board of Trustees and approval by the fellowship.
We welcome all comments from the fellowship to assist in the final review of this piece of literature. Please submit any feedback between now and the end of December 2020.
You can share your feedback by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Lists the Rights of an adult child of an alcoholic and/or a dysfunctional family.
The ACA Bill of Rights
1) I have the right to say no.
2) I have the right to say, “I don’t know.”
3) I have the right to detach from anyone in whose company I feel humiliated or manipulated.
4) I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
5) I have the right to be wrong.
6) I have the right to make mistakes and learn from them.
7) I have the right to make my own choices and decisions in my life.
8) I have the right to grieve any actual or perceived losses.
9) I have the right to all of my feelings.
10) I have the right to feel angry, including towards someone I love.
11) I have the right to change my mind at any time.
12) I have the right to a spiritually, physically, and emotionally healthier existence, though it may deviate entirely or in part from my parents’ way of life.
13) I have the right to forgive myself and to choose how and when I forgive others.
14) I have the right to take healthy risks and to experiment with new possibilities.
15) I have the right to be honest in my relationships and to seek the same from others.
16) I have the right to ask for what I want.
17) I have the right to determine and honor my own priorities and goals, and to leave others to do the same.
18) I have the right to dream and to have hope.
19) I have the right to be my True Self.
20) I have the right to know and nurture my Inner Child.
21) I have the right to laugh, to play, to have fun, and the freedom to celebrate this life, right here, right now.
22) I have the right to live life happy, joyous, and free.
All ACA groups or meetings that would like to join ACA Nederlands – ACA Intergroup IG#711 for help and support more than are welcome.
We also would like to start to communicate with other Intergroups to work together and look for possibilities to form a Region for a better growth and unification of ACA in the world.
Fellow World Travelers – ACA Intergroup IG#711
ACA Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families
IG711 @ protonmail .com
Fellow World Travelers – ACA Intergroup IG#711
ACA Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families