Many newcomers in ACA report they identify with the characteristics listed in “The Problem” (or “The Laundry List” or “The Characteristics”), but they can find no alcoholism in their family.  There can be many explanations — perhaps the family denial system prevents the newcomer from seeing the disease, or the family addiction has taken another form (drugs, compulsive over-eating, workaholism, violence, gambling, etc.) or there may actually be no aspect of alcoholism in the home.  The fact is, it doesn’t matter!  Our program is not about our parents or whether or not you can identify an alcoholic in your past.  Our program is about us. 

     For the first time in our lives, we are dealing with ourselves — we identify the characteristics in each and every one of us.  With this new focus on “self” and away from the personality, disease or identity of our parents or caretakers, we come to see how our program addresses us as “Adult Children” in the here and now.  We begin to experience a reality that is our own life, independent of the family drama that resulted in acquiring the characteristics that brought us to meetings. 

     In a healthy home, a child is allowed to develop a sense of “self” through the stability of the parents, through exploration and individuation.  The early stage called “The Terrible Twos” is the time when a healthy family allows the child to establish appropriate boundaries.  The child has learned the quality of trust necessary to risk finding their own identity (“I want…”, “Give me…”, “I don’t like…”, etc.) and the meaning of the word “No.” 

     In our homes (for whatever reason) we were not able to experience the stability needed for this vital process. Healthy exploration was distorted by unstable, unstructured lives.  Individuation was not possible. 

     We enter ACA feeling more comfortable talking about other people — what they did, what they said, what they were, etc.  We have had no experience in defining ourselves — what we feel, what we need, what we are.  When we grew up, we became extensions of those around us — learning their fears, behaviors, limitations, and prejudices.  In ACA we find a need to discover ourselves as unique individuals instead of living as extensions of those around us. 

     For many of us, the early stages of this process resulted in a feeling of guilt — as though we are “bad” for betraying the role placed on us by the family system.  There are those among us who froze at this stage of our voyage of Discovery/Recovery, but most of us progress at our speed if we are simply willing to admit those feelings to others.  The rigid and frightened child inside, who has come to view any change as a threat, can be loved, supported and nurtured through the changes necessary to become a healthy adult.

     We can see now that our lives, while sharing history and learned reactions with our family, are separate from our parents or caretakers.  We are not doomed to perpetuate the patterns we found necessary to our survival as children.

     Any Adult Child, through guidance of our loving Higher Power, can heal, accept the past and grow through the clear and consistent direction provided by the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.  Whether from the most violent alcoholic background or from the illusion of serenity in other dysfunctional homes, every Adult Child can begin progressing through the process of Recovery and the Discovery of “self”.

                              Joe D., Kelly M., Christian C., and Charlie Ann P.   1987

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Memorial Day….    What does that mean???

I had this vague idea, but not being a history buff of any kind, I had to go look it up…  Google is my Friend!  lol

Memorial Day was originally about honoring the soldiers who died during the Civil War to preserve the United States of America.  As time went on and other major wars were fought, Memorial Day Observances were expanded to include ANY American soldier who fought and died for his country.  Who “Gave His All”, is how they said it.  But, what about the soldiers who in many ways “Gave His All” and still managed to come home alive.  The ones they called “shell-shocked”.

Taken from WiseGeek:

[http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-shell-shock.htm]

The term “shell shock” was used during the First World War to describe the acute stress reactions displayed by many soldiers in the battlefield. When unaddressed, short-term combat stress reactions can lead to more prolonged problems, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The study of combat stress reactions has advanced significantly since the First World War, when soldiers with shell shock were commonly treated as malingerers who were attempting to get out of the fighting.

Several things are signs of shell shock. Most commonly, soldiers seem disoriented and unable to focus. They may also experience a number of autonomic nervous system reactions like shaking, nightmares, twitching, headaches, fatigue, insomnia, dizziness, anxiety, and irritability, among others. The rate of combat stress reactions tends to go up as the rate of injuries and deaths increases. In the trenches of the First World War, the 10% casualty rate was devastating, and rates of combat stress reactions were extremely high.

Sadly, many ACOA’s understand all too well, what it is probably like in a combat zone, only they called it “home”.  Growing up in a dysfunctional home, whether that be with an alcoholic, an addict, an obsessive perfectionist, a rage-aholic, or whatever else made “home” feel like a war zone, many of us get it…

Like the soldiers accused of cowardice, we too were sent back to the front lines every day.  We had no escape either.  Many were told, “just get over it”, or “stop faking it” or any other of an endless stream of remarks designed to diminish what we were feeling, to shut us up, to make us doubt ourselves and our reactions.  ….   Just like the soldiers with shell shock or PTSD.

Thank God for 12 Step Programs!

Just Lexxie, Chatterin’ Again!


In the Big Red Book for Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families you will find this list of 25 questions.  They can help you determine 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.  These questions can offer you insight into some of the ways children are affected by growing up with a problem drinker even years after leaving the home.  These questions also apply to adults growing up in homes where food, sex, workaholism, or ultra-religious abuse occurred.  Many foster children, now adults, also relate to these questions.

1.  Do you recall anyone drinking or taking drugs or being involved in some other behavior that you now believe could be dysfunctional?

2.  Did you avoid bringing friends to your home because of drinking or some other dysfunctional behavior in the home?

3.  Did one of your parents make excuses for their other parent’s drinking or other behaviors?

4.  Did your parents focus on each other so much that they seemed to ignore you?

5.  Did your parents or relatives argue constantly?

6.  Were you drawn into arguments or disagreements and asked to choose sides with one parent or relative against another?

7.  Did you try to protect your brothers or sisters against drinking or other behavior in the family?

8.  As an adult, do you feel immature?  Do you feel like you are a child inside?

9.  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 your parents?

10.  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?

11.  Do you fear authority figures and angry people?

12.  Do you constantly seek approval or praise but have difficulty accepting a compliment when one comes your way?

13.  Do you see most forms of criticism as a personal attack?

14.  Do you over commit yourself and then feel angry when others do not appreciate what you do?

15.  Do you think you are responsible for the way another person feels or behaves?

16.  Do you have difficulty identifying feelings?

17.  Do you focus outside yourself for love or security?

18.  Do you involve yourself in the problems of others?  Do you feel more alive when there is a crisis?

19.  Do you equate sex with intimacy?

20.  Do you confuse love and pity?

21.  Have you found yourself in a relationship with a compulsive or dangerous person and wonder how you got there?

22.  Do you judge yourself without mercy and guess at what is normal?

23.  Do you behave one way in public and another way at home?

24.  Do you think your parents had a problem with drinking or taking drugs?

25.  Do 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.  Please take the time to attend our ACA meeting or find one in your area to learn more.


Had a Hospital Stay  — Obvious
Had to call the Police — Obvious
Had to call an Ambulance — Obvious
Guns, Knives, Blood  — Obvious
Threatened Your Life – and you believed it — Obvious
Threatened to Take Their Own Life – and you believed it –Obvious
Broken Bones — Obvious
Black eye  / Fat Lip —  Obvious
Bruises where they can be covered by clothing — A Direct Message to You
You FEEL beat up – even though you were never hit

And yet, many partners, even after experiencing several of the above situations, don’t want to believe that they are in an abusive relationship, don’t want to believe that it will happen again, and again, and again….  until they get out and stay out!

Abuse in a relationship, whether it be dating, a marriage, any family member, a job, or a friendship,  can take many forms.  Verbal, Emotional, Psychological, Sexual, and, of course, Physical.  Many times, even with broken bones and bruises, we have a tendency to minimize what is happening.  We might say to ourselves, “Well, at least he doesn’t HIT me, he would NEVER hit me.”  And that seems to be enough.   For some of us, being faithful in the relationship is our final boundary.  And again, we might find ourselves saying, “He/She doesn’t screw around on me!”  Because, that would be more than we could tolerate.  Many times, the final boundary is about money.  “My partner/mate has a job, brings their check home and is holding up their end of the financial part of the relationship.”

Are we setting the bar way too low?  Are these the bare minimum kinds of expectations?  Today, I can say, Yeah! This bar is way too low! But, there are lots of ways that abusive behavior can creep into our relationships, and depending on what we saw growing up, we don’t even have a clue that it IS abusive.   When someone confront us, asking, “Why do you let _____ get away with treating you like that?!”  We find ourselves shocked that anyone would consider it abusive.

Some kinds of abuse, usually in the beginning, are very subtle, so subtle that we don’t even recognize it as abuse.   But then what do we ACoA’s/children from dysfunctional families,  know about what is normal?  They may say hurtful things, or embarrass you just to see how you respond.  Will you tolerate the behavior, make excuses for it, or do you immediately let your partner know that you will not tolerate that treatment from them or anyone?  Here is a checklist that might help in recognizing if YOUR relationship is abusive…

CHECKLIST  (provided by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)
Does your partner…

  • Embarrass or make fun of you in front of your friends or family? (psychological abuse)
  • Put down your accomplishments or goals? (psychological abuse)
  • Make you feel like you are unable to make decisions? (psychological abuse)
  • Use intimidation or threats to get you to do what they want?
  • Tell you that you are nothing without them?
  • Treat you roughly – grab, push, pinch, shove or hit you?
  • Call, text, or email you several times a day or show up to make sure you are where you said you would be?
  • Use drugs or alcohol as an excuse for saying hurtful things or abusing you?
  • Blame you for how they feel or act?
  • Pressure you sexually for things you don’t want to do?
  • Make you feel like there “is no way out” of the relationship?
  • Prevent you from doing things you want – like spending time with your friends or family?
  • Try to keep you from leaving after a fight or leave you somewhere after a fight to “teach you a lesson”?

Do you…

  • Sometimes feel scared of how your partner will act?
  • Constantly make excuses to other people for your partner’s behavior?
  • Believe that you can help your partner change if only you changed something about yourself?
  • Try not to do anything that would cause conflict or make your partner angry?
  • Always do what your partner wants you to do instead of what you want?
  • Stay with your partner because you are afraid of  what your partner would do if you broke-up or left?

If any of these are happening in your relationship, talk to someone. Without some help, the abuse will continue.

(Adapted from Reading and Teaching Teens to Stop Violence, Nebraska Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition, Lincoln, NE).
If you need help please call 911 or The National Domestic Violence Hotline, 404-688-9436