The Paradoxical ACA and “Control” Issues


Today’s focus is on the paradoxical ACA and their control issues. As I said in the previous blog, The Laundry List of ACoA, I grew up in an alcoholic home and know first hand about Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA’s).

My focus continues for April on the ACA because (1) I am one and (2) April is the NCADD Alcohol Awareness Month (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependencies, Inc.). Throughout the month I will share from different sources but all in keeping with the ACA 12-step program and ACA World Service Organization literature policy.The information I share today is the first part of Chapter 2, Taming Your Turbulent Past by Gayle Rosellini & Mark Worden. (blue highlighting below is mine)

For help on alcoholism’s effects on your family or for further questions/support, I refer you to ACA World Service Organization website.



Chapter 2

The Paradoxical Personality


It is human nature to think wisely and act foolishly.
–Anatole France
I have talked to hundreds of adult children of alcoholics and I’ve heard thousands of stories of bitterness, rage, guilt, pain and loneliness.
Amazingly, underneath the uniqueness and individuality of each situation, I have seen a likeness, a commonality of attitude and world-view that is shared by every adult-child who is conflicted, angry, resentful and unhappy.
I say amazingly because adult children invariably believe the awful anxiety, fear and confusion haunting their lives is peculiar to them alone. They feel singular in their agony, fearful and ashamed of . . .
. . . of what?
It’s hard to put into words, but the feeling is real. It’s like a slow burning ember, a smoldering sensation of dread, an inkling or intuition of trouble. From time to time it fades away, then it flares again, a feeling of sick tension, an actual physical pressure somewhere between the belly and the throat telling you something bad is about to happen.
And you can’t control it. It’s just there.
Have you experienced this emotional and physical state? It’s common among adult children.
Does that surprise you?
Most adult children are relieved to find they are not alone, that many, many other people have experienced and survived these feelings, and have gone on to lead healthy and happy lives.
There’s a little chagrin, too. A touch of unexpected embarrassment. I mean, it’s kind of shocking to discover you’ve been suffering in secret shame, hiding the fact that you practically feel like an alien from outer space, only to discover there are thousands — hundreds of thousands — of other men and woman who are going through very similar emotions.
Is nothing sacred?
Are we not unique in our misery? Isn’t our own personal brand of suffering so extraordinary and unusual that it’s almost beyond the reach of puny human understanding?
And perhaps not.
Looking For Explanations
…Because our feelings and behavior baffle us, we have a tendency to lean toward the exotic or the unorthodox to explain why we are the way we are.
“Mars is retrograde right now and that’s very bad for a Virgo and a Capricorn,” Carla explains. “That’s why Tom and I are fighting so much lately.”
“During the French Revolution, in one of my past incarnations, I was guillotined for stealing a loaf of bread,” Leslie says, rubbing the back of her neck. “That’s why I get these terrible pains.”
“I’m not feeling well because my aura is muddy.”
Statements like these indicate we are looking outside ourselves for explanations and solutions to our problems. This is called externalizing, and I’ve found it to be a common trait among adult children.
We have no control over the planets or what happened two hundred years ago or the color of our aura. (I’m told mine is yellow and I’m not sure if that’s a compliment to my character or an insult.)
We can change nothing but ourselves.
This is important for us to keep in mind because in our search for explanations and solutions, we must focus our attention on those things over which we can exercise some power.
And we must be prepared to face some discomforting facts about the world and some unpleasant truths about ourselves.
One of the most important things we can learn is that there are many things in the world that we can neither control nor change.
We can’t change the past.
We can’t control the behavior of our parents or other loved ones.
We can’t always get our own way.
All uncomfortable facts. But useful, fundamental to any serious efforts to change.
If you want to, you can keep butting your head up against the wall trying to control and change things over which you have no power, but you are going to end up being one miserable and frustrated individual. A sorehead — in more ways than one.
But there are alternatives– alternatives to frustration and facile explanations. We can look closely at our paradoxical behavior, keeping in mind Karen Horney’s warning that we should “not be too easily satisfied with ready-at-hand explanations for a disturbance.”


As the adult child of an alcoholic father and drug-dependent mother, I have the paradoxical personality spoken of in the first part of Chapter 2. I was definitely a “control-freak” and that was the first concept that I had to come to terms with as I changed in Al-anon and ACA meetings. I thought I was unique in my suffering and if everyone just did what I told them, then, they and I would be okay. They (my family) just needed to let me be in charge. That is not the only characteristic I had. Although I do not have all of the personality characteristics, I do have more than a handful.

Next blog I will continue with the Paradoxical personality of the ACA and the conclusion of Chapter 2. Comment and tell me if these blogs are helpful to you.

Until then, remember what you have control of–YOURSELF!





Taming Your Turbulent Past by Gayle Rosellini & Mark Worden-Chapter TwoThe Paradoxical Personality

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