ACA, The Problem and the Solution-Don’t Talk
Today, I discuss the “ACA, The Problem and the Solution-Don’t Talk” with some specific information and links to ACA and their literature. Prior to this blog, I established that this is part of a month-long series on ACA’s because April is the NCADD Alcohol Awareness Month ( National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependencies, Inc.1). I discussed the Laundry List of characteristics of adult children of alcoholics and Chapter 2 of Taming Your Turbulent Past by Gayle Rosellini & Mark Worden2. If you have not read the three prior blogs, I encourage you to read those first to get the most out of today’s information. Those blogs are found under the recent posts/content section to the left of this blog. Although I share from different sources the information is in keeping with the ACA 12-step program and ACA World Service Organization literature policy.
For help on alcoholism’s effects on your family or for further questions/support, I refer you to ACA World Service Organization website3.
ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics)
As an introduction, ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) is a 12-Step Program that focuses on the adult child who was affected by alcoholism in the family while growing up. The only qualification for membership in this fellowship is that you were/are affected by alcoholism and dysfunction in the family. This is a self-help program that identifies the problem, the solution and gives you active steps (12 of them) to help you deal with the childhood effects from alcoholism and dysfunction in your family of origin. Today I discuss The Problem and The Solution as outlined by ACA.
The Problem and The Solution are both directly from ACA literature and give in two paragraphs what the problem is and what the solution is. First, read the paragraph about the problem.
Many of us found that we had several characteristics in common as a result of being brought up in an alcoholic household. We had come to feel isolated, uneasy with other people, and 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 or married them or both. Failing that, we found another compulsive personality, such as a workaholic, to fulfill our sick need for abandonment. We lived life from the standpoint of victims. Having an over-developed sense of responsibility, we preferred to be concerned with others rather than ourselves. We somehow 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 onto a relationship in order not to be abandoned emotionally. Yet we kept choosing insecure relationships because they matched our childhood relationship with alcoholic parents. These symptoms of the family disease of alcoholism 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.
I know that I felt isolated, uneasy with other people and authority. To protect myself, I became a people pleaser and lost my own identity. I became expert at observing others and interpreting what I needed to be or how I needed to act to gain their approval. I never wanted to “rock the boat” and felt very isolated and alone with no one to turn to helping me identify who I really was on the inside (my inner soul)
I married an alcoholic. And I found another compulsive personality by becoming a compulsive overeater and fulfilled my sick need for abandonment. I was a victim and kept everyone at arms length and if I didn’t do it, then my obesity could keep you outside. I had an over-developed sense of responsibility and became a nurse so that I could be concerned with others rather than myself. I learned never to put myself first and identified as a martyr. I was a reactor, rather than actor, always letting others take the initiative or control.
These problems were not my fault. Alcoholism and dysfunction were not my fault. I just learned to survive and cope the best way I could as a child. But, there is hope. Now, read The Solution.
The Solution is to become your own loving parent. As ACA becomes a safe place for you, you will find the 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 parents, our Higher Power gave us the 12 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 healthier 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 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.
I learned through counseling, ACA, and Al-anon to reparent myself, focus on myself and my needs first because without taking care of myself, I was not any good for myself or my children. Through the program and counseling, I learned to act rather than react or over-react to situations. I lived the program, literally ate, drank and slept the program because it threw me a lifesaver when I was drowning. I am now a survivor. The programs and the 12 steps saved my life and I am grateful for that every day of my life. Come back for the next blog when I discuss the 12 steps and their use in recovery and healing for the ACA.
Until next blog,
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