Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA)

Adult Children of Alcoholics 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, eve

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 overdeveloped sense

of responsibility, we preferred to be concerned with others rather than

ourselves. We somehow felt guilty 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 relationships 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!

The Solution

As this group becomes a safe place, you will find the freedom to express all

the hurts and fears you have kept inside. The shame and blame that are

carryovers from the past will begin to fade. You will become an adult who is

imprisoned no longer by childhood reactions.

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.

This process allows us to see our biological parents as the instruments of our

existence. Our actual parent is our Higher Power, Jesus Christ. Although we

had alcoholic parents, our Higher Power gave us the 8 Biblical Principles and

the 12 Steps of Recovery. These biblical steps work if you work them, but

won’t if you don’t.

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 healthy 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 seek God’s will for your life and not your own will.

You will not do this alone. Look around and you will see others who know

how you feel. We love and encourage you no matter what. We ask you to

accept us just as we accept you.

Our Higher Power, Jesus Christ, can and will heal you if you are willing to

allow Him to. No matter how damaged or lost you may feel, you can heal!

Common Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA)

    • Adult children of alcoholics guess at what normal is.
    • Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty in following a project through from beginning to end.
    • Adult children of alcoholics lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
    • Adult children of alcoholics judge themselves without mercy.
    • Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty having fun.
    • Adult children of alcoholics take themselves very seriously.
    • Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty with intimate relationships.
    • Adult children of alcoholics over-react to changes over which they have no control.
    • Adult children of alcoholics constantly seek approval and affirmation.
    • Adult children of alcoholics feel that they are different from other people.
    • Adult children of alcoholics are either super responsible or super irresponsible.
    • Adult children of alcoholics are extremely loyal even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.
    • Adult children of alcoholics look for immediate rather than deferred gratification.
    • Adult children of alcoholics lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternate behaviors or possible consequences.
    • Adult children of alcoholics seek tension and crisis and then complain about the results.
    • Adult children of alcoholics avoid conflict or aggravate it; rarely do they deal with it.
    • Adult children of alcoholics fear rejection and abandonment, yet are rejecting of others.
    • Adult children of alcoholics fear failure, but sabotage their success.
    • Adult children of alcoholics fear criticism and judgement, yet criticize and judge others.
    • Adult children of alcoholics manage time poorly and do not set priorities in a way that works well for them.

In order to change, adult children of alcoholics cannot use history as an  excuse for continuing their behaviors. They have no regrets for what might have been, for their experiences have shaped their talents as well as their defects of character. It is their responsibility to discover these talents, to build their self-esteem and to repair any damage done. They will allow themselves to feel their feelings, to accept them, and learn to express them appropriately. When they have begun those tasks, they will try to let go of  their past and get on with the business of life.

Celebrate Recovery Revised 2004-08-12 ACA Problem


  1. Anonymous says:

    I am an ACA and never realized it….


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