Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families is an international 12-Step recovery program for women and men who grew up in alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional homes. ACA is based on the belief that alcoholism and family dysfunction affected us as children and continues to influence us as adults. An adult child is someone who meets the demands of life with defense mechanisms and survival techniques they learned and developed as children that helped them to survive dysfunctional environments during childhood. Without help, adult children unknowingly operate with ineffective thoughts, judgments, reaction patterns, codependency and other behaviors that can sabotage decisions and work, personal and family relationships.
ACA members are not limited to those from homes with alcoholism, illegal or prescription drug or other forms of addiction. Some members had alcoholic or dysfunctional grandparents who passed on the dysfunction in their families. Other members are from homes where alcohol or drugs were not present; but abuse, neglect, and/or unhealthy behavior were. Some members are from homes with a mentally ill or hypochondriac parent, or homes where ritualistic beliefs, harsh punishment, extreme secretiveness. verbal, mental, emotional, sexual and/or other abuse occurred, or from perfectionistic, shaming homes in which expectations are often too high and where praise was typically tied to accomplishment rather than given freely.
If you identify with the 14 traits from The ACA Laundry List, then ACA might benefit you. The only requirement for membership in ACA is a desire to recover from the effects of growing up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional family. This website is intended to provide some basic information about ACA and to list our meetings. There is much more to learn in our literature and from our members.
“The Laundry List” – 14 Traits of an Adult Child
1. We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.
2. We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.
3. We are frightened of angry people and any personal criticism.
4. We either become alcoholics, marry them or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs.
5. We live life from the viewpoint of victims and we are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.
6. We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves; this enables us not to look too closely at our own faults, etc.
7. We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.
8. We became addicted to excitement.
9. We confuse love and pity and tend to “love” people we can “pity” and “rescue.”
10. We have “stuffed” our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much (Denial).
11. We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.
12. We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings, which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us.
13. Alcoholism is a family disease; and we became para-alcoholics and took on the characteristics of that disease even though we did not pick up the drink.
14. Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors.
The Laundry List was written by ACA co-founder Tony A. in 1978
(ACA Red Book, Page 587)