The Problem

Many of us found that we had several characteristics in common as a result of being brought up in an alcoholic or dysfunctional household. We had come to feel isolated and uneasy with other people, 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 (or practiced other addictive behavior) ourselves, or married them, or both. Failing that, we found other compulsive personalities, 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 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 on to a relationship in order not to be abandoned emotionally. Yet we kept choosing insecure relationships because they matched our childhood relationship with alcoholic or dysfunctional parents.

These symptoms of the family disease of alcoholism or other dysfunction 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.

Adapted from The Laundry List

Copyright © 2018 by Adult Children
of Alcoholics / Dysfunctional Families
World Service Organization, Inc.
All rights reserved

Meditations

August 27th Meditation of the Day

Self-Sabotage "I decided the only way to overcome this self sabotage was to integrate my critical parent into my recovery process." BRB p. 207 We tried to ignore our critical inner parent - that compilation of the voices we heard as children and were used to hearing...

August 26th Meditation of the Day

Honesty "With the help of ACA, we are offering our parents fairness as we look at the family system with rigorous honesty. We are looking for the truth so that we can live our own lives with choice and self-confidence. We want to break the cycle of family...

August 25th Meditation of the Day

Acting Out "By working the ACA program, we learn to recognize when we are thinking like a victim or persecutor and to talk about it." BRB p. 9 Since the Laundry List was such an important part of our original identification when we found ACA, we used that mindset (how...

August 24th Meditation of the Day

Survivor "It is my bias that no one deserves to live a life of fear and shame." BRB p. xviii Many ACAs go from blaming, shaming, complaining, and condemning ourselves and others to finally learning to name what is really going on. By doing so, we begin to come out of...

August 23rd Meditation of the Day

Grief as Freedom "Experienced ACA members speak of grief with a sense of serenity rather than with sorrow or resentment." BRB p. 200 When listening to ACAs share at meetings, newcomers may at first only hear the recounting of the childhood events and their effects. If...