Am I An Adult Child?
Do you recall anyone drinking or taking drugs or being involved in some other behavior that you now believe could be dysfunctional?
Did you avoid bringing friends to your home because of drinking or some other dysfunctional behavior in the home?
Did one of your parents make excuses for the other parent’s drinking or other behaviors?
Did your parents focus on each other so much that they seemed to ignore you?
Did your parents or relatives argue constantly?
Were you drawn into arguments or disagreements and asked to choose sides with one relative against another?
Did you try to protect your brothers or sisters against drinking or other behavior in the family?
As an adult, do you feel immature? Do you feel like you are a child inside?
As an adult, do you believe you are treated like a child when you interact with your parents? Are you continuing to live out a childhood role with the parents?
Do you believe that it is your responsibility to take care of your parents’ feelings or worries? Do other relatives look to you to solve their problems?
Do you fear authority figures and angry people?
Do you constantly seek approval or praise but have difficulty accepting a compliment when one comes your way?
Do you see most forms of criticism as a personal attack?
Do you over-commit yourself and then feel angry when others do not appreciate what you do?
Do you think you are responsible for the way another person feels or behaves?
Do you have difficulty identifying feelings?
Do you focus outside yourself for one or security?
Do you involve yourself in the problems of others? Do you feel more alive when there is a crisis?
Do you equate sex with intimacy?
Do you confuse love and pity?
Have you found yourself in a relationship with a compulsive or dangerous person and wonder how you got there?
Do you judge yourself without mercy and guess at what is normal?
Do you behave one way in public and another way at home?
Do you think your parents had a problem with drinking or taking drugs?
Do you think you were affected by the drinking or other dysfunctional behavior of your parents or family?
If you answered “yes” to three or more of these questions, you may be suffering from the effects of growing up in an alcoholic or other dysfunctional family. We welcome you to attend an ACA meeting in your area to learn more.
The only requirement for membership is a desire to recover from the affects of growing up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional family.
A Personal Invitation
This is your personal invitation to come to ACA and to keep coming back. Your presence in meetings helps us in our recovery. We know that this program works for us.
We have yet to see anyone fail who honestly works the program. This is our path to sanity, our program to serenity.
How We Work A Program Of Recovery
Individuals recover at their own pace. We have learned by experience that those ACA members who make the greatest gains in the shortest amount of time are using the tools of recovery.
In addition to alcoholic and addicted families, there are at least five other family types that can produce Adult Children.
“Militaristic” types include those homes with ritualistic beliefs, harsh punishment, and extreme secretiveness, often with ultra-religious or sadistic overtones. Some of these homes expose children to battery and other forms of criminal abuse.
“Sexual Abuse” types include covert or actual sexual abuse, including incest and inappropriate touching or dress by the parent(s).
“Perfectionistic” types can be shaming homes in which expectations are often too high and praise is typically tied to an accomplishment rather than given freely.
ACA is an anonymous Twelve Step and Twelve Tradition fellowship. Our meetings offer a safe environment for adult children to share their common experiences.
By attending meetings regularly and by sharing about our lives, we gradually change our thinking and behavior. By working the ACA program, we find another way to live.
My Parents Did Not Drink But I Can Relate
“Out of the Playpen”
My parents never drank a drop of alcohol in their lives, nor did their parents before them. They were highly respected members of the church. I read somewhere that our earliest childhood memory is often symbolic of our lives. My earliest memory is sitting in a playpen on a front veranda, feeling alone, trapped, and unable to get out.
I was born and raised in a little farming town. After my parents married, three babies were born in three years, and my mother had no idea how to cope with us. My father worked in the medical field and constantly brought home drugs and pills for mother’s nerves and migraines.
In our family, there was a very sharp distinction between the family image in the community and what I actually saw at home. To the community my parents were esteemed leaders and church workers, models of family life and community service. Our family life at home was actually far from this idealistic picture.
My father was a workaholic, always “on-call.” When not at work he attended meetings for a myriad of community organizations. One of his addictions was to become president of every organization he joined. My mother struggled at home with her nerves, her migraines, and her children. When I misbehaved, I was beaten, even though my misdeeds were never more than average childhood explorations. Mother’s worst threat was that she would walk out of the house and down the road, taunting us with, “See! I’m leaving you until you learn to behave.” Crying, we would plead for her to come back and promise behavioral perfection.
I became a workaholic like my father and almost as neurotic as my mother. I was unable to sustain any kind of meaningful, intimate relationship. By the time I was forty I had the same dual world as my parents: a wholesome public image of success and service and a private life of loneliness, suppressed feelings, and sexual dysfunction.
I found a therapist who helped me explore the long-lost child imprisoned in the playpen of my soul. One day he mentioned that I might find meetings for Adult Children of Alcoholics helpful. I thought he hadn’t been listening when I told him of my family’s history of proud sobriety. He said I didn’t have to join, pay, or say anything, so I went to a meeting. I was shocked. “The Problem” was the story of my life. It all fit. It is five years later now, and I am still working the program. With the help of my Higher Power, I claim my life and spirit separate from the web of past family dysfunction.
The miraculous combination of therapy and working the Twelve Steps set me free from the prison of my childhood playpen to explore and experience my real and unique self.
Become My Own Loving Parent
I wasn’t always doing a great job of being a loving parent to my Inner Child. Heck, I didn’t even know I had been emotionally broken into pieces. And when I grew up, I realized I had an ever-present internal conflict between good and evil, right and wrong, moral and immoral, and insane urges that drove me to self-medicate that I now see as my addiction. You know, that self-will run riot was a part of me (the angry, vindictive, massively abused Inner Child) that always showed up to destroy all the good things I had methodically done to get to be an adult that others respected.
Hard to be my own loving parent when I didn’t have a model to follow. Thanksgiving in my childhood home inevitably ended in the Thanksgiving turkey taking a final flight (yes, turkeys do fly, at least into the tops of trees), only this time it was across the dinning room, leaving gravy stains on the walls, looking a lot like blood splatter from an old television movie.
In ACA, I finally got the message in the meeting readings, the one that begins, “The solution is to become your own loving parent.” It was then I gave myself permission to construct my own theoretical loving parent. What do you suppose one of those would look like? Huh? What would a loving parent do? So I create my vision of my preferred parent, the one I would have sold my soul to have had – what that parent did, what that parent said, how that parent treated me.
Then I actually had to morph into that ideal parent for my Inner Child who had been abused by others and by me, too.
I did a guided imagery exercise, and that’s where I first met Little Bear. Little Bear was wary. I couldn’t blame her. I had to be the adult and reach out, apologize to her, promise to love, protect, and listen, talk, and provide for her needs and wants within reason. I had to promise to hug her each day for the rest of our lives. I had to promise I would heal her by guiding her through the grieving of her childhood losses and traumas to finish p each emotional life-stage that she had not yet completed.
When I asked Little Bear what she wanted from me, she looked up at me eye to eye. She said, “This is all I want from you: Love me. Protect me. Hear me. Hug me. Heal me.”