Wednesday, September 2, 2015

PTSD, Trauma And Adult Children Becoming Parents

Dr. Tian Dayton is a pioneer in ACOA healing. Her recently published article in the Huffington Post is titled, "When Adult Children of Alcoholics Become Moms“. Although targeted to mothers, this insightful writing applies to all ACOAs and dysfunctional family members.


Kids whose fight or flight response is activated over and over again by the confusing and disturbing dynamics that surround addiction may become traumatized by that experience. That trauma can surface years or even decades later in a post traumatic stress reaction. Adult children of alcoholics (ACoAs) can experience a form of PTSD from growing up with addiction.

ACoA moms can be big worriers. They pass along a certain anxiety and they often have a hard time with boundaries. In addition, there is this loss of self- regulation that is part of the trauma response, so ACoAs may alternate between emotional and behavioral extremes.

As kids we rewrite, repress, "forget" or dissociate from the pain that we can do nothing about. It's the nature of trauma. Kids who are feeling overwhelmed by the chaos around them "check out"--they dissociate and they freeze their feelings because it's the only way they can get any sense of personal control. After all, they are small and dependent on their parents; they are trapped by the vulnerability of their age and size. Besides this, they make sense of their parent's erratic behavior with the developmental equipment they have at that time, and that sense can be very young and magical.

When they grow up and become adults, they just don't have a mature sense of what happened and how it affected them. They are mature and functioning adults with wounded little kids hunched down in silence deep inside of them.

Why don't ACoAs recognize this and try to get help?

Because the pain is unconscious and surfaces unconsciously through triggers and memory primers. The trap is that because ACoAs often have the capacity to understand what happened to them, they mistake understanding for emotional processing; their pain remains untouched and unprocessed. They can refer to it, but not feel it, process it, and let it go or at least transform into another stage. They block it in a thousand clever ways.

Read the entire post here:

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

You May Be An Unknowing Target: Narcissist Bait

One of the tenets of being an Adult Child Of Alcoholics is having a difficult time taking compliments. Typically the reaction ranges from ignoring the compliment to minimizing it or to deflect on how great the other person is. My theory is that ACAs are fearful of accepting the affection we so desperately crave because it can become a powerful emotional hook and we are afraid of becoming dependent on them. Those with low self esteem are especially vulnerable.

This is exactly what narcissists depend on as one of their tactics to ensnare someone into a relationship. A narcissist will initially idealize their object of affection in order to convince them that they truly love them.

According to Shahida Arabi’s article on “5 Sneaky Things Narcissists Do To Take Advantage Of You",

“Be wary of: constant texting, shallow flattery and wanting to be around you at all times. This is a technique known as “love-bombing” and it is how most victims get sucked in: they are flattered by the constant attention they get from the narcissist. You may be fooled into thinking that this means a narcissist is truly interested in you, when in fact, he or she is interested in making you dependent on their constant praise and attention.”

IDEALIZATION is usually the first phase of the relationship with a narcissistic person, the next two being DEVALUATION and DISCARD. Eventually, the self centered flatterer will change to criticism and withdrawal with just enough spurts of positivity to keep you hooked. Finally, you will be discarded, typically in a cruel manner.

"During the DISCARD phase, the narcissist abandons his or her victim in the most horrific, demeaning way possible to convince the victim that he or she is worthless. This could range from: leaving the victim for another lover, humiliating the victim in public, blatantly ignoring the partner for a long period of time, being physically aggressive and a whole range of other demeaning behaviors to communicate to the victim that he or she is no longer important… During the discard phase, the narcissist reveals the true self and you get a glimpse of the abuser that was lurking within all along. You bear witness to his or her cold, callous indifference as you are discarded. This is as close you will ever get to seeing the narcissist’s true self.” -Shahida Arabi

Narcissists are not inherently evil although it may seem that way. They are victims of trauma/ abuse and are acting out their dysfunction. This doesn’t mean one should overly empathize with them. The best way to handle a narcissistic person is to have little to NO CONTACT with them whatsoever. At least until you are strong enough to deal with their insidious tactics. Otherwise the temptation for them to suck you back in and for you to succumb to it may be too great.

Have you been or are you currently involved with a narcissist?

Read the full article here:

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children

Monday, March 9, 2015

Dr. Drew On Trauma And Emotional Disregulation

You may be familiar with Dr. Drew Pinsky’s work as an addiction specialist on the show Celebrity Rehab, his own TV talk show and now as a radio host on KABC 790 AM. Dr. Drew’s radio show is available as a free podcast. On March 3, he had a few interesting things to say about trauma, dysfunction, emotional disturbance and addiction. Check out the podcast at about 2:45 after the beginning.

Drew says, “Finally people are starting to make the connection between adverse health affects and (childhood) trauma… the consequence of that trauma is emotional “disregulation"… if you’ve been traumatized it shatters the brains ability to regulate… it creates a child who is unwilling to trust another person and unwilling to be vulnerable and re-enter that frame where they can build an emotional landscape that could lead to flexible emotional regulation.

Instead, they reach for alternatives- sex, drugs, cigarettes, high calorie/ processed food… this is more than emotional eating. This is eating in an attempt to fill a void/ regulate painful emotions and un-regulatible feelings. Pain, somatic dissociation, poor self care.”

He says that when children are traumatized it affects their brain physically. “It actually has a measurable effect on their memory- their hippocampus is structurally different.” They have a higher probability of difficulty in school, ADHD, problems functioning academically, drug and alcohol use, behavioral problems. “When you can’t regulate you’re more likely to drink and not do so good in school.”

Dr. Drew says people engage in dysfunctional behavior such as substance abuse because they are so unregulated. Whatever the particular psychological disturbance, ultimately the causational link is trauma. Drew says his patients had twofold problems- addictions AND underlying trauma. Pain, PTSD mental and emotional pain, feelings of emptiness, propensity to reenact their trauma- it ALL stems from emotional disregulation. Attempts to solve that include self medicating with substances and or coping behaviors.

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Claudia Black Launches Center for Young Adults in Recovery

“Our mission at the Claudia Black Young Adult Center is to help young adults and their families forge recovery paths, so they can heal, blossom, and thrive."- Dr. Claudia Black

The center focuses on a nurturing community, family systems, proven testing and assessments, life skills, experiential therapies, and 12-step work. Trauma comes in many forms, including but not limited to bullying, sexual assault, abandonment and many have faced absent, controlling, or addicted parents.

The Claudia Black Young Adult Center utilizes an array of experiential healing modalities – along with other therapies - including neurofeedback, mindfulness practices, equine-assisted psychotherapy, challenge courses, and trauma-informed psychodrama, along with EMDR and Somatic Experiencing.

Dr. Black’s work with children impacted by drug and alcohol addiction created the framework for the adult children of alcoholics’ movement. She has also authored over fifteen books, including Intimate Treason; It Will Never Happen To Me!; and Changing Course: Healing from Loss, Abandonment and Fear.

The Center, located in Arizona, is one of three treatment programs run by The Meadows. To learn more call (800) 244-4949 or visit

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


“Adult children of alcoholic parents have the highest rate of attention disorders among any clinical group.”- according to professor Steven L. Schandler, director of the Addiction Research and Cognitive Psychophysiology Laboratories at Chapman University.

In a recent Orange County Register article
(Click here for full article), Schandler also claimed that when ACOAs with ADD consume alcohol, “their systems slow down to a 'normal' level, which enhances their ability to process information.” This self medication can be a risk factor in ACOAs becoming alcoholics themselves. Children of alcoholics are up to 14 times more likely to have substance abuse problems than children of nonalcoholics.

It has also been documented that People with ADHD have at least one defective gene that makes it difficult for neurons to respond to dopamine, a key neurotransmitter regulating attention and feelings of pleasure.

What do YOU think? Do you find yourself drinking alcohol or binging on sugar or junk food in order to “feel better” or think more clearly?

One coping skill that has proven to work is exercise. Working out changes your physiology and increases chemicals called endorphins that make you feel good naturally. Plus exercise can increase blood flow, self esteem and help ward off anxiety.

What's your favorite coping mechanism?

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children