Monday, December 17, 2007

Can You Change Dysfunction?

Little Miss Sunshine

Excerpts from

Resulting Problems

Abuse and neglect inhibit the development of children's trust in the world, in others, and in themselves. Later as adults, these people may find it difficult to trust the behaviors and words of others, their own judgements and actions, or their own senses of selfworth. Not surprisingly, they may experience problems in their academic work, their relationships, and in their very identities.

Making Changes

Sometimes we continue in our roles because we are waiting for our parents to give us "permission"; to change. But that permission can come only from you. Like most people, parents in dysfunctional families often feel threatened by changes in their children. As a result, they may thwart your efforts to change and insist that you "change back." That's why it's so important for you to trust your own perceptions and feelings. Change begins with you. Some specific things you can do include:

Identify painful or difficult experiences that happened during your childhood. Make a list of your behaviors, beliefs, etc. that you would like to change. Next to each item on the list, write down the behavior, belief, etc. that you would like to do/have instead. Pick one item on your list and begin practicing the alternate behavior or belief. Choose the easiest item first.
Once you are able to do the alternate behavior more often than the original, pick another item on the list and practice changing it, too. In addition to working on your own, you might find it helpful to work with a group of people with similar experiences and/or with a professional counselor.

Special Considerations

As you make changes, keep in mind the following:

Stop trying to be perfect. In addition, don't try to make your family perfect. Realize that you are not in control of other people's lives. You do not have the power to make others change. Don't try to win the old struggles - you can't win. Set clear limits - e.g., if you do not plan on visiting your parents for a holiday, say "no," not "be." Identify what you would like to have happen. Recognize that when you stop behaving the way you used to, even for a short time, there may be adverse reactions from your family or friends. Anticipate what the reactions will be (e.g., tears, yelling, other intimidating responses) and decide how you will respond.

Final Note

Don't become discouraged if you find yourself slipping back into old patterns of behavior. Changes may be slow and gradual; however, as you continue to practice new and healthier behaviors, they will begin to become part of your day to day living.

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

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

H.A.L.T. In The Name Of Serenity!


H.A.L.T. indicates that you need to stop and take care of yourself when you get Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Being too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, are conditions that leave us more vulnerable to the temptations that lead us away from our program of recovery. Part of recovery is learning to pay attention to these inner signals and practice appropriate ways to meet our needs and resolve issues in a manner that will enhance our serenity.

When HUNGRY, you not only need enough food, but the right kinds of foods. Although food comes immediately to mind, there are many other things for which we can “hunger.” We all need a sense of worth, connection to others and to something bigger than ourselves, appreciation, and many others. Miss out on some of these basic emotional needs for very long and we can end up sad or depressed.

When ANGRY, stop and deal with it using your recovery tools. Pray. Get some exercise and fresh air. Talk to a sponsor, counselor or trusted recovery friend. Remember that your serenity, not your ego, is the important thing. I get angry, you get angry, we all get angry. No problem there. The problem comes when anger is our most common emotion and our first response to most situations. Recent research has demonstrated that constant anger is not only not good for you, it can kill you. Pay attention to and deal with the emotions that anger typically grows out of: fear, frustration, hurt.

LONELY - In spite of all the modern ways we have to communicate with each other, we still live in a culture where it is incredibly easy to become isolated. Most people don’t know the names of their neighbors on either side or across the street. I know of people who are “just too busy” to spend the time to connect with other people. These folks are way too busy for their own good. Take the time to connect and stay connected to others. Walk next door and introduce yourself. Call an old friend you have not spoken with in a while. Stay connected.

TIRED - Vince Lombardi said “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” It’s not that most people don’t have the time to rest, it’s that most people have actually forgotten how. When it comes to the ultimate form of rest, sleeping, when was the last time you got the recommended 8 - 10 hours? In addition to getting enough sleep, schedule time to rest. Put it in your appointment book, and protect it and keep it like you would any other important appointment.

When you find yourself in H.A.L.T. mode, refrain from making important decisions until you have taken time for yourself and are in a better frame of mind. It may be helpful to attend a 12-Step meeting, phone someone in recovery or be of good service to someone. Sometimes the onset of anxiety or a sudden drop in mood can be traced to our having forgotten to eat so our blood sugar levels are off kilter. Sometimes we may be carrying a resentment, or feeling lonely, or we are just too tired.

Taking a little time out from our busy day to ask ourselves if we are feeling too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, gets us in touch with our feelings. When we know what we are feeling we can make choices and take the appropriate action to get our needs for food, companionship, or rest, met.

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

Monday, November 19, 2007

What's Your Emotional IQ?


Emotional Intelligence and ACAs (Adult Children of Alcoholics)

August 20th, 2007

Everyone in the alcoholic’s family suffers effects from the
disease. Typically everyone involved in the life of the
alcoholic and dysfunctional family has low or no emotional
intelligence. They don’t know what they think or feel, and don’t
think they have a right to. Many of the challenges facing Adult
Children of Alcoholics (ACAs) can be addressed by developing
Emotional Intelligence. Here are some examples.

[Source: Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization
( )

1. ACAs tend to over-react to anger and criticism, and are
afraid of authority figures.

EQ COMPETENCY: Constructive discontent.

If you’re an ACA and someone gets angry at you, you shrink
inside and shut down or panic, reacting in a way that isn’t
always appropriate to the actual real-life situation. Learning
constructive ways to deal with the emotions engendered by
disagreement and criticism are part of EQ.

Emotional Intelligence means not taking constructive criticism
personally and emotionally, but getting the message and
benefiting from it. Experiencing fear and anger, strong emotions
designed for survival, can’t be controlled, but we always have a
choice in how we respond to them.

2. ACAs often feel isolated and lonely and uneasy with other

EQ COMPETENCY: Interpersonal skills, Emotional Expression and

Isolation is one of the worst things we can do to ourselves. To
live in emotional isolation can be worse on our health than such
things as smoking and being overweight. Learning to communicate
well, and express feelings appropriately is part of the EQ

3. ACAs feel like victims when something bad happens to them.

EQ COMPETENCY: Personal Power.

Personal Power is the opposite of victim-ology. Instead of
asking “Who will take care of me?” you learn to ask, “How will I
take care of myself?” It means building confidence in your
ability to handle your life and believing that you can do it.

4. ACAs are often uncomfortable with emotional intimacy. They’re
afraid to reveal their feelings and who they are, and reluctant
to become vulnerable.

EQ COMPETENCY: Emotional Expression.

The first step in EQ is self-awareness; to become aware of your
feelings. Only then can you learn how to express them accurately
and appropriately.

5. ACAs tend to confuse pity with love, and to be more concerned
about others than they are about themselves.

EQ COMPETENCY: Interpersonal skills, Empathy.

Healthy Empathy means being able to understand where the other
person is coming from, but with respect for one’s own
boundaries. You can understand how the other person feels, but
not have to join them in the feeling. Empathy does not involve
the feeling of pity.

6. ACAs judge themselves harshly and are over-responsible. Often
they are perfectionists.

EQ COMPETENCY: Being adamantly and relentlessly self-forgiving.

Understanding that we’re human, and that we all make mistakes is
what this is all about. It takes a lot of practice for most of
us to ‘get’ this competency. It involves self-talk and learned
optimism, and managing the emotions of failures, losses,
rejections and mistakes. It isn’t good for your health, your
work, or your relationships to be a perfectionist!

7. ACAs have difficulty in identifying, understanding, and
expressing their feelings.


The cornerstone of Emotional Intelligence is self-awareness –
being able to identify and understand your feelings. If you
lived in an environment where feelings were not welcome,
denigrated, mocked, punished, ignored, denied, or lied about, it
will take some practice to be able to bring them up, identify
them, and understand them. That’s what EQ coaching is all about!

8. ACAs over-value the approval of others, and will ignore their
own values, preferences and beliefs in deference to others’.
Feeling vulnerable, they protect themselves by being overly
anxious to please others.

EQ COMPETENCY: Integrated Self, Personal Power and

These competencies help us stay centered, and act with intent,
based on our own values, preferences, feelings, thoughts, and
beliefs. When we own and claim our Personal Power, we can aim to
get along with others with good will, but are no longer driven
to please someone else at our own expense.

9. ACAs tend to be addicted to excitement. They are risk seekers
who prefer constant upset to workable solutions.

EQ COMPETENCY: Understanding, accepting and processing emotions,
operating with Intentionality, and often being able eventually
to modulate emotions.

EQ means learning where emotions come from and how they operate
and being able to make choices instead of knee jerk reactions.
We learn the different ‘feel’ or emotions from the reptilian
brain and the limbic brain, and when and how to blend this with
the thinking brain, the neocortex. Understanding where the need
for excitement comes from allows us to manage it, and avoid
chaotic situations that self-sabotage. EQ is all about workable
solutions and how to achieve them.

10. ACAs are imprisoned by childhood reactions.

EQ COMPETENCY: Emotional Intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence means understanding where emotions come
from, and being able to experience them, consider them, learn
from them, and then make a decision to respond (or not), instead
of reacting without thinking. Developing your Emotional
Intelligence will help you avoid being entrapped in any
unrealistic, rash or un-reasoned reaction.

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

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Can I Be Normal?


Adult children of alcoholics can practice ‘being normal’

“Sometimes I feel like I was raised by wolves,” sighed James, a 55-year-old man who grew up in a home with two alcoholic parents. “I’ve gone through so much of my life guessing at what ‘normal’ is. It’s like trying to find your way through a dark woods without a compass.”

According to Rosemary Hartman, supervisor of the Hazelden Family Program in Center City, Minn., reactions like James’ are typical for people who grew up in dysfunctional families. But acknowledging that there were issues that deeply affected the whole family system is an important first step toward emotional and spiritual healing.

Hartman said this acknowledgment frequently happens when adults have their own children. “They want to be good parents, but struggle with how to do it. They have some notions that are guided by principles in culture that sound good, but they don’t know how to practice them because they had no role models.”

Often, children raised in alcoholic families learn the “four Ds” early on:

Don’t talk about what is really going on.
Don’t trust anyone but yourself.
Don’t feel or have needs because there is no one available to validate or respond to you.
Deny there is a problem.

Because they don’t know what “normal” is, they may constantly seek approval or affirmation. What might be considered overachieving by others might seem routine to children of alcoholics who learned to try to be perfect so they wouldn’t disrupt things or incur the wrath of the alcoholic.

Children in such a system may also have trouble identifying or expressing their feelings. In their homes it may not have been okay to cry or be angry. Sentiments crucial to a child like “I’m sorry,” or even “I love you,” might have been absent or not authentic, delivered without an emotional foundation or behaviors consistent with such statements.

There is a saying in Twelve Step mutual-help groups that “We’re only as sick as our secrets,” but breaking the pattern of secrecy or the no-talk rules that may have existed in a family can be difficult. “It’s only been within the last 25-30 years that people began to talk about these things,” explained Hartman. “For persons with older parents, there was such a lack of understanding of addiction as an illness. It was considered a moral issue, and people with addictions were viewed as weak—as bad parents, people or spouses.”

It’s important to understand, said Hartman, that acknowledging the reality of an alcoholic family is not about blame. It’s about understanding the disease of alcoholism and the dire effects it can have on a family, then taking responsibility for your own behavior once you’ve gained the tools with which to live a healthy and balanced life.

An Al-Anon-affiliated group for adult children is an excellent place to start, said Hartman. “Part of the problem with growing up in an alcoholic family system is there aren’t consistent principles and values,” she said. “The Twelve Steps offer a set of principles by which we can live that are in line with every belief system.”

A Twelve Step group also provides a safe place where people can check things out to see if their responses, reactions and feelings are appropriate. In other words, it’s a great place to practice “being normal,” ask for help, and receive support and validation.

Hartman said that people on a journey of healing typically go through a grief process, encountering emotions like denial, anger and fear along the way. There is often grief surrounding the loss of the myth of family and the loss of a happy childhood. The goal, she said, is to learn about addiction, develop new coping mechanisms, let go of resentment or judgment, and ultimately move to a place of compassion and kindness towards others.

Hartman cautions adult children to approach recovery “slowly and quietly,” and to concentrate on themselves. “This is your own personal journey and it may be threatening to family members who still view alcoholism as a moral failing or who feel you are being disloyal by telling family secrets. You can’t take others along, but you can demonstrate positive changes. We can’t rewrite history, but we can take steps today to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself.”

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Meaning Of Life

excerpts from "The Meaning Of Life"

If you're confused about what you want or how to get it, perhaps you weren't given the chance to discover your own talents and passions.

If your relationships fail and you don't understand why, you may be acting out early patterning that doesn't work any more.

If you're trapped in situations that drain your energy, someone may have convinced you long ago that you're unworthy of better.

If you give in to people you can't stand and fear people you admire, you've probably adopted those attitudes to be sure you didn't offend someone important to you.

If you're overwhelmed by emotions that sometimes make you afraid to act, it's likely you didn't get the recognition you needed as a child to build self-confidence.

If any of this sounds familiar, take heart in knowing that you are not alone. Whether you ask mental health professionals or everyday people, most estimate that over 90% of American families are passing along generations of dysfunctional habits and attitudes that distort personal, social and political life.

The good news is that you are a spirit on a physical journey, and what happens in your life is guided by Spirit to bring you the circumstances you need to learn the lessons you came here for. Surviving a dysfunctional family means setting yourself free from the negative influences in your past so you can build a life you love. You are not a victim of your upbringing. Past circumstances don't necessarily doom you to failure. Although a dysfunctional past can crush your self-esteem and ruin your relationships, the distortion of your instincts can be reversed.

Life on earth is a miraculous blend of spirit and matter, an expression of the universal life force at the heart of creation. Whatever you call that force --God, All-That-Is, the Eternal, the Prime Mover, the Ground of Being, Allah, Yahweh, Shiva, Zeus, or an name you invent yourself--you and me and every living thing that ever was or will be is part of this infinite incomprehensible universe, like a cell in the body of God that has crystallized into your physical form to use its creative power to express your talents and abilities, and show you who you really are and how to make the most of your life.

Beneath your everyday awareness is a wiser, clearer you--what you might call your essence or soul. Your experience of yourself is based on the interaction between those two states of being--the internal and the external.

Either you allow Spirit to flow through you or you get in the way of its flow. When you're out of touch with your true nature, you feel small, separate, and lonely. Being comfortable in your own skin starts with accepting yourself as you are--a spiritual being who is in every moment, every situation, every flash of genius and every stupid blunder, unfolding and expanding far beyond your understanding.

Take responsibility for your thoughts and feelings. Use them as signposts to help you set your own course, and be willing to make corrections if you find you've strayed from your natural progression. Beneath your surface are the vision, strength, compassion, and love that are your birthright. Approaching difficulties as opportunities to find your highest potential promotes healing by helping you locate a deeper reality, which permanently changes your perspective and deepens your capacity to love and learn in even the most difficult circumstances.

But by adopting behavior and attitudes to get along with the people closest to us, our natural inclinations become distorted. If instead of being nurtured and supported, we're ridiculed, ignored or abused, we feel afraid, cynical, or depressed. We become focused on doing whatever will stop the pain. We divert all our energy into figuring out how to protect ourselves emotionally and get our basic needs met, doing things we don't want to do but can't stop. We forget there was ever anything we liked or wanted in life, that we have innate talents and interests that are fun to explore and express. Instead we end up mimicking or rebelling against the patterns passed along to us.

Yet this is not an excuse to blame your family for wrecking your life, even if you believe that to be the case. In difficult situations, it's easy to lose touch with your original intention. Repressing your natural instincts for the sake of superficial harmony is the basis for most interactions in what we think of as polite society.

But as soon as you try to show that you love someone by pretending to be what they want you to be, the trouble begins. Cutting and pasting your behavior or beliefs to suit others is unnatural. Your authentic expression can't find an appropriate outlet, so it squeezes itself into an available alternative whether it fits or not. Even the most noble or worthy substitute can never be as satisfying as the original objective. It feels false, and is often physically painful. Your significant others may feel better temporarily, and you may look like you fit in, but keeping up an artificial front creates a split between your behavior and your experience which makes you feel desperate and worthless.

Peace of mind and well-being come from putting your faith in yourself rather than convention or history. Simply acknowleging your own truth heals you. Deep within, you are powerful. You didn't come here to find and problem and fix it. You came to identify and share your gifts. You are good. You are free to do what you want with your life. You are valuable. All is well.

Clearing your stumbling blocks and building your dreams go hand in hand. If you neglect either side, you're destined to relive your unworkable patterns over and over. The longer you ignore their call to action, the more strongly they demand your attention. You feel more pain and your circumstances get worse. Either you face your limitations and act in alignment with what feels right to you, or you blow off steam in ever worsening self-destructive and anti-social behaviors.

Whose life works perfectly, with nothing arising to disturb them? Having personal problems is universal, an essential part of human development. If we had no difficulties to negotiate, how would we learn anything? What we call "mistakes" are not necessarily failures. They can bring great insight.

Buddha's first noble turth is that life is suffering. This is not a statement of hopelessness, but a starting point for understanding how life works. Even the most trying circumstances can help us to release dysfunctional patterns and find our true direction. Experience is the greatest teacher, whether we label any particular situation as good or bad.

Seeing your distortions is the first step to clearing them up. Your reactions to the people and situations that either attract or repel you shape what happens with them. Through inspiration or frustration, they help you clarify your dreams and passions. The things that push your buttons provide clues to what keeps you from having what you want, highlight the areas where you have the most to learn, and give you the impetus to find the mess still left inside and transform it.

Don't be afraid of your emotions, even the so-called "negative" ones. Anger, grief, envy and the like are simply energy that needs to be examined to uncover the truth and good intentions beneath the situation that triggered them. This doesn't mean you have license to indulge your dark side or inflict your moods on others, which are both ways to avoid your true emotions. Instead, go into and beyond them to find the treasure hidden there.

When you examine the tangles in your mind that limit you, you dismantle them. Meeting the challenges within your problems and recognizing your buried emotions and unconscious obstacles frees up your energy to find more satisfying ways to live. Only when you bring your inner life to light can you come to terms with and transform it.

To do this, set aside ten or twenty minutes a day, go to a private place and sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Breathe slowly and deeply. Think of your inhale as bringing in peace and relaxation, and the exhale as releasing tension and distortion. Notice what you think and feel. Allow emotions to arise and pass through you like clouds across the sky, then let them go. Picture yourself healing, and imagine your fondest dreams coming true. When you feel complete, jot down anything you want to remember, then get up and go on with your day.

To have happiness, peace of mind, and well-being, put your faith in what lights you up rather than in conventional beliefs or history. Recognize your dreams and best intentions as a message from God, and take action to make them real. Simply paying attention to your own truth helps you awaken to the reality of spirit, and glimpse the meaning in your own life. Then you begin to see others' lives as meaningful, which enables you to forgive and tolerate difference and difficulty. Being willing to investigate your stuck places can revolutionize your life and society as your transformation reverberates in those around you, making the world a better place one heart at a time.

Suzanne Gold has a Master's Degree in psychology, a Credential of Ministry from the Universal Life Church and has studied and practiced spiritual techniques and principles from around the world.

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

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Depression Study Finds Shame at Root of Issue

A new study reveals the connection between shame and depression.


(October 03, 2007) -- When World War II veterans suffering from depression were asked one simple question, their symptoms of depression immediately lifted.

“They started talking loudly and clearly instead of whispering as they had before and looked into the psychiatrist’s eyes rather than at the floor,” said Thomas Scheff, a professor emeritus at the UC Santa Barbara Department of Sociology.

The question: What were you doing during World War II?

The observations made at the English mental hospital in which the veterans were staying were later developed by Scheff into a theory of depression. The theory supports the idea that depression arises out of shame and may be alleviated by a sense of pride.

Of 83 conversations with such patients, about half were asked about their experiences during World War II. Among those who were asked the question, half of the patients had a temporary remission in which the symptoms of depression completely disappeared.

With such similar reactions to the question being common among the patients, a possible reason for the remission is the ability for a patient’s sense of pride from the war to override the feelings of shame that can cause depression, Scheff said. “Pride is often associated with a sense of acceptance as a valued member of a group,” he said.

Though the patients who exhibited the behavior were older patients, the theory can be applied to all age groups and all cultures, said Kristin Yarris, a graduate student coordinator of the Mind, Medicine and Culture group at UCLA.

“The challenge will be the extent to which we can apply (this theory) to different ages and cultures,” she said.

Shame-based depression is not uncommon among all age groups, such as young adults, for example.

For many depression patients at UCLA, depression, shame and guilt frequently occur together, said Elizabeth Gong-Guy, director of UCLA Student Psychological Services.

“A good example is a student who comes into college expecting to do just as well as they did in high school. But because the competition is at a different level, they aren’t doing as well,” she said. “As a result, they feel shame because they are unable to meet a family expectation.”

The shame, in turn, may lead to depression.

Another common instance of shame-based depression occurs in relationships with lovers or parents. “I’ve seen many students who blame themselves for the breakup and feel shame,” Scheff said.

Oftentimes, the shame will develop into a cycle that may magnify the feeling of shame. “Shame acts back on itself,” Scheff said. “When people blush, they become self-conscious and they blush even more. Similarly, when you are ashamed of being ashamed, it goes round and round and is infinitely powerful.”

In contrast to those who experience shame and place the cause of the shame on themselves, others may express shameful feelings as anger or violence.

Depression may result when shame is directed and kept inward, while violence results if the anger associated with shame is directed outward, Scheff said.

“Sometimes the person will place the fault on someone else. They avoid the pain of shame by covering it over with anger,” he said. “I refer to the two different responses to shame as ‘silence -violence.’”

With the development of this shame-based theory, many possible treatment plans can be and have been formed.

Despite biological and scientific treatment options already present, alternative methods involving psychology and social interactions are just as important because different patients have different symptoms that require different treatments, said Gong-Guy.

“Some are best treated with medication, some with psychotherapy, and some with both,” she said.

Nevertheless, most scientists suggest that a combination of treatments is most effective, she added.

Antidepressants may not be as effective as they seem because many patients have been found not to respond to the medication or may even experience negative side effects, Scheff said.

One possible alternative treatment option rests on social interactions. Scheff outlined a series of steps in his treatment plan, in which a psychiatrist or therapist first tries to go over patients’ positive memories so they can break from depression and begin to feel better. The psychiatrist would then connect with the patient and allow the patient to talk about shameful areas of his or her life so there would be no need to hide or keep it in.

Source: Sience and Health
Sue Wang, Science & Health Editor (Contact)

Last updated: 10/07

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

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Poem From An Adult Child

Growing up was very hard,
Wondering how I make it this far,
All the pain I felt inside,
Is it any wonder I wanted to die?

Looking at myself today,
Why has it not gone away?
All those beatings that made me cry,
That’s the time I wished I died.

All the things that were said to me,
Through my life I believed.
It’s time to look deep inside,
Life’s to precious to want to die.

Today’s the day I say goodbye,
To all the pain I feel inside.
It’s time to forgive the people from the past,
To me that seems like a good place to start.

It’s time to look at all the good in my life,
And stop dwelling on the past.
To open my eyes to the world and see,
At all the beauty waiting for me.

It’s time to wake up and see,
I’ve come to realize it’s down to me.
Thinking of the positives in my life,
That should stop me thinking from of the past.

- Mick

Special thanks to Mick for sharing his heartfelt poem with all of us.

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

ACA Bill Of Rights

I have a right to all those good times that I have longed for all these years and didn't get.

I have a right to joy in this life, right here, right now- not just a momentary rush of euphoria, but something more substantive.

I have a right to relax and have fun in a non-alcoholic and non-destructive way.

I have the right to actively pursue people, places, and situations that will help me in achieving a good life.

I have a right to say no whenever I feel something is not safe or I am not ready.

I have a right to not participate in either the active or passive "crazy-making" behavior of parents, siblings, or others.

I have a right to take calculated risks and to experiment with new strategies.

I have a right to change my tune, my strategy, and my funny equations.

I have a right to "mess up", to make mistakes, to "blow it", to disappoint myself, and to fall short of the mark.

I have a right to leave the company of people who deliberately or inadvertently put me down, lay a guilt trip on me, manipulate or humiliate me, including my alcoholic parent, my nonalcoholic parent, or any other member of my family.

I have a right to put an end to conversations with people who make me feel put down and humiliated.

I have a right to all my feelings.

I have a right to trust my feelings, my judgment, my hunches, my intuition.

I have a right to develop myself as a whole person, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically, sexually, and psychologically.

I have a right to express my feelings in a non-destructive way and at a safe time and place.

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

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


In ACA, we have stories of relapse and the importance of getting back to the program if relapse occurs. An ACA relapse always features a reenact-ment of our role while growing up in a dysfunctional family. We recreate the same fear, self-hate, and abandonment of our childhood. A relapse can take many forms, but all ACA relapses have this central feature.

An ACA relapse can bring a return of self-harming behavior. The behavior can include emotional eating, drug use, compulsive sexual relationships, or other harmful behaviors. We can become an aggressive authority figure and emotional persecutor while in relapse. The critical inner parent can return. We may also find ourselves in a controlling relationship without baseline honesty or trust. We can feel used.

Relapse in this program can be subtle, gradual, and insidious. While there are different forms of relapse, the setback has the common characteristics of willful control, manipulation, dishonesty, and turning away from a Higher Power. Sometimes a single act can be considered a relapse. At other times we consider ourselves in relapse when we have engaged in an unhealthy behavior for many months with no honest effort to change our behavior.

Some warning signs of relapse can include: not talking about things that upset us; keeping secrets; failing to get a sponsor; attending meetings but failing to work the ACA Twelve Steps; working only the Steps of another Twelve Step program while attending ACA; withdrawing from the fellowship and isolating; replacing our old addiction with another equally destructive one; skipping meetings or quitting meetings; seducing a newcomer; substituting another Twelve Step group or enlightenment group for this one; or pronouncing ourselves cured.

By pronouncing ourselves cured, we wrongly conclude that ACA is a limited program that addresses only certain areas of our lives such as abuse. In reality, ACA is a way of life that can improve every aspect of our lives. We can rely upon ACA to fulfill us emotionally and spiritually if we work the program. By facing our pain and fears, we experience a spiritual awakening that transforms us. We continue to attend meetings year after year so that we can grow spiritually and pass on what was given to us. The reward is emotional sobriety and a personality change that moves us away from being a fear-based person to God-centered person. With our personality change, we claim our true identity.

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Amino Acids Help ADD, Depression

I have suffered with ADD throughout my life. As a child I became a sugar and chocolate junky to help myself feel better and be able to better concentrate. I'd start the day with my favorite sugar sweetened cereal, eat more junk at lunch and "mainline" Hershey's chocolate syrup, sucking it straight from the container as soon as I got home from school.

I would also gorge on high carb foods like potato chips, other starches and candy bars to give myself a mental "boost". Powdered Nestle's Quick I enjoyed eating from it's box with a spoon, not bothering to mix it with milk.

And it did "help". With all that sugar and chocolate stimulating my system, I was mentally alert and had very fast recall. Problem was, I couldn't sit still, focus on anything for extended periods and would blurt out creative, "wiseguy" answers in class. This would crack people up, which was my goal and my reward. It also disrupted the lesson which did not gain me the favor of my teacher.

At night I would often have nightmares which I never had any recall of the next day. My family would hear me screaming and thrashing about in my bed. I attribute this to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) as my body overproduced insulin to try and regulate all the sugar I was pouring in.

I've also struggled with bouts of depression from time to time.

Over the years, I've tried reading books on nutrition, nutritional therapy, food allergy treatments, acupuncture, natural supplements and prescription drugs to try and alleviate my ADD. All this has been quite expensive. Until now, acupuncture is the only treatment that had some positive effect.

I recently began using a product called "Neu Becalm'd" from a company called Neurogenesis. It is a natural amino acid mix and actually helps me feel better and focus. It is available online. The two main active ingredients seem to be D-L Phenylanaline and L-Glutamine. They recommend taking it up to 3 times a day.

A less expensive solution is to buy these amino acids separately at a health food store. In Neu Becalm'd the ratio is 1 part L-Glutamine (300 mg) to 2 parts D-L Phenylanaline (600 mg). Make sure you get D-L Phenylanaline and not "L- Phenylanaline".

If you decide to try it, give it a few days and see if you notice any difference. For me they were subtle but significant. And there should be no side effects. Don't eat for at least 30 minutes after taking.

Hope it helps you as much as it has me.


For more info I recommend the book, : "Overload: Attention Deficit Disorder And The Addictive Brain" by David Miller and Kenneth Blum, Ph.D.

It was a bit of a revelation. I learned that:

*Addicts, their offspring and those with ADHD and ADD may be born with a predisposition to abnormal neurotransmitter levels, leading to sensitivity, discomfort, anxiety and pain.

*Some symptoms of ADD and ADHD parallel the "Common Characteristics" of ACOAs.

*Many people with ADHD are children of alcoholics and ADHD is common in the relatives of ADHD children.

You can read more about this here:

The Reward Deficiency Syndrome

The ACA ADD Connection Pt. 4

The ACA ADD Connection Pt. 3

The ACA ADD Connection Pt. 2

The ACA ADD Connection

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Codependency - What is it?


Codependency - What is it?

Codependency is when a person has a strong desire to control people around them, including their spouse, children or co-workers. Codependents believe they are somehow more capable than others, who need their direction or suggestions to fulfill tasks they are responsible to complete. They feel compassion for people who may be hurting and feel they should be the one to help them. Codependent people give of their time, emotions, finances, and other resources. They have a very difficult time saying "no" to any requests made of them.

Codependency - A Matter of Control

Codependency, for others, doesn't express itself in a desire to control, but instead, in the need to be controlled by others. Because it is nearly impossible for Codependents to say "no" to people, they may find themselves the victims in physically and emotionally abusive relationships. They believe that if they can be good enough, or loving enough, they can change the other person's behavior. They sometimes blame themselves for the abusive behavior: "If only I had not forgotten to do the dishes, he would not have had to hit me."

Codependency causes internal struggles with the opinions of others. Codependents may make decisions based on what they think other people want them to do. While they may believe that their motive for helping people is compassion, in reality they are doing it because they want love or approval. They may come to recognize the underlying nature of their behavior when they become hurt or angry at people they have helped who didn't return the same amount of help, love, or appreciation when they themselves were in need. They have difficulty understanding that instead of helping others by providing things they need, they may actually be hurting them by creating a dependent relationship.

Codependency can also cause struggles in the area of time management. Codependents may feel they never have enough time to fulfill all of their commitments because they have made too many. The most important commitments and relationships are often neglected because they are too busy helping other people, participating in multiple activities, and running from one event to another throughout the week. This also relates to their inability to say "no" when asked to volunteer, attend a function, or help a friend. The idea of not volunteering, not helping or not attending is unthinkable. They may believe they are not being responsible, not being a good friend, or not being a good person if they refuse any requests. However, many of those situations and relationships leave them feeling hurt, angry, or resentful.

Codependency - The Questions

Do you find yourself making decisions based on other people's opinions?
Is it important to you that people like you and want to be your friend?
Do you have a strong desire to help others, but deep down you know you do it so that they will like or love you?
Do you seem to notice everyone else's problems and have a need to tell them what you think they should do to solve them?
Do you feel anxious, angry or upset when people don't do things you want them to do, or do things the way you want them to do them?
Do you find yourself in relationships where you do all the giving and the other person does all the taking?
Are you involved in activities that demand all of your time and energy and you are neglecting your family or yourself?

Codependents must understand God's love of them first. They must realize that they serve an audience of ONE. They must curb their desire to "rescue" people out of their own (deceived) need to be loved or needed. They must learn how to refuse to take responsibility for situations that other people are responsible for, and learn to seek and rely on God to grow these others through their trials. Codependents can learn to help people from servant-heartedness, with no desire for anything in return. When they learn to accept other people's faults, failures and inadequacies, they can refrain from giving advice or trying to fix others unless they are asked for help.

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

Monday, August 6, 2007

How Do I Get Healed?

From: "The Road to Recovery" by Dick Innes

We were damaged in unhealthy family relationships—we are healed in healthy family relationships.

As the rules for a dysfunctional family are you don't talk, you don't trust, and you don't feel, the rules for a healthy family are that you do talk, you do trust, and you do feel. So, to recover from the effects of a dysfunctional family background, you need to find a church or chapel that has groups where it is safe to talk, to trust and to feel—where you will be loved for who you are and not for what you have or haven't done.

Furthermore, these small groups—be they care groups, support groups, therapy groups, or twelve-step recovery groups—are the closest thing to a family you can find. And as long as they are open, honest, safe, accepting, non-judgmental and loving, they hold the key for the recovery of millions of families and individuals.

It is absolutely essential that we be connected to loving, accepting, and non-judgmental people with whom we can share our darkest secrets and who will love and accept us as we are. Through their love and acceptance we learn to love and accept ourselves.

It is this love that heals us and sets us free. But we can only be loved to the degree that we are known. Thus to be known we need to bring our dark side into the light.

Read the entire article here: "The Road to Recovery"

Dick Innes, Founder and International Director of ACTS International, commenced the literature outreach ministry of ACTS in 1968. He also works part time as the Director of Publications of the Narramore Christian Foundation (NCF), a Christian mental health organization, located in the Los Angeles area in California, and was for several years the editor of the NCF Psychology for Living magazine.

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"Common Characteristics Of Healthy People"

You've heard "The Common Characteristics Of Adult Children". So what are of "The Common Characteristics Of Healthy People"?

Here's what one version of Recovery looks like:

1. I do not guess at what normal is. I know.

2. I follow projects through from beginning to end.

3. I tell the truth on subjects both important and trivial.

4. I do not judge myself or others.

5. I know how to have fun.

6. I do not take myself too seriously.

7. Having intimate relationships comes naturally to me.

8. I take changes over which I have no control in stride and accommodate them without added stress.

9. My need for constant approval and affirmation is a distant memory. I give approval and affirmation to myself and others.

10. I AM different from other people, in very special ways.

11. I live a life of balance, being responsible for my actions and letting others be responsible for theirs.

12. I am extremely loyal to those that deserve it.

13. I am not impulsive but I am spontaneous!

If you find that reading a particular one of these makes you uncomfortable or bothers you, you may want to focus on it and ask yourself why. Where are those feelings coming from? Challenge yourself to explore what's holding you back. Allowing yourself to experience the source of your discomfort may help you to be more aware of it and in time, overcome it.

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How We Get Addicted

Time Magazine July 5, 2007

Stress can increase the desire for drugs. In rats trained to self-administer a substance, stressors such as a new environment, an unfamiliar cage mate or a change in daily routine push the animals to depend on the substance even more.

Stress can also alter the way the brain thinks, particularly the way it contemplates the consequences of actions. Recall the last time you found yourself in a stressful situation--when you were scared, nervous or threatened. Your brain tuned out everything besides whatever it was that was frightening you--the familiar fight-or-flight mode. "The part of the prefrontal cortex that is involved in deliberative cognition is shut down by stress," says Vocci. "It's supposed to be, but it's even more inhibited in substance abusers." A less responsive prefrontal cortex sets up addicts to be more impulsive as well.

Evidence is building to support the 90-day rehabilitation model, which was stumbled upon by AA (new members are advised to attend a meeting a day for the first 90 days) and is the duration of a typical stint in a drug-treatment program. It turns out that this is just about how long it takes for the brain to reset itself and shake off the immediate influence of a drug.

Read the full article here: Time Magazine- How We Get Addicted

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Fable Of The Donkey

One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do.

Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey.

He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well.

At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up. As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!

Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a stepping stone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up.

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

1. Free your heart from hatred - Forgive.
2. Free your mind from worries - Most never happen.
3. Live simply and appreciate what you have.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less.

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

Monday, July 2, 2007

Reduce Your Stress Instantly!

From "The Healing Power of Being Human Newsletter" by Ron Matthews

Here’s a way to reduce your stress level almost instantly and see your circumstances with a clearer perspective.

In your forehead, above the eyes and just below the hairline
there are points called Neuro-Vascular points. Simply holding
these points with your fingers will re-program your nervous
system to stop firing a crisis response to life’s ordinary daily

By doing this regularly you will be more able to think clearly
and cope effectively, even when life gets stressful!

Simply lay your fingers gently onto your forehead at the
Frontal Eminences – the bumps on your forehead that are
right above your eyes. It helps if you can lean forward and
rest your elbows on a table or desk while doing this.

Hold your fingers there, think about the source of
your stress, and breathe deeply and slowly for about
three – to – five minutes. That’s it!

Try it. You’ll begin to view the stresses in your life with a
fresh outlook and usually a more creative mind.

Dr. Townsend on codependency, need and love:

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

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ritalin Use Doubles After Divorce

June 4, 2007

By Scott Anderson

TORONTO (Reuters) - Children from broken marriages are twice as likely to be prescribed attention-deficit drugs as children whose parents stay together, a Canadian researcher said on Monday, and she said the reasons should be investigated.

More than 6 percent of 633 children from divorced families were prescribed Ritalin, compared with 3.3 percent of children whose parents stayed together, University of Alberta professor Lisa Strohschein reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The study of more than 4,700 children started in 1994, while all the families were intact, Strohschein said. They followed the children's progress to see what happened to their families and to see what drugs were prescribed.

"It shows clearly that divorce is a risk factor for kids to be prescribed Ritalin," Strohschein said.

Other studies have shown that children of single parents are more likely to get prescribed drugs such as Ritalin. But is the problem caused by being born to a never-married mother, or some other factor?

"So the question was, 'is it possible that divorce acts a stressful life event that creates adjustment problems for children, which might increase acting out behavior, leading to a prescription for Ritalin?'" Strohschein said in a statement.

"On the other hand, there is also the very public perception that divorce is always bad for kids and so when children of divorce come to the attention of the health-care system -- possibly because parents anticipate their child must be going through adjustment problems -- doctors may be more likely to diagnose a problem and prescribe Ritalin."

Ritalin, known generically as methylphenidate, is a psychostimulant drug most commonly prescribed for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.

There is a big debate in much of the developed world over whether it may be over-prescribed -- given to children who do not really need it. In March, a University of California, Berkeley study found that the use of drugs to treat ADHD has more than tripled worldwide since 1993.

Strohschein said it is possible that some mental health problems pre-date the divorce, so "it is possible that these kids had these problems before, but are only being identified afterward."

Her study was not designed to find out why the children were prescribed the drug.

"I might be finished with the survey, but I am not necessarily finished with the question," she said in a telephone interview.

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Head VS Heart

This weeks post is from a fellow ACAer who volunteered to share her story:

Coming from a family of dysfunctional people and a parent that drank and left me when she was drunk, abandonment is my biggest fear. I fear that people will not like me so I do anything possible to make sure that will not happen. Then I feel angry that those same people when they do not pay me back in kind.

Now I understand why "people pleasing" is so harmful because utimately, it makes the one doing it angry. Possibly that is the reason some people say... "I will never help or trust again," or worse, isolate. For me, people pleasing is a set up for a hurt heart.

Why can't the head and heart cooperate?

I think there is an answer to the head and heart problem when it comes to people pleasing. I do not want to be abandoned, so I kiss up to people, which is my head talking. My head is the part of me that remembers past events and how the heart felt when it was abandonded. I contend our heart has no memory of abandonment so herein is the problem. After I have interacted with a person I do not want to lose, I kiss up (people please, brown nose, whatever you want to call it). My head says I am doing a good thing because I am preventing hurt to the heart.

The hurt here is what the heart felt during abandonment as a child. The heart has no idea why it is hurting, just that it has been told by the head that it should hurt.

If I could circumvent the connection from the head to the heart by having no expectations and only doing something for someone because I wanted to do it, that would let me do things for others and protect my heart from hurt if they did not repay me in kind. Yep...that seems to work for me!

It is amazing that I read the Bible and heard this all before but did not internalize it. I thank the good LORD for leading me to ACA. ACA helped my head understand so it can stop telling my heart to be scared or hurt. For that I thank you GOD, ACA and all those who have helped me on the path of healing.

Look up, things are going to be better when you know the truth! Hang in there little hearts, your heads are going to get better!

Hugs and joy,


Thank You for sharing, D!

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

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Codependent Is Addicted- To The Addict

Reprinted from:

Only in recent years has codependency been recognized as the debilitating sickness it can be. At first, it was identified as a problem in alcoholic families. For example, even after alcoholic husbands dried out, twelve months later, many of their families fell apart. When the caretaking wife no longer had a needy spouse, she felt she wasn't loved anymore because she wasn't needed. What she failed to see was that she had been dependent on his dependency. Her need to be needed was enabling her husband to stay sick. In other words, she was codependent.

Codependency, it is now seen, goes far beyond taking care of an alcoholic. It applies to the caretakers of any over-dependent person–such as drug addicts, work addicts, food addicts, spend addicts, TV addicts, sex addicts, religion addicts, sports addicts, money-making addicts, and to anyone addicted to any kind of compulsive behavior. In fact, latest estimates say that up to ninety-eight percent of us are either over-dependent or codependent to one degree or another.

Second, to resolve their problems, codependents need to admit their sickness and stop blaming others for their unhappiness or the difficulties they have.

Blaming others for their problems is denying their own problem, which is at the heart of most unhappiness. Only as we face the truth, as Jesus put it, will we ever find freedom and happiness.

Third, codependents need to stop trying to change others. They have a compulsion to fix anybody but themselves. Trying to change or fix others only leads to frustration and anger for both parties. The only person we can ever fix or change is our self, and as we change, others around us are forced to change—one way or the other.

Fourth, the codependent needs to come to terms with his or her own problem. While an overdependent person is often addicted to some form of compulsive behavior, the codependent is addicted to the addict. In reality, both are overdependent on each other.

Because codependents need to feel needed in order to feel loved, they suffer from love deprivation, usually from childhood, and have confused feeling needed for feeling loved. This is why many codependents have gone into the helping professions.

In order to feel needed, some codependents will go to any length to keep a needy person dependent on them. They can be loyal to the point of being destructive both to themselves and others.

On the surface, codependency can appear to be very loving, kind and Christian. However, at its core it is a confusion of responsibility. The codependent is so busy taking too much responsibility meeting the needs of others, he neglects taking responsibility for meeting his own needs and facing his own problems.

In so doing, he short-circuits the natural consequences of his loved one's destructive behavior.

Codependents need to allow irresponsible people to face the consequences of their actions, and, if necessary, let them hit bottom. Codependents also need to accept responsibility for themselves and work on their own growth and recovery. One effective ways to do this is to join a twelve-step support or similar group. Here, you can learn to feel loved for whom your are and not for what you do for others.

Most of all, codependents need to trust their life to God—a power greater than their own—and daily ask him to face them with the reality of their problem, help them to see the root cause of it, and lead them to the help they need plus the courage to overcome.

God can make a much better job of our life than we can. Why not trust your life to him today?

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

Monday, May 21, 2007

What I've Learned From Step 1

Step 1- "We admitted we were powerless over the effects of alcoholism or other family dysfunction, that our lives had become unmanageable."

Letting Go

How nice it is to not worry about things that are not my problem. I do still have the tendency to get overly concerned with things that are not my responsibility. But I am getting better at realizing when my codependency kicks in and NOT acting on those feelings. And then feeling good about my ability to not to act out of some misguided sense of duty.

Hard as I try, I can't control everything. At times, I can control almost nothing. And being OK with that is the most liberating feeling!

Like it says in "The Problem"; "We had come to feel isolated, uneasy with other people, and especially authority figures. To protect ourselves, we became people pleasers, even though we lost our own identities in the process."

To me, this is the root of my urge to overcommit my time, energy and effort to a given person or project. It used to be an automatic, fear based reaction for me. The thinking goes something like...If I offer something of value to you and make you dependent on me, you can't hate me.

Now I stop and think about it... What's best for me? Is that something I really want to do? Do I really have the time needed or will I be sacrificing completing some other important matter? How much will I resent putting my own needs on the back burner for this?

Or when I really get stressed I ask myself, "Is the earth going to stop spinning if I don't jump in here?"

These questions bring me clarity and I can then make a decision with confidence and no regrets. And sometimes, because I'm focusing on taking care of ME, the answer has to be "no". Reasonable people usually understand. My great fear of being castigated by someone because of my decision never materializes. And I know that if someone tries to use guilt or pressure me unduly, THEY are being dysfunctional. And that's never a good enough reason for me to do anything.

It sure feels good when I treat myself this way. I then have more of "me" to give and share with others.


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

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Can You Change Your Future?

Reprinted from The Daily Encounter

Don't Let Your Past Dictate Your Future

It is true that our lives are significantly shaped during our early formative years and many of our character issues formed then are with us for the rest of our lives.

What if we grew up in a home that was less than wholesome or where we may have been emotionally abused if not physically abused? It's interesting to note that where I live physical and sexual abuse of a child is justifiably considered a crime and is punishable by law with the likelihood of being sentenced to time in jail.

Furthermore, if the abuse is by a parent, the child is often removed from his or her custody. Tragically, emotional abuse is not even considered a crime and, depending on the intensity, can be just as, or even more, psychologically damaging as physical or sexual abuse.

As an adult, overcoming the effects of childhood abuse and love deprivation is possible but it can be very challenging. Speaking personally, I grew up in a very dysfunctional family and because I felt unloved and rejected, especially by my father, for many years I felt extremely insecure and felt that I was ugly and unlovable. True, I was not responsible for my upbringing, but as an adult I realized that I was responsible for overcoming my less than wholesome background.

Besides having a lot of therapy, one of many significant things I did to resolve the effects of my impaired relationship with my father was to go to his gravesite and in my imagination I "talked to him" as if he were there with me. I said, "Dad, if you were still alive today what advice would you have for me?" The answer that came to my mind was, "Don't let your past control your future."

Good advice. True, I may have been a victim in the past but if I chose to remain a victim I would have become a willing volunteer.

For healthy living and loving relationships it is imperative that we resolve all our past impaired relationships and forgive all who have ever hurt us. We don't have to remain a victim but with God's help, and that of others where necessary, we can overcome a hurtful past and become all that God envisioned for us to be.

The choice is ours. So, whatever you do don't let your past control your future.

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

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Camp Recovery 2007

Fellow ACA-er, Randy, tells of his experience at Camp Recovery the weekend of April 27, 2007.

This past weekend I attended "Camp Recovery" located in the San Bernardino mountains at Camp De-Benneville and I wanted to share this experience with other ACA-ers. First I have to tell you that I would never have had the courage to go if it were not for the help I have received from attending the weekly meetings. The anticipation and anxiety that preceded my arrival was at times very difficult but once I arrived I found the camp to be the single, greatest event towards my recovery since I started ACA one year ago.

The people, organizers, and camp staff were the best. I have never fit into a group so quickly or felt so welcomed as I did at camp. This was a weekend full of discovery, hard work, interventions, peace, tranquility, love, faith, hope, growth, and time away from the busy world. The 12 step meetings, workshops, meditation, and the friendships that I made were so rewarding and really filled me with so much hope and joy.

Oh, did I mention the food was really, really good! I can't remember feeling so good about myself in a really long time. My fears subsided, I discovered new issues to work, and the best part is that I had so many others with the same issues where we would talk for hours. The most difficult part of camp is when we all had to say good by and return home.

I continue to use the tools that I have learned at camp as I work on my recovery. I have a renewed appreciation for myself, my family, and my friends. I highly recommend this camp and would love to see you all of you next time.

Your ACA Family Member, Randy

Thank you Randy, for sharing your thoughts with us!

Upcoming ACA/12 Step events:

Mingus Mountain Retreat

A 12 step gathering for anyone in recovery or who would like to find out about recovery.

May 18th, 19th and 20th

ACA Comedy Night

June 22, 2007 8:30 pm

Martini Blues
Huntington Beach

21st Annual International ACA Convention

November 2 - 4, 2007

Lake San Marcos Resort (formerly known as the Quails Inn)
Lake San Marcos, CA (just north of San Diego, CA)

The theme for 2007 will be "The Magic of Recovery". All in recovery welcome. A wonderful week-end of fellowship and recovery featuring speakers, workshops, and meetings in the relaxing environment of the Lake San Marco's Resort. This year's theme is "The Magic of Recovery".

For more info visit the Convention website at or contact

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

Monday, April 30, 2007

Pain Is God's Megaphone

An uncomfortable feeling is not an enemy. It’s a gift that says, "Get honest; inquire." We reach out for alcohol, or television, or credit cards, so we can focus out there and not have to look at the feeling. And that's as it should be, because in our innocence we haven't known how. So now what we can do is reach out for a paper and a pencil, write thought down, and investigate.


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

Monday, April 23, 2007

Are You Ready To Have A Happy Childhood?

Healing The Inner Child

The Inner Child refers to that part of each of us which is ultimately alive, it is the emotional self-where our feelings live. When we experience joy, sadness, anger, fear, or affection our Child Within is coming out. When we are being playful, spontaneous, creative, intuitive and surrendering to the spiritual self, our Genuine Authentic Self, who we know deep within us, our Real Self is being welcomed and encouraged to be present.

We all have an inner child and the wounds our inner child received can and do continue to contaminate our adult lives. Our parents helped create this Inner Child part of us, society also helped with the creation. When this child self is not allowed to be heard or even acknowledged as being real, a false or co-dependent self emerges. We begin to live our lives as victims.

Then we have situations that arise in our lives which develop into unresolved emotional traumas. The gradual accumulation of unfinished mental and emotional business can lead to and fuel chronic anxiety, fear, confusion, emptiness and unhappiness through all of our life.

Besides the Inner Child / adolescent part, we have many other selves which are trying to be heard and take control, without us really hearing the voices until we make an effort to do so. Initially, it is very important to tame the Inner Critic part of us. That voice from the past often keeps beating up our Inner Child. This voice invades whatever trauma and pain there was in our childhood.

The wise Nurturing Self part of us can learn to stand as a protector self for the Inner Child. It’s the job of the Nurturer to be loving and self-affirming. This part of us can also teach the Inner Critic a new job of support instead of beating the Child self up, and can love the Inner Critic so that the Inner Child self can relax and not have to work so hard.

This is often where the internal battle begins. The Inner Critic has been keeping the Inner Child muffled and secluded. Often, it is a case of transforming the Inner Critic to be a good internal parent, beginning to listen to the Inner Child and to allow it to have fun and be heard.

Denial of the Inner Child and the co-dependent self are particularly common among children and adults who grew up in troubled or dysfunctional families. This is where chronic physical mental illness, rigidity, frigidity or lack of nurturing is common. Yet, there is a way out. There is a way to discover and to heal our Inner Child / adolescent part and to break free of the bondage and suffering of our co-dependent or false self.

This is called self-nurturing or re-parenting which allows us to reclaim that wounded child. We can provide for ourselves all the love and support and positive regard we never had and grow up again. It’s the easiest thing in the world to turn our feelings inwards and connect directly with that part of us that can offer comfort and support.

It is not the past as such that effects us – it is our images of it. By re-parenting or reclaiming that wounded child, we uncover any conscious or unconscious mythology of ourselves and begin to re-evaluate and transform it.

Linear time does not apply when we work internally and with the unconscious. It is possible to bring our present wise and loving self, to meet and help our young Inner Child and offer comfort and support and find a new joy and energy in living. This process to discover and heal our Inner Child can be quite astounding.

Through guidance, understanding and love we can learn to know how to form healthy and loving relationships by learning to love ourselves primarily. Because we have dysfunctional relationships internally, we have dysfunctional relationships externally. Loving ourselves is about unconditional love which means no judgement and no shame.

Examples of some of the parts of the Child you might find inside are:

The Abandoned Child

This child part that has been left in some way through divorce or adoption or just left because the parents were kept busy working. This part is always fearful that it will be abandoned again and again. This part of the self is starving for extra attention and reassurance that it is safe and wanted.
This self is very lonely.

The Neglected Child

The child self that was always left alone without much nurturing and love.
It doesn’t believe it is lovable or worthwhile. It finds it difficult to express and doesn’t know how to love.
It is depressed and wants to hide and cry.

The Playful Child

That self that is naturally playful, creative, spontaneous and fun, the loving child. This part longs to play. Many of us have forgotten how to do this and be free without guilt or anxiety because as adults we must be doing something that is `worthwhile`.

The Spoiled Child

That part of us who wants what it wants and it wants it now, and if it doesn’t get what it wants, it throws a temper tantrum.

The Fearful Child

This part has been overly criticised when young. Now it is anxious and in panic much of the time. It needs lots of encouragement and positive affirmations.

The Disconnected Child

This Inner Child part which never learns to be close to anyone. It is isolated and dissociated. Intimacy feels alien and scary. Trust is a basic issue.

The Discounted Child

This is a part of the self that was ignored and treated as though it did not exist. It feels invisible. It doesn’t believe in itself and needs lots of love to assist and support it.

These are all possibilities of the different Inner Child parts that might be inside us and they need support which will allow us to embark on a journey of profound healing, indeed Inner Child work is fundamental to healing!

NOW is the best time to do it.

"it is never to late to have a happy childhood".

excerpted from;

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

Monday, April 9, 2007

How Am I Doing?

Like it or not, our parents have an impact on our behavior in ways that we may not even realize. When a parent is an alcoholic, the impact on their children can have consequences that follow them into adulthood. If one or both of your parents had a drinking problem while you were growing up, you are an Adult Child Of an Alcoholic (ACOA). Take this quiz and see just how much their drinking has affected your adult life.

Keep track of the number of questions you answer with a YES, and add up your score before consulting the score sheet below:

1 . Is it difficult for you to identify, understand, or express your feelings?

2 . Do you judge yourself more harshly than you do others?

3 . Do you have an extremely strong sense of responsibility?

4 . Do you feel guilty when you stand up for yourself?

5 . Do you find yourself afraid of or intimidated by people, particularly authority figures?

6 . Is the approval of others often more important to you than your own preferences or beliefs?

7 . Are thrills and excitement a necessary part of your life?

8 . When someone gets angry at you, do you shrivel inside?

9 . Does personal criticism make you feel as though you're under attack?

10. Do you often find yourself feeling isolated and alone?

11. When things go badly, do you feel like a victim?

12. Can you answer 'yes' to a lot of questions found on an "are you an alcoholic" questionnaire although you never pick up a drink?

13. Are you more concerned for others than for yourself?

14. Do you find yourself constantly trying to rescue others, whether it's a friend, relative or lover?

15. Are you uncomfortable with intimacy and revealing yourself to another person?

16. Do you find yourself hanging onto relationships that aren't healthy?

17. Have you ever confused pity for love?

18. Are you currently involved with an alcoholic?

19 . Are you currently involved with any kind of compulsive personality - such as a workaholic?

20. Have you ever been involved with an alcoholic or a compulsive personality?

21. Do you have a drinking problem?

Add up your score.

0 - 6: You're handling things very well. Just keep an eye on yourself to make sure you don't fall into potential trouble zones. Examine your answers and see if they have a theme. Look at the issues that create the most problems, whether it be in your relationships (questions 13 - 20), or struggling with your own identity (questions 1-12).

7 - 14: Things aren't terrible, but they could be better. No need to settle for "not terrible," however. Make the effort to raise your self-esteem and clear out the obstacles that are getting in the way of fulfilling your dreams.

15 - 21: The past is casting a heavy shadow over you. Sadness, fear, and frustration rear their heads all too often. Don't sweep your feelings under the rug. It's time to face what's going on so that you can turn it around. Get out from under by getting help. It is possible to change old patterns!

Yes to #21: You are following in your parent's footsteps. Don't let your parent's addiction overwhelm your life. Don't give up on yourself. To stop the cycle, seek help now.

By: Mark Sichel

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

Monday, April 2, 2007

The Kind Of "ACE" You Don't Want To Gamble With!

In 1992 Dr. Vincent Felitti, head of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego and Dr. Robert Anda, researcher with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, began to collaborate on a large scale study of the incidence and effects of childhood trauma, known as the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.

The ACE Study is a decade-long and ongoing study designed to examine the childhood origins of many of our Nation’s leading health and social problems.

ACE- Adverse Childhood Experiences

The concept of the ACE Study is that stressful or traumatic childhood experiences increase the risk of cognitive damage, re-victimization, disease and have a negative impact on behavior, health, and even longevity.
Abuse, neglect, witnessing domestic violence, or growing up with alcohol or other substance abuse, mental illness, parental discord, or crime in the home are common pathways to social, emotional, and cognitive impairments.

We now know from breakthroughs in neurobiology that ACEs disrupt neurodevelopment and can have lasting effects on brain structure and function.

ACEs have a strong influence on:

-adolescent health
-teen pregnancy
-alcohol abuse
-illicit drug abuse
-sexual behavior
-mental health
-risk of revictimization
-stability of relationships
-performance in the workforce

ACEs increase the risk of:

-Heart disease
-Chronic Lung disease
-Liver disease
-HIV and STDs
-and other risks for the leading
causes of death


The effects of ACEs are long-term, powerful, cumulative, and likely to be invisible to health care
providers, educators, social service organizations, and policy makers because the linkage between
cause and effect is concealed by time. The original traumatic insults may not become manifest until much later in life.

When a child is wounded, the pain and negative long-term effects reverberate, thereby sustaining the cycle of abuse, neglect, violence and substance abuse, and mental illness. For example, ACEs greatly increase the risk of adult alcohol abuse or marriage to an alcoholic, perpetuating the adversities and their consequences. Thus, growing up with alcohol abuse contributes to many of the leading chronic health and social
problems in the United States.

The ACE Study suggests that stressful and traumatic childhood and adolescent experiences
literally become “biology” affecting brain structure and function (as well as endocrine, immune,
and other biologic functions) leading to persistent effects. Until now, these persistent effects
were “hidden” from the view of both neuroscientists and public health researchers.

We found that adults who reported any single category of adverse childhood experience were likely to have suffered multiple other categories during childhood. Children experiencing alcohol abuse in the home should be screened for other types of maltreatment and traumatic stressors—and vice versa!

Many of our nation’s leading health and social problems are directly tied to enduring neurodevelopmental consequences of growing up with alcohol abuse and related adverse experiences during childhood.

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County ACOA Meeting

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Reward Deficiency Syndrome

RDS- The Reward Deficiency Syndrome

Your brain's chemical factory produces serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, GABA, endorphins and many other "feel good" chemicals. These often work together in a domino like system, triggering each other to produce feelings of well being.

When neurotransmitter levels are abnormal or blocked from the brain's receptors, discomfort anxiety and pain are the result. This "reward deficiency" is associated with difficulty focusing, heightened anxiety, hypersensitivity and irritability.

Addicts, their offspring and those with ADHD and ADD may be born with an impairment to feeling good naturally. In 1990, a defect in the D2 (dopamine) receptor gene was found to be associated with alcoholism and ADHD. This lack of dopamine receptors interferes with the "neurochemical reward cascade" of the brain, creating Reward Deficiency Syndrome. RDS may be THE main factor in the cause of alcoholism, addiction and ADHD.

Self medicating helps those with RDS feel "normal". It helps them feel good and function with less anxiety. The medication of choice may be an illicit substance, food or an activity such as gambling, thrill seeking or sexual escapades. Risk taking behaviors as well as alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, marijuana and even carbohydrates cause a release of additional dopamine in the brain and provide temporary relief.

Many people enjoy the positive effects of mood altering substances. But people with ADHD experience an even more intense and powerful payoff. And a higher vulnerability to addiction. Once addicted, abstinence alone usually doesn't work as the symptoms of RDS quickly return.

"The difficulty concentrating, remembering, tolerating noise and managing stress in recovery causes some people to feel they may be going crazy. They are not. It is the return of their ADHD symptoms intensified by the changes in the brain brought about by the use of mood altering substances."- from the book Overload by Blum and Miller

ADHD symptoms and the increase in anxiety due to the changes of recovery and not understanding what is happening increase the chance of relapse. One may require treatment for both addiction and ADHD to lead a successful life in sobriety.

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

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The ACA ADD Connection Pt. 4

It’s often said that people classified as ADD are prone to be sugar and caffeine junkies. Actually, it’s so prevalent it has become a bit of a joke. Research has shown that people have natural variations in their dopamine system, the neurotransmitter system in the brain that is most often implicated in ADD.

A “risk taking gene” that may be related to the dopamine system was even identified and found to be more common in people with ADD, although many people not classified as ADD also have the gene. Such people theoretically spend much of their lives looking for a “dopamine” fix to clear their heads and feel alive. They might do this via novelty or thrill seeking, exercise, intellectual pursuits, or through artificial chemical means such as caffeine, nicotine or alcohol.

One study of nearly 2,000 twins suggested that heavy caffeine consumption is 80 percent genetic, while physical dependence on caffeine (resulting in withdrawal symptoms) was 40 percent inherited.

Marjorie Roth Leon, PhD, of National-Louis University, performed an aggregate analysis of 19 empirical studies examining the effects of caffeine on aspects of cognitive, psychomotor, and emotional functioning among children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Traditional treatments, such as the stimulant drugs methylphenidate and amphetamine, outperformed caffeine in improving functioning and reducing levels of hyperactivity. However, says Leon, "compared to giving children with ADHD no treatment whatsoever, caffeine appears to have potential to improve their functioning in the areas of improved parent and teacher perceptions of their behavior, reduced levels of aggression, impulsiveness and hyperactivity, and improved levels of executive functioning and planning."

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

Monday, March 12, 2007

The ACA ADD Connection Pt. 3

The parallels between ACA/ACOA and Attention Deficit are startling. Consider how closely these ACA "Common Characteristics" also describe symptoms of ADD:

ACAs over-react to changes over which they have no control.

*Many ADHD people have an inability to tolerate change, especially an unexpected change of plans. For such people, even a minor change in routine can he highly disruptive.

ACAs lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternate behaviors or possible consequences.

*Children and adults with ADHD may be impatient and impulsive, often disregarding the long term consequences of their behavior.

ACAs have difficulty in following a project through from beginning to end.

*Life for people with attention deficit may consist of a series of uncompleted tasks.

Low self esteem often plagues both ACAers and those with ADHD.

*From the book Overload- Attention Deficit Disorder and the Addictive Brain

What's Wrong With Your Brain?

ADHD and alcoholism are associated with imbalances in brain chemistry with research suggesting defective genes as a reason. 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. The University of Massachusetts has estimated that 40 percent of ADHD children have a parent with the condition.

Missing feelings of well being can be compensated for by taking mood altering substances like alcohol and drugs, eating, excessive sexual activity, spending and risk taking.

The Upside

On the positive side, people with ADHD often notice things in the environment that others do not readily perceive. Because of their inability to "tune out" external stimuli, they may be able to detect and circumvent danger or potential problems before others even notice them.

This "hyperawareness" also gives them the capacity to experience both awe and ecstasy in a way that is unknown to those who can only experience one thing at a time. Those with attention deficit often find heightened beauty in nature, art and music. They may detect nuances of color, sound and feeling others are unaware of.

Because of their ability to empathize, they can have a special affinity with animals. ADHDers often have a highly developed sense of humor.

Next time we'll take a closer look at neurochemical deficiencies that cause ADHD and can lead to addiction.

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

Monday, March 5, 2007

The ACA Program and How it Works

We find that a difference in identity and purpose distinguishes Adult Children of Alcoholics from other 12-Step Programs and underscores the need for our special focus.

The central problem for ACA's is a mistaken belief, formed in childhood, which affects every part of our lives. As children, we fought to survive the destructive effects of alcoholism, and began an endless struggle to change a troubled, dysfunctional family into a loving, supportive one. We reach adulthood believing we failed, unable to see that no one can stop the traumatic effects of family alcoholism.

Following naturally from this pervasive sense of failure are self-blames, shames and guilt. These self-accusations ultimately lead to self-hate. Accepting our basic powerlessness to control alcoholic behavior, and its effect on the family, is the key that unlocks the inner-child and lets reparenting begin. When the "First Step" is applied to the family alcoholism, a fundamental basis for self-hate no longer exists.

Two characteristics identify the ACA Program. The program is for adults raised in alcoholic homes, and although substance abuse may exist, the focus is on the self, specifically on reaching and freeing the inner-child, hidden behind a protective shield of denial.

The purpose of ACA is three-fold... to shelter and support "newcomers" in confronting "denial"; to comfort those mourning their early loss of security, trust and love; and to teach the skills for re-parenting ourselves with gentleness, humor, love and respect.

Moving from isolation is the first step an Adult Child makes in recovering the self. Isolation is both a prison and a sanctuary. Adult Children, suspended between need and fear, unable to choose between fight or flight, agonize in the middle and resolve the tension by explosive bursts of rebellion or silently enduring the despair. Isolation is our retreat from the pain of indecision. This retreat into denial blunts our awareness of the destructive reality of family alcoholism and is the first stage of mourning and grief. It allows us to cope with the loss of love and to survive in the face of neglect and abuse.

The return of feelings is the second stage of mourning and indicates a healing has begun. Initial feelings of anger, guilt, rage and despair resolve into a final acceptance of loss. Genuine grieving for our childhood ends our morbid fascination with the past and lets us return to the present, free to live as adults.

Confronting years of pain and loss at first seems overwhelming. Jim Goodwin, in describing the post-traumatic stress of Vietnam Veterans, writes that some veterans "actually believe that if they once again allow themselves to feel, that they may never stop crying or may completely lose control..."

Sharing the burden of grief that others feel gives us the courage and strength to face our own bereavement. The pain of mourning and grief is balanced by being able, once again, to fully love and care for someone and to freely experience joy in life.

The need to re-parent ourselves comes from our efforts to feel safe as children. The violent nature of alcoholism darkened our emotional world and left us wounded, hurt and unable to feel. This extreme alienation from our own internal direction kept us helplessly dependent on those we mistrusted and feared.

In an unstable, hostile, and often dangerous environment, we attempted to meet the impossible demands of living with family alcoholism and our lives were soon out of control. To make sense of the confusion, and to end our feelings of fear, we denied inconsistencies in what we were taught. We held rigidly to a few certain beliefs, or we rebelled and distrusted all outside interference.

Freedom begins with being open to love. The dilemma of abandonment is a choice between painful intimacy or isolation, but the consequence is the same, we protect ourselves by rejecting the vulnerable inner-child and are forced to live without warmth or love. Without love, intimacy and isolation are equally painful, empty and incomplete.

Love dissolves self-hate. We give ourselves the love we seek and embrace the lonely child inside. With a child's sensitivity we reach out to explore the world again and become aware of the need to love and trust others.

The warm affection we have for each other heals our inner hurt. ACA's loving acceptance and gentle support lessen our feelings of fear. We share our beliefs and distrust without judgment or criticism. We realize the insanity of alcoholism and become willing to replace the confusing beliefs of childhood with the clear, consistent direction of the 12-Steps and Traditions, and to accept the authority of the loving God they reflect.

ACA's relationship to other anonymous programs is shared dependence on the 12-Steps for a spiritual awakening. Each program's focus is different, but the solution remains the same.

In childhood, our identity is formed by the reflection we see in the eyes of the people around us. We fear losing that reflection... thinking the mirror makes us real and we disappear or have no self without it.

The distorted image of family alcoholism is not who we are. And we are not the unreal person trying to mask that distortion. In ACA we do not stop abusing a substance, or losing ourselves in another. We stop believing we have no worth and start to see our true identity, reflected in the eyes of other Adult Children, as the strong survivors and valuable people we actually are.

Marty S., Identity Committee
Identity, Purpose and Relationship Committee: Roger N., Chairman; Marne C., Claudia P. and Marty S., members.

1 The Etiology of Combat-Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorders, p.16, Goodwin, Jim, Psy D., DISABLED AMERICAN VETERANS, Pub,. Cincinnati.
2 Post traumatic stress is the tension of unresolved grief following the loss of fundamental security.


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