Tuesday, December 23, 2008

When Life Hurts

When the hurts received from others
reaches a point where people actually
react to them, an amazingly curious thing
happens: they reveal what/who is most
loved, prized or precious to them:

it will be the thing/person they turn
against and take it out on.

As a child it might manifest as tearing
legs, arms and head off most fav doll, or
trashing a prize airplane model, or
maiming or hurting a beloved pet; in
adulthood it might be destroying a loved
tool or appliance, attack & hurt the loved
one, or push the loved one away harder and
harder, or run as far away as possible.

They attack, destroy, damage, maim, hurt
or leave exactly those things or people
most precious & loved to them.

Only later, when all the demolition and
carnage is done, do they take stock and
fully come to realize, not just what
they've done, but what they've lost.

And this has been known for ages -
there's a song about it that people have
known for years: "You always hurt the one
you love".

And the pain will grow, and the hurt will
grow, and the guilt will grow, and the
self-hatred, self-loathing and self-disgust
will grow.

And rage will build. This is the point at
which healing/recovery can begin -
because that is when people are ready - or
can be.

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

Monday, December 8, 2008

Oysters And Pearls

There is something of value to be found even in the worst of things. Consider the oyster. When a grain of sand penetrates an oyster's shell, it irritates the oyster, making it uncomfortable. The oyster relieves the pain by coating the sand with a soothing liquid. When this liquid hardens, a pearl is formed. The very process that healed the oyster creates a precious jewel for others
to cherish and admire.

The way in which we deal with our own frustrations - painful though they may be - can make a difference. Pearls can be formed from our experiences, making us wiser and stronger, or grains of sand - anger, bitterness, resentment--can remain imbedded inside us. The choice is ours.

How can I turn my irritations into pearls today?


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

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sounds Of Recovery: ACA Speakers

Speakers From The 22nd Annual ACA Convention
Fullerton, Ca., November 7-9, 2008

Recovery experts speak in front of live audiences.

Click on a link and a new audio window will open:

-Dr. Lucia C.
"Reparenting Our Selves:
Renegotiating with the Inner
Critical Parent"

-Don C.
"Completing the Circle
in the Cycle of Violence"

-Lesley R.
"ACA in the Workplace"

-Mary Cook

-Dr. Lucia C.
"Getting Off the Teeter Totter "

Right click on a link to download to your computer.

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ten Commandments of Dysfunctional Families


Ten Commandments of Dysfunctional Families

The First Commandment: Thou shalt reinterpret reality to preserve the perfect fantasy.

Sample Situation: This commandment is designed to hide family secrets. If you saw dad stagger and fall down the basement steps because he was drunk, you can't tell the truth. Instead, reality must be interpreted into an acceptable fantasy. "Daddy wasn't drunk; he simply lost his balance and tripped. Poor Daddy."

Application: Even if you see it, it's not real. You must have made a mistake. Therefore, reinterpret what you saw to make it nice and respectable. If you don't, people will think you're and we're all crazy. We wouldn't want them to think that now, would we?

Motto: Always believe the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the alcoholic truth.

The Second Commandment: Thou shalt always send mixed messages, especially when it concerns relationships.

Sample Situation: A dominating father tells his child, "I love you. Now beat it and leave me alone."

Application: You don't really know what's true. Either your father loves you or he hates you. Since you never know for sure, you'll never be quite sure if others really mean what they say since those you loved most only spoke in mixed messages. They sounded good, but you couldn't trust them.

Motto: Avoid people and relationships. It's the safe thing to do.

The Third Commandment: Thou shalt be an adult.

Sample Situation: Children were made to take care of their parents emotionally, physically, or sexually and to meet their parents' "childish" needs for power, attention, sex, and belonging. The children submitted to avoid physical and emotional abandonment by their parents. Children in these environments can't really remember a "childhood." For this reason, children were always expected to be adults.

Application: Being child-like and spontaneous is irresponsible and bad. You must act like an adult at all times and be responsible, even if you're only five years old.

Motto: There's no such thing as child's play. It's all serious stuff.

The Fourth Commandment: Thou shalt keep secrets from others.

Sample Situation: Daddy has a "secret" that only he and his little girl know. Of course, she can't tell Mommy. If she does, Daddy will hurt you and Mommy might leave and never come back.

Application: A child's most important duty is to protect the image of their parents and family in the community. Watch what you say and be careful not to act funny around other people either. After all, as family we have to protect each other. If you stay quiet, you're loyal. If you can't, we won't love you.

Motto: To really love someone is to show loyalty by protecting their "secrets" at all costs.

The Fifth Commandment: Thou shalt protect family secrets.

Sample Situation: A member of the family commits suicide. Since this is not acceptable to discuss even in the family, all pictures, memorabilia, and anything else which would indicate that this family member had ever lived here must be discarded. After all, no one in our family would commit suicide, would they?

Application: Our family doesn't have any problems, does it? Even if we did, we don't have to discuss or deal with them. After all, they're not that important. We can simply deny their existence so that we don't have to deal with the grief.

Motto: Life's too painful to have to deal with the pain and the problems. Just ignore them, they'll go away.

The Sixth Commandment: Thou shalt not feel.

Sample Situation: A child cries because her best friend is moving away. "You shouldn't feel like that. Stop crying!" yells her mother angrily.

Application: Since any display of emotion might betray the family secrets that all is not perfect, all emotions must be repressed and numbed. After all, we're a normal family. We're not like other people who get angry, sad, or afraid.

Motto: Be respectable. After all, respectable people never show their emotions or pain.

The Seventh Commandment (1): Thou shalt allow your boundaries to be violated, especially by those who "love" you.

Sample Situation: A child trying to accomplish a task continues to persist and work on it, hoping to gain a sense of accomplishment and approval. "Don't be so stubborn!" mommy says. "Just give up. There's more important things than that to be done! Now put that stuff away and clean the house so that mommy knows you love her."

Lesson Learned: Anything you want is not worth protecting. Only those you love can tell you what is important and what's not. Quit thinking for yourself and just do what makes everyone else happy.

Motto: Because others are more valuable than you, you don't have the right to maintain your own boundaries or to make decisions.

The Seventh Commandment (2): Thou shalt be hyper-vigilant

Sample Situation: A child is constantly reminded how dangerous the world is. People can't be trusted either. Therefore, stay aloof, don't get too close to anybody.

Lesson Learned: The only way to be safe in this world is to be careful and insulate yourself from others. Be careful. Always be on guard. They might hurt you. If you need help, don't ask for their help. Do it yourself.

Motto: Always be on your guard. The wise person is always over prepared and distrustful of everyone and everything.

The Eighth Commandment: Thou shalt not let anyone do anything else for you. Do it all yourself.

Sample Situation: Parents continually remind the child that no one is to be trusted. If they do something for you, they're doing it to manipulate you.

Lesson Learned: Stay aloof and don't make friends with anybody. After all, if you get too close, they'll use, hurt and abuse you. And remember this: nobody does anything for anyone unless they want something from you.

Motto: Do everything yourself.

The Ninth Commandment: Thou shalt be perfect

Sample Situation: "Just because you got all 'A's on your report card doesn't mean that you couldn't have done better. You're lazy. Now get to work and let's see you get some more 'A+'s'!"

Lesson Learned: If it's not perfect, people won't love you. No matter how good it is, it's never good enough...but keep trying!

Motto: You're only as good as your performance and that's still not good enough!

The Tenth Commandment: Thou shalt not forgive yourself or others.

Sample Situation: "You're always in my way, child! Why do you keep asking me to play with you? Don't you know I played with you last year? Wasn't that enough?! You ought to be ashamed of yourself! Go to your room. Don't bother me."

Lesson Learned: The only way I can be forgiven and loved is if I can earn it by being perfect. The guiltier I feel, the harder I must work to gain other's approval. If I make any mistakes, even a small one, they'll reject me or think I'm incompetent or worthless. I'm afraid I will make a mistake, I know I will, I feel so guilty. Therefore, even if I think I can do it, I won't. After all, I could make a mistake and then what would I do? Oh, I could never go back and say I'm sorry!

Motto: Since Jesus doesn't forgive me, I can't forgive you either.

The Ten Commandments Of Dysfunctional Families: A Summary

The First And Great Commandment Is This:

"Be a "good" person: Be blind, be quiet, be numb, be careful, keep secrets, avoid reality, avoid relationships, don't cry, don't trust, don't feel, be serious, don't talk, don't love and above all, make everyone think you're perfect... even if it makes you feel guilty."

The Second Is Like Unto It:

"Since you're worthless and nobody loves you anyway (including yourself), don't try to change yourself. You're not worth the effort and you couldn't do it if you tried anyway. God won't help you either. So get back where you belong. There's nothing wrong anyway, so what's your problem! See, I told you that you were stupid."

-Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Beyond The "Laundry List"

Many of us are familiar with the "ACA Characteristics" or "Laundry List" of ACA behaviors.

Here is a more in depth description of behaviors resulting from being brought up in a "dysfunctional family". A dysfunctional family is a family system based on "denial" or "shame-based rules" in which there is always an avoidance of confrontation and inability to resolve conflict.

Codependent characteristics and attitudes:


* think and feel responsible for other people.
* feel pity when other people have a problem.
* feel compelled to help that person solve the problem.
* feel angry when your help isn't effective.
* find themselves doing more than their fair share of the work.
* over commit themselves.
* feel victimized, unappreciated, and used.

Low Self-Worth

* come from repressed families.
* get defensive when others criticize them.
* reject compliments or praise.
* take things personally.
* have been victims of sexual or emotional abuse.
* feel like victims.
* get artificial feelings of self-worth from helping others.
* wish other people would like and love them


* become afraid to let themselves be who they are.
* appear rigid and controlled.


* feel terribly anxious about problems and people.
* lose sleep over problems or other people's behavior.
* feel unable to quit thinking and worrying about other people or problems


* become afraid to allow events to happen naturally.
* think they know best how things should turn out.
* try to control events and people through coercion and advice-giving.


* pretend circumstances aren't as bad as they are.
* go to doctors and get tranquilizers.
* become workaholics.


* don't feel happy, content, or peaceful with themselves.
* feel terribly threatened by the loss of any person they think provides their happiness.
* don't love themselves.
* often seek love from people incapable of loving.
* don't take time to see if other people are good for them.
* look to relationships to provide all their good feelings.
* stay in relationships that don't work.
* tolerate abuse to keep people loving them.

Poor Communication

* don't say what they mean.
* take themselves too seriously.
* gauge their words carefully to achieve a desired effect.
* try to say what they think will please people.
* avoid talking about themselves.

Weak Boundaries

* gradually increase their tolerance until they can tolerate and do things they said they never would.
* let others hurt them.

Lack of Trust

* try to trust untrustworthy people.


* are afraid of their own anger.
* are afraid to make other people feel anger.
* repress their angry feelings.
* do mean and nasty things to get even.
* feel increasing amounts of anger, resentment, and bitterness.

Sex Problems

* are caretakers in the bedroom.
* withdraw emotionally from their partner.
* reduce sex to a technical act.
* have strong sexual fantasies about other people.
* consider or have an extramarital affair.


* being extremely responsible.
* become martyrs, sacrificing their happiness.
* find it difficult to have fun and be spontaneous.
* stay loyal to people even when it hurts.

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Wisdom Of You Tube

If you've ever dealt with dysfunction and insanity, these humorous video clips may hit home for you:

Have you ever felt like this kid? I have.

Albert Einstein defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Here's a perfect example of this kind of dysfunction...

How NOT to handle intimacy-

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

Monday, October 20, 2008

Craig Ferguson On Sobriety

Comedian and talk show host Craig Ferguson speaks about his own sobriety and personal responsibility.

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Your Addiction

But "I'm not the addict!" you protest. Perhaps there is someone close to you whose addictive, abusive behavior has caused you trauma. This type of behavior can replicate itself in victims who then begin to mimic or echo the same actions.

According to "The Threads Of Addiction" by James Krehbiel at, family members may adopt behavioral characteristics similar to the addict.

The threads of addiction can be traced back to "personality characteristics which sustain the addiction." These include problems with trust, dependency, abandonment, shame, guilt, and the expression of deep feelings.

Addictive behaviors are an attempt to avoid undesirable or painful experiences and addictive cravings are triggered by self defeating beliefs. Addicts often experience emotional problems such as anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive characteristics and tend to be fueled by thwarted anger and self-blame. "Shame-based beliefs and feelings are at the core of all addictions."

The primary purpose for addictive behavior is to reduce anxiety.

Often, adults whose parents were alcoholics choose to attend Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) meetings and/or a quality counselor who is trained in addressing issues related to addictions treatment.

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

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Perfection, Conflict and Depression

Three videos for ACAs:

Do You Expect Perfection?

What Is The Best Way To Deal With Fear Of Conflict?

What Causes Depression?

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

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Childhood Trauma and Future Addiction

The Link Between Early Childhood Trauma and Future Addiction

Many studies have shown, the roots of addiction and substance abuse often reach much deeper than most people assume, with traumatic early childhood abuse and family dysfunction laying the foundation for more troubling behavior later in life.

Vincent J. Felitti, MD, head of preventive medicine at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, has identified seven different categories of "adverse childhood experiences," including three categories of abuse and four categories of household dysfunction. The categories of abuse include verbal abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse. The categories of household dysfunction include the experience of living with a mentally ill family member.

For example, Jason was a 23-year-old with a bright future who turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with excessive childhood punishments and a scandalous break-up of his parent's marriage. Ben, 25, experienced a childhood filled with domestic violence, homelessness and isolation before eventually becoming a DXM addict. Lawrence, 34, was a successful owner of a chain of tanning salons who eventually turned to alcohol to dull the pain of emotional and physical abuse suffered in childhood.

This anecdotal evidence from "Intervention" is backed up by scientific and clinical studies showing that traumatic childhood experiences can lead to a higher risk of adult alcohol or substance addiction. Adult survivors of childhood physical, emotional, or sexual abuse are not only at increased risk for addiction, but they are increasingly more likely to suffer from a host of physical and mental health disorders, including depression, heart disease and obesity.

Doctors already realize that trauma survivors frequently smoke, drink, and overeat as a way to cope with their emotional turmoil. Now they are finding that the cases of early trauma may stunt the development of children's brains, leaving these children increasingly vulnerable to physical and mental disorders later in life.

The bottom line: parents need to take greater care to shelter their children from the risk of traumatic childhood experiences. They also need to be more tuned in to the moods of their children from a younger age to look for warning signs and be willing to take responsibility for helping children cope with their problems at an early age, which sometimes could mean professional counseling or treatment.

Excerpted from:

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

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Just For Today

This is simple but not easy...


JUST FOR TODAY I will try to live through this day only and not tackle my whole life’s problems at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.

JUST FOR TODAY I will be happy. This assumes to be true what Abraham Lincoln said, “that most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be”.

JUST FOR TODAY I will adjust to what is, and not try to adjust everything to my own desires. I will take my ‘luck’ as it comes and fit myself to it.

JUST FOR TODAY I will try to strengthen my mind. I will study. I will learn something useful. I will not be a mental loafer. I will read something that requires mental effort and concentration.

JUST FOR TODAY I will exercise my soul in three ways. I will do somebody a good turn and not get found out. If anybody knows of it, it will not count. I will do at least two things I do not want to do - just for exercise. I will not show anyone that my feelings are hurt; they may be hurt, but today I will not show it.

JUST FOR TODAY I will be agreeable, will look as well as I can, dress becomingly, talk low, act courteously, criticise not one bit, not find fault with anything and not try to improve or regulate anybody except myself.

JUST FOR TODAY I will have a program- I may not be able to follow it exactly, but I will have it. I will save myself from two pests; hurry and indecision.

JUST FOR TODAY I will have a quiet half hour all by myself, and relax. During this half hour, some time, I will try to get a better perspective of my life.

JUST FOR TODAY I will be unafraid, especially I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful, and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me.

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

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Eradicating Resentment

Wayne Dyer on resentment, responsibility and love:

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

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Self Esteem Makeover

Do you focus on your flaws and failures, rather than your positive attributes and accomplishments? Low self-esteem can result in a distorted self-image that can feed depression.

Most people feel bad about themselves from time to time. Temporary feelings of low self-esteem may be triggered by being treated poorly by someone else recently or in the past, or by a person's own judgments of him or herself. Low self-esteem is a constant companion for too many people, especially those who experience depression.

If you go through life feeling bad about yourself needlessly, low self- esteem keeps you from enjoying life, doing the things you want to do, and working toward personal goals.

To improve your self-image, try making lists, rereading them often, and rewriting them from time to time. The process will help you to feel better about yourself. If you have a journal, you can write your lists there. If you don't, any piece of paper will do.

Make a list of :
*At least 5 of your strengths, for example, persistence, courage, friendliness, creativity

*At least 5 things you admire about yourself, for example, the way you have raised your children, your good relationship with someone in your family, or your spirituality

*The 5 greatest achievements in your life so far, like recovering from a serious illness, graduating from high school, or learning to use a computer

*At least 20 other accomplishments --- they can be as simple as learning to tie your shoes, to getting an advanced college degree

*10 ways you can "treat" or reward yourself that don't include food and that don't cost anything, such as walking in woods, window- shopping, or chatting with a friend

*10 things you can do to make yourself laugh

*10 things you could do to help someone else

*Things that you do that make you feel good about yourself


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

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Power Of Powerlessness

Dr. Henry Cloud speaks about giving up control and associated steps for recovery.

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

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Principles Behind The 12 Steps -Podcast

Here is an audio podcast of one word principles behind the 12 Steps. It is just 6 minutes long.

Click here: 12 Step Audio Podcast and a new window should open. Or paste this into your browser:

The podcast is narrated by Bill Urell, owner and editor of He has an MA in Addiction Counseling and is a CAAP (Certified Associate Addiction Professional) II.

12 Step Principles:

1. Honesty - The operative principle behind step 1 is honesty.

2. Hope - In order to engage in a course of recovery, we must have hope of success.

3. Faith - This stage of action is to begin to employ the recovery skills being learned.

4. Courage - This step is really about courage to honestly (see step 1) look at ourselves.

5. Integrity - If we have truly done a thorough job of introspection and evaluation of our assets and shortcomings do we have the integrity to own up to it?

6. Willingness - Now that we have accomplished an inventory of the good and no so good aspects of our character and behavior, are we willing to change them?

7. Humility - Here we move further into action, in step 6 we became willing to as let go of our old behaviors, now we ask for help in actually letting go. Can we learn to forgive ourselves?

8. Discipline and Action - We are continuing to remove the barriers that can block forward growth.

9. Forgiveness - Asking for the forgiveness of those we have intentionally or unintentionally injured is the order of the day.

10. Acceptance - To be human is to make mistakes. Hopefully our journey has led us to the point where we can readily admit mistakes and accept ourselves for being imperfect.

11. Knowledge and Awareness - Here we search and become aware of following our path being aware of our purpose in life and actively pursuing it.

12. Service and Gratitude - Having brought about a personality change sufficient to remain in recovery we seek out and are available to help others in need.

Adapted from:

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

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The 12 Rewards Of Recovery

* Faith instead of despair.

* Courage instead of fear.

* Hope instead of desperation.

* Peace of mind instead of confusion.

* Real friendships instead of loneliness.

* Self-respect instead of self-contempt.

* Self-confidence instead of helplessness.

* A clean conscious instead of a sense of guilt.

* The respect of others instead of their pity and contempt.

* A clean pattern of living instead of a hopeless existence.

* Love and understanding instead of doubts and fears.

* The freedom of a happy life instead of the bondage of victimhood.

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

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Attributes Of Codependency

Adapted from:

Lack of Identity

A codependent person usually has a very difficult time embracing their true identity. Normally, a role was emphasized in the family of origin that left them believing what they did was more important then who they are. When behaviors are emphasized more then core identity and worth, with a lack of emphasizing the preciousness of a child, a child will learn to outwardly perform, while inwardly feeling lost and empty. This will last and develop through adulthood.

This same person will enter into relationships in order to allow his or her identity to become enmeshed in another person. This entanglement will be so extreme in some cases that he or she will be unable to think or feel outside of that other person. He or she will also feel responsible for that person and become obsessed with helping that individual and meeting his or her needs. In doing so, he or she will indirectly attempt to have their personal needs met.

Lack of Boundaries

In defining codependent behavior, a lack of boundaries is usually one of the main ingredients. A lack of boundaries is similar to a lack of identity. It can’t recognize the concept that “I belong to me” and “you belong to you” . Lack of boundaries produces disrespect in relationships and the willingness to allow other people into areas they should not be. It also causes a person to compromise core beliefs and morals, and does not know how to say “no”.

Learning boundaries takes time and work. First, a codependent person must understand who he or she is and what he or she stands for. Then, that person must learn to make a stand for those things her or she represents. We must choose wisely those people in our life. When dealing with unhealthy family members, we can learn to establish healthy and safe boundaries, while still displaying genuine love.

Attachment/Detachment Disorder

Often, a codependent person suffers from Attachment Disorder. This mostly involves an inability to bond and “let go” (attach and detach) in a healthy way. The root of this behavior is normally formed from 0-3 years if a child did not properly bond with a parent or caregiver. It also could be caused by a parent who overly bonded and did not know how and when to let go.

A person with attachment disorder develops into an overly needy person in relationships, or an extremely avoidant person that doesn’t know how to “connect” at any level. By learning the family of origin and the beliefs that were formed, a person can go back to the point where needs were not properly met and/or neglect and abuse occurred. The purpose is to properly address those issues, not to blame. Ultimately, healing will come through forgiveness. Remember, forgiveness and acceptance of behaviors are two entirely different things. We forgive people, not behaviors.

Need to Control

A codependent person was normally programmed in an environment that was out of control Because of this, he or she developed survival skills in order to maintain a sense of control. As a result, a codependent will often manipulate people and circumstances to get a desired result, often in a subtle and indirect way. Many times, without realizing it he or she is trying to “play God” and manage other people’s life to make things “right”.

The only cure for such behaviors is learning to trust that God is in control and has complete sovereignty over everything and everyone. Sometimes, a person needs to learn the belief systems that interferes with the ability to trust God (and people). We must learn to “let go and let God.”

Being Overly Responsible

Often, the insanity of a codependent person’s life is that the people in his or her life have a serious problem, such as a drug or alcohol addiction. While being attracted to this type of “broken person” initially, their sickness of addiction causes a wide range of problems. One of these is that chemically addictive people are often irresponsible. A codependent person learns to adapt to such irresponsible behaviors and compensate for that person’s missing gaps.

Often in doing this, the codependent person is neglecting his or her own responsibilities. This is a root reason that a codependent person becomes an “Enabler”. By not allowing a person to suffer the consequences of their irresponsible behavior, the cycle of an addiction will oftentimes not end. A person living with an addict must learn not to accept negative behavior, or encourage it through “helping out” in the bad choices that addict makes.

Setting boundaries against this behavior is essential. A codependent person must also learn that each individual is alone responsible for his behavior. Understanding God’s expectation in your position in any relationship is essential. While we respect and submit to each other, we should not tolerate and encourage wrongful behaviors.


Perfectionism is the inability to see anything except in extremes. In the eyes of a perfectionist, everything is either “right” or “wrong” with no in between grey area. It is important to understand that meeting a standard of perfection in the things we do is often impossible. Simply put, we are imperfect people.

Trying to adhere to rigid rules perfectly and holding other people to high standards is devastating on relationships. The reason a person is a perfectionist is often rooted in a family where much criticism took place. Perhaps performance was emphasized more then anything else, with little or no affirmation for the attempts to do anything right. Perfectionism breeds self-righteousness and pride, very difficult behaviors to overcome as they blind the ability for person to see himself or herself clearly. Perfectionism also drives further compulsive addictive behaviors, and causes a person to get discouraged and easily quit if not able to perform “perfectly.”

By understanding that we will never be perfect, but our perfection, acceptance, value, worth and love is found in our relationship with our Higher Power, we can be set free. When we feel accepted as we are, we will accept others for who they are. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but He does ask that we give our best, and leave the results to Him!

Overly Giving

A codependent person often finds he or she is always in the position of giving rather then receiving. Usually, this is formed out of a shame-based identity that feels unworthy of receiving from other people, even though he or she exhausts efforts to please people. Sometimes, giving is a means of manipulation. It can often come attached with the desire to get approval and acceptance from a person. “Giving to give” is very different than “giving to get.”

At the same time, being surrounded with emotionally unavailable people who are unable to give has devastating consequences. Becoming healthy in order to have mutually healthy, giving relationships is key. Furthermore, by embracing the concept of grace and God’s free gift of salvation, we can begin to apply that to relationships around us. No one should need to earn love. If you need to, then you are not in a healthy relationship.

Self Righteous and Judgmental

While it certainly isn’t a pleasant thing to admit to, self-righteous behavior is often at the root of codependency. A codependent person has learned that “doing good” brings a sense of validation. He or she has learned to believe that enough good behavior can perhaps undo the “badness” around them. By being the person on the “good side” of things, a codependent feeds his or her low self-esteem issue. In extreme cases, a codependent person will need to find unhealthy people to migrate towards in order to feel superior. Attached with that behavior is typically a strong propensity to judge and scrutinize people to size up how they measure up to his or her own standard. A forgiven person is a forgiving person, and will not hold people up to such high standards.

Living this way was normally developed in the family of origin, so it’s easy then to understand why that same behavior would continue in relationships in adulthood. Self righteousness leads to the inability to see one’s own problems and defects of character. By believing he or she is the “good one”, he or she can avoid any sense of being a part of the problem. Unfortunately, self righteousness holds a person in bondage to self – there is no ability to change unless we can identity a problem exists.

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

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Do You Love Yourself?

Thanks to

An important phase of my recovery program has been learning to love myself. Loving myself means I have given up the futile and endless search for a source of love outside of me, based on or drawn from external people or things. Self-love has meant discovering the limitless Source of love within me. I am no longer dependent upon externals to supply an unhealthy neediness for love, worth, or validation.

(In this context, love is broadly defined as unconditional acceptance and nurturing of myself and others.)

Ironically, part of what drove my neediness for love was shame. My shame grew from my acute awareness of my neediness. Because I was ashamed, I therefore did not perceive myself as being a lovable or worthwhile person. My shame, in turn, resulted in low self-esteem and deeper shame.

A significant breakthrough occurred when I finally admitted my shame about my feelings of low self-worth (both to myself and to another person). Admitting the shame liberated me from it.

Previously, I had worked very hard to deny both my shame and my low self-worth, because I desperately wanted to deny that low self-worth was one of my core issues. Because of the denial, my shame and my low self-worth persisted—one feeding endlessly on the other. By denying my shame and my low self-worth, I remained bound to it. By admitting my shame and my low self-worth, and more importantly, accepting both as a part of myself, I released myself from the shame, freed myself to accept myself unconditionally, and gave myself permission to start loving and esteeming all of me.

Continued belief in myself as a lovable and worthwhile person no longer depends upon an external source or upon external affirmation. I no longer "need" another person to constantly affirm my worth or relieve my shame by loving me (i.e., since no one loves me, I must not be worth loving). I can give myself all the affirmation and love I need. Since my need for love and external affirmation is no longer an issue, the shame associated with my low self-worth is gone.

I am a lovable and worthwhile person!

Now I can affirm it and truly believe it. Equally important, I now have an abundance of genuine self-love, which I can draw upon and give away love to others.

To use an analogy, it's just as if I had an empty account in my "love" bank. I was erroneously waiting and longing for someone else to make the needed deposits, unaware that I could have been making huge deposits for myself all along. Now I have an abundance of love to give away. Because I have love to give away, I am truly a love-able person. I am no longer needy; I am healthy, and thus, even more lovable. By embracing and accepting my shame and my low self-worth, I empowered myself to change. I have an infinite Source and reserve of love and self-esteem for myself.

The paradox of learning self-love is this—the more love I give myself, the more love I have to give away. The love account is never depleted. I can now give healthy love from the abundance of my own love and my own wholeness. True recovery is about giving clean, healthy, unconditional love, not getting love. My life is now characterized by an ever-expanding circle of love, rather than a downward spiral deeper into shame.

Finally, all this healthy self-love unlocks the door to true self-esteem. Self-esteem and self-love are co-requisite. Because I am able to love myself and others unconditionally, I esteem myself; I hold myself in high regard; I value myself; I perceive myself as an able-to-give-love, worthwhile person. The abundance of my self-love is the clean, healthy gift of unconditional love I can now bring to all my relationships.

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

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Are You Listening?

Thanks to Kristy for sharing this:

It is a reminder that if I can step out of my own ego- my need to control, give advice, care take and be more concerned with others rather than myself, I may be able to actually offer great help to another who is in need.

All I have to do is listen and "be there" for them. Let them share their pain with me and appreciate that they feel I am a safe person to be vulnerable with.

Opening one's heart is the opposite of isolation. It is a big step and should be gently nurtured. What may spill out may not be all flowers and cotton candy but should be treated as a precious gift.

"Please Listen"

When I ask to be listened to but am given advice, I have not gotten what I asked.

When I ask to be listened to but am told why I shouldn’t feel the way I do, my feelings are being trampled.

When I ask others to listen to me and they feel they have to do something to solve my problems, they have failed me and reinforced my feelings of inadequacy.

Strange as it may feel……..I just need others to listen.

I can do for myself. I am not helpless but might be discouraged, fearful or faltering. When individuals do something for me that I can and need to do for myself, they contribute to my fear of inadequacy by sending the message that I can’t do it.

But, when others accept the simple fact that I feel what I feel, no matter how irrational or uncomfortable, then I can quit trying to convince them and can get about the business of understanding what’s behind my irrational feelings. Once that is clear, the answers will come to me through the process, often without advice. During this process I learn to turn to my higher power, face conflict in a healthy way, and gain confidence in my ability to solve problems


I am asking you to simply listen. I may need to “blow it” while you stand by and watch me. You may have a hard time letting me fall down. I will be grateful to you if you will think long term and teach me how to trust by your own trust in the process.

Instead of attempting a “quick fix,” on me, I ask you to let me know you are there beside me when, and if, I ask you for help. If you just accept me and stand by me, you give me courage and power. If you can tolerate my imperfections and show patience in letting me grow at my own pace, you are being the best type of friend I could ask for. So please, give me the gift of listening.

Here is what Dr. John Townsend says about being an active listener:

Validation Is Important

Active Listening

Patience In Listening

Listening Is Not Agreeing

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

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

ACA Affirmations

You may be familiar with the "ACA Characteristics". Here is some positive reinforcement in the form of "The ACA Affirmations". It's great to have a goal and some feedback to measure progress.

Check these out and see how far you've already come!

People in authority don’t frighten me anymore

I don’t need the approval of others in order to be ok

I’m not a victim any longer

I take care of my own wants and needs

I don’t need to rescue people anymore

I don’t judge myself harshly when things don’t turn out perfect. I try to learn from my mistakes

I know how to have fun

I’m a normal person

I’m not super responsible or super irresponsible, I’m balanced

I am able to have intimate relationships

I no longer isolate myself from others even when things are not going well

When someone disapproves of me I no longer need to change their mind

Angry people don’t frighten me

I don’t live on the edge taking risks all the time anymore

I stand up for myself rather than giving into the demands of others

I tell others about my feelings

I don’t lock myself into a course of action anymore

I don’t spend time cleaning up problems after others anymore

A big thanks to "R" for sharing this.

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

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Inner Child

Special thanks to Anonymous for sharing this:

What is the inner child?

I guess I think of it as the real me- how I really feel deep inside.

Because I have learned to negate my feelings, sometimes how I feel is initially a mystery to me. But the feelings are there if I want to tap into them.

I just stop and ask myself "How do you really feel?" or "What do you really want?" or "Does that feel right?". I take a minute, or longer, to reflect. Often I get an answer right away. Other times, it takes longer. I give myself permission not to answer at all but this is usually not the case.

I think practice has made me more proficient and cut down the time it takes to know what I feel. I think that in the past I knew what I "felt" but let other things cloud it. I let fear, shame and guilt interfere with the normal process.

I talk to my inner child anytime, all the time, whenever. He always hears me.

I used to cry for "no apparent reason". But there is a reason. A big, important reason. I respect that even if I don't immediately understand it. And I am still coming to grips with the sadness. A sadness so intense and overwhelming that, as a child, I had to erase and deny it's very existence.

I don't minimize those feelings anymore. They are there for a reason. Accepting that has helped me to explore and understand them.

Good luck.


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

Monday, April 28, 2008

How To "Cope"

Kudos to Rick for sharing his discovery of with us.

This site:

Includes all kinds of help for dealing with issues and stress in your life including:

Tools for Handling Loss
Tools for Personal Growth
Tools for Relationships
Tools for Communication
Tools for Anger Work-Out
Tools for Handling Control Issues
Growing Down: Tools for Healing the Inner Child

There is a ton of useful info here. For example, under "Tools For Relationships" you will find these topics:

Establishing Healthy Boundaries in Relationships
Handling Relationship Barriers
Handling Conflict
Productive Problem Solving
Handling Fear of Rejection
Handling Need for Approval
Improving Assertive Behavior
Overcoming the Role of Victim or Martyr
Handling the Use of Power and Control
Handling Competition
Goal-Setting in Relationships
Handling Intimacy
Handling a Fantasy Relationship
Handling Forgiving and Forgetting
Creating a Healing Environment
Helping Another Recognize the Need for Help

Thanks again Rick, for sharing this wonderful resource with all of us!

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

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Don't Trust. Don't Talk. Don't Feel.

Don't Trust. Don't Talk. Don't Feel.

I have repeatedly read that this is a common dogma in dysfunctional families. I have only recently come to realize how this directly affected me in my own upbringing. Sometimes these three sentences are presented in a different order. For me It starts with trust.

Don't Trust.

Children by nature tend to naturally trust those around them. Not trusting is a behavior learned from the repeated experience of having that trust violated.

I learned through numerous demonstrations that my parents were emotionally untrustworthy. Their reactions were often belittling, critical, judgmental and shaming. Thinking that you are not good enough is a huge emotional burden for any child to carry.

Since emotional support was inconsistent, I learned not to depend on it being there. I stopped trusting it and this lack of trust lead me to stop sharing emotionally. Sharing feelings in my family was not always safe. I felt it better to never share than to continue taking risks that could yield painful results.

Don't Talk.

Keeping my feelings to myself was the only option. As a vulnerable child, I had no one safe to share them with. This ostracized me and made me very lonely but my survival depended on it. My parents probably had no clue how disconnected I was. They were too wrapped up in their own dysfunction to notice.

The pent up resentment this created in me only became apparent to them much later when it materialized as bad behavior and especially, teenage rebellion. They had no idea where it came from and chalked my acting out up to adolescent angst.

Don't Feel.

This is a Catch 22 situation. The pain of not being able to trust or share openly those closest to me caused me to shut down emotionally. This was my only protection. Shutting out the pain also means closing down to other emotions as well.

Learning to shut down early and often has lead to dire consequences later in my life; Difficulty connecting with others, social anxiety, lack of communication or a sudden inability to articulate feelings, not being able to trust, being suspicious of other's motives, self imposed isolation.

The catch is, because I shut out my own feelings and everything associated with the problems that precluded it, I became unaware that I had done it. This makes realizing there is even a problem difficult and tracing back the cause a challenge. If feelings don't exist, as I had convinced myself for so many years, how can there be a problem?

I am grateful to be able to see this as clearly as I do now. Just getting to this point has taken a bit of work. I am no longer just wallowing but have defined this problem and identified the cause. That has given me some serenity.

Thanks for listening.


Can you relate or would you like to share a reaction? Please post it by clicking on "Comments" below.

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

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Understanding The 12 Steps

Resolving some of the mystery surrounding the 12 Step recovery process. One man's insightful, compelling opinions and interpretations of The Twelve Steps from Sobriety TV.

Step One:

View More 12 Step Videos Online

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

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Letting Go of Denial

"We are slow to believe that which, if believed, would hurt our feelings." -Ovid

Most of us in recovery have engaged in denial from time to time. Some of us relied on this tool.

We may have denied events or feelings from our past. We may have denied other people's problems; we may have denied our own problems, feelings, thoughts, wants, or needs. We denied the truth.

Denial means we didn't let ourselves face reality, usually because facing that particular reality would hurt. It would be a loss of something: trust, love, family, perhaps a marriage, a friendship, or a dream. And it hurts to lose something or someone.

Denial is a protective device, a shock absorber for the soul. It prevents us from acknowledging reality until we feel prepared to cope with that particular reality. People can shout and scream the truth at us, but we will not see or hear it until we are ready.

We are sturdy yet fragile beings. Sometimes, we need time to get prepared, time to ready ourselves to cope. We do not let go of our need to deny by beating ourselves into acceptance; we let go of our need to deny by allowing ourselves to become safe and strong enough to cope with the truth.

We will do this, when the time is right. We do not need to punish ourselves for having denied reality; we need only love ourselves into safety and strength so that each day we are better equipped to face and deal with the truth. We will face and deal with reality - on our own time schedule, when we are ready, and in our Higher Power's timing. We do not have to accept chastisement from anyone, including ourselves, for this schedule.

We will know what we need to know, when it's time to know it.

Today, I will concentrate on making myself feel safe and confident. I will let myself have my awarenesses on my own time schedule.

From The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie ©1990, Hazelden Foundation.

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

Monday, March 17, 2008

Free ACA Audio On Line!

I just discovered these recordings of ACA speakers and found them interesting and helpful and wanted to share them:

(Click and a new window will open- audio will play.)

The Name of the Dragon

Student shares about growing up with an alcoholic father and faculty member breaks down the dysfunction of a broken alcoholic family system. Barb Gana, Chuck Renz.

Alcohol and the Family

Expert on the Adult Children of Alcoholics Movement, national speaker and author, Lorie Dwinell, breaks down
the effects of alcoholism in alcoholic households and the resulting effects.

Children of Alcoholics
"For adult children to get to adulthood in alcoholic family systems, the acceptance of illusion is required."

Recognizing and dealing with the marks of parental alcoholism in your life. Therapist Peg Galbreath with Seattle Mental Health Institute.

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

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Waive The White Flag!

Special thanks to Kristy for sharing her story:

A guy named Dean I met at camp came and handed out little white flags, as a symbol of surrendering, or "accepting what we cannot change." I have found it so useful to have a visual in my battle with myself, to give it up, turn it over, or otherwise make myself vulnerable. I waved it all day today, it helped. It's helping me develop a sense of humor about something I really struggle with. If all else fails, glue some white paper to the end of a stick and have fun with something historically difficult for ACA's.

I have several flags in the kitchen area in plain view to remind me to surrender my will, or decide not to get upset when I encounter a trial. I find that I need this tool when I start to feel I am losing my identity and perceive that I don't matter to others. This triggers anger for me. it is a control issue and it has to do with subconsciously trying to protect myself.

The problem is, my reaction of anger creates an unsafe environment for myself and those around me when I let it take over. Surrendering for me means I can feel the anger without letting it get out of control. I have been doing this by articulating to the appropriate person (usually my children) what the problem is and how it makes me feel. I finish by stating what I would like in the future.

The key is to STOP THERE! No more ranting and raving. I tried another method of saying nothing, but then I just held it in and exploded later. Anyway, after articulating, my anger goes away in a minute or two, and I feel like a normal person. I feel I handled a problem in a healthy way and it makes me feel good and hopeful. If my anger is triggered by a rude motorist, I have this conversation with God, and remember to have compassion on the other person, especially when they are screaming and wildly using hand gestures! I think how sad it is they are doing that to themselves (becoming a slave to anger) and remember I don't have to. It works fairly well.

I met Dean at the Fall Mountain Retreat of 07'. We haven't spoken since, but I learned of his flags a few weeks ago when he brought them to an ACA meeting, and handed out what he called, "the last 15" of several hundred that he has given away over a couple years, I believe. He still had a few left after the meeting. Maybe he will make more, I don't know. He said they are about surrendering, and accepting what we cannot change, as referenced in the serenity prayer. Just like the serenity prayer, these flags are profound yet simple.

Thanks for your interest, it is healing to have the privilege of others listening to my story. I feel as though I matter. =)

- Kristy

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

Thursday, February 28, 2008

How Do You Deal With An Abusive Mother?

How do you deal with a mother who is physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive?

How do you deal with the guilt and sadness of not being able to have any kind of relationship with your mother unless you are willing to sacrifice your well-being?

Dr. Townsend answers this difficult question (3:24):

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

Monday, February 18, 2008

The "I" Is The Window To Your Soul!

When sharing with an individual or as part of a group, using "I" statements can make a big difference. An "I" statement is sharing in the first person as opposed to using words such as "we", "they", "us" and "you".

At first, it may seem like an insignificant detail but using third person statements is distancing and impersonal. It can even be an attempt to sub-consciously control others or place responsibility outside of oneself.

Sharing in the first person promotes self responsibility by divulging information only about yourself. When you are tempted to use the generic form of "you", "we", etc., try to catch yourself and replace it with "I".


"When you get abused, it hurts you".

Change this to:

"When I got abused, it hurt me".

You'll be surprised how different it feels and how much more you and others get out of your share. It may feel uncomfortable at first. That's because you are casting off your protective shield and revealing the real you.


An "I" statement exercises my self control. "I" statements build my self respect while offering others a true opportunity to have a real relationship with me. Struggling with "I" statements will often reveal the hidden aspects of the issues at hand.

If you truly want to disclose your feelings so that you and others can learn more about YOU, use an "I" statement!

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

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Camp Recovery 2008

Camp Recovery 2008 at Camp de Benneville Pines

"Emotions in Motion" April 25-27, 2008

Camp Recovery 2008 is a weekend of self-care where you and you inner child have the opportunity to grow, heal, play, discover reflect and work on yourselves. This year's camp features workshops, 12-step meetings, crafts, music, drumming, hiking, body movement, dancing and fellowship. All persons from ACA, CODA and similar 12-step programs are invited!

To find out more about this year's Camp Recovery, click here: Camp Recovery Info.

Camp de Benneville Pines is in the San Bernardino National Forest, about 90 miles east of Los Angeles. At an elevation of 6,800 feet and a short walk from Jenks Lake, the camp is surrounded by a forest of towering pines, cedars, and oaks.

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

Sunday, January 6, 2008

That Was Easy!

Have you ever met a "Decider"? A Decider is a person that makes choices so quickly and effortlessly you wonder how they do it.

I had a friend, Brian, who would walk into a car dealership and commit to buying a new vehicle within minutes. To him, it was not a spur of the moment or impulsive thing. He simply had the ability to surmise his options and make the right choice for himself very quickly with serenity and calm conviction.

He lived his entire life that way, making both big and small decisions as if he was deciding what to have for lunch. Brian was always intelligent, thoughtful and had tons of common sense. He was a wonderful source of advice on practically any issue. I am still amazed by his "gift".

Conversely, one of the common themes of many ACAers is difficulty in making decisions. This makes a complicated task requiring consistent focus and multiple steps quite daunting. No wonder we "Have difficulty in following a project through from beginning to end."

My friend Brian's behavior inspired me to make my own decision making more efficient. First, I had to examine the process I had been using to make decisions. I found that I have allowed fear and negative emotions to cloud my ability.

"Judge themselves without mercy."

I know in my own life it is the fear of making a mistake that paralyzes me and freezes my ability to act. If I can't be sure it is the perfect decision, I am often not willing to make it. Have I considered all the options and ramifications? What if I regret my choice?

In reality, the "perfect" choice rarely presents itself. And the obsession with being perfect and wanting desperately not to ruffle other's feathers often makes choosing a painstaking task. I know if I fall short I am subject to "Judging myself without mercy."

Sometimes to avoid taking the risk of making a choice- I procrastinate. I tell myself I'll decide later after I gather more info. Then I promptly forget about the issue until it is "crunch" time or until it is too late. While waiting for some divine signal to guide me, opportunities have passed and deadlines have expired. Often with accompanying penalties. Then I am worse off than if I had just made an arbitrary choice and gone with it.

I am now much more aware of this game I play. When I catch myself doing it, I try to "reparent myself with gentleness, humor, love and respect". I remind myself that there are no perfect decisions. I come to grips with the fact that sometimes NOT making a decision is the worst decision of all.

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

I've heard it said that successful people make important decisions quickly and easily. When I first heard it, this axiom was a real challenge to my way of thinking- I have actually waxed and waned tediously over what kind of toothpaste to buy. But after a while it made more sense to me.

Once a decision is made, action is initiated and the task at hand is that much closer to being accomplished. And one's mind is then free to respond to what's happening in the here and now. Fearful procrastinating only enables avoiding living in the present. Sometimes making ANY decision is better than none. And I have the power to make decisions work for me.

My logic tells me that most decisions are not that critical and that I can create a positive outcome out of nearly any path I choose. When I catch myself agonizing over some small thing, I remind myself that, in reality, it hardly matters. The worst outcome could not possibly match the level of anxiety I am attaching to it. When I realize this, it frees me to actually have fun with decision making and take a risk. I know I can make the best out of it no matter what.

I give myself the freedom to be wrong, make mistakes and even learn from them. If I mess up, so what? I made that decision promptly with the information I had at the time. And saved myself the grief of prolonged struggling over it.

Staying in practice helps on bigger issues. If I need to, I do a "gut check". This usually involves being still, having silence and relaxation. By not letting fear overwhelm the part of me that already knows the answer, I free myself to make a fitting choice.

I may not surpass Brian's ability to instantly see things with crystal clarity but I have seen positive results after committing to improve my own decision making capacities.

Thanks for listening,


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