Tuesday, December 22, 2009

16 Characteristics Of Adult Children

I really get a lot out of seeing the "Laundry List" in an alternative interpretation. A different wording adds a new perspective and fresh understanding. This author has embellished and added a bit to the standard list of characteristics. Nice to see that long held dogmas, much like ourselves, can evolve, change and improve.

The following was excerpted from "A Primer on Adult Children of Alcoholics" by Dr. Timmen L. Cermak

1. Fear of losing control. ACoAs maintain
control of their feelings and behavior. In addition,
they try to control the feelings and behavior of
others. They do not do this to hurt themselves or
others, but because they are afraid. They fear their
lives will get worse if they lose control and they
become uncomfortable and anxious when they
cannot control situations, feelings, and behaviors.

2. Fear of feelings. Since childhood and continuing
as adults, ACoAs have buried their feelings
(especially anger and sadness). In addition,
they’ve lost the ability to feel or express emotions
freely. Eventually they fear all intense feelings,
even good ones such as joy and happiness.

3. Overdeveloped sense of responsibility.
ACoAs are hypersensitive to the needs of others.
Their self-esteem comes from how others view
them. They have a compulsive need to be perfect.

4. Guilt feelings. When ACoAs stand up for
themselves instead of giving in to others, they
feel guilty. They usually sacrifice their own needs
in an effort to be “responsible.”

5. Inability to relax/let go/have fun.
Having fun is stressful for ACoAs, especially
when others are watching. The child inside is
terrified; exercising all the control it can muster to
be good enough just to survive. Under such rigid
control, spontaneity suffers.

6. Harsh, even fierce, self-criticism.
ACoAs have very low self-esteem, regardless of
how competent they may be in many areas.

7. Denial. Whenever ACoAs feel threatened,
their tendency toward denial intensifies.

8. Difficulty with intimate relationships.
To ACoAs, intimacy equates to being out of control.
It requires love for self and expressing one’s
own needs. As a result, ACoAs frequently have
difficulty with sexuality. They repeat unsuccessful
relationship patterns.

9. Living life as a victim. ACoAs may be either
aggressive or passive victims. They are often attracted
to other “victims” in love, friendship and
work relationships.

10. Compulsive behavior. ACoAs may work
compulsively, eat compulsively, become addicted to
a relationship or behave in other compulsive ways.
ACoAs may drink compulsively and become alcoholics

11. Tendency to confuse love and pity.
Because they don’t differentiate between these two
emotions, ACoAs often “love” people they can pity
and rescue.

12. Fear of abandonment. In order not to experience
the pain of abandonment, ACoAs will do
anything to hold on to a relationship.

13. Tendency to view issues in terms of
black or white. When they are under stress, the
gray areas of life disappear and ACoAs see themselves
facing an endless series of either/or alternatives.

14. Tendency toward physical complaints.
ACoAs suffer higher rates of stress related illnesses
(migraine headaches, ulcers, eczema, irritable bowel
syndrome, etc.) than the general population.

15. Suffering from delayed grief. Because the
alcoholic family does not tolerate intensely uncomfortable
feelings (such as sadness and anger), children
in such homes rarely, if ever, grieve over their
losses. Losses in their adult lives usually cannot be
felt without calling up these past feelings. As a result,
ACoAs are frequently depressed.

16. Tendency to react rather than to act.
As children, ACoAs became anxious and hyper
vigilant. They remain so in their adult lives, constantly
scanning the environment for potential catastrophes.
Problem solving and stress management
techniques are something they consider after the
fact if at all.

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

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Feeding Your Inner Child

As an ACA I am prone to ignoring my needs and denying feelings. But deep down, I NEED to FEEL positive, encouraged and hopeful.

I recently found some Youtube messages to help nurture and feed my inner child.

The first video is a spoken word affirmation and the 3 following videos are non verbal text only. Thanks to those who took the time to create and uploaded them.

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Adult Children and Forgiveness

Adult Children of Alcoholics and those from dysfunctional families often struggle with forgiving the wrongs of the past. I've heard it said that "Forgiveness means giving up all hope of having a better past."

To me this means that although wrongs were done, I no longer seek revenge or hold anger about them. I am free to live without the bondage of past injustices. This frees me to forgive myself and accept forgiveness from others for my wrongdoings.

Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend discuss the healing power of Forgiveness

Grace Is the Ultimate Fertilizer

The Nature Of Forgiveness

Empathy is Ultimately about Love and Grace

Q: How do you forgive hurts that are continuously being committed? (2:55)

Q: I am an only child of two alcoholic parents, and I am now fifty-seven. My mother is still alive and continues to be emotionally abusive. Would God want me to forgive and submit to this abuse, or is it ok to cut her out of my life?

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Denial Is A Good Thing!

"The first step toward acceptance is denial."


Had to reread this a couple of times before it made sense. I had always relegated denial to a negative, useless place where people hid from the truth. I thought insulating with denial was a backwards move. It was my enemy.

The rest of this quote helped me understand:

"The first step toward moving through denial is accepting that we may be in denial, and then gently allowing ourselves to move through."

In this way, denial serves a very valuable purpose. It is a stepping stone to reality. I had never thought of it that way.

So instead of judging denial as being a bad thing, I have decided to try and see it as a necessary part of the process. Instead of the problem it is part of the solution.

Judging things never seems to get me anywhere anyway so here is one more thing I hope to let go!


Quote from "Letting Go" by Melody Beattie

Jef Gazely on Codependence & How to Develop Healthy Relationships

Jef Gazely- Dysfunctional Families and the Shame Cycle

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Power Of Now

Jim Carrey on Eckhart Tolle:

Eckhart Tolle first gained attention as a spiritual teacher with his 1997 book, "The Power of Now". In 2008, Oprah Winfrey chose his follow-up work, "A New Earth", for her book club. Her 10-week online seminar with Tolle has since been downloaded 27 million times.

Listen to a fascinating interview with Eckhart Tolle-

Adult children of alcoholics can be prone to living in the past or fantasizing about the future rather than being in the present moment. There is a force within us that works to keep us from living in the now and experiencing the peace and serenity that is our birthright.

Tolle coined the term "the pain body" to describe a subconscious force in people that is fed by painful memories and thrives on them. The pain body is below the level of our awareness, yet reacts strongly to everyday events and affects our thoughts and behavior negatively. The pain body seems to be it's own sovereign entity, surviving alongside your conscious awareness and influencing feelings and actions.

Tolle came to this realization by observing that strong emotional reactions from people are often out of proportion to the event that triggered them.

"And so I realized that there's something in everybody that is a remnant of past painful emotion. And these remnants of past painful emotion from pain that you suffered as a child, perhaps even pain that was passed on from previous generations."

Tolle believes the pain body has two ways of feeding on further emotional pain. One is through YOUR thinking and one is through OTHER people's reactions.

"If you are sitting alone in a room and the pain body gets awakened from its dormant state because it needs to feed on an experience of pain, what happens is the old emotion, perhaps triggered by one thought in your head about your sad story from the past, the old emotion rises up into the mind, and suddenly your entire thinking becomes extremely negative. It reflects the emotional energy. So all your thoughts that you're thinking about your life and your life situation and your past and other people is deeply, deeply negative. Totally distorted, of course. It's distorted by the pain of the past."

"It's an addictive thing. So it feeds on the one hand on your thinking. On the other hand, if there are people around you at the time when the pain body awakens the favorite way of feeding for the pain body is to provoke a negative reaction, for example, in your partner. It could be a little situation, something he or she says or does, and you push the buttons in your partner and you amplify something that otherwise would be a relatively insignificant thing perhaps. And you know the pain body has a certain cunning intelligence to it."

"It knows exactly what buttons to push in your partner or the person close to you or your family member. And it'll say those things that are most likely to provoke an intense negative reaction, and then it'll feed on the drama. So that's the second way, then, in which the pain body feeds, is the drama in relationships. And many couples recognize this truth and say, "Oh, yeah. That's true. Every week or every two weeks or every three weeks we go through our drama."

"...there is a place inside me that is far more powerful than the continuous mental noise with which for many, many years I had been completely identified..."- Eckhart Tolle

Tolle believes that the way to eventually become free of the pain body, is not to reactively reject it or the experience that triggers it but "just to see that it's there". The key is to be the awareness.

Recognize the emotion and allow it to be because it already is. Accept the reality of what is currently present. The goal is to reach a state of alert attention to what is, where compulsive thinking no longer operates. Being in the moment, in the NOW keeps you from jumping into regret from the past and fear of the future.

"This means you rise above thinking to a large extent in your life. Where you can face life without the interference of the mind, still being able to use the mind when it's needed but not being used by it".

"And then you become deeper. Or rather, you realize that you are deeper than the emotion. And that frees you from being controlled by the emotion. Then gradually the pain body weakens because it can't feed anymore on your relationship or on your thinking. And now if you have a lot of emotional pain from the past, you may always experience from time to time some painful emotion arising."

Tolle says, "The ultimate thing is the realization of the formless essence of who you are because if God has any reality in this world, it cannot be separate from who you are in your essence. And finding that in yourself, really, I see as the purpose of human life. And then the external world, the temporary world, the world of forms, also changes as a result of that. But the essence is finding who you are beyond form, beyond time."

Tips on developing still and alert attention, freeing yourself from mind noise and audio meditations can be found HERE- Exercises For Your Awakening.

Interview quotes are excerpted from:

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

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The ACA Promises

Many adult children of alcoholics have heard "The Promises" of ACA recovery. If you haven't or if it's been a while, someone was kind enough to post a creative video of them on Youtube as seen below.

The ACA Promises

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

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dr. Drew On Addiction

Some Q&A with addiction expert, Dr. Drew Pinsky:

Dr. Drew on celebrity addiction:

Recovery Radio:

Check out "Recovery Advocates" Sunday night 10pm till midnight. Host Peter Tilden with Dr. David A. Kipper & Stuart Birnbaum on AM radio KABC 790.

Listen on your computer here: "Recovery Advocates"

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

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hiding From Love

Is some part of you hidden, locked away in a "safe" place and never to be released?

In Dr. John Townsend's book, "Hiding From Love", he describes the hiding patterns that, as children, protected us. Patterns that now imprison us as adults, keeping us from finding the healing we need and enjoying the intimacy we deserve.

Townsend explains that, when people are damaged by overwhelming dysfunction and emotional trauma, they isolate the injured pieces of themselves in order to survive. The broken parts caused by the pain of withdrawal from love are covered over with a veneer of denial. This denial attempts to nullify the pain with the belief that the need for connection to this part of ourselves does not exist or isn't really important.

"When we hide, the time and energy that we need to spend in loving and being loved is diverted- it's channeled instead into maintaining our isolation."

But "forgetting the past" does not work. Continuing hiding and isolating feelings keeps people frozen in that moment of trauma. This can go on for years and even decades. We cannot heal, grow and progress as long as we continue to engage in avoidance and denial. Broken parts of ourselves remain unrepaired, immature and in limbo. For example, when a child's boundaries are violated, emotional hiding usually results. And when the hurt part is isolated (hidden), it's as if the child is now left in a locked room with her abuser- doomed to relive the experience and barred from healing.

One indicator that you are hiding in denial is feeling shame. Shame keeps us stuck because it encourages further isolation, convincing us that we are beyond redemption.

According to Dr. Townsend, you are not to be blamed for wanting to hide. And "demanding that you function on an adult level with capabilities that aren't developed yet" is not only fruitless, it is casting judgment on the innocent. You can't do anything about that which you do not have access to.

"Transference" then takes place. Transference happens when a part of us that is stuck in the past colors our current view of others. It is experiencing people through the eyes of your past injuries. For example, someone with unhealed attachment injuries tends to see others as more needy, intrusive and demanding than they actually are. Reality is distorted and we remain locked in our negative pattern.

Humility- the ability to experience our "badness" within the confines of a loving relationship, helps us to bring issues into the light where they can be healed. This is hard work. To display the ugliest most broken parts of ourselves to others is very difficult. It's like that terrible nightmare where you are naked in front of a large crowd.

Moving your injured parts into grace and truth is a risk that takes continued practice. In time the injured, formerly hidden parts mature and catch up to the rest of the functioning adult parts. I takes patience, time and work.

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Relationships Foster Resilience

We hear and see it all the time in ACA/ACOA meetings and literature: "The first step is coming out of isolation". This sentiment is now being echoed by those studying overcoming adversity and increasing "resilience".

A recent article from suggests that regardless of your past or your genetic ability to handle stress, anyone can cultivate resilience. Psychiatrist Steven Wolin, M.D., defines resilience as "the capacity to rise above adversity". His findings are based on 20 years of his own research on adult children of alcoholics. Most of them, he has found, do not repeat their parents' drinking patterns.

Those who overcame adversity yet lacked strong family support systems growing up, sought and received help from others—a teacher, a neighbor, the parents of peers or, eventually, a spouse. They were not afraid to talk about the hard times they were having to someone who cared for their well-being.

Resilient children often hang out with families of untroubled peers. As adults, the resilient children of alcoholics marry into stable, loving families with whom they spend a great deal of time.

Psychologist Edith Grotberg, Ph.D., urges people to propagate their own resilience by thinking along three lines:

1. I Have: strong relationships, structure, rules at home, role models; these are external supports that are provided

2. I Am: a person who has hope and faith, cares about others, is proud of myself; these are inner strengths that can be developed

3. I Can: communicate, solve problems, gauge the temperament of others, seek good relationships—all interpersonal and problem-solving skills that are acquired.

It's often been said that the path to healing and maintaining recovery involves being around healing, balanced people; a safe group, family, friend, recovery org., therapist, church group, etc. The biggest challenge to improving resilience may be to overcome the long standing isolation that once provided protection from trauma and dysfunction.

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

Monday, July 20, 2009

Emotional Sobriety

Dr. Tian Dayton On Emotional Sobriety

According to Dr. Dayton, emotions are processed by the limbic brain system- our “emotional brain”. Our cortex- "thinking brain", tends to shut down when we get scared but our emotional or limbic brain keeps operating. The emotional "animal" brain takes over. In this moment we can lose our ability think clearly, to reflect on and make sense out of what we're feeling. It's nature's way of keeping protecting us by switching into survival mode.

The child is dependent on their parent to act as an external regulator because their internal regulators aren't fully developed until they are twelve or so. The small child is particularly vulnerable to emotional and psychological damage when the home is chaotic. If the parent is a victimizer or abuser, the child also loses access to their source of comfort and regulation.

Dr. Dayton believes if we didn't learn adequate skills of self regulation in childhood, we can learn them in adulthood. It is something we can train ourselves to do.

Dayton believes, to inscribe new hardwiring into our neural networks we must do more than just talk. We need to spend time in the presence of others who are experiencing balance and pleasure in their lives. To heal, we need to develop new relationships and learn the skills of limbic regulation in therapy, hobby groups, faith institutions, twelve step rooms and healthy lifestyle activities.

To use a "Dog Whisperer" analogy, we need to become part of a balanced pack. Then we learn to become balanced.

For more info. visit and

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

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael Jackson- ACA

Raised by an abusive father who demanded perfection, Michael Jackson grew up to become one the world's most popular dysfunctional people. His story and tragic death, allegedly brought on by drug abuse, illustrates how untreated personal issues can grow from hidden pain to eventually become an "unmanageable" life and a shortened life span.

Michael's pathology became visible when he began engaging in bizarre behaviors, including multiple cosmetic surgeries and short lived "marriages". Things continued to snowball with strange on camera antics, accusations of child molestation and finally, reported drug abuse.

It is not known if MJ ever sought help for his troubles. He was, as many rich and famous are, surrounded by sycophants and those who's very livelihood depends on not challenging the status quo. If Michael's family tried to intervene, they were not successful. Judging by the end result, MJ didn't find a workable answer.

Perhaps he had isolated himself so deeply in a cocoon of denial, drugs and an entourage of protectors, he never had to face reality. If Michael wasn't able to take the first step and come out of his self imposed isolation, ACA recovery was an impossibility.

The lesson here is that no matter who you are, how much money or fame you have, the first step to getting badly needed help is still "coming out of isolation".

Rest in peace, Michael.

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

Monday, June 22, 2009


Loving Kindness Meditation (3 Min.):

Many people know that the 11th Step encourages us to "improve our conscious contact" with our higher power. With today's hectic schedules, hours and days can quickly rush by before we realize we have been neglecting ourselves and haven't taken the time to meditate.

Here is a "mindfulness" website that may help. It offers free, guided meditations you can participate in, even right from your computer!

MARC- the "Mindful Awareness Research Center" is part of UCLA's Semel Institute. The MARC site offers FREE, downloadable meditations you can enjoy anytime. Click here to check them out:

MARC Meditations

There are many choices including a breathing meditation, loving kindness meditation and meditation for working with difficulties. They range in length from a quick, 3 minute pick-me-up to a deep, 19 minute complete meditation.

MARC even offers a free "mindfulness clock" widget for your desktop that gently reminds you that it's time to meditate.

MARC sites an "increasing sense of pressure, complexity and information overload" in our society as a major contributor to stress, health problems and diseases.

Mindful awareness "invites us to stop, breathe, observe, and connect with one's inner experience. There are many ways to bring mindfulness into one's life, such as meditation, yoga, art, or time in nature."

Research has shown meditation helps "lower blood pressure and boost the immune system; increase attention and focus, including aid those suffering from ADHD; help with difficult mental states such as anxiety and depression, fostering well-being and less emotional reactivity; and thicken the brain in areas in charge of decision making, emotional flexibility, and empathy."

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Addicted To Serotonin

Serotonin and dopamine are the "feel good" substances secreted by your brain. Even though you only have about 10 milligrams of serotonin, it is involved in many body processes including appetite, sleep, mood, memory, learning, endocrine regulation, smooth muscle contractions, migraine headaches, etc.

Serotonin is boosted by certain foods and activities. It has been noted that addicts in recovery and PMS sufferers, tend to binge on sugary, high carb foods. Abstaining addicts often turn to the heavy consumption of carbohydrates as a means of attempting to redress the neurotransmitter imbalances at the heart of their disorder. Some addicts may discover early in life that carbohydrate-rich foods are their drug of choice.

In one study, rats were injected with nicotine until they became dependent or hooked on the drug. The injections were then suddenly withdrawn and the rats chose sweetened food over regular food--a complete reversal of the food preference they had previously shown.

Scientists have managed to record a rise in dopamine levels in lab rats simply by cueing the rats to anticipate a pleasurable event--food, sex, sweet drinks. You could condition the rats to a ringing bell before dinner, and soon the rats would be showing elevated dopamine levels at the sound of the bell only--with no reward at all. Anticipation of reward is all it takes.

If you give a male rat a good close look at a suitable female through a mesh panel, the male rat’s dopamine levels willl surge, presumably in anticipation of possible carnal pleasures. Dopamine levels would spike even higher, of course, once the divider was removed.

Serotonin/dopamine dysfunctions cause physical and mental discomfort including anxiety and panic. This is known as “spiraling distress”—which continues to occur even in the complete absence of the addictive drug.

Many addicts with alcoholic relatives report that they have experienced substitute addictions and multiple addictions repeatedly—and sometimes, these substitutions and additions center on food.

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Penn & Teller Are Full Of Bull

Disclaimer: Display of these videos is in no way an endorsement of their contents:

I recently came across Penn & Teller's attempt to dubunk the 12 Step process. Yes, THAT Penn & Teller- the team of two contrasting magicians (the little guy who is silent and the big guy who won't shut up.) These "12-Stepping" videos are part of their "Bullsh*t!" Showtime series and have surfaced on Youtube.

While I'm up for open debate, the "logic" and methods P&T use to assert their points are flawed to say the least. Much of their argument seems based more on manipulation than persuasion.

As P & T point out, the sheer number of different 12 Step programs available is overwhelming. The massive need for help from addiction cannot be argued. P & T assert that 12 Step programs are unscientific and question their effectiveness. But the evidence presented by P & T against The 12 Steps is far from scientific. They give only anecdotal evidence, personal opinion, brief excerpts from a twenty year old survey and skewed logic in making their case.

The calculated use of the word "cult" by Penn & Teller here is to ostracize and stigmatize anyone in, or considering joining, a 12 step group. It's an attempt to associate 12 Step programs with some insane dogma or radically dangerous religious fascism, ala David Koresh or Jim Jones. A cheap shot that is all too transparent. Especially after P & T accuse 12 Step programs of using shame and preying on the weakness of others.

As people from dysfunctional families are well aware, shame can be a powerful weapon. It is often used to try and control and influence by fear. And to silence those who may object or hold a differing opinion from those in power. When the merits of an argument can't stand on their own and open debate cannot be tolerated, shame and fear are convenient tools to keep alternate opinions subdued and unexpressed. These tactics are often used by truly radical cult leaders to keep their members in line. By lampooning the 12 Steps and ridiculing those who endorse and use them, P & T are using THE VERY METHOD they rail against- authoritarian, shame based coercion.

One definition of "cult" is "a cohesive social group and their devotional beliefs or practices, which the surrounding population considers to be outside of mainstream cultures." -Wikipedia. That's a pretty broad brush. Under that wide definition many groups including The Boy Scouts, surfers, lesbians and yes, even MAGICIANS can be considered members of cults.

P & T claim alcoholism is not a disease. I won't pretend to be able to divine THE definitive answer but PTSD, Addiction and Trauma all cause mental and physical afflictions. And yes, addiction does have a genetic component. Addicts and their offspring have a lack of dopamine receptors in their brains. This has been scientifically documented. A physical limitation like this cannot be changed with willpower.

The 12 Steps does not claim there is A monolithic, specific God. For me, belief in a Higher Power simply means I recognize the reality that I am not the most powerful thing in this universe. There are many, much more powerful sources than myself at work. One need only to look up at the sun to see proof of this. I open myself up to the possibility that a greater power does exist and can help me.

Penn & Teller claim the success rate of Alcoholics Anonymous to be 5% based on decades old information. But they fail to offer any statistics on the success rate of alternative "SOS" or "Assisted Recovery" programs that they tout on their video. Nor do they offer any opposing opinions on these treatments. Their entire argument against the 12 Steps seems to lie somewhere between unbalanced manipulation and outright propaganda. But then slight of hand, mental or otherwise, is what they do.

Penn and Teller themselves may actually suffer from an addiction to excitement, as many do. This could easily take the form of craving the spotlight of the stage and espousing controversial points of view for the accompanying adrenaline rush that comes with the inevitable confrontations to follow.

The 12 Step programs I am familiar with recognize that everyone is different and suggest that people explore to find what works for them. This viewpoint is so widespread in The 12 Steps that, "Take What You Want And Leave The Rest" has become an adage almost as popular as "One Day At A Time" or "Easy Does It". Perhaps P & T should heed this advice.

There is a long list of people that credit the 12 Steps with helping them. So far, the number of addicts that Penn & Teller have successfully treated remains at zero. According to their website, P & T are "confirmed skeptics and pro-science atheists (they refer to God as "an imaginary friend").

Far from being unbiased, P & T are using this platform to promote THEIR atheistic agenda and beliefs under the guise of having a mission to "expose the truth to an otherwise desperate and gullible public." This is the same approach that they accuse 12 Step Programs of using- an agenda based recruitment for the desperate and gullible.

Assuming you're not too gullible, ask yourself if you've found more value and truth in these videos or in your local 12 Step meeting. I already know my answer.

In the end, these two stage hucksters are no more qualified to explain addiction, cults, 12 step programs and other things they admittedly know little about than I am at stepping onstage and pretending I can pull rabbits out of hats.

Thanks for listening,


(note: Post publication of this article, the Penn & Teller videos referenced above were yanked from Youtube. Apparently the right holders want you to pay to have the wool pulled over your eyes.)

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

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Overcoming Codependence

Overcoming Codependence:

Dysfunctional Families and the Shame Cycle:

Healthy Boundaries:

Other interesting posts from around the web:


On Crosstalk

Adult Children of Alcoholics:

What Is A Dysfunctional Family? part 3

Haunting Perfectionism blog post:

Women, Abuse and Trauma Therapy

John Bradshaw has been recognized as "A dominant figure in the field of addiction and recovery." Listen to a recent interview here: Reclaiming Virtue audio recording

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Can A Pill Cure Addiction?

Some medical experts believe "addiction is a brain disease" that should be treated with more than just rehab, therapy, 12 Step programs and meetings.

According to a new CNN special, "Addiction: Life On The Edge", new, cutting edge prescription medicines are essential to defeat addiction and aid recovery.

Walter Kent credits an anti-addiction pill as critical to control his alcohol cravings, Kent says, without it, "My marriage would be gone and I'd be dead by now".

See the video here: Addiction: Life On The Edge

Academy award winning actress Marlee Matlin discusses sexual abuse, her addiction and rehab in her new book, "I'll Scream Later":

See the CNN Matlin Interview

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Truth About Depression

A new book challenges the theory that depression is genetically based and proposes childhood trauma as a leading factor.

Almost 40 percent of the U.S. population suffers from some form of depression or mental illness yet the causes of mental illness remain largely a mystery. The prevailing theory sees the cause as a trans-generational genetic defect of brain chemistry, which is best treated with medication.

New breakthroughs made by health professionals dislodge this theory, and show that frequently previous traumas are what lead to mental illness.

In this bold new book, renowned physician and psychotherapist Charles Whitfield takes a new look at the common problems of depression, anxiety, addictions, eating disorders, schizophrenia and other mental illness. The Truth About Depression shows the strong and at times causal relationship between childhood trauma and future depression and other mental illness; he explores the risks, side-effects and high cost of treating these disorders with anti-depressant drugs, and; provides an alternative treatment and recovery program for people with depression and a history of childhood trauma.

Dr. Whitfield’s book offers hope and help for those who have been held hostage by depression, and provides clinicians with new solutions and alternatives to high-risk medications.

John Townsend On Depression:

Resolving Depression

Fictitious Cures for Depression

Causes of Depression

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Those who grew up in chaotic, dysfunctional environments often have issues with control. Below is a video clip and a recent blog post on controlling behavior.

"We get the control back by realizing we are out of control."

If video doesn't appear, click here: "Control"- Henry Cloud

Click here: Keep Coming Back Blog- "Control"

What is "passive control"?

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Self Help Videos offers a collection of self help videos and articles for Depression, Bipolar, Anxiety, ADHD, Addictions and more:

Here is a video on how to use "tapping" to help depression:

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

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What Is An Abandoholic?

According to

Abandoholism is similar to the other ‘oholisms, but instead of being addicted to a substance, you’re addicted to the emotional drama of heartbreak. You pursue hard-to-get partners to keep the romantic intensity going, and to keep your body’s love-chemicals and stress hormones flowing.

You are addicted to the high stakes drama of an emotional challenge and the love-chemicals that go with it. Abandoholism is driven by both fear of abandonment and fear of engulfment.

You only feel attracted when you’re in pursuit. You wouldn’t join any club who would have you as a member, so you’re always reaching for someone out of reach.

You may also be at risk of being an Abandophobic. One who is so afraid of rejection that they avoid relationships altogether.

The book, "The Journey from Heartbreak to Connection" by Susan Anderson, may help you understand and fix the self sabotage.

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

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Separating From The Past

An article in PSYCHOLOGY TODAY on Adult Children of Alcoholics states, "Parents inflict so much pain on their families, they teach their children to suppress their emotions just to survive."- Stephanie Brown, founder of the Alcohol Clinic at Stanford Medical Center.

"Since the children are inculcated to deny the reality around them, they develop a resistance to talking about urgent, important, or meaningful aspects of life."

Brown adds that children of alcoholics may suffer depression, anxiety, and compulsions, all related to the grueling experience of growing up in such a home. Dealing with the legacy of disturbance means treating the traumatic stress, she says.

First and foremost, adult children of alcoholics “have issues with control.” That means they are afraid of others and have problems with intimacy; they harbor anxiety that if they lose control, they may become addicts themselves.

The most important emotional leap for such a survivor: Separating the past from the present. They must learn to realize that when they overreact to something now, “they are really feeling pain from the past.” Once they have that skill, they can start to move on.

Brown recommends psychotherapy for adult children of alcoholics, and states that group therapy may work extremely well. “When family distortion is the problem, groups are ideal for bringing that out.” Brown especially recommends seeking support from Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization or Co-Dependents Anonymous, which offer 12-step programs.

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

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dealing With Anger And Addicts

These video solutions from Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud address dealing with addicts, anger and the benefits of joining a healthy group for recovery.

How do I decide what is helpful and what is enabling regarding addicts?

I have been getting in touch with a lot of anger toward my mother. Do I have a responsibility to talk to her?

How can I deal with my anger?

Healthy groups can help with dysfunction

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

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Invisible Addiction

"We became addicted to excitement in all our affairs, preferring constant upset to workable relationships".

The Operational Statement Of The Problem explains the mechanics of addiction to conflict:

This addiction to excitement can be seen as an internal addiction to conflict. A continuously repeating cycle of alarm and collapse or "fight, flight and exhaustion".

Children learn that they can pull themselves out of depression and despair by focusing on the conflicts going on around them, which they then internalize in symbolic form. Their world is filled with the sights and sounds of conflict that drives them until they collapse in exhaustion. Only to get back up and do the same thing all over again.

Children are forced to remain in this pattern of addiction in order to stay above the ever increasing sense of demoralization they feel at being trapped in a cycle of despair. This cycle becomes self sustaining.

So from an early age, an ACA begins to use constant upset and conflict in an attempt to make themselves feel better. Growing up in a house filled with conflict, children of alcoholics may feel ostracized and isolated. Having few external outlets to turn to for comfort and solace they turn inwards and use the physical resources of their own bodies to give themselves an emotional lift.

They learn instinctively that emotional turmoil and anger release hormones and neurotransmitters such as adrenaline. Anger hormones have a similarity to methamphetamine and are addictive and intoxicating. The ACA becomes addicted to the internal drugs their own bodies produce to help them deal with the difficulties of being trapped living with addictive, abusive and dysfunctional caretakers.

By the time they become adults, this pattern has become ingrained.

Listen to recovery expert Marty S., author of the ACA Identity Papers, lead a workshop on how addiction to the "inside drugs" confounds our efforts at lasting recovery.

Click here and a new audio window will open: Confusing the Outside with the Inside mp3 audio

Workshop Handout and Graphics

Internal Addiction: The Hidden Problem

Adapted from: ACA Fellowship Text (formerly Handbook) pp. 23-24.
© Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization, Inc.

It is important to note that we have taken in or internalized both parents. This includes the parent who appears more functional compared to the alcoholic or chemically addicted parent. Our experience shows that the "functional" or nonalcoholic parent passes on just as many traits as the identified alcoholic. The nonalcoholic parent also passes on his or her pattern of “internal drug abuse”. The paraalcoholic (the nondrinking parent) is driven by fear, excitement, and pain from the inside.

The biochemical surge and cascade of inner "drugs" that accompany these states of distress and upheaval can impact children as profoundly as outside substances. Our experience shows that the nondrinking parent's reaction to these inside drugs affects the children just as the alcoholic's drinking affects them. We realize this seems technical, but it is important to understand if we are to comprehend the reach of a dysfunctional upbringing.

As children, we were affected by the alcoholic drinking from without and by the para-alcoholic drugs from within. We believe that the long-term effects of fear transferred to us by a nonalcoholic parent can match the damaging effects of alcohol. This is why many of us can abstain from drinking alcohol or other addictive behavior, but be driven by inner drugs that can bring difficulties as we attempt to recover. This legacy of fear and distorted thinking seems to drive our switching from one addictive behavior to another as we try to make changes in our lives.

To think about internal dosing another way, consider this. The alcoholic can be removed from the family by divorce or separation, but nothing in the home really changes. The alcohol abuse or other dysfunction is gone, but the home remains fearful and controlling. Boundaries are unclear. The children don't talk about feelings. They either become enmeshed with the nondrinking parent or alienated from him or her.

The rules of don't talk, don't trust, and don't feel apply even with the removal of obvious dysfunction. The inside drugs are at work. The nondrinking parent's fear, excitement, and pain have been passed to the next generation. This is the internalization of parental feelings and behavior in its purest form.

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

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The ACOA Syndrome

Life can sometimes be difficult. For those from dysfunctional families, there can be added disadvantages. As ACA/ACOAs, there are four interrelated axioms that conspire against us when it comes to being successful in life. You may have overlooked how they work together to cause you distress and an inability to get what you want.

1. How Are Your Neurons?

The offspring of those with addictive personalities and/or who have experienced childhood trauma, are more prone to have deficits. We have a higher incidence of learning disabilities, ADD and focus problems. We are more prone to procrastination and absentmindedness. The tendency of ACAS to have difficulties "completing projects" is so well known, it is included in official ACA literature. Not an ideal situation when the realities of life demand promptness, meeting deadlines and paying bills on time.

2. Running To Stand Still

As we mature, there is a natural increase in responsibilities that demands more attention and requires us to process more information and make more choices. Work, home, family, personal relationships, pets and possessions all require constant maintenance. Keeping the pantry stocked, licenses current, insurance intact, bills payed, dogs walked, fish fed, appliances and vehicles maintenanced and repaired and mortgage/rent and taxes up to date is a constant challenge requiring adequate organization. The more "stuff" we accumulate as we go through life, the more associated details we need to remember. This can be a heavy tax on our already strained brains.

3. Tech Snowball Overload

The advent of ever increasing technology presents a staggering array of time consuming options from which to choose. In the not too distant past, there were only a few TV or radio channels from which to choose. Now there are thousands! Chances are, you are paying for at least two phone bills and some type of internet connection. Most people have computers with an ISP, assortment of applications, tasks and games. The number of people spending time online on social networks like Facebook or Myspace is growing exponentially. Then there are the accompanying account numbers and passwords to remember to access each cyberspace option. There are handheld PDAs on which you can book a trip, balance your bank account or locate a restaurant. We even have programmable toasters!

With websurfing, Youtube, email, blogs, texting, an unlimited number of DVDs to rent and an ever ratcheting up of mind numbing advertising vying for our attention, staying on task has never been more difficult! Those with difficulties prioritizing or making decisions may feel overwhelmed. All of these things take time and present peripheral distractions. Mental capacity is a finite thing. There is only so much of it. People with less than exemplary mental concentration and memory may feel like an overworked juggler, one fumble away from dropping something important.


All the issues listed above work in conjunction and multiply the odds that something, somewhere, will go wrong. As our "load" increases and our capacity to process all the details of life gets used up, the potential to overlook something important becomes more likely.

Sometimes a small but important detail, deadline, birthday, due date or name will be forgotten. It would be unrealistic NOT to expect this. Opportunities will sometimes be missed, important details will sometimes slip away. Mistakes will happen and that's part of life.

4. Completing The Failure Cycle!

As ACAs, we may have a predisposition to not handling our own faults and missteps well.

We often have extremely high expectations of ourselves- constantly seeking "perfection". And we are quick to take the blame or become a convenient scapegoat when things don't go as planned. Our ability to quickly find find fault with ourselves is so ingrained, we may do it autonomically, without even thinking about it. We are slow to recognize our own limitations even when outside forces contribute to our deficits.

ACAs are prepared to give up a lot to avoid even minor conflicts. We do not not want to "make waves" or challenge "authority"- even if it victimizes us! When we were young, survival required us to smooth over difficult situations and make everything all right when it really wasn't. We took the blame, internalized the pain and put on a smiley face for the benefit of our loved ones. We carry this codependent behavior over into adulthood.

And do you know how most people react when an ACA volunteers to take the blame for something even though it may not be entirely their own fault? They LET them! Especially when it absolves THEM of responsibility. Many people are happy to let someone else take the fall, as opposed to doing the right thing, if it saves their own rear or makes their life easier.

So we paint ourselves into a corner and no-win situation. We have deficits that make life's tasks difficult, yet expect ourselves to perform at a high level. We are slow to give ourselves a break when we don't measure up. We point the finger at ourselves and take the blame as a knee jerk reaction to our own inner taskmaster and our fear of conflict. It's no wonder we sometimes struggle.

Giving Yourself A Break

Sorry about all the doom and gloom but I feel it's important to define the problem well in order to understand it. If you've read this far, keep going- here is the payoff; It's really pretty easy to make positive changes and get more of what you want out of life.

When you give yourself a break, others are more likely to as well. So before you pull out the whip to start flogging yourself when a mistake is made:

1. Stop for a second. Try to step back and see the situation not as something that is happening TO you but just as something that is happening. Not taking it personally is key.

2. Take a deep breath, or several.

3. Suspend your judgement for a moment and ask yourself, "What's best for me, what would I like out of this?", "How can I make this actually work FOR me?".

Center the question on your core being, around your stomach area. Let the feeling guide you. This will help you stop playing the codependent blame game long enough to refocus. You may find the answer comes quickly. When you get it, push towards that goal.

Going for what you want requires one to become proactive and you may feel "selfish" or uncomfortable at first. That is a good sign. You are trying something new and are risking NOT letting your past self-defeating behavior again turn you into a puppet. Trying a new approach may feel quite foreign until you do it a few times.

Be Specific.

Be concise and to the point when talking about the problem and what outcome you would like. I have found that often, misinterpretation is at the heart of misunderstandings. Be prepared to repeat and restate. People often miss the details, hear only what THEY want and it takes a bit of work to get through. Remember, THEY may be ACA/ADD too! Tell them what YOU want. Then, if needed, tell them again, nicely. Rinse and repeat.

Demand more!

Make yourself ask for more than you would normally settle for in a conflict situation. Sometimes ALL you have to do is ask and you get a surprising "yes". Example: Did a creditor post your payment late? Ask for a reversal of the late fee. Many times they will give you a courtesy refund if you ask.

I make it a goal to ALWAYS consider asking for a little more than what initially occurs to me. This helps put me in a "taking care of myself" role and away from just automatically taking care of others. It can feel a bit weird but the results can be surprising!

In every situation there is always a chance for compromise. Just ASK.

Point fingers!

Not in a condemning or overly accusatory way, just matter of fact.

Instead of instantly blaming yourself, look at the entire picture. Don't be afraid to express an opinion that the other party may be wholly or partially liable for what went wrong. Be prepared to present evidence to support your point. They will quickly realize that you respect yourself and are more formidable that they first thought. They may also realize that you have a valid point that they hadn't previously considered and will take that into account.

Let Someone Help You!

I understand that you may be the all powerful savior of the world and don't need anything from anyone. But if you can remove your super hero cape for a second, other people are often eager to help. Did you mess up? Go ahead and admit it. Not in a self loathing way but more like discussing the weather. "Looks like I forgot to ________, I'm really sorry." The other party will probably admire your candidness and honesty.

Then ask if they can help. Be as specific as you can about what you want. You know, it makes people feel GOOD when they can lend a hand. Let them have that feeling by appreciatively recognizing them at the beginning of your interaction. You both get something out of it and that's a win/win.

Be Gracious Even In Defeat

Situations like this, though they may be small, may feel huge. Because of your past inability to stand up for yourself when you were powerless, old fears or feelings of being taken advantage of may be triggered by even small conflicts. It is a challenge to keep the inner child from being frightened or having an angry tantrum when things don't turn out his or her way.

Remind yourself that you are just practicing exercising your ME muscle. You won't get it right the first time, or every time. And that's ok. The more you do it, the better you will get at it.

Sometimes people will continue to be unreasonable in the face of reason. If you STAY reasonable when others don't, you've done all you can. You walk away a winner no matter what the outcome.

If you have an opinion, helpful tip or just need to rant, please add your comment below.

Famously successful ACAs include: Carol Burnette, Kirk Douglas and Suzanne Somers.

If you suffer from ADD or learning disabilities, you are in good company. Scientist Albert Einstein, Inventor Thomas Edison and Business Mogul Richard Branson are some of your mates.

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