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


sparky said...

I am glad to see mention of the Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization, Inc.

Sadly, my experience with ACA WSO and the website has not been so healing actually just the opposite.

After pointing out a few of what I felt were 'very serious'Tradition violations, one ACA WSO board meber with his picture in a NOCOA news article and another ACA WSO board member with a direct link on her personal therapy homepage claim "proffesional affiliations' to ACA WSO.

Then I was then banned from the ACA WSO site.I had also been trying to form a healthy group conscience with other ACA forum members but stopped.

I have personally found the internet and the website monitors dangerous,what a dangerous place for people "I feel" with un-resolved control issues to be in charge of others ACA's in recovery.Addicted to control?

This current rebuilding of ACA WSO sure is taking a while and the ACA WSO board is merely at half capacity. I hope others can get involved. Currently for this ACA getting involved in ACA service work and speaking up has been extremely dangerous for my inner child. I am still spending time in therapy for what I feel has been major ACA WSO ABUSE.

Sadly, I had assumed it to be true when I heard in aca "we will love and accept you no matter what."

Learning more every day about addressing "control and conflict" and using my voice to speak out.

Thanks for listening,


ACOA said...

Thanks, Sparky.

I do not know much about the inner workings of the WSO or the people therein.

In my own scant dealings with the WSO, it became apparent to me that ACAs and ACOAs extend their dysfunction into all aspects of their lives including careers and/or volunteer work, even if it is to support an effort to eradicate dysfunction! I had somehow expected MORE out of those that purported to bolster this recovery movement. That, as members of the inner circle, they would have more answers and less dysfunction.

Looking back I think that was an unreasonable expectation. So while I'm disappointed by your revelation I'm not surprised.

Hope you can find a safe support group. Perhaps a face to face one may not be so impersonal and dismissive.

sparky said...

I am sorry to sound so pessimistic. I for one can not say the ends justifies the means. It will all work out one day I suppose.

It will take a while to process what happened to me in a healthier way and I suppose as they say, "If I don't want to continue to be a doormat I have to learn to get up off the floor."

I suppose I will actually thank them for fueling my passion one day.

This in no way reflects the gratitude I have for the wonderful service provided here.

I have been particularly found of this Marty S. presentation ever since I first saw it in early 2008.

It was quite shocking to realize that not only was I a neglected child but also a neglected infant. This presentation has helped me to take my reparenting more seriously, meeting my Basic Five etc...

Marty S. also presented the Basic Five in The Crime Scene Reconstruction around the same time the ACA Text was published but it did not make it into it the text.

For others interested the "ACA Schematic" with the Basic Five and alot more can also be found by copying and pasting this link:

Thank You ACOA for all your service

Anonymous said...

I must say that reading this article is tremendously encouraging. I have at times felt crazy over the "inner drugs" of fear, abandonment and control which were passed unto me from the non-addicted parent. In fact the non addicted parent was and is very addicted. My mom who is now in the early stages of dementia and possibly Alzheimers was a very prominent part of the dysfunction of my upbringing and as my addicted father passed 10 years ago I now am focused on her influence (not to blame but to become aware of the contributions she made). Its interesting to move into this time of my life and realize that my 20 years of ACA work has given me the tools to navigate the pain and stress of lifes transitions.

David George said...

Hi there... a great place,,, lots of potential...

Anonymous said...

Hi, While this literature is very helpful, it's not okay to post copy written literature in an outside setting that is not an ACA meeting or Intergroup. It can be disappointing and confusing to hear this information, most people have no idea about it. It's not the opinion of WSO, it's simply the law and following copy right laws... Not an obsession to control, that's for sure. To verify and get more clarity, send an email to WSO ACA at as this is a common request from all over the world to get more understanding about what can be used, and where etc. said...

The copy right laws do not apply to ACA WSO they are using documents they know are stolen. ACA and it's WSO are very dangerous places to be or go. I am the creator of Tony A., 1978 and I never gave ACA WSO, Hamilton Allen or Hamilton Alder or any one permission to use MY Laundry list or the stories I made up. The person or person that stole the work will pay, if not in this life they will have to face GOD and explain why they lied, stole the work of another. So watch out, they want your trust, and repeat in the book how you should trust ACA. When in fact one should only trust their GOD.

sparky said...

Thank you I would certainly be interested in hearing more.I've always sensed something was off somewhere lost In the pink cloud of excitement...