Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Addiction Is An Act Of Violence Toward The Self

"I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember, everything"
- Trent Reznor

Artcle adapted from: by D. Lynn Blanchard

A person who has a drug, alcohol, food addiction, anger addiction or codependency has simply not learned to be in relationship with themselves or others in a consistently compassionate and authentic way.

To be authentic with yourself and others means taking responsibility for yourself, owning your emotional set point, and having spiritual, emotional, mental and physical boundaries to maintain your well being.

If adults around you were preoccupied with their own difficulties, abandonment issues are a consequence. When a parent is not present physically and emotionally for reasons such as narcissism, addiction, addiction to anger, codependency, workaholism, illness or death, the child interprets that as something being wrong with him or her.

The “hole in the soul” created by childhood trauma results in feeling defective, feeling bad about yourself. Since there is “nobody home”, your self-worth is defined by others, and by your actions. (Damaged parents cannot validate the uniqueness and special qualities of their children, since they didn’t have that done for them, and haven’t done the work to re-parent themselves in a compassionate way).

Children model self-care (or lack thereof) from their primary caregivers. They learn to judge themselves as worthy or unworthy, depending on how they are treated by parenting figures. Children of narcissistic parents who fail to trace the source of their feeling invisible to the parents’ self-involvement will inevitably develop extreme behaviors or codependent enmeshment in a vain attempt to be seen.

It is not uncommon for alcoholics, rage-aholics and addicts of all types to deny and minimize the effect of their behavior on others. This is a direct result of denial of the violence that occurred in childhood. Even with years of sobriety and working the 12Steps there is often a lack of awareness of the effects of abuse and it continues to feed multigenerational addiction and codependency.

The resentment and anger, which underlies non-nurturing behavior, generates toxic fall-out. Parents who have not had their own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs met, and have not learned appropriate self-care in adulthood, become resentful of the needs of their children and partners, especially when they are under stress.

When you feel as if you’re drowning (which is how a “hole-in-the-soul person feels when confronted by daily stress) you don’t want someone crawling on your back asking you to save them. Instead of having healthy boundaries where you would say “I don’t have the energy to meet your needs right now”, you either deny the need, “You don’t need that” , or fix feelings “You shouldn’t feel that way…..” or shame the needy one…..”Shape up…….”.

Children involved are thus diminished, and damaged. They inevitably feel their parents’ anger or distance as their fault. They feel inadequate at a deep level. Children raised in this dysfunctional environment become hyper vigilant and develop survival strategies of manipulation and denial in order to feel in control in the presence of uncontrollable emotions and emotional abuse.

They absorb the negative energy into their bodies and subconscious mind. They watch uncomfortable emotions being stuffed or drugged, or blamed on someone else, rather than learning self-responsibility and emotional agility. Emotional agility refers to the ability to recognize and deal with negative emotions without shame, blame or guilt i.e. “I feel sad, hurt….” etc. rather than, “He made me……” “You never……..”

If you didn’t have that experience in childhood, you can get help to reparent yourself with healthy mothering and fathering relationships in adulthood. This means having older mentors, counsellors and friends who give positive feedback, nonjudgmental support and are actively committed to your well being.

Family of Origin Work involves becoming aware of how you were parented. This is not done from a perspective of blaming. It is a process of seeing and accepting yourself and your parents as fallible humans. It requires self-honesty and compassion as you identify your strengths and your less-than-wonderful traits and behaviors.

The intention is to look for the positive gifts from your parents, as well as to not minimize the areas of abuse and neglect. You will do that as well when looking at your own behavior towards others through the years.

You’ve probably said “I’ll never be like that” referring to a parental model. The reality is that unless you recognize how you are “like that”, and have a process for daily working through your emotional triggers, you will continue the cycle of abuse.

When children live in a home where there is violent silence (stuffed emotions/anger/bottled rage), displacement (kick the dog or horse), resentment and blaming modeled, they absorb and internalize the energy.

This results in eating disorders, addiction, depression, asthma, allergies, and/or externalizing their pain with rage, addiction, and displaced anger onto pets and other children. Adults often deny or displace anger with socially acceptable addictions such as smoking, busy-ness, (feelings can’t hit a moving target), chronic dieting, and other compulsive behaviors.

The danger of stockpiling resentments, from when you get whacked by life means you need to have a regular practice of writing and having a safe (non-family) person to talk with. When you’ve felt like a victim or have been unable to let go of hurt feelings, make a phone call and work through the reasons for your reaction with a member of your support system.

Daily clearing of the buildup of toxic emotions such as anger, resentment, fear and shame interrupts the pattern which causes you to want to explode at someone, turn the anger on yourself, or distract yourself with compulsive behaviors.

Addictive behaviors are a substitute for emotional maturity.

Shaming, blaming and focus on perceived shortcomings of others are used to deflect attention from your own character flaws. Morbid self-flagellation is also used to avoid self-responsibility. Addictive personalities feel inadequate and this must be dealt with continually, to avoid passing it on. The use of criticizing and putting others down, as a way of making yourself feel bigger needs to stop.

To Free yourself of Resentment, Anger and Fear:
Realize that blocked energy/resistance radiates out from a central issue, usually an underlying fear which covers up some old hurt and sadness. Since hurt and sadness makes you feel vulnerable, you cover that up with anger. Revisiting the issue, talking about it and re-feeling it (resentment) every time you talk about it, builds up more blocked negative energy.

When you can look beneath their behavior that hurt you, and you can see the frightened child-it becomes nearly impossible to be angry and carry a grudge.

And you so can.

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How Dysfunctional Is Our Country?


"The fact is we have some 15 million people in this country being treated for alcoholism at any given time. We have some 5 million being treated for drug addiction. We have by most accounts probably double those numbers of people that are addicts that are not seeking treatment yet for various reasons.

Do the math! That is some 50 million people that are in trouble! Either as a victim or as the addict and more if you count the children. The fact is, by all accounts we have 1/3 of our society that is affected by alcohol and drugs. That is a lot of people when you take all the victims and add that to the drinkers and druggies. Now for the big question, 'HOW MANY ARE IN POSITIONS OF POWER?'"

An interesting question that for me helps to explain how things get so messed up. Imagine millions and millions of dysfunctionals (many of whom are non-recovering) at all levels of government and society, from dog catchers to governors to CEOs. This scenario seems to be a likely cause of the systemic problems our country and the world is experiencing. Advanced technology may continue to speed things up so problems happen faster and faster and get compounded.

If this is true I hope sanity eventually prevails but it feels like it's gonna take some work!

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

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Judgmental Parent/Wounded Child

The following video is a humorous illustration of the Judgmental Parent/Wounded Child dynamic. This now famous Geico commercial features a vulnerable client trying to express his inner pain to an unsympathetic therapist.

Many adult children of alcoholics find themselves locked into one or both sides of this equation at different times. They even hold both perspectives internally at the same time (beating up on ourselves).

The Judgmental Parent often appears in times of fear and lack of control. We can see it all around us in people we come into contact with in our daily lives, at the mall, at work, during rush hour traffic on the freeway and in our own families. Two Judgmental Parents colliding or one or more beating up on a Wounded Child is the basis for the drama of many reality TV shows.

These two have their opposites- The Nurturing Parent and the Free Child. The Nurturing Parent encourages and indulges the Child, Free or Wounded, to share their feelings and thoughts without threat of backlash or judgement. The Nurturing Parent makes it ok and safe to express what's really inside, good, bad or ugly. With this support, the Child grows into connection, love and freedom. The good news is, no matter how old you are, your Inner Child is still there, ready for acceptance, love and grace.

The question is, when you are feeling hurt, anxious, angry, depressed, guilty, shamed or sad, does your inner Nurturing Parent come to the rescue with an eager ear and soothing hug? Or are you more likely to treat yourself as a cruel taskmaster would (Judgmental Parent), belittling, berating yourself for being "stupid", demanding perfection and that you stifle your "insignificant" feelings?

The answer to that question should help you determine how far along you are to becoming "your own loving Parent". The more you can be a Nurturing Parent to yourself, the FREER and less wounded your Inner Child will be. This is the power of healing.

If you never had good examples of Loving/Nurturing Parents, find a good Support Group, 12 Step Meeting, Therapist and/or Sponsor or Co-Sponsor. And next time you start to get mad at yourself for something, give yourself the option to choose nurturing instead!

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

Monday, October 18, 2010

About The Inner Child

Interesting history and definitions of the "Inner Child" as a healing concept.

"The Twelve-step program recovery movement considers healing the inner child to be one of the essential stages in recovery from addiction, abuse, trauma, or post-traumatic stress disorder."

More here: Inner Child Enterprises: About the Inner Child

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

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

All Self Hate Is A Toxic Lie!

Self hate is something many ACAs struggle with. After being victimized by others when we were young, we often carry our own persecution forward. If you believed you were ACTUALLY bad, THAT gave you your only sense of control in an otherwise out of control, painful upbringing.

Believing the LIE that you are bad allows you to distance yourself from the pain and live with the illusion that you can somehow CHANGE things. Now you can spend the rest of your life in a futile attempt to either change THEM (not gonna happen) or your own "badness" (which is impossible because it doesn't exist).

From Donna Torbico's awesome blog on adult children of alcoholics:

"Being loved cannot be earned!"


• ALL self-hate is a LIE
✶ it’s a defense mechanism to deny our feelings of abandonment. This a crucial point: S-H is a cover-up for all our abandonment pain.
• it’s a form of narcissism - making everything about US, when it rarely is. We make other people’s bad behavior our responsibility
• it’s an attempt at feeling powerful, to cover our intense sense of powerlessness & vulnerability

Read more here: HEAL and GROW for ACoAs: SELF-HATE & ACoAs (Part 1): "I’M NO GOOD & EVERYONE KNOWS IT so I have to be perfect to make up for it Self-Hate is the #1 deterrent to growth for all ACoAs. It undermi..."

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

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How To Become Your Own Loving Parent

At Adult Children Of Alcoholics meetings and in ACA books we learn that we need to become out own loving parents. The ACA Solution states:

"We learn to reparent ourselves with gentleness, humor, love and respect."


"You will take responsibility for your own life and supply your own parenting."

But beyond these lofty goals there is not a lot of explanation of the mechanics of how this is supposed to happen. Just how does one become a loving, nurturing parent to themselves when they haven't experienced this in real life? One cannot give what they do not possess. Or, as Drs. Cloud and Townsend have said, it's a bit like expecting a car with an empty gas tank to fill itself up.

And what if your internal parent is judgmental and harsh? Or exacting, intolerant and perfectionistic? Then you may be just replicating the past and reinforcing your own dysfunction. It's not enough to just come out of denial and face the pain of the past. That only goes so far. That pain needs to be comforted, that hurt child needs to be loved. This is perhaps the most important part of the process.

Here is an insight into the exercise of discovering your inner child AND becoming your own NURTURING parent:

"First, one becomes conscious of his or her own inner child. Remaining unconscious is what empowers the dissociated inner child to take possession of the personality at times, to overpower the will of the adult. Next, we learn to take our inner child seriously, and to consciously communicate with that little girl or boy within: to listen to how he or she feels and what he or she needs from us here and now.

The often frustrated primal needs of that perennial inner child–for love, acceptance, protection, nurturance, understanding–remain the same today as when we were children. As pseudo-adults, we futilely attempt to force others into fulfilling these infantile needs for us. But this is doomed to failure. What we didn’t sufficiently receive in the past from our parents as children must be confronted in the present, painful though it may be.

We should not as adults now expect others to meet all of these unfulfilled childhood needs. They cannot. Authentic adulthood requires both accepting the painful past and the primary responsibility for taking care of that inner child’s needs, for being a “good enough” parent to him or her now–and in the future."
- Psychology Today, Stephen Diamond, Ph.D., practicing psychotherapist

I believe that becoming your own parent is a big step with a large learning curve for those that did not get it when they were young. So be gentle and patient with yourself. Go slow. In trying moments, ask your child what they need from you most. Is it a hug? An understanding tone and reassurance that it's going to be alright? Or simply to be recognized that they are present?

If you feel resistance to acting on the last four sentences above, ask yourself why. Is that your "judgmental" parent rearing it's ugly head, ready to scold you for having such foolish thoughts? Use this reaction not as a reason to further beat yourself up but simply to gauge how nurturing you are being to your own self right now.

Then ask your inner child how he or she feels and what they need from you here and now. Take a small step and be just a tad more nurturing to yourself than usual. And keep doing it consistently, especially during difficult situations when your inner kid needs you the most.

The more your inner child can trust you to be there for them, the more they will come out of the shadows to play and be free!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Manipulative and Coercive Psychology: Rules of Order in Crazy-Making Families by Rodger ...

Manipulative and Coercive Psychology: Rules of Order in Crazy-Making Families by Rodger ...: "Initially trained more than 30 years ago to be a cult deprogrammer, I have been struck again and again since being trained in family therapy..."

Eye opening post about dysfunctional family dynamics, their symptoms and affects: Role Reversal, Phony Communication, Boundary Jumping and Victimization amongst others.

"In Miller's and Black's view, the children of dysfunctional, crazing-making families are viewed as chattel or possessions who exist to serve the emotional, narcissistic needs of parents who were themselves denied rights to their own thoughts and feelings. The dynamics of possession of children as objects rather than people has been normalized over the course of generations. No one in the crazy-making family sees this to be the case, of course..."

There's more at the link above.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Meditation, Relaxation And Stress Reduction

Click Here For The Free Meditation Download- First Step (guided Meditation)- Gary Guthrie

Whether you are seeking "through prayer and meditation to improve your conscious contact with God" or just need to relax, this guided meditation is currently available as a free download from It is called "First Step" but for Adult Children Of Alcoholics it helps work Step 11.

A soothing female voice guides through relaxing your body and mind. It is 26 minutes long but you may find yourself in a different frame of mind after just a few minutes! You can download it to your computer and MP3 player and have it with you wherever you go.

Here's to staying grounded, centered, focused and relaxed. May only be available for a limited time.

Click Here For The Free Meditation Download- First Step (guided Meditation)- Gary Guthrie

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

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Female ACOAs At Higher Risk

According to a recent US News & World Report, having an alcoholic parent, especially a mother, is more difficult for girls. A Yale University study found female adult children of alcoholic mothers at higher risk of developing psychiatric illness later in life than their male counterparts.

Study author Peter T. Morgan, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale, said, "The key, new finding of this work is that the effect parental alcoholism has on children is different depending on the gender of the alcoholic parent and the gender of the child."

While all parental dysfunction has an effect on children of either gender, when it is specifically between a mother and daughter it seems to be even more damaging.

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

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Digging Deeper- The Child Within

Have you ever experienced intense feelings yet could not identify their source? Many Adult Children of Alcoholics have trouble knowing not only what they feel but WHY they feel certain emotions.

The answer may lie in your past. A current situation that triggers a powerful reaction most likely is tied to an old feeling. This feeling may have become almost like an instinct. It has become ingrained, like a reaction that happens without much thought.

Take anger for example. There are certain times when it is appropriate but often it is used as a defense. It is a SECONDARY emotion that is protecting something else. Many people get stuck in angry reactions because they are unable to identify the primary feeling- hurt, shame, fear, etc., that underlies the anger. So the the angry person continues being reactively angry and the true issue never gets resolved.

-"It may help to think of yourself as a child"-

The "Digging Deeper" exercise can help identify and manage emotional reactions in a more constructive way. As you continue to practice this exercise it will get easier and faster. There are five steps:

1. Think about what happened just before you felt angry. Did someone do or say something offensive? Did something remind you of a similar situation?

2. Identify the root of the anger- the primary feeling. This can be difficult because of the habit of reacting defensively and the tendency to our ignore the importance of our true feelings. It may help to think of yourself as a child. Picture him or her in your mind and try to feel what he or she is feeling. Are they sad, hurt, fearful, feeling guilty or shamed? You may need to meditate on this for a bit before you "get" the feeling.

3. Ask yourself when you have felt this way before. You may get a vague recollection or a very clear image of past situations in which you felt this way. There may be very old memories that reveal a repeating pattern.

4. How did you respond back then? Did you hold everything inside until you wanted to explode? Did you lash out, feel victimized, isolate, get sad or depressed? Is this the same way you are acting now?

5. Ask yourself what you really need right now. Asking for what we really want can be hard for ACOAs. Feel free to begin by verbalizing the sentence, "What I really need right now is_______________". It could be "to be listened to and understood" or "I need some reassurance" or "I need to know that I'm not alone".

Recognizing a need is the first step to becoming your own loving parent. The fact that your inner child's need was simply acknowledged helps him or her feel better.

After a while, you may begin to experience a sense of relief and an increased ability to communicate your feelings and needs. You may begin to feel closer to those around you. You will probably experience greater success getting your needs met and increased intimacy.

A side benefit of being empathetic with yourself is that you will begin to show more empathy and understanding for others. Don't be surprised if you discover others acting differently towards you as they respond to your increased warmth and understanding.

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

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Roy's Story

This is Roy's story as told by Roy himself. It's the story of one man's experience as an ACOA growing up in a dysfunctional family. It's as inspiring as it is courageous.

Roy shares his difficulties and pain without judging or blaming. Just matter of fact sharing in the hopes that it may help other Adult Children Of Alcoholics.

I don't know if Roy will ever read this but I want to thank him for his powerful share and for posting this video.

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

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

10 Myths About ACAs


1. You should forget the past and only focus on today.

One of the survival tools learned by children of alcoholics is denial. You need to honestly examine the past to gain insight into the present. Recovery involves looking at today and yesterday.

2. Change must be immediate.

For most, the process of healing is gradual. Believing that change should be immediate is born out of perfectionistic childhood thinking. Adult children of alcoholics (ACA’s) tend to think in a mythical nothing-or-all format. This sets us up for defeat. Since most change is not immediate, we fail. After failure we conclude that we will never change.

3. Only the past determines the future.

Many adult children were taught that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. We have been taught to believe the myth that what we are and who we are will never change. But, within each of us lies the capacity to grow and alter the way we act and feel.

4. God’s forgiveness is fine for everyone but me.

A key roadblock for most adult children of alcoholics is the sense of being unforgiven. While growing up, forgiveness was rarely modeled. Children learn to perform in order to be approved. ACA’s approach God under the influence of this myth “If I make a mistake, there exists no forgiveness, just punishment.”

5. Others must approve of my actions or I’m no good.

Needing approval is a basic childhood need that one never outgrows. The problem comes when we do not get approval from others and draw the conclusion that we must be bad. This is a result of being raised in a family that promoted shame.

6. I must be able to do what I should do to be healed.

If I cannot, there is something wrong with me. While growing up, ACA’s were often made to feel, stupid, inadequate, bad and guilty for their actions and feelings. One of the legacies of the dysfunctional home is negative self-worth or shame. In recovery we must suspend our constant self-criticism and invalidation and learn the new skills that we need to heal and make positive choices.

7. External events and other people must change or I’ll never be able to be healed.

ACA’s do not learn to trust themselves, take appropriate risks, and establish independence and autonomy. ACA’s want other people to confirm things in them that should have been validated by their parents. Yet, if we are to respond to the healing work of God within us, we need to be responsive to our inner self. The old adage is still true today, “A better world begins with me.”

8. God will be just like my human father.

While there will be exceptions, children develop a view of God based on the relationship they have with their parents. In particular, fathers have a tremendous impact on the experience ACA’s expect when approaching God. ACA’s often view God as being absent, cold and indifferent, distant and unloving. They think “If I measure up, God will love me; if I don’t, I deserve punishment.” In contrast, the Bible describes a God who wants to comfort, nurture, heal and support.

9. If I turned everything over to God, I would not have the problems I have now.

Most if us have tried to let God take over everything and still found ourselves hurting, confused and making destructive choices. God is not a magician who removes all of our pain, sorrow and difficulties. God doesn’t promise peace from the storms of life, but rather peace amidst the storms. Learning to turn ourselves over to God is a reflection of our needs, our imperfections and the flawed world we live in. Fellowship with God will allow us to develop a broader vision about our life.

10. It is selfish and bad to focus on myself.

Others count more than I do. Parents who teach this concept restrict their children to a life that is confused and solely other-directed. Recovery does not mean we replace other-centered living with only self-centered living. Recovery means seeking a balance between what I want, feel and need and what others want, feel and need.

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

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Music Medicine

Music has been used as therapy for seizures, high blood pressure, ADD, mental illness, depression, stress and insomnia. Since many of these symptoms are common in adult children of alcoholics, I was excited to find a source of relaxing music that anyone can access for free (see below).

Musicologist Julius Portnoy found that music can change metabolic rates, increase or decrease blood pressure, effect energy levels and digestion positively or negatively, depending on the type of music.

Calming music was found to have a very calming effect on the body and cause the increase of endorphins. Thirty minutes of such music was equal to the effect of a dose of valium.

Right now, Amazon is offering a free download of music that you can chill to. These mellow native flutes are mixed with guitars, drums and nature sounds. The sound is soothing, relaxing and is the perfect antidote for a stressful day.

Click here to sample and download this music for FREE: Native Flutes For Relaxation

There is no obligation to download this music. It is compatible with all MP3 players. May only be available for a limited time.

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

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The New Truth About Depression

Adult Children Of Alcoholics are likely to fall prey to depression at one time or another. Newly uncovered evidence indicates that people with depression do NOT have low levels of serotonin! And the most effective treatment for depression costs nothing but the drug companies will not tell you about it.

In the video below, Dr. Mercola interviews Pulitzer Prize nominee Robert Whitaker. Whitaker is the author of "Mad in America" and "Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America".

Whitaker points out that in the US in 1985, 600 million dollars was spent on psychiatric medications. This has now grown to over 40 billion dollars per year.

According to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one in 20 Americans are depressed. Long-term studies indicate that of people with major depression, only about 15 percent that are treated with an antidepressant go into remission and stay well for a long period of time. The remaining 85 percent start having continuing relapses and become chronically depressed.

It has been widely accepted that depression is due to a “chemical imbalance in your brain,” which drugs are designed to correct. Unfortunately, this is NOT a scientific statement.

“The low serotonin theory arose because they understood how the drugs acted on the brain,” Whitaker explains.
“But it was just a hypothesis borne to try to explain why the drug might be fixing something. In 1983, NIMH concluded that there is no evidence that there is anything wrong in the serotonergic system of depressed patients. And this was before Prozac was released. So there was never evidence that people with depression characteristically had low levels of serotonin."

There is also a risk that long term drug use for treatment of depression may even cause cognitive decline.

Studies on exercise as a treatment for depression are also showing that there is a strong correlation between improved mood and aerobic capacity. One study conducted by Duke University in the late 1990’s divided depressed patients into three treatment groups:

*Exercise only

*Exercise plus antidepressant

*Antidepressant drug only

After six weeks, the drug-only group was doing slightly better than the other two groups. However, after 10 months of follow-up, it was the exercise-only group that had the highest remission and stay-well rate!

British doctors now actually write prescriptions for exercise their depressed patients. Since 2007, the rate of British doctors prescribing exercise for depression has increased from about 4 percent to about 25 percent.

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

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Emotional Communication Intelligence

Adult children of alcoholics often have difficulty realizing and expressing their emotions. The following test was designed as a measuring stick for progress in this area.


-Test Your Emotional Communication Intelligence-

Answer “usually,” “occasionally” or “rarely” to the following questions:

I ____________ sustain eye contact when speaking.

I ____________ am comfortable with pauses when others are experiencing emotion.

I ____________ sense when someone feels troubled before being told.

I ____________ am comfortable with my feelings of sadness, joy, anger and fear.

I ____________ pay attention to my emotions when making decisions.

I ____________ have no problem expression my emotions to others.

I ____________ can reduce my stress to a comfortable level.

I ____________ enjoy laughing, playing or kidding around.

I ____________ don’t feel threatened by disagreements.

Answering “usually” to most of these questions indicates that you have a good start with emotional intelligence in your relationships.

-Codependent Traits-

Here are 5 indicators of codependency. You can rate from 1 to 10 how each of these affect you.


Five core symptoms of Codependence:

Low self-esteem

Difficulty setting boundaries

Difficulty recognizing their own feelings

Difficulty to making decisions

Being unable to express emotions, thoughts and behavior appropriately

Your answers to the above may indicate areas you want to improve or simply serve as signposts for how far you've come. Thanks for listening!

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

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Steps 10, 11 & 12

The last in a series of 12 Step videos. Few sources of online video explain the 12 Steps in depth for Adult Children of Alcoholics and others seeking help. Although these are just one man's opinion, may you find knowledge in them.

Step 10-

Step 11-

Step 12-

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

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Narcissistic Family

1. inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.
2. being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development.

From Psychology Marisa Mauro, Psy.D. reviews the book, The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman and Robert M. Pressman.

"In narcissistic families, this basic goal becomes skewed and the meeting of parental needs becomes of primary importance for the family."

Sound familiar?

The book reveals that children from narcissistic families tend to grow up with traits that mimic those of Adult Children Of Alcoholics. It comes as no surprise that there is some overlap between the two. Narcissism and parental dysfunction, whether it's addiction, abuse or neglect, go hand in hand. The patients studied reported no parental substance addiction or overt abuse. But the emotional needs of their parents took precedence over their own.

This normal developmental process is difficult for parents who are most concerned with fulfilling their own needs... to compensate, the parents fight back, ignoring the child's needs and at the same time forcing the child to respond to their own by withholding attention and affection until they do so.

From the article: "The children's emotional needs go unattended while they learn to wait to see what their parents expect and then react, negatively or positively, to those expectations. They learn to ignore their feelings or become completely detached from them altogether. As a result of having no emotions on which to direct their actions, the children become dependent upon others for guidance. This is the process of becoming what the authors term a reactive and reflective individual."

Or to put it another way, We become reactors rather than actors, waiting for others to take the initiative.

More from the article: "In adulthood... they become distressed by their own pervasive need to please others, chronic need to seek external validation, and difficulty identifying their own feelings wants and needs. They tend to suffer from a myriad of emotional stressors including anger that lies just below the surface, depression, chronic dissatisfaction, and poor self-confidence."

"Many also struggle with indecisiveness as they have learned to make decisions on the basis of other's needs and expectations. Interpersonally, they tend to share a history of failed romances and have difficulty trusting in others... at work they are overachievers, workaholics even, that are never satisfied with their success."

It is striking how this correlates so closely with ACOA traits. As I've heard in meetings, "ACOA" is an umbrella term that encompasses just about any type of chronic family dysfunction (including narcissism) leading to emotional or physical trauma. I believe narcissism is deeply intertwined in most, if not all, dysfunctional families.

The opposite of the narcissistic family is one where parents assume responsibility for their children's emotional and physical needs. The children learn to be independent as they slowly take responsibility for meeting their own needs in a developmentally appropriate manner, eventually becoming independent adults.

Children grow up learning to identify and act on their feelings, wants and needs. Parents take care of their own needs or seek help from other adults. In this way, the children have also learned how to be good parents through the process of observational learning.

The book includes strategies and tips on healing for survivors.

Read the original article at:

Thanks for listening,


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

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

12 Step Videos: Steps 7, 8 & 9

Steps 7, 8 & 9 in a continuing series of 12 Step videos. Originally created for AA, these also apply to adult children of alcoholics in need of recovery.

Video: Step 7 Of The 12 Steps:

Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings

Video: Step 8 Of The 12 Steps:

Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all

Video: Step 9 Of The 12 Steps:

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others

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

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sponsorship in ACA?

The subject of Sponsorship in ACA/ ACOA has long been debated. Many feel Sponsorship would quickly lead to a repetition of the pattern of codependency- with the Sponsor at risk of taking on other's problems while ignoring their own. The propensity of adult children of alcoholics to quickly fall into this trap is one reason some believe Sponsorship can be a potential obstacle to personal recovery.

I think I understand and empathize with this opinion. On the other hand, I see Sponsorship in other 12 Step programs, such as Al-Anon, paying lots of benefits. Having an experienced, caring "coach" who has successfully traveled the path to recovery can be an immeasurable help. And I think not having Sponsorship in ACA sometimes reinforces our tendency to isolate, remain distant and attempt to "go it alone".

The ACA World Service Organization has just recently sent out Group Conscious Survey Ballots on this issue to every registered ACA Meeting. As part of the Annual Business Conference to be held this coming April, items with 2/3 positive support will be addressed and considered.

Proposed ideas include; Increasing and encouraging the Sponsorship concept within the ACA/ACOA community, creating a Sponsorship Workshop and creation of a Sponsorship pamphlet.

Each meeting can vote on these issues and send their ballot to the ACA WSO. Your literature person or secretary should be receiving copies of the Survey for review and voting.

I like the concept of ACA Sponsorship. When implemented carefully it could pay big dividends to both The Sponsor and The Sponsee.

However you feel, your input to the group conscience on this matter is valued and needed. Ask your groups service volunteers if and when a vote will be taken at your meeting.

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Steps 4, 5 and 6

The response to the first series of Twelve Step videos (Steps 1, 2 & 3) has been wonderful. Keep in mind these are just one personal interpretation of The 12 Steps.

Although these are from an AA perspective, the same principals apply to adult children of alcoholics and those from otherwise dysfunctional families. May you continue to find value in them!

Step 4- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

Step 5- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs

Step 6- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character

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

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Step 1: We Admitted We Were Powerless

Twelve Step Videos- One man's interpretation of The 12 Steps. An Informative and articulate explanation of the principles of recovery.

Step 1: We Admitted We Were Powerless

Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.

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