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