Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Setting and keeping good boundaries can often be difficult for adult children of alcoholics and those from dysfunctional families. Below, Dr. Henry Cloud weighs in on how boundaries help keep us safe.

Relationship Boundaries

Why Are Boundaries Important?

What's The Difference Between A Boundary And A Defense Mechanism?

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

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Challenge Of The Past

The very cause of our problems is also the thing that often prevents us from confronting and eventually, overcoming them. This is because confronting our buried emotional past is a scary, painful thing. In fact, as children the act of denying our situation became critical to our very survival. The "amnesia" that protected us as children becomes a huge hindrance to us as adults. As a result we may live life experiencing unexplained symptoms of fear, anger, sadness and depression.

As psychologist Alice Miller puts it, "Children have no choice but suppress their fear and anger, as otherwise they could not sustain their love for their parents, and that love is crucially necessary for their survival. But these emotions, though suppressed, remain stored away in our bodies, and in adulthood they can cause symptoms of varying severity. We may suffer from bouts of depression, attacks of panic fear, or violent reactions towards our children without identifying the true causes of our despair, our fear, or our rage.

We fear those emotions as if they were our worst enemy. The pharmaceutical industry caters for these desires with a whole range of remedies - Viagra against impotence, anti-depressives to fend off the effects of depression, but without understanding the deep-seated causes underlying it."

Why is reexamining our past and getting in touch with the pain such a daunting task?

Miller believes, "Such a perspective would reestablish contact with the most vulnerable and powerless years of our lives, and that is the last thing we want to think about. We have no desire to go through that feeling of desperate impotence all over again. On no account do we want to be reminded of the atmosphere that surrounded us when we were small and were helplessly exposed to the whims and excesses of power-hungry adults... it is precisely by confronting it that we can find the key to understanding our attacks of (apparently) groundless panic, our high blood pressure, our stomach ulcers, our sleepless nights..."

Understanding and cultivating empathy for our own inner child is the path to healing. As long as the needs and feelings of the child are denied, we are condemned to continue living with dysfunction in our lives and relationships. Acknowledging and recognizing our sufferings, rather than denying them, frees us to provide our own personal support and nurturing.

A good therapist that can assist us in this process can be invaluable. Having a willing and compassionate witness to our sufferings is key. Being honest with ourselves and another trusted individual about the past, however difficult, frees us to be true to our own selves. As we progress, it will become easier to feel and recognize our own feelings as well as treat others with the same empathy we now allow ourselves.

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Find Your Life Purpose

Why am I here? What is my purpose?

If you find yourself asking these questions, it may be a clue that you are not yet on the right path.

America’s #1 Success Coach, Jack Canfield, Co-author of the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul series offers to help people find greater success and happiness fulfill their life purpose. "Each person has a life purpose unique to them, and ideally they should find work related to this, as people are happiest doing what they love", he says.

Your life purpose is often related to what you are most passionate about, what brings you joy. Jack offers a simple, free written exercise here: to help you discover your life purpose.

Canfield believes, "We're always getting information that we're either on course, or off course...when we're doing the thing that we're supposed to do that leads us to our greatest fulfillment...we will experience this sense of expansion rather than contraction, we'll experience joy rather than the lack of it...and energy and aliveness rather than the sense of deadness." He believes in The Secret (the Law of Attraction), explaining that our thoughts and feelings are "broadcast" and people attract others vibrating at the same level.

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Videos From ACOAs

Some recent, bravely revealing "shares" from adult children of alcoholics/dysfunctional parents on Youtube. These people chose not to remain anonymous and post these videos for the world to see, in the hopes they can be of help to others.




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

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Letting Go Of The Past

"We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses."
~Carl Jung

Reprinted from:

The process for letting go of a childhood where a person had one or more alcoholic parents varies from person to person. Some individuals bounce back with a resilience that seems to come from nowhere. Others require professional help getting over the past.

It can be done. Having a childhood with one or more alcoholic parents does not doom you to a lifetime of emotional distance and confusing emotions being triggered at every turn. The goal of realizing all the possible consequences of such a childhood is not to foster a feeling of powerlessness but of hope. It is in the awareness of the underlying mechanisms of dysfunction that it can be undone.

Silence was a large part of the problem for children who grew up in an alcoholic home. Feelings were not expressed. They were covered up by alcohol and then buried in shame and fear. It is in the uncovering and open recognition of these feelings that truths of the past can be spoken.

When these truths are spoken, they lose their power. Their power resides in their silence, in the shame and fear that protect them. Their power can be taken away. A painful past can be healed. Looking at what was wrong with the past helps you to realize what must be done to make the present right.

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

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


The "Adult Children Of Alcoholics" title can be a bit of a misnomer. It is a blanket term that includes those who suffered abuse or neglect even though their parents didn't drink. The cause of the trauma matters not. Everyone who suffered from dysfunctional parenting is welcomed into the fellowship of ACA with open arms.

My fear is that some of these people may never make it to an ACA meeting. They may, after hearing the word "alcoholic", quickly decide that they do not belong in this group. I have the advantage of knowing that even if my parents stopped drinking it would not have changed their behavior. The anger, judgement and fear I grew up with would still have emerged.

Recently I saw the term "Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families" or ACODF. It seems a more inclusive term than ACA or ACOA and more clearly describes the broad spectrum of people who grew up with all types of parental dysfunction. This acronym is a more apt fit for the majority of the population that grew up with dysfunction, with or without the substance abuse component.

There are many who don't know where to seek help or have yet to discover they even need it. Here's hoping the inclusive term, ACODF, will inspire a feeling of belonging and is seen as a warm invitation to join in recovery!

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

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Ace Study Revealed Pt. 2

Stefan Molyneaux explains how the neurobiology of the brain is adversely affected by childhood abuse, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and even having an insecure attachment to one's mother. There is a clear correlation and an actual biological cause and effect between early trauma and behavior later in life.

The Amygdala (Fear Center) may be overreactive while the prefrontal cortex (executive center, decision making, morals, sense of self) is underdeveloped.

Interesting that ACEs overstimulate the amygdala- the Fear Center of the brain. One of the common characteristics of adult children of alcoholics is fear of authority. In experiments, when the amygdala was stimulated with an electrical current, the subjects reported a sense of being reprimanded by an authority.

Note the close parallels between other effects of abuse and ACA behavior including:

Difficulty regulating emotion (over-react to changes over which they have no control)

Lack of cause and effect thinking (lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternate behaviors or possible consequences)

Inability to articulate our own emotions (we learned to keep our feelings down as children and kept them buried as adults)


Stressful, traumatizing experiences cause chronic elevated levels of neuroendocrine hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can cause damage leading to difficulty learning, memory impairment, depression, insomnia, PTSD and ADD. In more severe cases it can increase the risk of criminal behavior.

The good news is that effective psychotherapy can help. Relapse for MDD (major depressive disorder) was 76% for those treated with antidepressant medication vs. just 31% for those who received therapy.

Physical exercise can also have a very beneficial effect on memory, cognition and improves learning and intelligence scores. Exercise acts as an antidepressant and slows the decline of memory and brain atrophy in aging humans.

The ACE Study is an ongoing collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente. Led by Co-principal Investigators Robert F. Anda, MD, MS, and Vincent J. Felitti, MD.

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

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Ace Study Revealed

The ACE Study is perhaps the largest scientific research study of its kind, analyzing the relationship between multiple categories of childhood trauma and health and behavioral outcomes later in life. Beginning in 1992, over 17,000 people participated in this comprehensive, ongoing collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente.

An Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) is defined as "physical abuse, emotional abuse or sexual abuse" before the age of 18. It also includes growing up experiencing;

-an alcohol and/or drug abuser in the household

-an incarcerated household member

-living with someone who is chronically depressed, mentally ill, institutionalized, or suicidal

-mother is treated violently

-having one or no parents

-emotional or physical neglect

The ACE definition so closely matches the one for Adult Children Of Alcoholics, they are practically synonymous.

The majority of people have at least one ACE.

All of these lead to trauma and whether the abuse was physical in nature or not, actually cause physical changes to a developing child's brain including abnormal development of the cortex. The amygdala of insecurely attached children are hyperactive and larger than those of securely attached children. They have a greater surging of cortisol and adrenaline (fight or flight response). Plus their prefrontal cortexes are smaller and so they are less able to control their fear and anger.

Unresolved ACEs can effect the health and behavior of the victim for decades and and even shorten their lifespan up to twenty years. The more types of ACEs you were exposed to, the more likely you will have resulting issues such as depression, addiction, heart disease, obesity and cancer later in life. People who have experienced 4 or more categories of ACEs are 4 to 12 times more likely to experience depression, drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide attempts than a person who has not experienced any. You can calculate your personal ACE score here:

An introduction to The ACE Study:


Essayist, author, and host of the Freedomain Radio Podcasts, Stefan Molyneux, believes that therapy with a good counselor can help reverse the effects of ACEs and lead to a healthier, happier life. In Part 1, Molyneux explains the correlation between childhood trauma and it's negative effects later in life:


Part 2 features an interview with one of the leaders of the ACE study, Vincent J. Felitti, MD:


This eye opening information points to the cause of many common problems and dysfunctions. The more this material is discovered and acknowledged, the better chance for understanding the cause, effectively treating it and stopping the cycle.

The ACE Study is an ongoing collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente. Led by Co-principal Investigators Robert F. Anda, MD, MS, and Vincent J. Felitti, MD.

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Meditation, Music And Stress Relief

Free Download: Native American Flute Lullabies

Meditation relieves stress as does music. Here's a whole album of chilled out grooves to download for FREE and relax to. Features ethereal flutes, guitars and nature sounds.

Click here for the free download: Native American Flute Lullabies

Happy Listening!

May only be available for a limited time.

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

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

High Correlation Between ACAs And Nurses

According to

46% of American households have alcoholism.

Wow, almost HALF by their count.

75-80% of helping professionals in the U.S. under the age of 55 are adult children of alcoholics and 60% of physicians (who are U.S.-born) under the age of 55 are first-born children of alcoholics.

83% of nurses are adult children of alcoholics.

This is a staggeringly high number! Helps explain the stats that follow...

The American Nurses Association states that 20% of nurses have 'substance abuse issues' with an an estimated 40,000 nurses in the U.S. experiencing alcoholism. Binge drinking was highest among oncology, emergency, and critical care nurses.

Odds of marijuana use are 3.5 times higher among emergency nurses. Pediatric and emergency nurses reported a higher use of cocaine than other specialties. Oncology nurses reported the highest overall drug use – for all substances combined.

Looks like growing up in an environment of substance abuse combined with having a genetic predisposition to it, is taking it's toll here. Nursing has traditionally been a profession known for compassion and empathy. Looks like nurses (and doctors) could use a bit of this medicine themselves.

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Janet Woititz Speaks

Dr. Janet Woititz was one of the founders of the ACA movement. She wrote many popular books on adult children of alcoholics and was a tireless proponent for recovery.

The following are sample archival videos of a presentation she gave on ACA behavior, low self esteem and how to build it up:


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

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Empowering Yourself By Overcoming Guilt

"I Feel Like I Did Something Wrong."

According to Therapist Donna M. Torbico, the issue for most Adult Children Of Alcoholics is "that we feel guilty about things that are not actually bad - like having needs, or emotions!"

The way to free ourselves is to:

1. Identify the toxic rules that were internalized as kids. Rules we still live by. Example: You may feel bad for "making people angry", not making someone "happy" or standing up for your rights.

2. Recognize that these "dysfunctional" rules continue to disrupt your recovery.

3. Take action to willingly break these old rules so you can heal and grow.

The old rules have a strong hold. Be prepared- as you consciously disobey old rules you initially may feel like you are doing wrong. You may still feel guilty and uncomfortable. These feelings are a positive signal that you are on the right track. As new behaviors become habit, these feelings will diminish and lose their power.

This process can be stressful. Let your support system of healthy family, friends and recovery groups help you through it.

Check out Donna Torbico's full blog post about Guilt here: What is GUILT?

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

L-theanine To The Rescue!

Adult Children Of Alcoholics often have stress and may have a hard time dealing with it. Here is a natural supplement that can help. L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea and other natural substances. According to Dr. John Gray, Ph.D, "Japanese monks consumed special, L-theanine rich tea in order to enhance their experience of meditation."

L-theanine is known to help calm anxiety or nervousness and even to improve the quality of sleep. It is referred to by some as the "Nirvana Factor" for it's ability to promote feelings of serenity and peace. You won't have to drink gallons of green tea to get the effect. This magic amino is available in concentrated pill form at many health food stores and vitamin shops.

It can be taken any time, preferably on an empty stomach and is great for calming down around bed time. The recommended dose is 200- 400 mg two or three times a day. Dr. Gray recommends taking it for insomnia as well as general use. L-theanine has few, if any, negative side effects.

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How ACAs Can Improve Their Health, Reduce Stress And Slow Aging

In 1997, The ACE Study (Adverse Childhood Experiences) revealed that unresolved childhood trauma can lead to higher incidence of chronic diseases including depression, heart disease, pulmonary disease, substance abuse, suicide attempts, impairment of health and social well being and even early death.

New research corroborates that the trauma adult children of alcoholics experienced can have a big impact on their health and ultimately, their actual lifespan. There is a biological component that regulates aging. It can be significantly affected by stress, PTSD and trauma. The good news is there is a simple way to reverse the negative impact and live a healthier, longer life.

Telomeres are tiny but important bits of DNA at the very end of each chromosome in your body. Telomeres keep your chromosomes intact and as they shorten with age and stress, your cells lose their ability to divide and replicate and eventually die. This is part of the natural aging process.

Studies have been done relating to psychological stress and telomere shortening, including one that examined people with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Not only was there a relationship between PTSD and shorter telomere length, but even more remarkable was the correlation between exposure to childhood trauma (prior to the age of 14) and telomere shortening.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2004, researchers found that female caregivers who reported very high levels of perceived stress had shorter telomeres in their lymphocytes (key cells of your immune system)—equivalent to one decade of additional aging—compared to women reporting low stress levels!

Another study, led by Eli Puterman, PhD, also found that non-exercising women with histories of childhood abuse had shorter telomeres than women who did not experience such abuse.

Studies indicate that those who experienced childhood trauma are predisposed to premature telomere shortening!

Interestingly enough, abuse victims who exercised vigorously at least three times a week showed NO such link! It appears that regular exercise effectively negated the detrimental effects of childhood abuse trauma on their telomeres! Among people who did not exercise, each unit increase in the Perceived Stress Scale was related to a 15-fold increase in the odds of having short telomeres.

The type of exercise is key to reversing the effects of telomere shortening. "Peak 8" exercises are a perfect example of high-intensity exercises. The key to performing them properly is to raise your heart rate up to your anaerobic threshold. You keep pushing at maximum effort for 20 to 30 seconds, and then recover for 90 seconds.

The cycle is then repeated for a total of eight repetitions. The video below demonstrates Peak 8 on a exercise machine but Peak 8 exercises can be performed with any type of exercise- with or without equipment. You can easily perform Peak 8 by walking or running outdoors.

Instead of doing an hour-long cardio workout, you'll be done in 20 minutes or so. The actual "sprinting" time totals just 4 minutes!

The other exciting benefit of Peak 8-style exercises is its ability to naturally increase your body's production of human growth hormone (HGH), which also plays a significant role in the aging process.

Here's to living a long, healthy life!

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

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bradshaw On Healing Your Inner Child

Many adult children of alcoholics/ dysfunctional families learned to deny and block painful feelings as a means of survival. But those feelings don't just go away. They continue to affect us as adults and influence our behavior, health, success and ability to be happy. Symptoms may include depression, anger, addictions and pain.

"America's leading growth expert", John Bradshaw, explains how childhood abuse and neglect can have a lasting affect. He also performs interactive healing exercises for tapping into and expressing core feelings as a road to emotional freedom.

Thought his was recorded a while ago it is still powerful and insightful!

Childhood Wounds Seminar

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Music For Stress Relief

Relaxing can sometimes be a challenge for ACAs. Adult children of alcoholics have a higher incidence of anxiety, eating disorders, over-achieving and other forms of compulsive behavior. They may be more susceptible to chronic diseases including depression and heart disease.

Listening to music has been found to increase serotonin levels and reduce heart rates. According to the American Society of Hypertension, listening to half an hour of music each day may significantly lower your blood pressure.

For a limited time, is offering a FREE download of "Music for Massage, Meditation & Yoga". Click the link below for your free MP3 download of this soothing music collection. You can sample and download individual tracks or get the entire thing at once. Includes over an hour of chilled out music featuring Tibetan bowls, flutes and sitars.

This music is great for stress relief, relaxation and finding calm in our sometimes hectic lives. Compatible with all MP3 players.

Click here to sample and download: Music for Massage, Meditation & Yoga

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

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Need To Relax?

Busy? Stressed? Frantically trying to catch up?

Adult children of alcoholics tend to take on too much responsibility, overwork and put lots of pressure on themselves. Pressure like that can seriously affect your blood pressure, hormone levels, mood and mental health.

You may need to relax. See if you can pass this simple test:

Click here: Relaxation Test

Can you make it to the two minute mark? Good luck!

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

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Real Life Portrait Of Recovery In Group Therapy

Breaking the cycle: Children of alcoholics:

In honor of National Children of Alcoholics Week, "Together We Heal" is being offered as a free e-book download!

This insightful book follows several ACOAs through their group therapy sessions with author Szifra Birke. You may benefit from their breakthroughs and growth and find connections to your own life.

From the book:

"The people in this book began meeting for group therapy after they learned about how alcoholism and codependency continued to impact their lives—years, even decades, after they had left home. Even if you didn’t grow up in an alcoholic home, you will undoubtedly share many common feelings. Dysfunctional family patterns and unresolved issues that we continue into adulthood are not reserved for families of alcoholics only."

The American Group Psychotherapy Association Journal says:

The volume takes the reader on an in-depth voyage through 15 meetings of a typical ACOA (adult children of alcoholics) group, and introduces us to several real-life patients of the therapist Szifra Birke. The book is coauthored by a patient in this group, and the perspective alternates between that of patient to therapist.

Unlike many self-help books in the addictions field, which offer primarily an educational view of the various roles and dilemmas that ACOAs face, this book allows us to see first-hand those roles played out in a group, and also allows us to see the impact of the group process in altering these roles, which are initially rigid and confining. These roles, such as the scapegoat, the mascot, the family hero and others, are described by the patients themselves as they recall their painful family histories in a benign, somewhat structured environment.

Szifra Birke holds a Master’s Degree from Purdue University and a BA in psychology from Boston University. She is a licensed mental health counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist.

This limited time download offer ends Feb. 20, 2011.

Here is the download link: "Together We Heal" Free Download

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

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"No" Is A Complete Sentence

Struggling To Keep Everyone Happy

I heard it said the other day, "'no' is a complete sentence". The point being that you do not have to explain or make others understand why you can't or don't want to do something. Often, codependency dictates that we make it alright and try to soothe disappointed feelings when we cannot live up to others' expectations.

In fact, "emotional vampires" may use our willingness to please to take advantage of us. They seek to have power and control over us. And as soon as we feel the need to explain, they have it. Saying "no" and just "no" can be difficult and stressful for people pleasers. We hate the thought of hurting other people's feelings or letting them down. But true friends will understand and those who don't are not worthy of our friendship.

Adult Children Of Alcoholics may fear the awkward silence after we have just given a negative response and be tempted to fill it with explanations and regrets. But if we just let it be, things will be ok.

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

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Freedom From The Drama Triangle Trap

The Karpman Drama Triangle is being played out on reality tv shows, in movie and tv programs and in everyday lives. Sometimes this triangle appears inverted with the Victim at the bottom but the dynamics remain the same. The result of getting stuck in this triangle either as a Victim, Rescuer or Persecutor is avoiding feeling and revealing your true feelings.

The way out of the triangle is to be honest about what and how you are feeling. Imagine another triangle with Truth at one corner, Honesty at the other and Warmth, Closeness and Connectedness at the top.

Instead of using a judging and blaming accusatory statement like, "You are so insensitive- how could you forget my birthday!" (Persecutor/Blamer) try using an "I" statement about your feelings. Example: "I felt hurt when you didn't call me on my birthday". The reaction you receive is less likely to be defensive and more likely to be empathetic. It allows the other person to let down their guard and respond with their true feelings. Then both can experience the satisfaction of closeness and warmth.

Digging through your own defensiveness and revealing the hurt or sadness underneath can be extremely liberating and frees you from the Karpman Triangle! Of course, this kind of vulnerable communication should be practiced with "safe", emotionally available people.

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