Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Part Of The Solution!

You can be part of the solution!

Rutgers University
is conducting an online survey of ACAs. This study is being conducted to learn more about the communication behaviors that characterize families of alcoholism and the implications that family communication patterns have on the adjustment and well-being of adult children of alcoholics. The survey is anonymous.

Conducted by: Marie C. Haverfield
Doctoral Student, Rutgers University



Read recovery advocate Lisa Romano's riveting story about her Follow Up Letter To Mom And Dad. Lisa has recently published two books about her life story and growing up in a dysfunctional, alcoholic home. You might be surprised by the reaction she received:

Follow Up Letter To My ACoA Mom and Dad

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Road Back To Me

Lisa Romano bravely documents her own experience as an Adult Child Of Alcoholics in her book, "The Road Back To Me".

Romano exposes her lonely childhood, feelings of abandonment, and her painful memories of being bullied. Obsession, compulsion, relationship addiction, food addiction, anxiety, constant fear and a crippling sense of low self-esteem eventually leads her to contemplated suicide. Her turning point arrives many years later, as she learns to heal the faulty programming of childhood. 

Lisa's Video on Codependency:

Her website is:

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

COAs Face Increased Addiction Risk and other Health Problems


Here are some interesting excerpts from a recent article about Adult Children Of Alcoholics published on 

No matter how many time I see facts like these it always surprises me;

Mood disorders like depression, anxiety and conduct disorder (a chronic behavioral problem characterized by rule breaking, truancy, drug use and criminal activity) are more common among COAs. 

Conduct disorder, if left untreated, is associated with adult antisocial personality disorder, a pattern of often criminal behavior characterized by a disregard for the emotions and rights of others.  

"If you don't as a child learn that ability to develop relationships and develop trust and feel safe, then I think that's something that's going to affect you your entire life." - Dr. Mackenzie Varkula, child and teen psychiatrist at the Cleveland Clinic's Fairview Hospital 

In studies of COAs who were adopted by nonalcoholic families, the COAs still had an increased risk of becoming alcoholics as adults compared with the general population, arguing for both a genetic and environmental cause. 

As adults, COAs are more likely than children raised without alcoholism in their families to marry an alcoholic or someone from a similar background, according to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics.

That's why raising awareness of these problems, and early intervention for at-risk kids and their families is so important. Without it, the alcoholic family perpetuates itself says Madeline Martin, Clinical Supervisor at Glenbeigh ACMC Healthcare system. Martin says it's almost uncanny, this ability to "find someone like their addicted parent in a crowded room, at a glance." 

A loving, supportive adult (a sober parent, grandparent or family friend, for example) who forms a positive bond with a child and helps that child develop coping skills can go a long way toward counteracting the negative effects of alcoholism in a family, say treatment experts.

Read the article here:

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The ACOA Trauma Syndrome


Dr. Tian Dayton blogs on The Huffington Post about Adult Children of Alcoholics and her new book, "The ACOA Trauma Syndrome"

Some highlights of the blog post:

"Adult children of alcoholics (ACoAs) can and often do suffer from some features of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that are the direct result of living with the traumatizing effects of addiction. Years after we leave behind our alcoholic homes, we carry the impact of living with addiction with us. We import past, unresolved pain into present-day relationships, but without much awareness as to how or why."

"If unresolved pain is left unattended, if it stays buried and denied, it develops a sort of psychic half life, it seeps and leaches into our emotional and psychological underground and gives root to new complexes and conditions. If however we're willing to simply face, feel and share it, miraculous things happen. We learn to think about what we feel rather than run from it. And in thinking, we make sense of what was senseless. We become whole again."

From the book: 

"Trauma is actually fairly common; most people grow up with at least four adverse childhood experiences (Anda 2006). It is not necessarily the trauma that creates lasting problematic effects, but how we deal with it (or don't deal with it) when it occurs and afterward. Much can be done to ameliorate the effects of adverse childhood experiences. Supportive people, places to go that feel safe, and moving shock into some form of consciousness so pain does not remain hidden and unspoken can take a situation that could be traumatic and turn it into something that might be less damaging and potentially even character building."

"Recovery from the ACoA trauma syndrome is all about reclaiming the fragmented parts of self that are trapped in another psychological and emotional time and place and bringing them into the here and now. It is translating hidden emotion into words so that feelings can be processed, new insight and meaning can be gained, and experiences can be knitted back together with new understanding into a coherent and present-oriented picture of the functioning self and the self in relation to others. It is learning to live in the present rather than in the past or future." 

See the entire post here:

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

6,570 Days

At least 1 in 4 children grow up in alcoholic families. According to the 2000 Census, 72 percent of American homes harbor someone with an addiction. These numbers do not take into account those living with mistreatment, abuse and neglect.

By the time they turn 18, children in these environments have experienced 160,000 hours of living with dysfunction. That's 6,570 days of shame, belittlement, neglect, criticism, manipulation, mental abuse and for many, physical and/or sexual abuse.

Perhaps a good thing to remember if recovery seems slow, is that it took a while to get where we got.

Jim Emshoff, Ph.D., explains how to start breaking the cycle:

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Breaking The Cycle

You CAN reconcile with your past. But you will need to become as aware as possible of what you have been through. And be willing to feel emotions you have been avoiding for a long time.

This can be difficult for Adult Children Of Alcoholics that have had bad experiences, trauma and grown up in dysfunctional homes. The thought of, "I've been through that once and never again!" may be the initial reaction. Long ago, survival may have dictated that these overwhelming, unbearable, horrible feelings were buried, minimized and denied. Without anyone to safely share and process them with, a child has little choice. So the vulnerable child hides these terrible feelings as best they can in order to make it through each day.

Many years later as an adult, these buried feeling continue to disrupt even though you may not realize they are still there. They may still be causing you to become "A reactor rather than an actor".  If the feelings are never processed adequately they will create negativity for the rest of your life. But now you have more resources to deal with them including your own emotional maturity, recovery insight, good support groups and qualified therapists.

Still, this is not an easy task. If it was, you would probably have already done it. It is highly recommended that a professional counselor who is experienced in this type of work be involved. Really getting in touch with the hurts of the past may make you feel like just like you did when you were a kid. The pain, sorrow and fear may feel just as strong and just as overwhelming. You may feel a depression and sadness that seems pervasive and never ending. You may cry uncontrollably. This is why you need a good, safe support system to reach out to. If you are feeling these feelings it means you are no longer quieting your inner child and are honoring his/her feelings and allowing them to be felt and expressed. That alone is a big step.

"By gradually releasing the burden of unexpressed grief, we slowly move out of the  past. We learn to reparent ourselves with gentleness, humor, love and respect."- The Solution

If you start to feel sadness or other "negative" feeling, your first instinct may be to deny and repress it. You may have been "trained" very well to do this from a young age so it may seem natural. Your critical inner voice may try to minimize and stifle. It may tell you that things weren't so bad or question what you have to complain about. Or you may use anger to avoid feeling pain.

You may find that your feelings are blocked or locked down so tightly that you are not sure what they are. Simply asking yourself, "What am I REALLY feeling inside?" and then listening for the answer may help. There is no pressure to get an answer. Just ask yourself the question several times a day and see what happens.

Try to encourage your inner child to express themselves. If you feel sadness, it may help to make empathetic statements to yourself like, "Wow, Johnny, you are really feeling sad, huh? It's ok, you have every right to feel that way and I am here for you" to encourage the child. This may sound a bit silly but when your child knows you are there supporting them they feel safer to reveal their feelings. This is positive reparenting.

American therapists John and Linda Friel have created a model for the different stages in this process:

You have to identify the things you have been through as a child.
You must experience your feelings concerning these things - it is not enough to talk about them.
You have to really feel these feelings, which means that you have to make them as strong as they were when the situation occurred.
You must share these feelings with other people.
You have to make a decision about your relationship with the person or persons who hurt you, and still are hurting you.
Not until after these steps can you begin to recover and forgive.

If you get in touch and feel deep, overwhelming emotions you may feel like you are going to lose control of yourself or that it will never end. You may be afraid of being stuck in that dark place. Many therapists believe that your body has it's own safety valve and will automatically "turn off" the feelings if they get too intense. This is when it is critical to have a support system and safety net that you can reach out to. Sharing the feelings is an important step in the process. 

"The road to liberation goes through breaking the silence and through breaking the unwillingness to see and to listen to the small child within you. In order to reach this goal you must, however, make your way through the pain - and not slide over or around it. The pain that this journey causes is the foundation for recovery."-

Again, it can be difficult to go through all this on your own. Safe, empathetic friends, family/support system and a good therapist are needed.

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Symptoms Of Codependency

Codependency and Adult Children Of Alcoholics go hand in hand. Being Codependent is not "bad". It could even be seen as a valuable coping mechanism that helps those growing up in dysfunctional families survive. This reaction may now work against us and keep us locked in unhealthy behaviors. 

 Codependent behavior may have been such an intrinsic part of our lives for so long that it may be hard to consciously realize now when we are doing it. The following list can be used as a reminder of what defines it and a yardstick to measure how far we have come:

1. External focus, never looking inside-  always focused on other person or people.

2. Tries to control behavior of others through approval-seeking and people-pleasing behavior.

3. Experiences intimacy by discounting own feelings, and empathizing with feelings of others.

4. Loss of healthy boundaries, generally resulting from doing things for others that violate one’s values, and from accepting unacceptable behavior from others.

5. Frozen feelings, numbness with regard to one’s own feelings. Depression may also result from repressed anger.

6. Low self-esteem. Self is valued according to others’ opinions. Uses martyr, victim, and messiah role to bolster self-esteem.

7. Generalized anxiety, related to lack of control of one’s life.

8. Mental preoccupation. Racing thoughts. Inability to enjoy mental silence and serenity. Inability to relax and stay in the moment.

9. Lack of assertiveness: inability to ask directly for one’s true needs. Inability to confront unhealthy behavior in others.

10. Narcissism. In the absence of healthy, legitimate boundaries, others are seen as for or against self.

Take the "Am I a codependent?" test here:

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Wisconsin Beauty Queen- Child of Alcoholics

The newly crowned beauty queen (Miss Wisconsin Central), Mariah Haberman uses her position to support fellow adult children of alcoholics, making ACOA issues her primary platform.

"I grew up in a family where alcohol was very prevalent, alcohol was always around and eventually in 2007 my step father was killed in a drunk driving accident, that obviously changed my life. And it changed my entire family's life."

Haberman believes, "Maybe we could have even saved our family if we had brought this into the open 5-10 years earlier, instead of one of my parents having to die from an issue that we kept quiet about."

She will compete in the upcoming Miss Wisconsin Pageant. The current Miss Wisconsin, Laura Kaeppeler, won the Miss America pageant in January.

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

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

16 Characteristics, Letting Go Of Anxiety, Love And Fear

16 Characteristics of Adult Children Of Alcoholics

Dr. Timmen L. Cernmak has listed SIXTEEN characteristics of Adult Children Of Alcoholics in this downloadable pamphlet. Interesting reading for both newcomers and the experienced alike. Courtesy of USC Center for Work and Family Life:

Free download: Sixteen Characteristics of ACAs

Other Informational Pamphlets include Improving Self Esteem, Coping With Grief, also Stress, Depression and others:  

How to Let Go of Anxiety, Worry, Depression

Joseph Clough is a life coach and international motivational speaker. He explains how to change your emotional state at will, quickly and easily, overcome negative thoughts and increase positivity.

Listen here:

Read Joseph Clough's Blog

More free downloads from Joseph Clough on iTunes:

 Love and Fear: The Only Two Emotions

Jodi Aman, LCSW-R, talks about how all emotions stem from just two; Love and Fear:

 Read the full post here: Love And Fear

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Closet Laundry List

Eminem - Cleanin' Out My Closet from GB on Vimeo.

Thanks to "Sparky" for contributing this and bringing it back out into the light. The original Laundry List traits are below the "Closet" traits:

The Closet Laundry List
(14 Traits of a Loving Abuser)

These are characteristics we seem to have in common due to being brought up in an alcoholic/ dysfunctional household and taking the covert victimizer role; that is, one who uses a victim position to justify imposing their will upon others or to exercise control and gain power.

1) We fear the spontaneous, authentic child and can isolate through alienation.

We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures

2) We demand compliance as a form of approval (love) and we lose emotional connection (trust) as a result.

We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process

3) The healthy protesting child frightens us and personal criticism brings fear of punishment, so we learn to retaliate.

We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism

4) We repeat patterns of compulsive abandonment, creating and reacting to false dependencies over and over again.

We either become alcoholics, marry them, or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs

5) We take the victim position; from here we can attack safely. We can hide among true victims who are often recipients of our traumatic actions.

We live life from the viewpoint of victims and are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships

6) We shift focus to others; we try to help them but we also hurt them as we pass para-alcoholic behaviors. We can stay hidden when taking the offensive.

We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves. This enables us not to look too closely at our own faults

7) We impart guilt to others to justify standing up for ourselves and declare superiority even though our words or our actions may be harmful.

We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others

8) Our drugs are other people; our own reactions provide internal hits of guilt, shame and blame that we use to continue our addiction to excitement.

We become addicted to excitement

9) We can create pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization and then run to its rescue.

We confuse love with pity and tend to "love" people who we can pity" and "rescue"

10) We cannot recognize our true feelings or the true feelings of others so we deny that we are wrong. We use angry tears that hurt and confuse.

We have stuffed our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much (denial)

11) We judge others harshly and instill a sense of fear in those around us.

We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem

12) We come to think of others as part of ourselves and we cannot tolerate their separation or independence. Our parental wounds are unhealed and we will do anything to mask the true nature of letting go and the painful abandonment feelings brought forth.

We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us

13) Our lack of drink or addiction can be a diversion. We pass trauma undetected.

Alcoholism is a family disease and we became para-alcoholics and took on the characteristics of the disease even though we did not pick up the drink

14) Covert victimizers can act/abuse openly and often get away with it.

Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors

Don C. 3/25/08

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

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Programming Forgiveness

Certainly many of the messages we learned as youngsters become so ingrained in us they are part of our subconscious belief systems. After so long, we may be scarcely aware of them and how they affect us.

Behaviorists indicate that for every one input of positive messaging there are up to 100 bits of negative! Overcoming all that negative input can be quite a challenge.

Dr. Eldon Taylor is considered one of the foremost authorities on subconscious motivation. The patented and scientifically proven technology he developed is called "InnerTalk". He was a recent guest on Coast To Coast AM with George Noory and offered his special CD/MP3 called “Forgiving and Letting Go“ for free!

According to Dr. Taylor's website, Whole Brain® InnerTalk® audio and video programs feature pleasant, easy-listening music or nature sounds that are specially mixed with positive background affirmations on the chosen self-help topic.

The positive messages on an Innertalk tape eventually overtake the negative information contained in the subconscious. They literally rescript our own inner talk thereby priming positive self beliefs which begin the cycle of self fulfilling prophecies. When this happens the subliminal beliefs that formerly were self limiting begin to change. As they do we!

InnerTalk® audio programs are extremely easy to use. They are played in the background on any music player while the user is working, driving, relaxing, reading, playing sports, even sleeping or watching TV. They can also be used while jogging, bike riding or any other activity. No conscious thought or effort is required to produce dramatic, positive and automatic results.

InnerTalk® programs may appear to work like magic, but they're based on new scientific discoveries about how we learn and process information - and how this affects our everyday life.

"I tried to create programs that would end cognitive distortion (negative/unrealistic self-talk.) These programs would systematically engineer thought modification statements that would result in overwriting the negative by priming powerful, positive thoughts." - Eldon Taylor

Taylor says that research shows that we'll live healthier if we release the anger, guilt, shame and fear that is healed by forgiveness. Forgiveness ends the fear/anger cycle.

This CD or MP3 download is free for the asking. To benefit fully, use the products at least one hour per day for 30 days.

Free Forgiveness CD

Free Forgiveness MP3 Download

There is no cost but some personal information is requested to facilitate making the recording available to you.

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

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

An Adult Child Of An Alcoholic Shares Her Story

This is from a recently published guest blogpost from Rita Malie, award-winning author of Goodbye America and Supreme Sacrifice. The post can be seen in it's entirety here:

Her book, Supreme Sacrifice, chronicles her experiences as a child of an alcoholic and her journey of forgiveness and healing.

Rita Malie says, "For children growing up in an alcoholic home, we can never truly be children. Since our parents were so consumed with their own problems, someone had to be responsible, and that someone was us. Like Janet Geringer Woititiz, author of Adult Children of Alcoholics, writes, 'The child of an alcoholic has no age.'

While it took me years to escape the shame and guilt attached to my father’s alcoholism, I hope that today’s children can use my story, and the stories of countless others, for comfort and hope. My story is just one of millions, and there is a large community of supporters ready to listen. You are not alone."

Rita's words are inspiring and if that's any indication, the book will be as well.

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Beyond "Positive Thinking"

Amazing stuff from psychologist Shaun Anchor on the "science" of happiness and success. No surprise, Anchor finds that focusing on the negative is detrimental. He claims, 90% of your long term happiness is determined by your internal world, how your brain processes the outside world.

Success doesn't equal happiness. The opposite is true. Happiness creates success.

"Think positive" has become such a cliche sound byte and rally cry that it has become practically meaningless. It is often used in a failed attempt to cheer someone up but often just results in invalidating their feelings. The good news is there is a science behind building a positive thought process. There are specific steps you can take to be more happy. How?

Meditation (Step 11)
Random Acts Of Kindness

Think of three things you are grateful for. Now write them down. Tomorrow do three more.

Also journaling each day about a positive experience, exercising, meditation and practicing random acts of kindness (as simple as writing one quick positive email each day thanking someone in your social support network). This helps you relieve stress and relive positive experiences. Your brain will begin to retain the pattern of scanning the world more for it's positive attributes.

According to Anchor, it takes just 2 minutes per day for three weeks to "rewire your brain". Your energy levels will rise, you will become more productive and your creativity will increase!

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

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Higher Power

Members of Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families 12 step groups often rely on a "higher power" for help. Sometimes people confuse this with with a requirement that they believe in God or follow some religious doctrine. This may be because the word "God" is sprinkled throughout the 12 Steps. "God" in this case, is an umbrella term representing a higher power that can be the universe, a deity, mother earth, nature, intention, the group itself or whatever you choose.

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

I think one the main points of this is to realize that there are forces OUTSIDE of ourselves that can help. Often ACAs are so isolated and resolved to fixing problems on their own, they discount the immense help that outside resources can bring. Reaching out to receive assistance may seem risky and scary.

If one had a heart dysfunction it would be foolhardy to rely on self diagnosis and treatment when there are specialists, procedures and medications available. In the same way, emotional/spiritual issues can be helped by seeking that which is beyond our limited personal capacities.

Only when we allow the possibility from help outside of ourselves can we acknowledge, accept and utilize that help when it arrives. This could be something as simple as a friend who offers assistance to something greater. Can you imagine a drowning man refusing to grab onto the life preserver that was thrown to him? You may be able to think of someone in your life that steadfastly refused the help that would have easily and simply solved a big problem for them. It's quite possible that each of us has a similar mindset on some issue(s).

It's ironic that those issues that cause the most fear and pain are often the ones that make people stubbornly resolve to fight on alone and the refuse help that could lead to resolution. Fear often leads to rigid attempts to control and deflection of offers of assistance.

Accepting help from outside means we must first admit some level of powerlessness (Step 1), realize that we are not Superman/Wonder Woman and be willing to try something new. It means that there may be a better way to resolve our issues than what we have limited ourselves to in the past. This admission is not always easy. But logic would dictate that if what we tried previously (i.e. fixing it all by ourselves) hasn't worked to our satisfaction, it may be in our best interest to expand our horizons and be willing to consider what other options and alternatives for help exist.

Accepting the assistance that an outside power may harness means we claim the intention to overcome being needlessly stuck in a cycle of failure. There is little to no downside to being open to a helping hand.

Far from being a religious dogma, this is a practical application of effective problem solving.

For those that are interested, there is even an agnostic version of The Twelve Steps.

What is your Higher Power and how does it help you?

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