ACA Step One

Fellow Travelers

“Each ACA member is equal to the next and has an equal value regardless of job status or career track. We are all adult children who relate to one another at the level of empathy instead of the level of employment.” BRB p. 528

In the rooms of recovery, we may sit next to a doctor, a priest, a janitor, a housewife, or just about any profession we can think of. But who are we really sitting next to? We are sitting next to another adult child, with all of the fears, insecurities and trauma that can entail. In a society where our worth appears to be measured in material things or the position we hold, there are few other places besides a 12 Step meeting where we are all on equal footing, where no one of us makes decisions for the others.

In ACA we are spiritual beings going through a human experience. We are reaching out to each other for the love and understanding that was not given to us in our family of origin. We celebrate each other’s victories and support each other in our times of sorrow.

Success in ACA is not measured with money or social status, but with inner peace and serenity. We share our experience, strength and hope with each other as we laugh together, cry together and know that we are home.

On this day I know that in this world I am not alone as long as I have my fellow travelers.

This excerpt is from our daily meditation book, Strengthening My Recovery, which can be purchased at a local meeting or online. You can also signup to receive the Daily Meditation by Email on the WSO page; https://adultchildren.org/.


Step One ACA Powerlessness Questions

How is powerlessness different than helplessness?

Powerlessness means that I am powerless over the actions of others, over the past, over the dysfunction that happened around me as a child, that I am powerless over the effects of growing up in an alcoholic and otherwise dysfunctional home, that I am powerless over the effects of trauma, child abuse, neglect, domestic violence, surviving a parental suicide, emotional abuse, and other childhood and family difficulties; powerlessness means I am not responsible for these things, I didn’t cause them, can’t cure them, and can’t control them. It means I don’t need to feel responsible for them, I don’t need to feel bad for them, I don’t need to feel ashamed because of them, I don’t need to feel ashamed, defective, unlovable, damaged, “wrong”, unworthy, ineffectual, or any other judgments because of these things, because they are not a statement about me, they are not a reflection of me, and I can stop reflecting them in my behavior, attitudes, and beliefs; I can stop being a reflection of these experiences. This means I am free to choose a new way of life; I am free to choose again; I am free from this moment on, I am free to free myself from these old shackles, I am free to release these old ways of being and reacting and thinking and behaving and believing and perceiving, I am free to be free, free to be me, free to leave all that behind, free to free myself from my old family dynamics, free to free myself from my family’s past, free to be separate, free to be autonomous, free to choose my own identity and free to choose my own destiny.

Helplessness, in contrast, was a learned behavior that I had picked up as a result of being raised in a dysfunctional household. Learned helplessness was a reaction to being raised in an abusive home. I learned to be helpless because I learned that at the time, it wasn’t safe for me to stand up for myself, to protect myself, to demand decent living conditions and a decent emotional and physical and family and social environment, my survival depended on my ability to repress my healthy mechanisms of living and associating and relating, and my survival depended on my repressing and suppressing my true self, my healed self, my healthy ways of adapting and dealing with situations, my constructive impulses. If I had had these intact at the time, I would probably not be alive today, because I probably would have been killed. So, as the smart savvy child and being that I was and am, I suppressed my natural reactions to these situations in order to survive, suppressed my natural healing impulses and adopted malfunctioning, dysfunctional behaviors and beliefs, with the hope that one day I would be able to go back and recognize these and undo them, to uncover my true self, and to unleash the past and all that was done to me, to heal and to be able to be the real me inside and outside, to share myself with the world.

My Recovery Journal
Tuesday, March 19, 2013


My Parents Did Not Drink But I Can Relate
“Out of the Playpen”

My parents never drank a drop of alcohol in their lives, nor did their parents before them. They were highly respected members of the church. I read somewhere that our earliest childhood memory is often symbolic of our lives. My earliest memory is sitting in a playpen on a front veranda, feeling alone, trapped, and unable to get out.

I was born and raised in a little farming town. After my parents married, three babies were born in three years, and my mother had no idea how to cope with us. My father worked in the medical field and constantly brought home drugs and pills for mother’s nerves and migraines.

In our family, there was a very sharp distinction between the family image in the community and what I actually saw at home. To the community my parents were esteemed leaders and church workers, models of family life and community service. Our family life at home was actually far from this idealistic picture.

My father was a workaholic, always “on-call.” When not at work he attended meetings for a myriad of community organizations. One of his addictions was to become president of every organization he joined. My mother struggled at home with her nerves, her migraines, and her children. When I misbehaved, I was beaten, even though my misdeeds were never more than average childhood explorations. Mother’s worst threat was that she would walk out of the house and down the road, taunting us with, “See! I’m leaving you until you learn to behave.” Crying, we would plead for her to come back and promise behavioral perfection.

I became a workaholic like my father and almost as neurotic as my mother. I was unable to sustain any kind of meaningful, intimate relationship. By the time I was forty I had the same dual world as my parents: a wholesome public image of success and service and a private life of loneliness, suppressed feelings, and sexual dysfunction.

I found a therapist who helped me explore the long-lost child imprisoned in the playpen of my soul. One day he mentioned that I might find meetings for Adult Children of Alcoholics helpful. I thought he hadn’t been listening when I told him of my family’s history of proud sobriety. He said I didn’t have to join, pay, or say anything, so I went to a meeting. I was shocked. “The Problem” was the story of my life. It all fit. It is five years later now, and I am still working the program. With the help of my Higher Power, I claim my life and spirit separate from the web of past family dysfunction.

The miraculous combination of therapy and working the Twelve Steps set me free from the prison of my childhood playpen to explore and experience my real and unique self.

This excerpt is from Chapter 3 of the ACA Fellowship Text (the Big Red Book), which can be purchased at a local meeting or online.


ACA Nederlands – ACA Intergroup IG#711
ACA Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families