Adult Children of Alcoholics or Family Dysfunction is a phrase that is meant to provide hope for those who have grown up in alcoholic or other dysfunctional families. It is a group of people that have come together and realized that they have so many of the same struggles. It is not limited to just families of alcoholics. Many people ask if they are welcome or if they can be apart of a group where alcoholism didn't happen within the family system. My answer to that is "yes". 'If you identify with feelings of shame or abandonment then you have a place in the group. ACA is an identified group that have found a new way to live, having unraveled their story not only making sense of it but having found healing. This healing has then enabled them to change. For so many, they have found themselves reliving through marriage and parenting the very traits they vowed not to have as a child. It is not meant to be a label but more to be an term to help many who have felt so alone for so long. The two big themes that so many in this group have felt is shame and abandonment. Adult Children are survivors and have been surviving. Many learned to cope in ways that helped them when they were young but now have found that many of the survival techniques are actually the things that are creating the most struggle. Many Adult Children are plagued by fear and shame and can't seem to shake it. Counseling can aid in the process, along with working with a sponsor, to help untangle one's story especially around trauma. This group is about hope. Adult Children often refer to the laundry list (14 traits) that help crystalize their struggle which are as follows: 

The Laundry List – 14 Traits of an Adult Child of an Alcoholic

  1. We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.

  2. We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.

  3. We are frightened of angry people and any personal criticism.

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

  6. 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, etc.

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

  8. We became addicted to excitement.

  9. We confuse love and pity and tend to "love" people we can "pity" and "rescue."

  10. 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 ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.

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

  14. Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors.

Written by Tony A., 1978 taken from Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization, Inc.