Adult Children of Alcoholics’ first promise states that “We will discover our real identities [our True Self] by loving and accepting ourselves.” Many of the other promises contain qualities that our True Self will attain, such as being playful and fun or learning how to be both vulnerable and intimate.

These and other program promises sound wonderful, but how do we attain them? For me, the answer is much more than going to meetings and working the steps.  I need to carry program principles into specific actions in every area of my life, including my work, family and relationships. And I need to write down action steps, to keep myself accountable.

I looked at my life and wrote a personal vision statement for how to become my True Self in ACA, but also at home, with family and friends and with the work I do in the world:

I will act as my True Self as a teacher and writer, as a supporter of those in 12-step recovery, as a mother and grandmother who delights in and affirms her children and as a partner and friend who speaks the truth, names my feelings and is emotionally available.

Next, I wrote specific actions to keep myself accountable for my vision.

My Program.

Action Steps. I will:

  1. Turn my thoughts and acts over to a higher power that desires recovery for me and everyone.
  2. Attend meetings regularly.
  3. Record Inner Loving Parent words and listen to them.
  4. Write personal Affirmations and repeat them.
  5. Keep a program journal and write in it regularly.
  6. Reparent my Inner Child by recognizing when she is triggered and telling her I will love and protect her and will not leave her.
  7. Look for success in program and write them down.
  8. Connect with other Adult Children regularly to support and nurture them.
  9. Discuss major decisions with a fellow traveler before I say “yes.”

I have five years in ACA. I’ve worked through the Yellow Step book four times: with a fellow traveler, with a sponsee, with a step group, and as the leader of a step group.  I worked the Laundry List Trait workbook with a fellow traveler.  I read the daily meditation from Strengthening my Recovery and text about it with a fellow traveler. These steps are the “basics” of working a program. For me, that is not enough.

In addition, I work my program by recording loving words from my Inner Loving Parent and listening to them frequently.  I wrote individual affirmations and read them regularly. For example, I wrote “I do not need to write lists to feel okay.” It doesn’t stop me from making lists, but it reminds me that I am not the sum of my projects and commitments.

When I am stirred up or triggered by a person or situation, I pause and ask for help.  I breathe.  I call a fellow traveler. I write about it.  I speak out loud to my Inner Child, ask her why she is upset, and remind her that she is safe, that I will not leave her, and guide her through her fears.

Service

Action Steps: I will:

  1. Turn my thoughts and acts over to a higher power that desires recovery for me and everyone.
  2. Volunteer to be a part of my state Intergroup.
  3. Volunteer to help with World Service Organization.
  4. Write about ACA and publish articles.
  5. Step aside and nurture others into leadership when I am tempted to be a “leader.”
  6. Volunteer to speak at AA meetings and talk about ACA.

I started my ACA meeting with a group of five other women five years ago.  Today, two of the original founders still attend meetings.  I find that people look to us as “leaders.” Organizing comes easily to me.  But I also like the prestige of being a “leader.” One of AA’s slogans is that “God is doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” Recently I was embarrassed to realize that I had set the date for our ACA 5th year anniversary celebration on the same day as my granddaughter’s third birthday in Texas. After taking a deep breath, I realized God was reminding me that I am not all that important.  The anniversary will be perfect, with or without me.  But sometimes I need a nudge.

I believe that alcoholism is a family disease and that AA, Al Anon, and ACA all have an important part in my recovery. Part of my role as an alcoholic with 13 years of sobriety is to carry the message of ACA to those in A.A.  So far, in Connecticut, this is not particularly welcome. I requested on behalf of Intergroup that ACA participate in AA conventions. The last two years, we were denied.   I know from personal experience many alcoholics would find healing and emotional sobriety if they knew about ACA. Therefore I will take speaking engagements at AA meetings and say I am an Adult Child. I will talk about the healing that is available in ACA. I may not always be popular for doing so but I believe it is important.

My Work/Volunteer Life

Action Plans. I will:

  1. Turn my thoughts and acts over to a higher power that desires recovery for me and everyone.
  2. Conduct Recovery Writers groups.
  3. Write and publish about my life.
  4. Teach courses that align with my commitments.

I have heard a number of Adult Children say they are not sure who they are meant to be in the world or what job they are supposed to be doing.  One key is to ask where as a child I felt happy, joyous, and free. Where have I had spiritual experiences which brought joy to my life? After many years in another profession, I switched to teaching writing and being a writer. I know writing brought me joy as a child. In fourth grade, I wrote for a contest that a piece of music that played on the radio sounded like fairies dancing in the snow. Not very original, I know, but when the program host read my words on the radio, with all my fellow fourth graders in the room, I recall being proud and happy. Today I can use that memory as a touchstone to my true calling, which is to write about recovery and help other people write for their recovery

My Family Life.

Action Plans. I will:

  1. Turn my thoughts and acts over to a higher power that desires recovery for me and everyone.
  2. Talk about how program is helping me grow and change.
  3. Lighten up.
  4. Play and have fun with my grandchildren.
  5. Overcome my fear of starting a fight or provoking an angry response.

I live in a family that is not in recovery. For many years my husband would ask me when I return from my meeting how was the meeting and I would say “fine.”  I noticed that I was not really talking about my program at home because I felt that there was no listening for it and that it was pointless. Today I see things differently. Today it seems to me that I can reparent my Inner Child by speaking about my program as a part of my truth both to people in program and to people outside program. Whether they “get it “or not is not up to me. But if I am withholding a critical part of who I am in the world from those who love me the most I am doing me and them a disservice.

By pausing when I am agitated, I allow myself to hold my upsets lightly. By enjoying my toddler grandchild, I connect with the beauty and wonder of the world. I can literally see through her eyes an entirely new perspective.

My Personal Relationships

Action Plans. I will:

  1. Look for success in other people and acknowledge it.
  2. Thank people for their part in contributing to my life. Acknowledge them for their accomplishments.
  3. Practice being vulnerable.

When I was lonely and feeling different, when life seemed filled with meaningless “light” conversation, I recall longing to be connected with people with whom I could have a “real” conversation. Thanks to program, I have that in my life today.  I feel listened to and valued as my True Self.  I offer that to others.

I know that my traits can interfere with my being vulnerable and approachable.

Recently I was in a hotel in foreign city by myself. I wanted to call room service because my Inner Child is afraid to go out to eat by herself.  She is afraid people will feel sorry for her, will think she is a loser, or will give her unwanted attention that makes her uncomfortable.  I talked her through her fears.  We got dressed up and went out to dinner alone.  It was a success. When I told this story, I realized that sharing my vulnerability is how I connect with others.

9 Comments

  1. A lovely and comprehensive piece of writing. Food for thought as I sift through the consequences fo my own past, and current, situations.

    • I’m so grateful you took the time and found the courage to write this. I need to hear and absorb this right now.
      I am feeling vulnerable and lonely…having been traveling much this past 1.5 months…to be a part of trauma relief in the Bahamas…though my health and the health of my sobriety is suffering.
      I need fellowship. There were no meetings avail for me to receive my 10 yr medallion last month…feeling sad about this.
      Re as living the work ahead of me, in order to bolster my sob5…I am truly grateful for this post.
      (…and. I’ve always had a difficult time seeing/ accepting that ACA and AA need to be at separate ends CV of the dining table!)

  2. AS I read this I immediately remembered my journey to forgiving my father who was a violent alcoholic when I was growing up. It took me several years and much coaching from my sponsor and my trauma therapist before I became willing to forgive dad and make amends for my part of the action. It happened on a Christmas Eve and I immediately experienced a Christmas Miracle. Up until this point I had only remembered all the “bad” things dad did. But that evening as I waited to chair an ACA Meeting with about 150 people I started getting flashbacks of all the wonderful things my dad did for me and our family. This healing allowed me to have a wonderful relationship with my father for the last decade of his life.
    Onward & Upward With Hope,
    Steve G.

    • I’m sure you’re a friend of Bill W. You sound like it anyway. I never read all you said, but I liked it.
      Keep up the good news d work. I’m a friend of Bill W and I am currently working on Emotional Soberity, when he wrote about it last century.
      Have a sober day.
      Des

  3. Angie Klingenberg Reply

    It is so easy to get caught up in life’s events.
    Thank you for the reminder of what I need to
    do to stay happy joyous and free.

  4. Great stuff to follow. We have to let go and Let God and to forgive. Thanks for the great post.

  5. I have enjoyed your writings and appreciate your plug for ACA as I also think its so important to get to the interior work and little girl so I can understand myself better.Where can I get your book.You keep it simple and also informative and I can feel what a nice person you are.Thank you.

  6. Love it, especially the lists (ha ha). I feel I need the same spread of recovery (and S-Anon). I tell myself: don’t make up stories about other people, talk WITH them. It’s usually a lot less scary than I think it will be.

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