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The Adult Children ACA Blog

Orange County, CA Adult Child
Of Alcoholics (ACA/ACOA)
& Dysfunctional Families (ACODF)

Turning Point

Turning Point- Low Cost Counseling
Check Out These Video Solutions:

I think I'm a rescuer. Why do I feel like I have to help everyone?

Relationship Boundaries

How do I forgive someone if I am still hurt by them?

How to deal with toxic people

I have a hard time saying "no" when someone asks me to help them. What should I do?

How to handle dysfunctional people

My mother was dysfunctional in her parenting of me. Is it ok to be angry with her?
adult child of alcoholic

MP3 Audio From ACA
Recovery Experts Speak- Click HERE to listen!

ACA Music Player

If you are in the LA or Orange County area, join Us
every Tuesday at 6:45 pm Mesa Verde United Methodist Church at the NW corner of Baker & Mesa Verde. Address: 1701 Baker St. Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Click HERE for a Google Map.

Look for the ACA signs and follow them to Fellowship Hall. Steps, Readings, Discussion (sharing is optional), Post Meeting Socializing. Adults only please.

Sunday College Hospital 5:30 pm meeting at 275 Victoria (west Of Newport Blvd.), Costa Mesa, CA 92627 Ground Floor- Room B. Click HERE for a Google Map.

ACA meeting on Tuesdays at 6:30 pm- St. Johns Lutheran Church 154 S. Schaffer St. Orange, CA 92867, Rm #215. Click HERE for a Google Map. Look for the ACA signs.

Contact Email: OC Adult Children orangecountyadultchildren(at)

The only requirement for membership in ACA is a desire to recover from the effects of growing up in an alcoholic and/or dysfunctional family.

orange county aca acoa meeting

Come to six meetings in a row and begin an irreversible process of recovery!

We meet to share the experiences we had as children growing up in an alcoholic and/or dysfunctional home... Look around and you will see others who shared that experience... We wish, at last, to find and be our real selves.

Your confidentiality and anonymity is always respected and protected.

Recommended Reading:

The 12 Steps For Adult Children                                        Lifeskills for Adult Children

The 12 Steps For Adult Children                 Lifeskills for Adult Children
from RPI Publishing                                          from Health Communications Inc.

Available at and many book stores.

ACA Fellowship Text                                                Twelve Steps Of Adult Children

ACA Fellowship Text (Big Red Book)                 Twelve Steps Of Adult Children                                                                                          Workbook

Available at

ACA Links:

Read posts from fellow ACAs and post your own messages!

Other ACA Meetings, ACOA Meetings, Adult Child Of Alcoholic Meetings
Find a meeting in your area

No ACA meeting near you? You also qualify for Al-Anon:

Find An Al-Anon Meeting Here
Sharing Experience Strength and Hope

Links to Online Recovery Resources including:

-On Line Meetings
-Message Boards
-Chat Rooms
-Self Help Video
-Articles & Information

  On Line Meetings, ACA Chat Rooms And Message Boards

  Watch ACA Recovery Videos

  Listen To ACA Recovery Audio

  Read Articles, Check Out Other Recovery Sites

ACA Readings:

Common Characteristics
Does this sound like you?

The Problem
This is a description, not an indictment

The Solution
The healing begins when we risk moving out of isolation

12 Steps
The pathway to change

ACA Affirmations
What a balanced life looks like

ACA Promises
The goals of recovery

The 12 Traditions
ACA policies and guidelines

Assorted Prayers

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

What Is An Adult Child?

Adult Child Behavior

Take the Adult Child of Alcoholic Screening Quiz

Do My Parents Need To Be Alcoholics?

What Is A Dysfunctional Family?

Coming Out Of Denial

What Happens At ACA Meetings?

Listening And Contributing

What Is The Cost?

What Is Co-Dependency?

Find YOUR ACA Type Here

What Is Recovery?

When Will I Get Better?

Do I Need To Get A Sponsor?

What Are The "Twelve Steps"?

Is ACA A Religion?

What If There Is No Meeting Near Me?
On Line Recovery Resources

For Newcomers

Congratulations for taking a positive step to improve your life!

This ACA/ACOA website is here to serve the needs and facilitate the recovery of adults who were raised in dysfunctional families.
"Dysfunction" can be present in families with or without the use of alcohol or other illicit substances. ACA/ACOA/ACODF are umbrella terms that includes ALL chronic dysfunctional behaviors including abuse, neglect and addictions that lead to childhood trauma. They include but are not limited to:

-battering/physical abuse of one or more family members
-inappropriate sexual behavior/sexual abuse
-emotional abuse/neglect
-chemical dependency
-compulsive eating/dieting
-compulsive gambling

 "Adult children" may have many different backgrounds but can still be helped by similar recovery methods. ACA groups provide a safe environment where members are encouraged to recover alongside other adult children. This safe environment is created at regularly scheduled meetings where emotional sharing and social fellowship is encouraged.

What Is An "Adult Child"?

"Adult Child" carries a double meaning: the Adult who is trapped in the fears and reactions of a Child, and the Child who was forced to be an Adult without going through the natural stages that would result in a healthy Adult.

Brief Timeline: The Early ACA/ACOA Movement- 1969- Canadian therapist Margaret Cork offered the first modern study on the children of alcoholic families in The Forgotten Children.

1977- In New York City, a small group of Al-Anon members discovered they were all the children of alcoholics. They started the first "Children of Alcoholics" meeting.

Late 1970s- a New Jersey based therapist began working with a group consisting of adults who had been raised in alcoholic homes. The result of this group was the ground-breaking 1982 book, Adult Children Of Alcoholics by Janet Geringer-Woititz.

In her book, Dr. Woititz describes the basic characteristics of an Adult Child of Alcoholics. Her list consisted of observations of the group of ACAs she facilitated. Her "List of Characteristics" and the "Laundry List," used in the New York COA meetings, eventually emerged at the 1984 ACA CSB/IWSO Business Conference as
"The Problem".

1979- Newsweek magazine published an ACA article about Dr. Claudia Black, Dr. Stephanie Brown and Sharon Wegscheider. The article was the first nationwide announcement that family alcoholism could and did cause life-long patterns of dysfunctional behavior even for those who never took a drink.

Black and others were saying that the disease of family dysfunction had long-range effects on the children, who became adults. The children were affected by the alcoholism even though they were not necessarily putting alcohol into their bodies.

By some estimates, there are over 30 million adults that grew up in alcoholic homes in the United States. Add to that the number of people raised with other types of family dysfunction and the total goes a lot higher. Some have referred to the growing number of people involved in this type of recovery as the "adult anonymous" movement.

How Does ACA Behavior Manifest Itself?

A person from a dysfunctional and/or alcoholic family often acts as an "adult child". They have not yet reached the goal of becoming a fully emotionally developed adult. This deficit is most apparent during times of stress, crisis or conflict.

If you are a child of an alcoholic or dysfunctional parent or family system, you may share many of the
"Common Characteristics" of ACAs and ACOAs. Problems with anger, intimacy, difficulty handling criticism, fears of rejection and abandonment are a few of these.

Adult children of alcoholics often retain their childhood patterns. The super-responsible child may grow into an adult who demands perfectionism. The child who is the family's scapegoat may have legal or financial troubles throughout life. The child who used to adjust to anything may be passive and withdrawn as an adult. And the family clown may grow up to be entertaining, but irresponsible.

An adult child of an alcoholic may be anxious, may try to control events and relationships, may have trouble being intimate, may be chronically depressed or have stress-related health problems. Many adult children of alcoholics either become chemically dependent themselves or marry alcoholics.

"The alcoholic family has been described broadly as one of chaos, inconsistency, unpredictability, unclear roles, arbitrariness, changing limits, arguments, repetitious and illogical thinking, and perhaps violence and incest."   (from Safe Passage: Recovery for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Stephanie Brown)

The family is dominated by the presence and the denial of alcoholism and dysfunction. This becomes a major family secret, most often denied inside the family and certainly denied to outsiders. This secret becomes a governing principle around which the family organizes its adaptations, its coping strategies, and its shared beliefs, to maintain its structure and hold the family together.

The skills ACA/ACOAs developed in order to survive the insanity they were once trapped in now work against them in adulthood. These defenses keep them from growing beyond their adult child reactions and fulfilling their potential.

Growing up with an alcoholic parent is both a common experience and a unique experience. It is the similarities among those from alcoholic families that led to the adoption of the label "Adult Child of an Alcoholic" many years ago.

Obviously, having lived day to day in a family that is like this can continue to affect you even as an adult. It is important to learn about the unique and specific ways that you were affected.

Take the Adult Child of Alcoholic Screening Quiz

Do My Parents Need To Be Alcoholics?

No! If you can identify with
The Problem or have several of the Common Characteristics, ACA will benefit you.

Family dysfunction can be any condition that interferes with healthy family functioning. Most families have some periods of time where functioning is impaired by stressful circumstances- death in the family, a parent's serious illness, etc.

Healthy families tend to return to normal functioning after the crisis passes. In dysfunctional families, problems tend to be chronic and children do not consistently get their needs met. Negative patterns of parental behavior tend to be dominant in these children's lives.

A dysfunctional family is one characterized by:

-extreme rigidity in family rules
-little or no communication
-high levels of tension and/or arguing
-extended periods of silence, blame and avoidance as primary coping mechanisms
-overall message of "don't feel, don't talk, don't trust"

The family problem can take many different forms such as:

-battering/physical abuse of one or more family members
-inappropriate sexual behavior/sexual abuse
-emotional abuse/neglect
-chemical dependency
-compulsive eating/dieting
-compulsive gambling

Some kinds of dysfunctional parenting:


Parents who consistently put their own need before those of their children or who do not possess the tools to deal with the emotional needs of children. This type of dysfunction may not be as overt or apparent as others but it is no less damaging. Children tend to take on adult responsibilities from a young age in these families. Parental emotional needs tend to take precedence. Children are robbed of their own childhood, and they learn to ignore their own needs and feelings.


Dominating, controlling parents fail to allow their children to assume normal responsibilities. Children grow into adulthood feeling resentful, inadequate and powerless.


Growing up in a chaotic and unpredictable environment leads to mistrust of others, difficulty with emotional expression and difficulties with intimate relationships that carries over into adulthood.


Verbal, physical, or sexual abuse can create an environment of terror for the child who then grows into adulthood carrying feelings of self-loathing, shame and worthlessness.

Types Of Dysfunctional Families

To deal with a dysfunctional family is not only to deal with whatever they say the problem is- father's drinking, mother's temper, the child's truancy, etc., but also to deal with an intricate system of illusions and myths that the family relies on to keep it whole.

Take the "Am I Affected By Family Dysfunction?" Quiz

"People who has come far enough out of denial to recognize the personal validity of 'The Problem' demonstrate a capacity for personal responsibility that is unusual to say the least. They have earned recognition as one of the toughest, sanest, psychologically strongest people the world knows."

Shouldn't I Just Forget About The Past?

Denial can feel like a very safe, comfortable place. Unfortunately, it can have dire consequences.

ACOAs often adapt to the chaos and inconsistency of an alcoholic home by developing an inability to trust, an extreme need to control, excessive sense of responsibility and denial of feelings resulting in low self-esteem, depression, isolation, guilt, and difficulty maintaining satisfying relationships. These and other problems often persist throughout adulthood.

Adult children of alcoholics are prone to experience a range of psychological difficulties including learning disabilities, anxiety, eating disorders, over-achieving and other forms of compulsive behavior.

Unresolved issues have a negative effect on every aspect of both intimate and casual relationships. An inability to trust and connect with other people can have an immeasurable impact on your quality of life. Your ability to communicate, connect, effectively resolve conflicts and express joy are all diminished.

According to
The ACE Study (Adverse Childhood Experiences), ACE survivors are more likely during adolescence to experience early initiation of smoking, sexual activity and illicit drug use, pregnancies and suicide attempts.

Unresolved childhood trauma can lead to a 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.

What Happens At Our ACA/ACOA Meeting?

ACA and ACOA meetings are places where adult children of alcoholic and/or dysfunctional families can safely come out of isolation and share and listen with other adult children, in an environment of empathy and acceptance. At our Adult Child Of Alcoholic Meeting, we use the 12 Steps adopted from AA and rely on our "higher power" to help us improve our lives.

You may have fears and apprehensions about coming to a recovery related meeting. All of us were once new to ACA. We know what it is like to feel like a square peg in a round hole. Keep in mind that a majority of the population qualifies to come to meetings like ours. The only difference is, those who actually attend meetings have decided to take an active role in improving their lives. Our meetings are designed to be friendly. Relax and make yourself at home.

Our ACA meetings are structured to include periods for readings, individual sharing (optional), announcements, and social discussion after the meeting (also optional). Free ACA and recovery related literature is available.

In the meetings you are likely to hear stories from members' personal experiences (both past and present) that you will immediately identify with. You will also hear how they have coped and how they are learning to overcome past experiences and present difficulties... how they are learning to live happier and healthier lives. "Homework", goal setting and working the 12 steps is encouraged.

Please keep an open mind. We believe that the only way to heal the past and to stop recreating the chaos of our childhood is to finally allow ourselves to acknowledge the truth. We feel the feelings and work through them. Denial and repression helped us survive in the past. Now we need to begin to love.

We suggest that you attend at least six meetings before you decide whether or not ACA is the place for you. We hope that the information you find here will help to demystify our fellowship for you and help you in your recovery. Should you decide to attend our meeting we will welcome you into an environment of understanding and a safe place to share your feelings!

What We Do Not Do at Meetings

We do not...

-Engage in
-Comment on what others say
-Offer advice
-Distract others from the person speaking by word, whisper, gesture, noise or movement
-Violate the anonymity of others
-Repeat what is said in meetings (in any context)

What Is Crosstalk?

We Encourage The Use Of "I" Statements!

How To Use "I" Statements

Am I Required To Participate In ACA?

No. You do not need to speak or offer your services to ACA in any way. Anything you say at a meeting, anything you undertake to do for your group or for ACA as a whole is entirely voluntary. We will always respect your right to say "No" if there is anything you do not want to do.

However, it is with love and respect that we hope you will participate in ACA, either by sharing your feelings at a meeting, leading a meeting, becoming a group volunteer such as Secretary or Literature person, or in any other capacity. Even if you want to come to a meeting early just to help set up chairs, we appreciate it! We are all needed here.

We have found that participation is helpful for our own growth and we are grateful for whatever you may contribute to this fellowship. Remember, even just your attendance is appreciated. Your presence in meetings helps us in our recovery and the most important person in ACA sits in your chair. Without you, there would be no meeting.

The Art Of Active Listening

What Is The Cost?

No dues or fees are required for membership. According to our Seventh Tradition, we are a self-supporting group. Contributions are voluntary and most of our members offer a small donation at each meeting they attend to help keep our organization running. All of our members are unpaid volunteers and do not receive financial compensation.

What Is Co-Dependency?

It is assumed that all ACAs are co-dependents but we each act out this illness in a different way.

According to Wikipedia:

Codependence is described as a disease that originates in dysfunctional families where children learn to overcompensate for their parent's disorders and develop an excessive sensitivity to other's needs. The term "dysfunctional family" originally referred only to families with patterns of interaction associated with alcoholism. It is now, however, recognized as a disease occurring in family systems based on "denial" or "shame-based rules."

This includes a wide-spectrum of pathological emotional interactions in families, but there is always an avoidance of confrontation and inability to resolve conflict. This is sometimes described in terms like "enmeshment" or "blurred ego boundaries." Adult children of dysfunctional families often suffer from a sense of confusion and deprivation that has continued into their adult life- a feeling of "not knowing what normal is"- that has become an anguished desire to recover something emotionally missing in their upbringing.

Basically, there are two general concepts:

1. As children growing up in an alcoholic or dysfunctional home environment, we learned to hide or dissociate our feelings, our true selves (also knows as the "Inner Child") and we adopted a survival role in order to cope with the stresses.

Experts in the field of alcoholism have identified four main roles which although are not always mutually exclusive, seem apparent in all children from dysfunctional homes. These roles include: The Hero, The Scapegoat, The Mascot and The Lost Child. Most of us discover that we identify with one or more of these roles, and are in the process of trying to separate our true selves from our childhood role.

Find YOUR ACA Type Here

2. In relationships, many ACAs find that, as a result of the traumatic bonding with our sick parents, we are now drawn to relationships with alcoholics, addicts or other dysfunctional people. We become addicted to these dysfunctional people to the point that our own lives revolve around them to our own detriment. We have difficulty in "letting go" because we convince ourselves that we need these people in order to feel fulfilled.

In short, co-dependents are "people pleasers". We have lived our lives focused on significant others in our lives rather than living from our own beingness, adapting to the wants and needs of others rather than from our own agenda.

In ACA we give up this "other centeredness" and begin (perhaps for the first time) to be "self-centered". Not in the narrow, egotistical or narcissistic sense, but in a healthy way that builds self-esteem and self-confidence. We learn to love ourselves.

This is sometimes referred to as "re-parenting" or "self-parenting". We are re-programming our inner child, giving up the "old tapes", the beliefs and the projections of our parents. We grieve our losses and become the ones we are, rather than what someone else tried to make us.

What Is Recovery?

Perhaps, more aptly, we should call it "discovery". We begin to discover who we really are, what really happened to us (validation) and what we can do about it. We gain a sense of inner peace, self-confidence and connectedness (within ourselves and the rest of the world). Once you have come to ACA and have identified with the symptoms or issues we have in common, the process has begun.

Having begun, your life will begin to change, though it may not always be immediately apparent. Be forewarned, that it is not always a pleasant road. But as they say, "no pain, no gain".

How Long Before I Start To Get Well?

Many find the initial step of attending meetings, sharing with others, coming out of isolation and realizing they are not alone gives them an immediate boost. Each individual improves at their own pace.

Those ACA members who make the greatest gains in the shortest amount of time are using the tools of recovery. While each case is different, the experts generally feel that on average, it may take three to five years before things begin to level out for you. But the rewards are worth the effort.

Be patient with yourself and share with us what you are going through. We are here to listen. We will not tell you that you are wrong or that you are crazy. We accept you as you are.

How Do I Know If I Am Doing It Right?

Effective recovery actions vary with each person. Other ACAs will be able to share what has worked for them or give an opinion on questions you may have.

Recovery Tools:

-Using the telephone, email and online communications
-Reading recovery related materials
-Writing about your own experiences and feelings (journaling)
-Defining and enforcing boundaries
-Building a personal support network
-Working The 12 Steps
-Volunteering your time to help others in need

You may not ever be "perfect" but there will be significant positive change. We each make progress in our own way, at our own pace and should not compare ourselves to others. This is an opportunity for you to become the beautiful, loveable you that you were meant to be.

Whatever problems you are experiencing right now, remember that "this too shall pass".

Is There "Sponsorship" In ACA?

We support co-sponsorship as opposed to sponsorship. Those who have been in other Twelve Step programs, such as AA and Al-Anon will be familiar with the concept of "Sponsorship". This is where a long-standing member in the program works with a newcomer as a guide and mentor.

In our group we are neither opposed to the idea or in favor of it. We feel that with our individual histories, we are pre-disposed to "care-taking" others rather than taking care of ourselves. For many of us this has had dire consequences. There is a fine line between effective sponsorship and co-dependence. Therefore, we have opted for the concept of "co-sponsorship".

Co-sponsorship means that we encourage the exchange of names, phone numbers and email addresses between members, whether newcomers or old timers. We "share" our experiences, strength and hope with one another as caring brothers and sisters who are all on the road to recovery.

There is no seniority here. We take it "One Day At A Time". We all have something to share which might benefit another, regardless of our length of time in the program. We are all in need of love and support because after all, life can be a challenge! Remember that the time and energy you invest in personal contacts between meetings will be returned to you in full measure.

What Are The "Twelve Steps"?

The Twelve Steps are only one of a variety of tools of recovery that are offered in our fellowship. Using or discussing the twelve steps is strictly voluntary. "Take what you need and leave the rest" is our motto. Taken from the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, we have modified this spiritual tool to better suit the needs of our members.

At our meetings, one will hear such spiritual terms as "God", "Higher Power", "Moral Inventory", etc. We use such terms in a spiritual sense. In any case, one has the wide and complete freedom to have one's own understanding of such terms. We do not impose definitions on anyone. Our aim is to improve our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. The Twelve Steps are just one tool, amongst many, that we can choose to use or not.

The Agnostic 12 Steps
A slightly different version.

Is ACA A Religion?

ACA is not a religion. The Twelve Steps are a program for personal recovery from addiction and compulsive behavior. They have proven effective even when all attempts at control or cessation by virtue or willpower have failed. Originally part of the Alcoholics Anonymous program, ACA has adopted the 12 Steps as they have proven effective in treating alcoholism and other addictions for over fifty years.

If you have read the 12 Steps or heard them read out at a meeting, you will have heard such words as God, Higher Power, Moral Inventory, Making Amends and Prayer. Sometimes, with a person's previous experience of religion one can be put off quite quickly by these terms.

Others may be quite offended at the thought of relying on God, when it was "He" who let them down as children. Still others, burdened with shame and guilt from having been told all their lives overtly or covertly that they are "the cause" of their parents drinking or acting out behaviour, might jump head first into the steps and use them as a big stick to beat themselves with. Neither of these extreme attitudes will be healthy for you and it is better to let the Steps be for awhile until you have a better understanding of ACA issues and of your childhood experiences.

Listen to what others in the program have to say about the Steps and if necessary get some professional help and/or spiritual counselling. Remember that the Steps are a tool for spiritual growth, not to increase your level of shame. It has been our experience that recovery is a spiritual journey in search of the beautiful unique and loveable beings that each of us was created to be. We feel that, ultimately, all recovery is indeed, spiritual.

Is It Necessary For Me To Do The Twelve Steps?

In a word, No. That is entirely your choice. They are simply a suggested program of recovery. They may also be interpreted to suit your own individual needs depending upon what stage of recovery you are at. There are several books available, on line and in local bookstores, that are used by ACAs which can serve as guides for working the Twelve Steps in your life.

What If There Is No Meeting Near Me?

No ACA meeting near you? You also qualify for Al-Anon:

Find An Al-Anon Meeting Here

There are a number of online chat rooms, message boards and interactive recovery resources available on our links page for those that would like to learn more, do homework and get involved with their own recovery outside of going to meetings.

Our ACA links page includes on line meetings, video, audio, message boards, chat rooms and resources for articles and recovery related websites.

Click Here For Online Recovery Resources

The Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change... The courage to change the things I can... and the wisdom to know the difference

ACA is not allied with any sect, denomination, political entity or institution and does not engage in any controversy; neither endorses or opposes any cause. ACA uses the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions adopted from AA as the principles of our Program of Discovery/Recovery and our guide to living One Day At A Time.

This page is not endorsed by, under the direction of or directly affiliated with Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization, Inc., or any official organization.

This site is non-profit, has no advertisers and does not receive money from any outside entity.

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