What ACoAs Know & Don’t Know

I’ll never get it!

PREVIOUS: Recovery – IS & ISN’T

SITE: Self-esteem – the problem behind the problem

See ACRONYM page for abbrev.


ACoAs are some of the smartest, most intuitive people around.
We had to be – to survive our childhood!  But we:
a. don’t acknowledge it (taught to not trust our judgment)
b. are ashamed of it (taught to not think so highly of ourselves)
c. are missing basic, ‘normal’ info about ourselves & the world

a. About Alcoholism in the family, denial. THAT:alcoholism
• they were drunk, or that their drinking effected us
• we were abused & neglected (abuse is perpetrated on one or more of the 4 levels: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual)
• we were molested, sexually or physically abused
• we carry deep pain, from all that abandonment
• their damage & our was not our fault or responsibility
• we don’t have to suffer any more
• we have a right to be here
• we can trust our intuition   -etc.

b. About Healthy Living
• what process actually is & how to use it
• what clear, sane thinking ‘sounds’ like
• that we have options & what they may be
• what we want to be / do, when we ‘grow up’ – some of us do
know, but are not allowed to go for it & we’re too scared to failno crisis
• how to live without constant crisis, abuse, anxiety
• that we don’t have to manipulate to get our needs met
• that we can take care of ourselves, if we grow a Healthy Adult
• how to be kind to our Inner Child – grow a Loving Parent!
• what mental health is  (see posts on ‘Recovery’)

c. General
• how the rest of world actually functions
• what reality is – mental, emotional, physical
• what to SAY to people when they say hurtful or outrageous things
what healthy people are like EXP: ACoAs think they don’t get angry, overwhelmed, make mistakes, love relationships…
• why other people do what they do (get away with things, are entitled, can function well…)

• what is NORMAL – which has 2 meanings:
i. the opposite of crazy.  Our S-H says we are crazy & everyone else is normal.  Yes, we do have distorted thinking, which can be corrected – but that doesn’t make us nuts.
It’s normal to: have emotions, to succeed via process, to mourn losses, to not get along with every one, all the time, to have some damage….

ii. what is average – for humans, & in your society
It’s about the behaviors & attitudes common to the majority. But in this meaning, normal is not always healthy! It’s what the norm was where you grew up, in your religion, in your neighborhood & school… 
SO – normal could have been – drinking to excess, physical danger, verbal abuse, insensitivity, lack of education…OR being up tight, having to succeed, always looking good, doing the ‘right thing’…
It’s normal to: laugh when someone gets hurt or makes a fool of themselves, to not help strangers in trouble, to stare at an accident on the street…
no happy reunion
a. Not possible or unlikely
• our parent to love us, unconditionally
• to be free of all pain & suffering
• to have relationships that never end
• to be liked & wanted by everyone, all the time
• to be a star, be famous, be adored, worshiped

b. Can be worked towards & accomplished
• diminish S-H & gain self-esteem
• be heard/ listened to/ get healthy attentionScreen Shot 2015-07-11 at 11.53.34 AM
• healthy friends & mates
• improved health & appearance
• an enjoyable career, creative outlets
• to belong & be accepted
• respected, treated well
• feel comfortable, safe, secure
• have fun, relax, enjoy life   – etc.

3. What ACoAs DO Know
• what really happened to us as kids (abuse, neglect, coercion, torture) – BUT don’t want admit or deal with
• some of the things we want in life – BUT are not allowed to have
• what we’ve learned and accomplished since we left home – BUT not allowed to admit or own it
• ALL the things we figured out on our own, as kids and as adult – BUT don’t value or validate, because of:
— S-H – we deserved anything bad that happened to us (then and now)chinese S-E
— shame – not allowed to have our need or our value our accomplishments
— lack of healthy mirroring – our real self wasn’t validated by our family, so we negate our natural abilities

SELF-ESTEEM comes from validation & unconditional regard / love.
Validation means admitting what we know & learning what we don’t. Regard is being kind, patient & respectful toward ourselves. It’s never too late to have a happy life!

NEXT: Ennea Development Levels #1

RECOVERY – What it IS & IS NOT (Part 1)

in with the new 

Dismantling the old patterns

PREVIOUS: Self-esteem IS

SITEBenefits of a Gratitude List


IS NOT…❖…expecting to get unconditional love and perfect sanity from any human. It’s unrealistic, but the Wounded Inner Child demands it anyway. Now – when we don’t get it, we accuse others of abandoning us!

IS…❧…understanding that in adult relationships –  each person has their own needs.  Since our parents couldn’t give us unconditional love, when it would have been ‘normal’, we can only look for it now from ourselves, our pets & our Higher Power.  As we interact with healthier people we will receive more appropriate companionship – be mirrored, understood, respected, considered, loved…but never perfectly!

IS NOT…❖…being free of emotions (Es) that were unacceptable in our family, controlling our Es or trying to have ‘appropriate’ Es. Those are signs of damaged thinking – (CDs) – NOT the same as being in control of our behavior!

IS…❧…accepting all emotions as legitimate. Humans are built with the capacity AND the need to feel. Es are the natural indicators of our reaction to any experience – to let us know whether something is good or bad for us. Re.T.E.A. —
Actions may, or may not, be good, & can be corrected, over time
• Unhealthy Thoughts can be reframed & replaced, when harmful or incorrect
finger Es
Es just are. They can go from very joyful <–to–> very painful, but are never good or bad! We need to have access to a wide range of Es, with many shades. It gives us a sense of vibrancy & allows us to connect with others.
Only looking seeing everything in B & W = tv, paintings, walls, clothes….. can become quite boring. Suppressing or narrowing down Es (to 1 or 2, like rage or fear) will make us cold, hard, distant & ultimately limited, one-dimensional.
The intensity & depth of our emotional reservoir (old childhood pain) is so great that it will never be completely empty.  Accept this & learn how to manage Es rather than trying to spiritualize them away!
(review “Feelings Aren’t Facts” posts) (MORE re. hand-emotions)

IS NOT…❖…trying to fix our childhood damage, to eliminate all character defects & do is easily and quickly.  Any effort to fix ourselves means we think we’re bad, that our badness is our own fault, SO we’re responsible for doing anything we can to eradicate it. (BTW, this is one of the reasons why many ACoAs want to be dead)

IS…❧…accepting that alcoholism & co-dependence have left deep scars & emotional hangovers. (ACoA site) These will take our life-time to gradually heal. Being human means we’ll never be perfect – but Recovery IS truly possible!damage?
Many have proven it.
Humility (not humiliation) is acknowledging our human limitations, with a consistent willingness to evaluate ourselves with compassion, in honesty & reality, modifying our thoughts & action so we can reach our own goals

IS NOT…❖…being ‘serene’ all the time.
• To always be pleasant, kind, honest, thoughtful…is a disguise for a wide range of emotions we don’t find acceptable
• To still be the good boy / girl, in the present, is the symbiotic need for our family’s approval, rather than becoming our own person
• Forever trying to be ‘so good’ is a negation of our legitimate rage & pain of childhood abandonment

IS...❧…gaining genuine serenity, based on a solid emotional, mental & spiritual foundation – from the inside.  This creates the unshakable knowledge that we are ok even when we’re in pain, under pressure, not understood or supported.  We can have upheaval, express intense pain / anger… and still be at peace, deep down.  Serenity is the by-product of knowing & accepting ourselves in the moment, trusting our gut, having a great support system & a loving H. P.


“They Did the BEST They Could” (Part 1)

they did the best... 

but they were hurting too, poor things!

PREVIOUS: Results of abuse – #2

REMINDER: See ACRONYM Page for abbrev.


This is a commonly used phrase – in & out of Program – mainly in the service of the speaker’s denial!
You may at first think this post is harsh or unfair, BUT please remember that everything our parents were  – WE internalized into our Negative Introject.
As long as we deny how harmful their actions were toward us – we will continue doing the same to ourselves, mistreat others AND let others mistreat us in many of the same ways! ( Self-hate’).

How is this phrase usually meant? That that no matter how cruelly, crazily…. our family may everything's OK ??have continually acted, to each other & us, even to this day – it was the ‘best’ they could manage.
It implies that they :
• used all possible resources to cope
• could NOT have done any better
• meant well, even if they didn’t show it
• really tried, in spite of falling short
• didn’t have any other options ….

In most of our families NONE of these are true – OR if true in part, it was a very small part – not enough to help us as kids!

a. THEM: This phrase is usually said by adults, about their parents – but only by people who had painful childhoods! You won’t hear a happy, well-adjusted person needing to even think this, much less say it!

The BEST they could? If our parents were verbally cold, controlling, cruel & insensitive, narcissistic, neglectful, not comforting, drunk, demanding, abusive, addicts, raging….  That was the BEST they could DO? Really?

NO. The most we could say is that they:
did what was done to them. Yes, but most never bothered to change. One mother, when confronted, kept saying – “But there weren’t any books about this stuff when you were little”! Except the daughter knew mom never bothered with anything deep, ever. She only read ‘Readers Digest” & watched soap operas! AND, there were some books, & people she could have asked to help. But she ‘was never wrong’!
did what any addict would (not just alcohol, but also food, shopping, raging, gambling, exercise, TV, sports, religion….) – everything possible to not deal with their responsibilities & emotions

chose the ‘easiest way out’,  just didn’t care enough to bother, or were self-righteous about their parenting style (“Spare the rod, spoil the child”) – anything to not take to look at themselves & the effect they had on their children & others

refused to get whatever help that was available to them at the time (AA & NO to helpAl-Anon have been around for over 50 yrs, psychologists even longer).  One mother admitted she wouldn’t be caught dead going to a therapist. Another was begged repeatedly by her daughter to go to Al-anon, but always blatantly refused

were neglectful – some of us had a parent with a genuine mental illness – but others in the family denied the problem & did little or nothing to seek out solutions that were possible at the time, if not for the sick adult, then at least for us kids
EXP: More than one CoA was left alone for years to deal with a drunk, suicidal or psychotic parent

b. US: On the surface, when ACoAs say this phrase we mean the ‘General’ qualities listed above (from denial).  Under that, we’re really saying that we :
• can’t afford, emotionally & mentally, to admit how badly we were treated
• still believe we caused or deserved the terrible things they did / didn’t do
• “understand” why they acted that way, intellectually – so we don’t have to FEEL the hurt, sadness, frustration, rage, disappointment….

—–> And here’s the kicker:  we’re saying that – since “they did the best they could” – we can’t possibly be angry at them! Saying that we forgive them is actually our way of exonerating them. – not holding them accountable.

OK, so what’s wrong with that? Yes, it is the ultimate goal of mental health to let go of our anger, detach with love – or indifference, to forgive, outgrow our need for them… BUT…… (cont. in #2)

NEXT: “They did the best they could” (Part 2)


From being raised by alcoholics,
ACoAs & other narcissist!


50 Qs: A Self-evaluating List for Adult-Children of alcoholics, abusers, abandoners….
Answer: Y = yes, N = no, S = some, D = don’t know

DO YOU…?….
___find that you seek out tension or crisis, & then complain about it
___become anxious around angry people or authority figures
___defend or excuse people when they abuse you, implying you deserve it
___get locked into a course of action without seeing alternatives or outcomes
___react to people & situations, instead of choosing your responses
___worry that your emotions may overpower or hurt you, or others
___tend to lie or exaggerate, when it would be just as easy to tell the truth
___find the needs & wants of others more important than your own
___prevent yourself from experiencing the joy of your successes
___frequently anticipate that situations or life won’t work out for you
___isolate yourself when problems arise, or when you ‘feel bad’hiding
___find yourself in one or more survival ‘roles’ (hero, lost child…)
___mistrust your feelings, thought, perceptions
___tend to see issues in life as B & W, right or wrong
___have a fear of abandonment, especially when criticized
___strongly criticize yourself when not being perfect
___defend or excuse people when they abuse you, implying you deserve it
___get locked into a course of action without seeing alternatives or outcomes
___react to people & situations, instead of choosing your responses
___have trouble relaxing, playing, having fun
___had trouble with close, intimate relationships
___feel responsible for the feelings & actions of others, & try to fix them
___stay in relationships even tho’ you’re being constantly hurt, neglected, lied to, manipulated, hit… not getting any of your needs met
___fight with your family members over a parent’s drinking
___your parents make promises to you & then not keep them
___lose sleep at night due to a parent’s drinking
___take on some of the jobs or responsibilities belonging to your parents
___ever get sick, or worry a lot because of their drinking
___ever do anything to prevent your parent’s drinking
___always believe that no one knew your parents were drunks, when you were growing up
___able to recognize situation that you have no control over
___super responsible or super irresponsible
___unable to work thru crisis & conflict, or do you aggravate it
___seeing a pattern in your relationships similar to your family of origin
___unable to enjoy your successes & accomplishments
___afraid others may ‘find out’ you’re not good, or that you’re a fraud
___afraid of your emotions, & afraid to express them   get help
___unable to complement yourself
___ashamed of or feel guilty for being who you are
___afraid of going crazy, or becoming a bag lady or bum
___uncomfortable with your life when it’s going smoothly
___unable to ask for help, or do so apologetically
___constantly seeking approval from others
___uncomfortable with being liked, admired, approved of
___always mentally looking over your shoulder to see if you’ll be punished
___out of control with: food, chemicals, work, sex, spending, exercising…
___been blaming everyone else for your life’s problems
___staunchly defended your parents’ ‘innocence’ in hurting you as a kid
___had trouble following thru on projects, or never finishing
___tried to hide the fact that your parents drank a lot, beat you or others in the family, incested you or your siblings
___concerned about your mate, children, friends’…use of chemicals
___developed fantasy beliefs about how loved ones may treat you some day
___considered what ‘normal’ is, & believe you’re not
___found yourself sabotaging your success & then feeling ‘more alive’
___been loyal to others (parents, siblings, lovers, children, friends, employers) – even tho’ your loyalty was undeserved, unjustified, un-returned
___been fired more than once & never really understood why
___* learned to have dialogues with your ‘inner child’, & consistently take care of yourself in loving ways ?
♥                            ♥                            ♥
IF you’re even taking this test, it’s likely you come from a damaged, angry, abusive, traumatic, neglected, unhappy backgroundanswers
TOTALS:   ____Yes   ____ No   ____ Some  ____ Don’t Know
IF you answered YES to:
✶ 10-20, you’re either not an ACoA, in denial or in long-term recovery
✶ 20-30, you’re a co-dependent, even if there was no alcoholism in the family
✶ 30 or more, you’re definitely an ACoA (adult-child of alcoholics and other narcissists), which includes mentally ill &/or narcissistic family members

• If you said NO to Qs in the ‘DID YOU…’ section, but still scored high, there may be alcoholism/ drug addiction in some other part of your family, even if you didn’t experience it directly
• You may also be an active addict, yourself – alcohol/ drugs, food, money, sex, relationships…

Look thru this blog (2010 – 2016) and go to Heal & Grow SITE MAP – for info covering issues in this questionnaire at: http://www.acoarecovery.com

• If you are not yet in Recovery from your childhood trauma & present day difficulties, you can seek out 12-step Programs. THEY’RE BASICALLY FREE, & are available on the internet & by phone, for anyone not able to get to these meeting in person.  See pg 55 or some of the 12-step groups.

• Also, there are many recovery books, site, blogs & of course therapy, with someone very familiar with ACoA / addiction issues.
✶  If you are in Recovery, keep up the good fight. It pays off! I know because I’ve been at it for 35 yrs, & it works.

NEXT: Variations of the L.L.