ACA is a group specifically for those of use who were raised in either alcoholic homes or in dysfunctional homes where our needs during our formative years were not met. There are five elements of the foundation to the ACA program; Twelve Steps, Twelve Traditions, The Laundry List (The Problem), The Solution, and Sponsorship.
Beyond the five elements we have the Inner Child and reparenting that is front and center, this is the aspect of the journey of recovery that many of us did not find healing to address this area in other programs, or in therapy/counseling. The environments in which we were raised created a feeling of powerlessness because we were "stuck", as children we felt we could not escape the confines of our home life, and some of us thought it was normal and others must be in similar situations. It is hard to find out that in fact it was not normal and that can lead to a sense of shame and bewilderment as to what could possible be wrong with us to fail to have the love and support from our parents.
In ACA we learn that our parents did the best they could and no parent can possibly meet every need for their children because we are all human. This however does not mean that what occurred in our lives was due to some defect in us that could have been internalized as a fatal flaw of our own that was to blame for the lacking parental support. Our inner child started to be formed and the narrative they internalized was based on our limited ability to understand the context of a dysfunctional environment and the way alcohol, drugs and mental, physical situations further complicated things. A child's brain lacks the capacity to fully comprehend complex issues and instead makes sense of things the only way they know how, to be the reason for the neglect and either attempt to become better and less of a problem or resign to the belief that they are just not worthy of love.
When our belief is formed during ages 1-8, the stage of how our relationships with ourselves and others will be faced, as less than those we love...an imbalance of power becomes the norm and we find relationships that affirm or lack of worth and we stay in harmful situations to long because many of us feel we aren't worth any better. Others become love avoidant and create a life for themselves where no one is trusted and they either isolate completely, become overly obsessed with work, or let people in partially but never allow themselves to be completely vulnerable out of the fear of rejection.
In ACA we learn we are inherently worth, in CoDA we also are reminded of that fact. However, being told something you are not even capable of internalizing or finding within yourself can be frustrating. This is where the reparenting aspect of our recovery becomes the critical component to our healing and becoming able to fully embody our worthiness.
ACA offers a safe place in the fellowship to grieve our childhood losses without the feat of judgement, to be held in support by our fellow travelers of which are also on their own journey's to heal their inner child wounds. (BRB, p.331)
The Inner Child is a real being that believes and offers love naturally. The Inner Child is the true connection to our Higher Power. This is also the True Self. (BRB, p.337)
In ACA, we learn how our childhood experiences continue to affect our adult relationships as well as our behavior. The solution the fellowship provides by working the program is to actively reparent ourselves which is specific to the ACA program. That is what makes this program unique and can be the final portion of many of individuals recovery that have reached a plateau in other programs.
In CoDA we are taught to respect that our individual recoveries are our own responsibility to manage and our sponsor is there to help us stay accountable and work our steps with. We decide when we start our steps, how fast we finish them, etc. In ACA, we know that step work can be trigger inducing for those of us with seriously dysfunctional childhoods that are reexamined when we are working our fourth step. This is what makes ACA a lifesaver for those with childhood trauma, many like myself who have C-PTSD from the abuse and neglect we suffered that is further compounded by the unhealthy relationships we find ourselves in as adults. The program makes sure to address the likely need for professional support in the form of counseling and therapy modalities like EMDR that may help prevent re-traumatization when doing a "fearless moral inventory" in our fourth step.
The only requirement for membership in ACA is a desire to recover from the effects of growing up in either an Alcoholic or Dysfunctional Family. (BRB, p.340)
Being a part of the program of ACA means we will learn to focus on ourselves and to stop our efforts to fix or rescue our family of origin. On page 341 of the Big Red Book, the reality that some severe cases where there are threats to our lives and acts of harm, means we must remove ourselves from the abusive situations in those cases. This is where our Next Step Program comes into the equation, by assisting our members with finding resources to aid them in finding safe environments and starting the process of rebuilding their lives. When we are dealing with ongoing trauma, the ability to rationally plan to leave abusive situations can overwhelm our bodies and minds and having advocates that can assist you in learning about your options can make the process easier to move through. Please visit our website at nextstepwew.org and search from our extensive list of resources so you can begin the process of finding a safe place to grow and continue on your own journey of recovery.
We hope you will consider attending our meetings on Thursday evenings from 6pm-7pm central time zone. We will begin our group sponsorship program in September being led by one of our facilitators and members in our programs in WEW. If you are ready to do the work, being a part of a group filled with others starting their steps is a wonderful and supportive way to compassionately do the work. As we say in 12-step programs, "It works if you work it and you are WORTH it!"
Kimberly Sprintz, Founder & President
Women Empowering Women (WEW) Support Groups
(2006). ACA fellowship text: The big red book. Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families World Service Organization, Inc. https://www.adultchilden.org