Welcome to the Adult Children of Alcoholics and
Dysfunctional Families (ACA) Tennessee Intergroup
The ACA TN Intergroup is made up of 54 meetings: 50 throughout Tennessee, 3 in northern Alabama and 1 in southern Kentucky.
We meet to share our experience of growing up in an environment where abuse, neglect and trauma infected us. This affects us today and influences how we deal with all aspects of our lives.
ACA provides a safe, nonjudgmental environment that allows us to grieve our childhoods and conduct an honest inventory of ourselves and our family—so we may (i) identify and heal core trauma, (ii) experience freedom from shame and abandonment, and (iii) become our own loving parents.
The 14 Traits of an Adult Child, also known as The Laundry List, are shown below. If you identify with any of these Traits, you may find a home in our Program. We welcome you.
- We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.
- We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.
- We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism.
- We either become alcoholics, marry them or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs.
- We live life from the viewpoint of victims and we are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.
- 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.
- We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.
- We became addicted to excitement.
- We confuse love and pity and tend to "love" people we can "pity" and "rescue."
- 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).
- We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.
- 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.
- 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.
- Para-alcoholics** are reactors rather than actors.
Tony A., 1978
* While the Laundry List was originally created for those raised in families with alcohol abuse, over time our fellowship has become a program for those of us raised with all types of family dysfunction.
** Para-alcoholic was an early term used to describe those affected by an alcoholic’s behavior. The term evolved to co-alcoholic and codependent. Codependent people acquire certain traits in childhood that tend to cause them to focus on the wants and needs of others rather than their own. Since these traits became problematic in our adult lives, ACA feels that it is essential to examine where they came from and heal from our childhood trauma in order to become the person we were meant to be.
The solution is to become your own loving parent
As ACA becomes a safe place for you, you will find freedom to express all the hurts and fears you have kept inside and to free yourself from the shame and blame that are carryovers from the past. You will become an adult who is imprisoned no longer by childhood reactions. You will recover the child within you, learning to accept and love yourself.
The healing begins when we risk moving out of isolation. Feelings and buried memories will return. By gradually releasing the burden of unexpressed grief, we slowly move out of the past. We learn to re-parent ourselves with gentleness, humor, love and respect.
This process allows us to see our biological parents as the instruments of our existence. Our actual parent is a Higher Power whom some of us choose to call God. Although we had alcoholic or dysfunctional parents, our Higher Power gave us the Twelve Steps of Recovery.
This is the action and work that heals us: we use the Steps; we use the meetings; we use the telephone. We share our experience, strength, and hope with each other. We learn to restructure our sick thinking one day at a time. When we release our parents from responsibility for our actions today, we become free to make healthful decisions as actors, not reactors. We progress from hurting, to healing, to helping. We awaken to a sense of wholeness we never knew was possible.
By attending these meetings on a regular basis, you will come to see parental alcoholism or family dysfunction for what it is: a disease that infected you as a child and continues to affect you as an adult. You will learn to keep the focus on yourself in the here and now. You will take responsibility for your own life and supply your own parenting.
You will not do this alone. Look around you and you will see others who know how you feel. We will love and encourage you no matter what. We ask you to accept us just as we accept you.
This is a spiritual program based on action coming from love. We are sure that as the love grows inside you, you will see beautiful changes in all your relationships, especially with God, yourself, and your parents.
Our decisions and answers to life did not seem to work. Our lives had become unmanageable. We exhausted all the ways we thought we could become happy. We often lost our creativity, our flexibility, and our sense of humor. Continuing the same existence was no longer an option. Nevertheless, we found it almost impossible to abandon the thought of being able to fix ourselves. Exhausted, we held out hope that a new relationship, a new job, or a move would be the cure, but it never was. We made the decision to seek help.
At the end of an ACA meeting, the group members encourage one another to "keep coming back" to meetings. Why? We found people in the meetings who listened to us talk. They did not judge us. They did not try to fix us. They did not interrupt us when we spoke. They merely told us that if we came to meetings on a regular basis, we would gradually begin to feel better. We did.
- We share what is happening in our lives, and how we are dealing with these issues in our recovery program. (i.e., share our experience, strength, and hope).
- We build a personal support network.
- We practice our recovery and personal boundaries by giving service.
- We do not engage in crosstalk.
- We do not criticize.
- We do not comment on what others say.
- We do not offer advice.
- We do not distract others from the person speaking by word, whisper, gesture, noise, or movement.
- We do not violate the anonymity of others.
- We do not repeat what is said in meetings (in any context).
Individuals recover at their own pace. We have learned by experience that those ACA members who make the greatest gains in the shortest amount of time are using the tools of recovery.
We go to meetings, and call program people to discuss recovery issues.
We read ACA literature and learn about the experiences of others while gaining clarity on our own experiences.
We define and enforce our boundaries.
We work and use the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions.
We identify the people, places and things that are healthy and useful to our lives today, and discard those that are not.
We reconnect with our Inner Child or True Self.
We work with a sponsor and build support networks.
We attend meetings that focus on issues upon which we need to work.
We give service in ACA.
Listening to others and ourselves share at meetings helps us in our recovery. Sharing at meetings sometimes helps us to focus, define and clarify our problems. We express our feelings. Talking out loud helps us to resolve some problems. We talk about our action plans to change our lives, or how well our current plan is working. At times we report our progress or victories. We often use meetings as a reality check on our overall program, comparing our current life in the program to our adult life before coming to the ACA program.
In the meetings we come to understand how our childhood experiences shape our attitudes, behavior, and choices today. We hear others talk about their experiences, and we recognize ourselves. We learn how we can change. We sense that within ourselves are people who are not who we were taught to be. Some people call these our “inner children.” We discover ourselves.
We read literature about ACA issues, often using the literature as life rafts. We hang on to what we have read when the seas get temporarily rough. Many of us write on a daily basis, finding that it helps us to put things into perspective for us. Some of us write to get in touch with our inner children. We write about our childhoods, daily thoughts, recurring struggles, and discoveries about life and ourselves. We write about new issues as they arise. We use ACA functions outside the meetings to learn spontaneity and how to have fun.
Gradually, we begin to recognize the negative parenting messages from our childhoods that drive our lives. We learn how to replace them with healthy behaviors. This is a first step toward “reparenting.” As we gradually reparent our selves, our outlook on life changes. We begin to look at it from an emotionally mature perspective. Ultimately, we become happier, stronger, more capable people – more able to handle life. We learn to respect others and ourselves. The quality of our lives improves as we learn to define and communicate our boundaries, and insist that they be honored.
We have learned by experience that those ACA members who make the greatest gains in the shortest amount of time are those who use the “tools of recovery.” We have also found that all of us recover at our own paces, and in our own time. We are individuals who come from varied experiences and backgrounds.
The only requirement for membership is a desire to recover from the affects of growing up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional family.
(Extracted from the ACA Fellowship Text)
In areas where many ACA meetings exist, an Intergroup is generally formed to provide a forum for conducting ACA business within a given geographical area. The individual groups continue to conduct their own group business; however, the groups can select a meeting representative to represent the group at an Intergroup meeting. The Intergroup, therefore, is composed of members from the various ACA groups. The Intergroup helps coordinate helpline functions, public information efforts, hospitals and institutions meetings, and ACA events in a given area. An ACA Regional Service Committee serves a similar function by helping coordinate ACA functions and fellowship business among Intergroups in a geographical area.
When an Intergroup is formed, each ACA group elects an Intergroup representative, who attends a monthly or quarterly Intergroup meeting.
Many Twelve Step programs require that only literature published within the program be available at meetings. The ACA program, from the outset, has held that valuable information exists outside the program. We do suggest that any outside literature brought into the meetings be in keeping with the ACA Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Our program also suggests that such literature be kept separate from ACA Conference Approved literature. For more information on the ACA literature policy, refer to the trifold entitled, "The ACA Literature Policy."
No dues or fees are required for membership; we are, however, fully self-supporting through our own contributions. We give our 7th Tradition donations at the meetings as we can afford to, in acknowledgment of the benefits our program gives us.
At the meeting level our contributions are used to keep the doors open (pay the rent, buy the refreshments, make literature available), at the Regional level to keep the lines of communications open between Intergroups and World Service, and at the World Service level so people can find meetings. Each member has a responsibility to keep ACA operational by ensuring their meeting supports their Intergroup, Region, and World Service organizations.
ACA is an independent Twelve Step, Twelve Tradition program. We are not affiliated with any other Twelve Step organization. We do, however, cooperate with other Twelve Step, Twelve Tradition programs. We are not allied with any sect, denomination, organization, institution, political, or law enforcement groups. We do not engage in any controversy, and we neither endorse nor oppose any causes.
This is your personal invitation to come to ACA and to keep coming back. Your presence in meetings helps us in our recovery. We know that this program works for us. We have yet to see anyone fail who honestly works the program. This is our path to sanity, our program to serenity.
We invite you to participate. ACA works if you work it!
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