ACA is based on spiritual principles but is not a religious program. 'Higher Power' refers to a concept of your understanding.

The Serenity Prayer represents one of our goals.

  • 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.

  Adult Children of Alcoholics
- Toronto North -

The Problem

Why We First Came to ACA

Looking back and at the present, we came to realize our lives didn't work; they had become unmanageable. We exhausted all the methods we thought were supposed to have made us happy, healthy, and successful. In trying to reach our desired ends, we exhausted our resources. We often lost our creativity, our flexibility, and our sense of humour.

No matter what we did, the results no longer gave us the thrill, the joy, the sense of power, or the feeling of elation they once did. We were at a dead-end. Continuing the same existence was no longer an option. Nevertheless, we couldn't quite abandon the notion that if we knew just one more thing about how the world worked.

So we tried one more time. With little to win, nothing to lose, we came to our first meeting.

Are you an Adult Child?

A review of the following traits is useful to help you identify if you are an Adult Child. Most ACAs identify with many or a majority of traits in these lists.

The first list, known as the "Laundry List", was developed by Tony A. in 1978, a founder of the Program. Characteristics are also listed in paragraph form. The second list was developed by Janet Woititz, one of the first researchers in the ACA field.

These are the traits we seem to have in common growing up in alcoholic or dysfunctional households. They are known as the "Laundry List" traits.

1. We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.

2. We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.

3. We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism.

4. We either become alcoholics, marry them, or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs.

5. We lived life from the viewpoint of victims and are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.

6. 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.

7. We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.

8. We become addicted to excitement.

9. We confuse love and pity and tend to love people we can pity and rescue.

10. 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).

11. We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors.

Tony A. 1978

Tony A's Laundry List is also represented as a description of characteristics, often read in weekly meetings.

Many of us found that we had several characteristics in common as a result of being brought up in an alcoholic or other dysfunctional household.

We had come to feel isolated, and uneasy with other people, especially authority figures. To protect ourselves, we became people pleasers, even though we lost our own identities in the process. All the same we would mistake any personal criticism as a threat.

We either became alcoholics ourselves, married them, or both. Failing that, we found other compulsive personalities, such as a workaholic, to fulfill our sick need for abandonment.

We lived life from the standpoint of victims. Having an over developed sense of responsibility, we preferred to be concerned with others rather than ourselves. We got guilt feelings when we trusted ourselves, giving in to others. We became reactors rather than actors, letting others take the initiative.

We were dependent personalities, terrified of abandonment, willing to do almost anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to be abandoned emotionally. Yet, we kept choosing insecure relationships because they matched our childhood relationship with alcoholic or dysfunctional parents

These symptoms of the family disease of alcoholism or other dysfunction made us "co-victims", those who take on the characteristics of the disease without necessarily ever taking a drink.. We learned to keep our feelings down as children and keep them buried as adults. As a result of this conditioning, we often confused love with pity, tending to love those we could rescue.

Even more self-defeating, we became addicted to excitement in all our affairs, preferring constant upset to workable solutions.

This is a description, not an indictment.

Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics by Janet Woititz 1983, from her bestselling book "Adult Children of Alcoholics".

1. Adult children of alcoholics guess at what normal behavior is.

2. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.

3. Adult children of alcoholics lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.

4. Adult children of alcoholics judge themselves without mercy.

5. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty having fun.

6. Adult children of alcoholics take themselves very seriously.

7. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty with intimate relationships.

8. Adult children of alcoholics overreact to changes over which they have no control.

9. Adult children of alcoholics constantly seek approval and affirmation.

10. Adult children of alcoholics usually feel that they are different from other people.

11. Adult children of alcoholics are super responsible or super irresponsible.

12. Adult children of alcoholics are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.

13. Adult children of alcoholics are impulsive. They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsively leads to confusion, self-loathing and loss of control over their environment. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess.

Further information: Janet Woititz


Having identified the Problem, we look to The Solution.

We welcome your questions & suggestions. Please contact us.