“The third Identity Paper examined the steep cost of surviving by biding the vulnerable and wounded child in a prison of isolation, the high price of using the myriad methods we employ to protect the vulnerable self by staying emotionally intoxicated and numb.”
When we came to ACOA, many of us had experience with other programs that dealt with sobriety. We may have even heard about emotional sobriety before, but when we learned it was the focus of this program, it really got our attention. We knew we felt out of control a lot of the time, unable to think clearly. Our minds went 100 miles an hour, and many of us had trouble turning them off at night to go to sleep. We couldn’t sit still with our feelings. We used activities as a drug to numb ourselves when we were uneasy.
Understanding that we were dealing with emotional intoxication made sense. And we were tired of that way.
Our journey to free ourselves helps us come out of isolation and relate to others who are finding success. We work the Steps and reach out to our Higher Power and our fellow travelers for help. We practice sitting still with our feelings and let it be okay. We ask our loving parent to speak words of encouragement to our vulnerable self so that we don’t get busy to avoid our feelings. We no longer have to walk around numb; we can make it.
On this day I will remember that being alive comes with feelings, and my feelings are all okay! I am entitled to a rich life of emotional sobriety.
Source: Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA), Big Red Book, page 628
“No longer willing or able to suppress my feeling, they came up effusively and erratically.”
When we entered our first meetings, we may have felt numb. Then, as we kept coming back, suddenly it felt like a roller coaster, with feelings flying blindly around a corner without warning.
As we progress in recovery, we learn to acknowledge all of our feelings and be unafraid. We don’t put limits on how much we allow ourselves to feel. Whatever comes up for us at the moment is okay. We do not pretend we are fine when we are not. Claiming our truth becomes a basic need for us. We no longer allow others to try to shut us down when they are uncomfortable.
We maintain conscious contact with a Higher Power through our personal spiritual awakening, whatever form that takes. We cultivate affirming and soothing self-talk in the form of our inner loving parent – the parent we always deserved.
Recovery unfolds for us gently over time as we see each new direction we need to take, and then we seize it and run. We trust ourselves and our intuition. Our feelings are not overwhelming – they are what they are.
On this day, I will allow my feelings to safely wash over me. This will give me the strength to be genuine with myself and others.
Source: Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA), Big Red Book, page 409.
“What many adult children have described as love or intimacy before reaching ACOA was actually codependency or rigid control.”
Before we came to the program, we thought intimacy was that secret word the pertained to sex and making love. We thought it was about taking care of the other person, doing for the other person, and losing ourselves in the other person – because we loved them so much!
Sure, we all want to be close to our partners, but before recovery man of us lay in the same bed with them and felt a million miles away, starving for affection. We settled for crumbs, and we didn’t even realize it. We did everything to convince ourselves we were that happy family portrait on the wall.
Today, in recovery, intimacy has developed into what it was meant to be. We have honest conversations with our partners and close friends and are not afraid to express opinions. We surround ourselves with people who care about us, people we don’t fear. We have healthy conversations about money and other important issues, and we don’t coerce or manipulate people through shame and guilt. We fill our cup with the freedom of choice. We have healthy partnerships and understand what real intimacy is about. We feel joy.
On this day, I will trust myself enough to be open to true intimacy in my relationships.
Source: Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA), Big Red Book, page 6.
Greetings Followers: Happy New Year!
Beginning today, blog entries will only be posted on the first Thursday of each month.
“Talking about our feelings is a risk; however, this is a risk worth taking because the rewards are great.”
Where is it safe to talk about our secret fears, our perceived shortcomings, and our doubts about our own sanity? Our Higher Power gave us a group of ACOAs who listen to our feelings and do not judge us.
Our ACOA fellow travelers feel what we feel and share many of our same doubts and our often misguided perceptions. They do so without trying to fix us and without telling us to “get over it.” Their hands are outstretched to newcomers who take the risk of walking through the meeting doors to tell their secrets.
It is very difficult not to believe in a Higher Power when we walk into the rooms of ACOA and see the unconditional love we display to one another. The ability to share our feelings in this safe environment moves us toward the rewards of the program. We experience the miracle of learning to love ourselves, and we project a new image to the world.
On this day, I know that in ACOA I can risk sharing my innermost feelings. They will be met with acceptance and love.
Source: Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA), Big Red Book, page 186.
“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to others who still suffer, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
When we first entered recovery, we may have wanted to tell everyone we knew about this amazing program. But we soon found that most people were not interested in what we had to say. We probably sounded like we were preaching about what they should do.
We soon learned that carrying the message of recovery was not about chasing people down and forcing them to listen, but standing still and honoring our true space. We live the message through our words and actions, generating an environment that people want to be part of. They become more comfortable with us, but may not even know why.
In meetings, we help carry the message to each other when we tell our stories, agree to be a sponsor or fellow traveler, and take on service roles.
Our True Selves trust there will always be more to learn when we practice these principles in all our affairs.
On this day I will share who I have become with those who are willing to listen. I will remember that my actions speak louder than my words.
Source: Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) Big Red Book, page 279
“We learn to take a balanced view of our behavior, avoiding the tendency to take too much responsibility for the actions of others.”
We didn’t learn balance in our families of origin. Most of us became either super-responsible or super-irresponsible. There didn’t seem to be much of a middle ground.
Those of us who were super-responsible often believed we were in charge of everyone else. In the process, we didn’t learn to focus on ourselves.
In Step Four we identify our problematic behaviors. As we continue to work the Steps, we increase our awareness of those behaviors and how they affect our relationships with other people. We examine our demands, our criticisms, and our negativity. We inventory our past feelings and motives so we can separate our own dysfunction from that of our family or origin. We begin re-parenting ourselves to replace the lack of nurturing and the imbalance we grew up with.
When we regularly practice Step Ten, we are able to stay current. Learning to keep the scales balanced, we acknowledge our feelings and act purposefully in situations, thereby gaining emotional sobriety. We celebrate our lives as they become more sane and manageable.
On this day I will identify my feelings and focus on my own needs. I will practice balance with my responsibilities to others and my responses to the situation I face.
Source: Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) Big Red Book, page 251
“To make progress, we must want the ACOA way of life and all that it has to offer.”
Many of us faithfully go to our weekly meeting and feel we are working our program. We recognize that ACOA has helped us make positive changes in our live, but our enthusiasm isn’t the same as it once was and there doesn’t seem to be much change happening anymore. Yes, there are certainly other things we’d like to fix in our lives, but it’s just not happening. While we appreciate the honesty that happens in our meeting, we’re starting to think the program is no longer working for us, that it might be time to move on to something else.
If we find ourselves thinking these thoughts, it may be time for an inventory. Do we have an active relationship with a High Power? Do we have a sponsor or fellow traveler we talk to regularly even phone or internet meetings, to get a fresh perspective? Have we done service work to step out our comfort zone? If we answer “no” to these questions, maybe it’s not the program that’s not working. Maybe we’re not seeing the full potential of the program.
On this day I will re-evaluate my commitment to how I work the program because I know it works for me when I work it. And I’m worth it!
Source: Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) Big Red Book, page 33
“We seek the power we need to live in freedom each day.”
As we listen to story after story of neglect in meetings, we may get angry for those around us. Then, if we listen closely, we hear the voice inside that says, “What about me?” We start to pay attention and create space with our words and actions to let that voice finally say what it needs too, what was denied for so long. This process extends into our Step work and then into our very lives, at work and play.
Perhaps for the first time we begin to feel free. We start to play and learn what that means for us. We learn to slow down, because being over-scheduled is acting out against our True Selves. We see that when we have too much to do, it’s harder to get in touch with how we feel. This is no longer okay.
We take the actions we need to for our Inner Child, the same way we would for another child placed in our care. In this way, we cultivate an inner loving parent and free ourselves.
We are no longer waiting for our tormentors to wake up and stop abusing us. The conversation is over. We now know how to nurture ourselves.
On this day I will do something playful and fun. I will feel the freedom that my Inner Child deserves to experience.
Source: Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) Big Red Book, page 116
“The process of recovery takes time and patience. This is not easy.”
Looking back to the first ACOA meeting we went to, most of us remember the anguish, hopeless, or turbulence we were experiencing. We never understood our addiction to excitement, but we knew our lives felt out of control and something had to change. We kept hoping the other people in our lives would make the changes so we could experience instant relief, but that wasn’t happening.
As we began our recovery, we realized that change wasn’t going to happen overnight and that it was okay to take it at our own pace. We learned that change takes patience – to keep coming back, to find a sponsor, to work through the Steps, and to get to an understanding of how important forgiveness and love are. It can take time for us to allow ourselves to feel the calm of serenity.
Some of us have said we pray for things to be boring. That’s because we want to end our common love affair with the adrenaline that gets released through excitement and drama. But with practice, and yes, patience, we understand how valuable being in the present moment is. We get there by simply slowing down and trusting in our Higher Power.
On this day I will be patient with my recovery process, acknowledging that I am giving myself a wonderful gift.
Source: Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) Big Red Book, page 72
“We learn to restructure our sick thinking one day at a time.”
Recovery happens, sometimes whether we’re completely conscious of it or not. We just have to keep coming back and doing the work, “One day at a time.”
It’s amazing when we find we’ve been thinking about a type of situation that used to bother us, then “Poof!” It no longer has the same power over us. Maybe we encounter something that reminds us of the past, perhaps from our childhood, like how we looked at some classmates and wondered what it felt like to be in their shoes; envying their seemingly ability to do everything right. This same mentality was what we carried into adulthood, substituting that popular kid for someone we worked with or a neighbor or another parent. What we didn’t realize was we were judging our insides by other people’s outsides.
With the help of ACOA and giving ourselves the time to work at our recovery, we realize that the sick thinking we carried around for so long is evaporating; we no longer look at things the same way. We think about that kid or those other people and suddenly understand the shift in our thought process. We see reality – that not everything is as it appears to be on the outside. We learn to look deeper, especially at ourselves.
On this day I know that I am not now, nor have I ever been, less than anyone else.
Source: Adult Children of Alcoholics, Big Red Book, page 590