The Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) wisdom is this: “There is nothing like hitting bottom to motivate someone into action that produces lasting change.”
In ACA we seek help from our false selves and our obsessive nature to harm ourselves. Because of our addictiveness, we choose a variety of methods to do ourselves in. Many adult children use a combination of drugs, food, sex and relationships to harm themselves emotionally and physically.
Recognizing that we have bottomed out with drugs, control or another compulsive behavior is a critical first step toward ACA recovery. Without hitting or naming a bottom, a person can nibble at the ACA program, never fully grasping the gifts of recovery. While a bottom is in progress, denial is rampant and relatives or friends may have been turned away. At this juncture, the adult child usually isolates or becomes involved in busy work to avoid asking for help.
Bottoming out can vary from person to person; however, the general consensus reveals that the person usually has exhausted all resources, lacks self-love, and is practicing self-harm. The person may be allowing others to neglect and abuse them.
Some adult children are at the other extreme. They have resources and speak of a bright future or new challenge; however, their bottom involves an inability to connect with others on a meaningful level. Their issues are unmanageable due to perfectionism and denial that seals them off from others. Their bottom can be panic attacks without warning or bouts of depression that are pushed away with work or a new relationship.
There are still other adult children who hit bottom with rage or bursts of erratic behavior. Hitting bottom can be triggered by many things or it can result as the natural progression of the disease of family dysfunction.
All ACA bottoms have one thing in common: self-abandonment. While our actions can harm others, we ultimately harm ourselves by running from ourselves.
The level of pain that adult children can tolerate without admitting they have hit a bottom is astonishing. Being adult children, we have learned to endure colossal amounts of abuse and aloneness that only we understand.
Our primary founder, Tony A., described the ACA bottom as this: “The adult child is an identity crisis having an identity crisis.” That means that we were born in crisis and cannot easily recognize another way to live other than in crisis.
While in recovery, many ACAs will endure many bottoms as they dig through layers of hurt feelings and feelings of being unworthy. But hope is here. Through Twelve Step work, prayer, and mutual sharing with others in the safety of ACA, our child within emerges.
Excerpts from The Big Red Book, pages 65-72