ACoA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) – the ‘reverse’ laundry list

The ACoA World Service Organisation have identified some of the likely traits that we’ll suffer from if we grew up in a family where one or both parents were alcoholics. They call this list of traits the ‘reverse’ laundry list, to reflect its affinity with the AA laundry list.

It can make heartbreaking reading, but – as they say in ACoA – it’s good to remember that this is a description, not an indictment. If you’re reading the list and see some truths in it for you, please keep reading, because below the descriptions of how you may be thinking, feeling and acting now is another list – which shows the way to feeling safe and truly empowered. It takes bravery, but if this list means something to you, you’ve already proved that you have bravery in spades.

Here’s the ‘reverse’ laundry list:

    1. To cover our fear of people and our dread of isolation we tragically become the very authority figures who frighten others and cause them to withdraw.
    2. To avoid becoming enmeshed and entangled with other people and losing ourselves in the process, we become rigidly self-sufficient. We disdain the approval of others.
    3. We frighten people with our anger and threat of belittling criticism.
    4. We dominate others and abandon them before they can abandon us or we avoid relationships with dependent people altogether. To avoid being hurt, we isolate and dissociate and thereby abandon ourselves.
    5. We live life from the standpoint of a victimizer, and are attracted to people we can manipulate and control in our important relationships.
    6. We are irresponsible and self-centered. Our inflated sense of self-worth and self-importance prevents us from seeing our deficiencies and shortcomings.
    7. We make others feel guilty when they attempt to assert themselves.
    8. We inhibit our fear by staying deadened and numb.
    9. We hate people who “play” the victim and beg to be rescued.
    10. We deny that we’ve been hurt and are suppressing our emotions by the dramatic expression of “pseudo” feelings.
    11. To protect ourselves from self punishment for failing to “save” the family we project our self-hate onto others and punish them instead.
    12. We “manage” the massive amount of deprivation we feel, coming from abandonment within the home, by quickly letting go of relationships that threaten our “independence” (never get too close).
    13. We refuse to admit we’ve been affected by family dysfunction or that there was dysfunction in the home or that we have internalized any of the family’s destructive attitudes and behaviors.

We act as if we are nothing like the dependent people who raised us.

And the path to recovery…

  1. We face and resolve our fear of people and our dread of isolation and stop intimidating others with our power and position.
  2. We realize the sanctuary we have built to protect the frightened and injured child within has become a prison and we become willing to risk moving out of isolation.
  3. With our renewed sense of self-worth and self-esteem we realize it is no longer necessary to protect ourselves by intimidating others with contempt, ridicule and anger.
  4. We accept and comfort the isolated and hurt inner child we have abandoned and disavowed and thereby end the need to act out our fears of enmeshment and abandonment with other people.
  5. Because we are whole and complete we no longer try to control others through manipulation and force and bind them to us with fear in order to avoid feeling isolated and alone.
  6. Through our in-depth inventory we discover our true identity as capable, worthwhile people. By asking to have our shortcomings removed we are freed from the burden of inferiority and grandiosity.healing heart
  7. We support and encourage others in their efforts to be assertive.
  8. We uncover, acknowledge and express our childhood fears and withdraw from emotional intoxication.
  9. We have compassion for anyone who is trapped in the “drama triangle” and is desperately searching for a way out of insanity.
  10. We accept we were traumatized in childhood and lost the ability to feel. Using the 12 Steps as a program of recovery we regain the ability to feel and remember and become whole human beings who are happy, joyous and free.
  11. In accepting we were powerless as children to “save” our family we are able to release our self-hate and to stop punishing ourselves and others for not being enough.
  12. By accepting and reuniting with the inner child we are no longer threatened by intimacy, by the fear of being engulfed or made invisible.
  13. By acknowledging the reality of family dysfunction we no longer have to act as if nothing were wrong or keep denying that we are still unconsciously reacting to childhood harm and injury.
  14. We stop denying and do something about our post-traumatic dependency on substances, people, places and things to distort and avoid reality.

Thank you to Donna Torbico at Heal and Grow for ACoAs for drawing my attention to this list, and for all her great blogs.

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