52: Adult Children of Alcoholics – Everything You Wanted to Know (Sort Of)

10/11/20 Ever wondered what the Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families (ACA, ACoA) program is all about? We invite Sarah to tell us all about the ACA program. How it works, what they consider to be the problem, who qualifies to work the program, how the program addresses the problem. While not a substitute for addiction recovery, per se, ACA might be a wonderful complement to explore the roots of recovery and stop the generational passage of addiction.

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Adult Children of Alcoholics: https://adultchildren.org/

Transcript:

recovery sort of is a podcast where we discuss recovery and addiction topics from the perspective of people living in long-term recovery this podcast does not intend to represent the views of any particular group organization or fellowship the views expressed here are solely the opinion of its contributors be advised there may be strong language or topics of an adult nature

welcome back it’s recovery sort of i’m jason i’m a guy in long term recovery and with me is hi i’m jenny jenny not billy isn’t that weird yeah billy uh billy has chosen to take a vow of silence for a year no i’m kidding billy’s on vacation and uh he’s having a good time living and enjoying the benefits of his recovery and so we wish him well and can’t wait till he gets back so jenny agreed to come in and be with us today as we talk about aca which is adult children of alcoholics i’ve also heard people say acoa i guess that’s uh not as fun though as aca i kind of like a-c-o-a better honestly i still say a-c-o-a but i’ll cave to aca if that’s the norm i think that’s what people are saying now is the aca you know the hip kids couldn’t afford that extra syllable with the o they had to well aca is also the affordable care act so right that’s confusing i feel like a lot of our letters also mean other things like people get a a and triple a confused and all that good stuff like my iphone

anyway so we’re going to be talking about uh aca today with sarah as soon as she comes on um this is a weird thing though having you here not that you’re weird but it’s odd because it’s the first episode where we’ll have more women than men it’s the first episode billy hasn’t been here uh in dealing with aca it’s the first episode that we’re gonna deal with maybe a complimentary program instead of a a substitute program for addiction so it’s a lot of firsts it’s okay to call me weird

uh so aca one of the things we’re hoping to find out because we were just having a conversation about um you know how addiction runs through families and what that’s like and so aca kind of is the with being adult children of alcoholics this is people who grew up in an alcoholic household and it’s probably you know we’ve talked about on this show before how the disease of addiction runs through generations and and just goes from one to the next and and causes awful results and doesn’t seem to have a natural way to break that cycle without some outside intervention or or people seeking help for outside intervention and so we don’t personally know if aca is welcoming of people from drug addiction families as well as it is alcoholic families i i don’t know that i don’t want to say that those problems are different but yet at the same time i think you’re it’s kind of like the difference between al anon and naran you know i i get that alan they technically kind of deal with the same thing the enabling possibility and all that but i just feel like i would say people in narang probably feel like the stakes are higher could be i’m super curious about that question because i have a question for sarah when we talk to her you know about that you know like so when we get to that part oh yeah so i’m really i’m really wondering yeah so it should be interesting i i want to find out and and of course you know as always sarah is not the end-all be-all of information on aca so she might not be able to answer all our questions but i’m curious because i i do feel like there’s a lot of families caught in this cycle of i don’t know what you want to call it some people just say it’s trauma some people say it’s addiction some people you know say it has something to do with mental health but it’s definitely a problem like it’s a problem we see it’s a cycle we see from generation to generation and you know is aca part of the way to stop that is it you know or or some similar program is this what we need to start to deal with these issues instead of just you know keeping them quiet and not talking about them like we seem to have done and then passing one again to the next group of kids that comes along yeah um when you invited me to be on the show and i you know because billy was going to be out this week i didn’t know if you were inviting me just to help with billy being out or because i’m a good candidate for aca because i probably am um i don’t have any experience with aca acla and um i don’t wonder if this counts as my first meeting am i going to get a coin today i i don’t know we can that’s what i’m saying i have so many questions i can’t wait to hear speak about it because i’ve only read like a little bit online like the laundry list and uh it’s a it just seems it’s really interesting and i know in my own story i mean i’m not gonna tell my whole story but like you know i did i did some work along the lines but not with the official acoa program so i i’m looking forward to hearing what she has to share and um kind of like you know going from there i have never done aca either it was uh recommended to me at one point and i almost went that route uh the biggest problem of that point in time was that there weren’t any real groups in the area um but i did attend for quite a while an adult children-focused al-anon meeting which i know is not exactly the same thing it’s a different program but i know it was a thing but yeah it’s the same type of thing dealing with that uh growing up in that household right even if you don’t have a a qualifier that particularly drank uh you can still qualify if they had all the behaviors and so that’s what we’re going to explore today i think we’re going to learn a lot it should be interesting and we will talk to sarah here in a moment

this episode has been brought to you by voices of hope inc a non-profit grassroots recovery community organization located in maryland voices of hope is made up of people in recovery family members and allies together members strive to protect the dignity and respect of those that use drugs and those in recovery by advocating for treatment support resources and mentoring please visit us at www.voicesofhopecilmd.org and consider donating to our calls all right so we’re here with sarah today uh who has graciously come on to talk about aca with us it’s always suggested to me that before we get into anything about asking questions about particulars that we allow the individual to tell five to eight minutes about their story and how they got where they are and what brought them there and so i think that’s a great place to start is just hearing about you and and what got you to where you’re at yeah cool thanks i mean i never had a bad upbringing you know i was cared for looked after i’ve been writing a gratitude list to my mum this morning about all the things she did for me as a kid from the outside it looked like a happy childhood but within that there was quite a lot of dysfunction going on my parents not very good at expressing their feelings um there’s a lot of anger a lot of control a lot of black and white thinking so you know as i kind of grew up there was a lot of arguing you know threats of leaving you know i was put in a in the car as a kid and told i was going to be taken to the children’s home so it’s kind of nothing ever happened but there was always the threat so i never really felt secure within what looked like quite a normal family you know so this kind of just went on and on and i remember at school i think i don’t know why why it came up but i think one of our teachers mentioned a dysfunctional family and i was like oh that’s our family you know and i went trotting off home and said to my mum this is a dysfunctional family and obviously that didn’t go down very well um so you know it was kind of all the denial you know there’s nothing wrong with our family and so you know denial is quite a big part of all of that as well on the part of the people that are kind of living it i guess my mum my i think my mum struggled quite a lot with parenting and for me the biggest kind of thing that i’ve i’ve found difficult is um she kind of blamed me for breaking up the family when i was three because i used to have a lot of tantrums it was you know she i think she’s just unable to cope with negative emotions so that was kind of my upbringing you know fast forward to about 14 i picked up drugs and alcohol and boys i guess that’s the point at which addiction started in my life because i just didn’t feel like i fitted into my family you know i never really learned relationship skills from a dysfunctional family right so yeah so i kind of got into all of that i left home when i was 15 put myself into foster care because it’s just it just felt so chaotic and the day that i left i remember like nothing even happened i think what actually happened was i had a day of peace and just went i want more of this and i just left wow then i got pregnant at 18 you know had my daughter and i think throughout the years you know i never sunk to a a really low bottom but there was depression you know drugs alcohol terrible relationships you know that were very addictive and obsessive um so it’s just kind of you know a bit of overeating i remember saying to my mom when i was 18 i think i’m you know i’ve got a problem with gambling and i was you know putting my money in the fruit machine because i was drinking and i was like i think i’m an alcoholic and it was just all going on and i just didn’t know what was happening you know so yeah i kind of you know my daughter’s 23 now all of that carried on throughout her upbringing you know loads more kind of dysfunction and and you know and i’ve passed it on to her you know all of this stuff is generational right you know she by the time she kind of moved out of home went her own way i was just left here on my own with my addiction you know i had quite a hefty pot addiction by that time which i thought was fine because it wasn’t doing anyone any harm you know but i’d completely isolate myself from the world didn’t really have any friends had a great job you know flat all looks great from the outside but i just kind of crumbled on the inside yeah i kind of hit my bottom like two years ago and just kind of i literally shouted out can someone help me you know into my bedroom and and the word codependency popped into my head and then i started reading about codependency found alanon codependence anonymous and that kind of got me into the program and then you know i’m i’m now in aca which is adult children of alcoholics and dysfunctional families you know my parents aren’t alcoholics but they’re very dysfunctional and i also go to sla which is sex and love addicts anonymous which for me i think kind of deals with the present issues i have with relationships and aca looks at my past issues with relationships and where my kind of acting out whether it’s in relationships alcohol drugs or whatever where it all kind of stems from so for me aca is kind of getting down to the root of the problem so that’s kind of an overview i love the way you put that you know you kind of have the one program to deal with the here and present you know issues that are arising and then you also have the aca to go back and look at the root of it and maybe where it stemmed from and maybe a different plan of attack in order to heal that kind of stuff uh i guess first and foremost the first thing that popped into my mind was did you go to any program for what you call the pot addiction at all or the substance to use no because i didn’t see it as a problem for the first year of recovery it was kind of like you know i’ve got a job i’ve got my flat you know i’m a functioning human being but it wasn’t until so i did the first three steps in sla which got me out of the addictive relationship i’d been in for 15 years which actually we only dated for two years and the rest of it was just this complicated backwards forwards push-pull can’t let go kind of nonsense and and i think the pot just kind of replaced it you know it’s like peace for me i’d come home from work and just kind of go into myself in my own little bubble and i was actually perfectly happy but when i started looking at doing the aca steps a few people pointed out that in the literature it does say that we need to be free from all our addictions and i was in denial about that being an addiction until i read a book about addiction and there’s a guy that had to kind of give up heroin and and it described how he felt and i felt that about giving up my pot and then i realized i had quite a lot stashed in the cupboard not that i was smoking it loads every day but i had a significant amount stashed away so i’d never have to be without it and the thought of not having it just kind of i instantaneously burst into tears and was like oh god you know i’m an addict but i mean i put that down you know i just kind of went through withdrawal i didn’t use you know i didn’t go to ma or anything because i already kind of knew what i had to do to get through it you know i already had an outreach group and you know and i had that kind of support network so not for that one okay no that’s great so is aca a 12-step program this is and we come here uh i don’t want you to feel like we haven’t done our homework like the idea is we don’t want to have done our homework because we want people who are hearing about this for the first time to know more about the program so um i have made notes just so i don’t forget anything um part of being an adult child for me is being a perfectionist so um don’t like things wrong um so yeah so we’ve got so aca is a 12-step fellowship based on aaa so you know there’s a lot of reference to aaa throughout the literature our identification is called the laundry list so you know we’ve got a list of things that we identify with and those are all the things that i can identify with from a victim perspective if you like but then we’ve also got the other laundry list which is where i’ve now become the perpetrator so i may have been the victim of my parents but i then became the perpetrator in the way i acted towards my daughter because i learned those behaviors from my parents and then you know without meaning to i replicated those in the way that i brought my daughter up so those are kind of the identification and then there’s the problem and obviously the solution i don’t know if you want me to kind of read any of that stuff out if it’s helpful well what does aca say the problem is so yeah feeling isolated and easy uneasy with other people especially authority figures becoming people pleasers and losing our own identity in the process so you know a lot of codependency you know i tend to like for instance i’ve stayed in relationships because i’m too i don’t want to let them down you know there’s a lot of abandonment and i don’t want to make other people feel abandoned we become alcoholics or other you know other addicts um ourselves or we marry them or both um finding compulsive personalities such as workaholics to fulfill our sick need for abandonment living life from the standpoint of victims having an overdeveloped sense of responsibility getting guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves rather than giving in to others and really the kind of the main point is we become reactors rather than actors so in a crisis i can react from an emotional state rather than a calm adult state because i’m kind of you know i find myself transported back to being a kid and i’m then a scared frightened kid trying to react to an adult situation without the skills because i never learned them from my parents you know because they’re very reactionary and emotional there’s a lot of anger and just emotional kind of outbursts and things so depend where you know we’re dependent personalities terrified of abandonment and willing to do almost anything to hold on to a relationship but we choose insecure relationships because they match our childhood relationship with alcoholic or dysfunctional parents so you know learning to keep our feelings down as children keeping them buried as adults and then as a result of that we confused love with pity tending to to love those we could rescue and for me the biggest thing is you know becoming addicted to excitement in all our affairs so you know kind of tapping into the inner drug store for excitement because you know all the chaos and the drama and the shouting and all of that that went on in my childhood when it’s not there it’s it just feels like a bit of a void you know there’s nothing so i kind of look for this excitement in other places yeah so in listening to that list i mean i can only relate to every last one of them this is not the first time i’ve heard that list and every time i hear it i’m like check check check like all the way down and also in in having a little bit of familiarity with the the slot program i can completely see why those two go together with that laundry list it sounded very similar to you know a lot of the relationship ideals and ways we act in there if we uh qualify for the slob program as well yeah so from what i understand aca is an offshoot somewhere along the line from al-anon do you know any about the history of that i i believe like uh people from al-anon i don’t know to me it sounds like people from al-anon went to therapy and learned about the inner child and then decided they needed a more therapeutic program yeah possibly i don’t think i don’t i’m not sure if i’ve heard the link to alan on before or not but yeah i can definitely see that there’s a connection there i mean you know my first meeting was an allenon meeting i only ever went to one so but it is very much about trying to detach from other people my ex was an alcoholic so just one meeting of alano was enough to go oh it’s not my fault you know great which i guess i kind of get the same kind of thing from aca i didn’t cause my family’s dysfunction you know i was just sort of subjected to it right i had uh it was recommended for me to kind of explore some similar topics of the adult children at one point and we didn’t have aca in my area and it was suggested to go to an al-anon meeting that was called the adult children meeting of al-anon on saturday mornings at one point and i could definitely identify in a similar way as you i think they were referring to it as having a a para alcoholic qualifier like my my parents didn’t drink either but the same type of you know childhood environment of i guess in the therapeutic community we would just call it there’s trauma that happened and never having a realization that it was trauma because i said oh my parents are together they’re not divorced they didn’t hate me you know it must not have been trauma and then realizing that like some of their behaviors obviously got passed to me and those were the same behaviors that i was passing to my kids and and not you know those things you do when you react like you said we’re reactors right and you just don’t feel good about yourself afterwards and you’re like why do i keep acting like this when i don’t like so we’ve heard about who would qualify for membership in aca or people who might identify with the program according to their laundry list so what does aca say the solution is really to become your own loving parent to actually learn those skills for for myself and be able to kind of give myself the love the nurture the comfort rather than expecting my parents to give it to me which they just can’t they’re just not not able to it doesn’t mean i have to go without i just have to learn a whole new set of skills and you know for me like that does actually even sometimes entail me going now look little sarah we need to go and do this thing today so i need you to kind of stay at home so that growing up sarah can go to deal with this situation i mean not all the time but it has happened and it’s kind of like you know it just it’s that self-soothing kind of being my own loving parent it’s interesting in only having experience with other programs where maybe the inner child might be i don’t know laughed at or something along those lines it’s interesting to see that it’s such an integral part i mean i i believe from what the way you’re talking about it like the inner child is actually in the literature of aca correct yeah yeah absolutely i mean you know what you just said about sort of talking about this stuff in other fellowships other people in other fellowships have said i could never talk about this stuff in my other fellowship it’s just kind of i don’t think it’s really done is it no it’s not i mean in my program specifically there’s still especially when we people first arrive um there’s still very much a macho vibe and a mask they need to wear of toughness and and this you know manly exterior and so to think they would come in and like you know in meeting one hear about an inner child i can only imagine the reaction and yet you know through therapy that’s part of my life too is getting to know the the concept of the inner child and how to self-soothe and the things that i need to do for me so i completely i’m in love with the idea i’m actually like i need to join this program now because i could probably use it my recovery story started in aaa but i’m currently doing a buddhist recovery program which i love a lot and yeah inner child was never talked about in aaa not laughed at to your face but it didn’t come up much now in buddhism it’s not in our buddhist recovery literature specifically but it’s certainly welcome in the offshoot conversations and i mean your program i’m seeing some similarities with the buddhist recovery program i mean i’m dying i want to hear more about yours i really like how it’s going and i’m just i don’t know i’m just thinking about my own story and how the buddhist recovery overlaps with inner child talk and the stuff you just said so i’m going to let you talk more

yeah i i hear what you’re saying you know i’ve got the latest suture i kind of dip into that i mean for me recovery is recovery you know i’ve got the aa big book i’ve got the sla big book code book big book i’ve got copies of all the big books i’ve got copies of different religious texts i think you know they’ve all got something to offer so yeah and it all ties in quite nicely i think for me but for me like the biggest thing trying to get into recovery was there was never anything that was that bad it was just really kind of i’ve got a good life but what is going on why am i so unhappy and it was that deep down pain that just came from not being enough and i think aca for me kind of covers all of that and looking at step four you know there’s like it covers everything really it’s so interesting to hear you say that that’s what led you to the program or to seek help in general you know we kind of had this idea in some of the other recovery programs about the substances that you have to hit this bottom right and and there’s always debate about when’s your bottom when you stop digging and all that great stuff but it seems to be that we think there’s this like catastrophic event that’s just not my experience right yes some people do have to get to some pretty low bottoms to come in but really ultimately there’s people with lots of money left with lots of stuff left and really it’s that emptiness that void and it’s like i’m doing everything i can i have these things it’s almost like that shows you quicker than having nothing because if i have nothing i can say well if i just had a good job and finances i’d be happy but if i have all those things and i’m still not happy it’s almost like that’s more obvious there’s really something wrong here i have everything i’m supposed to want and there’s still no joy in my life yeah yeah definitely curious one of the things you can qualify for aca if you come from an alcoholic household and you can qualify with you know what’s called the the para alcoholic which is you know basically the person who has all the same behaviors as the alcoholic just never drank same traumas going on there but we were curious are people from drug addicted homes are they welcome in aca is that talked about openly in meetings yeah absolutely most of the people i know in aca are in another fellowship off the top of my head i can’t actually think of anyone who isn’t in another fellowship for me aca is getting like i said it’s getting to the root of the problem that’s how i ended up an addict so whilst i can stop acting out there’s still going to be other areas where i just still don’t feel quite right and i’ve heard you mention in other podcasts about people that have kind of found that whichever fellowship they’re in kind of isn’t really doing an awful lot for them anymore and i think that’s probably where aca comes in you know if you want to dig a bit deeper i mean we’ve got a yellow workbook it’s it’s heavy pretty heavy duty you know 30 pages to step four with every um inventory under the sun you know and then once you’ve done this there’s another workbook to go even deeper you know it’s like you can keep peeling that onion for as long as you want you know for me like who i am today is based on my upbringing and then another 20 years of repeating the same stuff so i’ve got i’m in my 40s now i’ve got 40 years of dysfunction to try and unpick so it’s not going to go away overnight but in two years i have found that i actually do feel more like an adult these days not all the time but most of the time you know and i feel secure with who i am most of the time you know and i still have blips but now it’s like oh that’s just some work i need to do get journaling try and try and work out what’s being triggered here you know because there’s something that just needs looking at you know you were talking about not necessarily coming from a house of addiction but um in the literature it does say that you know parents could be addicts or not they could also be emotionally ill hypochondriacs hypocritical perfectionistic ultra religious sexually abusive you know there’s all sorts of things that can come from living in a just you know lots of things that define being dysfunctional and one of the exercises that we do as part of the workbook is to actually draw out a big family tree and you kind of write down how all of these people map to aca so you kind of list all the loners all the alcoholics the people that were really self-sufficient and wouldn’t accept help from anybody else i i didn’t realize just how dysfunctional my entire family was you know all the control there is actually a lot of alcoholism in my family and i i know my dad did drink quite a lot as a teenager but then he just stopped so i’m kind of thinking what is he a dry drunk because he’s very angry yeah he might not be an alcoholic but he’s definitely not been treated for whatever happened to him that made him the way he is so it is difficult to kind of get help if you come from something you know a background where it’s not necessarily alcoholic addict if you’re not an alcoholic or an addict i mean there probably is something somewhere along the line but i think aca just really does cover everything over here there’s people who shot heroin who go to aaa and generally in the aaa meeting they kind of hope you don’t share that like they don’t want you to talk about drugs they want you to talk about alcohol use and recovery from that but in they can go to that program and and work the steps and and work that program and find the help they need but they’re still not really allowed to talk about it i guess in general and it’s bigger than others yeah some places definitely don’t care as much for sure but and same kind of idea with like an al-anon or a naran meeting like they really kind of stick with what they’re supposed so is there any language that would not be welcome in aca like could you go in and talk about your parents being heroin users and you recovering from that or do they kind of try to stick to the alcohol since it’s in the name well no i mean it’s alcoholic and dysfunctional families so it covers everything i can’t remember where it says it exactly but i do i did have that feeling that maybe i shouldn’t talk about say for instance my slaw stuff or my codependent stuff you know and so for a long time i was very mindful of that and didn’t talk about it but as i was working through the work you know the step workbook it did start specifically talking about all of that stuff so therefore if it’s in the book i’m going to talk about it and i do now talk more openly about the things that i struggle with because of my aca upbringing so you know it it’s part of who i am i’ve had problems with alcohol smoking pot you know i mean i was sat there last night dealing with some feelings thinking i really want to go and get high you know and i have talked about that in an aca meeting because you know i’m working the ac steps so i need to recognize when i suppose acting out is coming up for me and i need to it just it all ties in really i’m actually highly surprised that they use the terminology dysfunction in their wording and only because i know in the therapy world they’re kind of moving away from using that word because it’s it’s sort of gotten taken over not so much with the stigma of being terrible but almost the stigma of playfulness kind of like how people use it and throw it around so much now that they’re they sort of want to move away from dysfunction and and plus it’s a negative connotation label and so they’re they’re trying to use people first speech and so it just it kind of caught me off guard that aca uses the term dysfunction even though i think probably more people can understand what that means than anything else you would call it yeah when when acoa was first introduced to me it was as adult children of alcoholics and dysfunctional families that was in rehab i went to outpatient rehab even the term adult children was like really weird to me now i wasn’t that bright when i entered rehab so but then when they started mentioning adult children like what does that even mean it took me a while to sink in and was i didn’t know i had those treats it was funny how my my therapist counselor at the rehab had brought it up she kept having that acronym acoa in my report i’m like what what is that she’s like hey i don’t children of alcoholic she’s like that’s you i’m like what like she’s like oh yeah i was like oh okay but i didn’t even know what adult children meant even back then but the dysfunction was definitely present too so it should be acad adult children of alcoholics and dysfunctional family unless the word police coming at you and i could be a bit of the work i hadn’t heard that dysfunctional was like kind of on the outs but uh i mean you know

i think sometimes it’s tricky because we want to use language that emphasizes people’s strengths and not deficiencies and so that’s why they try to move away from dysfunction because it sounds like more of a deficiency than a strength and the basis in therapy is usually a strength space perspective but like that at the same time you start moving away from language that everybody understands and then there’s more confusion and so i think people at this point in 2020 definitely understand the dysfunctional family and so it’s kind of a very clear statement to make like do you come from a place where people argued every thanksgiving and got too drunk and you know half naked people chased your uncle out of the house or something like you might qualify for this program yeah and if it wasn’t for that word i don’t think i would have got in because you know even though i’d identified myself as being from a dysfunctional family as a child you know as an adult sitting in a room full of people that you know from my perspective had had it much worse than i did i still didn’t feel like i belonged so if i was sat in a place where it was just adult children of alcoholics i never would have gone because i’m like well i’m not you know but the dysfunctional family bit i could identify with so it might not be a nice word but i could like you say it was a word i understood and that was introduced to you in school your school age right yeah yeah when yeah when i was in school dysfunctional family meant the simpsons so it sounded hilarious to me right and so i i completely agree with that that idea because it had it not been for an outside recommendation for me to go to an al-anon meeting i would never have entered an al-anon meeting about adult children of alcoholics at all because i and when i say that i don’t mean that they were the same program it was just that was the topic but i i didn’t have any alcoholics per se in my immediate family and so i never would have considered that that was something i needed like why would i go to al-anon that’s for people who have alcoholic family members i don’t but you know once i got there and heard what they were talking about i could completely identify in and then to understand the concept of the the para alcoholic or the dry drunk or the person who has all those behaviors i know hypercritical that one stuck out when you read that when it kind of hurt my heart a little bit i was like oh the hypocritical parent oh yeah the perfectionist yeah so curiosity do you know of anybody specifically that only goes to aca or does everybody in your circle and people you know kind of use it as a complimentary program to another program they do yeah i like i said i cannot think of the top of my head of anyone i know who only does aca it seems like a great place to get more information like you said kind of to dig deeper and i and i hate to say that because then i sound like the the snotty hoity-toity you know 12-step recovery guy like oh if you don’t go to these other programs you’re just staying at surface level like that’s not my goal but i i have found the more 12-step programs that i’ve explored personally the deeper i’ve gone into learning about myself and and the different ways in which what i call addiction manifests in my life what do you guys call like i in my program you know i we struggle with the problem of addiction it’s a disease of addiction right that’s what we refer to it as and it has many manifestations all over our lives but what do they refer to it in acoa just dysfunction do they call it trauma what do they have a term for it no i don’t i don’t think we really prescribe anything like that you know it’s if you identify welcome that’s it so i guess i would just walk around and say i’m dealing with my problem i’m the problem i i was curious since there is the focus on the inner child have you noticed at all that maybe men have a harder time with the program than than say women do i’ve not noticed that possibly some kind of gender specific messages you know like men that men shouldn’t cry need to be tough i i have heard of men struggling with that but then so do i right you know because one of the when we do our you know in our preamble it’s you know adult children of alcoholics and dysfunctional families are told don’t talk don’t trust don’t feel so you know it’s not it’s not gender specific it’s we have been told to keep quiet why are you crying why are you doing that stop crying i’ll give you something to cry about constantly it’s just emotional abuse really isn’t it and just not being given a space to to feel emotions to feel feelings you know you mentioned masks you know we put masks on we pretend like everything’s all right because that’s how we’ve survived right i mean i remember like when my mum would get the wooden spoon out and you know to smack us i’d stand there with such determination like i am not going to cry i am not giving you the satisfaction of seeing me in pain and so that just becomes a default you know to not show emotion to kind of shove it down and not express it and aca is really about getting in touch with all of that i sometimes now have started being able to give myself time to cry you know like the other day i was going off into the kitchen to stuff my face because i was feeling feelings and i even said out loud that i knew that i was doing that and on my way back through you know i kind of thought no i need to sit down and have a cry so i did you know and that was the solution was to get in touch with what i was actually feeling and not go and try and soothe it with some kind of acting out because i haven’t got my pot anymore i don’t drink you know but there’s still a load of sugar in the kitchen you know so it’s trying to keep a check on what am i feeling and what do i actually need to do to make myself feel better so and what i just heard there is that we come from people who don’t know how to feel and express their own feelings or tolerate them and so we’re raised in a way that in my house it was safer to not have feelings it was safer to not cause a ruckus or stand out everything was just safer to be okay because then i didn’t have to deal with what happened when things weren’t okay and then that’s what we learn and then that’s all we have to pass on to our children without some kind of program to help us be more conscious and present in the moment and deal with some of those things and not be you know not be the reactors is that like the ultimate goal of aca to kind of no longer be the reactor but to just respond to life as seems more appropriate in the moment i think so but also as you were saying that you know i kind of realized that there’s a lot of fear in my life you know if i if i were to express emotion then my instant thought is i’m going to be abandoned you know if if a friend is to get upset with me i’m like oh well the friendship’s over you know so i’m stealing myself and shoving my feelings down and going well i never really cared about that relationship much anyway you know we had a good time but you know move on and and so it’s kind of trying to build intimacy and trust that if i have a bit of a blip with someone it doesn’t mean the whole thing’s over you know and that negative emotions are okay it’s just someone expressing a feeling and that feeling is okay the same as being happy is okay and making sure that i’m true to myself and not just constantly trying to people please in order to keep them in my life which i would have had to do in my family of orange is always about keeping my mom happy so that she wasn’t upset so that kind of then extends into other relationships where i’m constantly trying to put my feelings aside just to make sure the other person is happy so they don’t leave me i remember buying my first car and i purchased the car that my my wife who was my girlfriend at the time really liked because i honestly had no concept of what my favorite things in life were at that point in time yet until i had uh sought some therapy to figure that kind of stuff out would you say there’s any time you graduate aca is that something that happens not maybe not graduates the right term but do you is there a finish to the program or is this kind of a lifelong addressing or do you get to a point where maybe you feel like you’ve addressed everything you can address from your childhood and it’s time to stop going i’m not aware of any kind of milestones there are chips for kind of yearly membership it’s not something that i really hold on to anymore i mean we did have you know we have chips in the other fellowship but if i lose sobriety i’m going to beat myself up a bit more about it i just stay in the programme and and i think it is a lifelong thing steps 10 11 12 are anyway in any program that constant checking in and working the program i don’t and i don’t see how i will ever be done learning i mean even if i even if i’m healed you know i still want to carry on being the best person i can be so no there are no specific recovery milestones in aca that i’m aware of but like i said you know there’s there’s the other laundry list book to do once i’ve done this one so right and you don’t i believe it’s not referred to as sponsorship in aca is that correct you can have sponsorship the way that i’m working is like the fellow traveler way which is you know me and another fellow wanted to work the program so we just kind of joined up and and we do each step together it’s kind of gone a little bit out of sync now but to begin with we were doing step one together doing all the writing meeting up and then sharing back what we’d found and just having the discussion you know some people do have sponsors there are other people who do it as a group a group of people have just finished doing the steps i think it was a men’s group so they all did the steps together you know it’s a personal journey so that’s what i like about aca is it’s not rigid and i think this rigidity of growing up in in a controlling environment is what i like about aca it kind of it’s letting go of all of that i don’t have to do this perfectly i mean when i started doing this the workbook i had it there and i was like oh if i’m writing it i’m going to ruin it if i get it wrong or a spelling mistake it’s all got to look perfect so i was like right and i just scribbled out the first few questions in it just to get over that fear of getting it wrong and you know i mean i’m on step nine now and i’m a bit stuck with one of the amends i need to make and and i kind of thought maybe i actually need to just go back to step four you know so i’m kind of back on step four looking at my part in order to try and move forward with the step nine and i’m you know i’m using the aaa literature for this it’s all there and there’s no one telling me that i can or can’t do it the way that works for me so you know i really like it it’s gentle it’s a really gentle program about love and acceptance and not being perfect and just doing the best you can really wow that sounds great and i believe you had a question right jenny that you really wanted to ask yeah um just kind of about the mechanics so there is a 12-step process and you mentioned the workbooks and then i love this term fellow traveler is that just an across the pond thing do we use that over here fellow traveler is that what you say yeah yes fellow traveler yeah i like that term because in a in the recovery song go we don’t have enough people to do like a sponsorship thing but a fellow traveler i like i like the image of that how often do you meet personally or what’s the program recommend um well they say give it i think it’s three to six meetings you know to see if you identify and and then just keep coming back i mean i do a weekly meeting you know i have a commitment we’re on zoom at the moment but it would normally be a physical meeting yeah there’s quite a lot of groups actually in the uk and you know we have conventions i joined an aca workshop yesterday that was based in in america which is great because you know at the moment we’re going all over the world sort of dipping into things it’s great it’s a great opportunity to sample other programs because around here you know when acla was recommended to me i think we had one meeting not even that close you know one day a week so i ended up not doing it but now is a good time to try zoom out i haven’t done any any online meetings i’ve just done one in person outdoor meeting but maybe i’ll dip into yours the other thing that comes with the smaller fellowships uh and i don’t mean smaller like they’re small but just compared to the the aas and nas of the world you know they’re they’re not as large but even when they come to a more remote area such as the one we currently live in you get one meeting a week and then you really that meeting takes on the personality of the few people that go and it’s just not the same you know an hour away from us are two major cities and if you go there there’s the variety right you can hit a meeting on monday and it feels one way and a meeting wednesday and it seems like more structured than it does up here up here it feels more like a a conversation or a hangout between a couple of friends which can be great if those people are really in tune with the ideals of the program but sometimes i’ve found it’s not in tune with the ideals of the program at the moment and it kind of just seems like somebody running their own meeting for their own reasons which is weird and you had a question about the the opioid epidemic too right yeah this is my big question ready for my big question so you know there’s an opioid crisis and you know right now there’s a generation of kids being raised by dysfunctional and addicted parents who are going to be adult children one day does aca talk about this like you know this this generation’s coming is there a plan it’s interesting you say that because i was listening to one of the other podcasts the other day that was talking about it might have been billy perhaps talking about going into schools with na and you know talking to kids and stuff and the word prevention came up you know is that what you’re sort of talking about because when i thought about it it’s like i had no choice in how i was raised you know and i can’t see that i could have turned out any other way because dysfunction is generational it’s passed down from parents parents parents so my aca journey is really about drawing a line under that and stopping the generational pass down of the dysfunction to i mean i’ve already done the damage but i can definitely not make it worse for my daughter you know if i’d have kind of got into aca sooner it might have had more of an impact but my aca journey is about acknowledging the fact that my parents did the best with what they had they did what they could and i did the best with what i had and it’s kind of really letting go of the blame i guess parents that are on opioids are doing the best they can they’re trying to get through their stuff i don’t know if that kind of answers your question but i’m not sure personally that there is such a thing as prevention i think in in 20 years uh aca is definitely going to need you as a senior member to help the large influx of people coming in from from all these families it’s it’s unfortunate but i mean thankfully we do have places like this with members who are gonna still be there and helping out so that you know people have a place to go and find out about what their problem is when they’re ready and and what they can do about it and so i guess to wrap up a little bit aca you they have a website you can find meetings virtually and possibly in person at the moment maybe is there anything else you wanted to tell us about the program i suppose i was gonna you know i did make a note of the step four you know areas that we look at because i didn’t realize how thorough it was until i started so if you don’t mind i’ll just read out the um you know the things that we look at so first of all we look at the laundry list and all of the ways that we identify with that we look at family secrets we look at shame abandonment generational transfer of harms so what i you know what i’ve passed down and done to my daughter we look at stored anger relationships you know whether they’re romantic sexual friendship ones we look at sexual abuse we look at parental denial look at our own denial and that was quite a big one for me that was a quite an eye opener because i was like well i’ve never been in denial about my family dysfunction but what i hadn’t looked at was my own denial which i you know i did have we look at ptsd we look at trauma and neglect but also built in with that is a lot of feelings check-ins praise acknowledgement of our strengths because there’s a lot of good stuff that we’ve learned you know we’re not bad people in fact what i’ve learned is i’m actually a really nice person i’ve been beating myself up for years thinking i was a terrible person a terrible mum a terrible daughter an addict an alcoholic you know all the things i’ve done because of it and now i’m getting in touch with the fact that i’m actually a kind sensitive useful member of society and i suppose you know having looked at all of the the horrible stuff and dealing with all the grief that surrounds that i’m now able to shine as the person that i was supposed to be and so that’s kind of you know what i’ve got from aca as a guy who loves therapy and all the concepts of therapy i will say this program sounds the most tied into therapy and therapy language and therapy ideals and values and i just for that reason love it i love everything about it honestly everything you said today i’m like that’s great we should do more of this everywhere right i have one more question is there a spiritual leaning or spiritual rules or with aca it’s a spiritual program same as a a but you know you find your own higher power i struggle with that you know prayer meditation i struggle with you know i what i do do is i do a lot of um walking in nature that’s my kind of higher power it’s just you know finding that thing that’s bigger than me it’s about removing my ego you know that i’ve got any control in any of this you know in other people’s lives there’s a lot of codependency that’s come about through my upbringing and so yeah i think it’s probably the same as any other 12-step fellowship really awesome well thank you so much for taking the time to be of service today sarah hopefully people can hear more about the aca program and i generally find that the more people hear about a program the more they realize they’re they’re part of the metoo and so hopefully they’ll have a new place to explore and and find some help and this program will continue to grow and flourish and help people and again just thank you so much for taking your time to come on it was great talking to you thank you so much thank you for inviting me yeah it’s been great this was so interesting i’d want to hear it even if i wasn’t in it this has been a great i loved hearing your story thank you for being so open and wise and giving thank you so that was a great conversation with sarah one of the things i think that was on my mind that just stuck out a little bit like i don’t know that we have any actual scientific research about you know i don’t even know how you could research or quantify that dysfunction or trauma is passed down from generation to generation right but we do have plenty of research that says uh addiction runs in families we have research that says if you start out in a middle class family you’re probably going to end up in a middle class family and if you start out you know in a lower socioeconomic status family that’s probably where you’ll end up like we don’t change much from our family of origin we we kind of have this understanding in science for the most part that’s able to be shown in numbers like this is what happens of course there’s the outlier that breaks out of that the guy who grows up with a you know a father that does plumbing who becomes a multi-billionaire through a tech company startup or something like it of course there’s always one or two but in general we are what we come from and and i just think that understanding applies so much in our lives that we don’t really ever tend to look at like we’re we’re so busy on a daily basis just oh i gotta get up and get to work i gotta get the kids to school i gotta get the kids to their soccer game after school i gotta do this i gotta do that and trying to keep up with that that we don’t ever really think about am i just living the exact same life my parents gave for me including all the parts of it that i thought were pretty yucky as a kid have i taken an actual look at the parts of my life that i think were unfair to me or not good for me it’s so easy for the world to beat that out of us like oh your parents were together they weren’t even separated or divorced or they didn’t beat you with a wooden belt like a wooden belt who the [ __ ] uses a wooden belt sorry whatever like they didn’t beat you or whatever it’s not enough to be trauma and yet we’re just continuing to pass this on to our kids and i it’s just so relevant i almost wish it was just like instead of adult children of alcoholics and dysfunctional families just i don’t what do you everyone this is the everyone program because trauma is subjective so one person who gets the wooden belt you know may not yeah they might take it one way you know like that may not be as traumatic to them as somebody else you know trauma’s subjective you know so someone with the you know silver spoon childhood still could end up you know dysfunctional are we allowed to use that word like you know um because of what they suffered from imagine all the kids of presidents and i you know what comes to mind is the most recent two and maybe clinton as well like their children were young in the white house and how many duties and busyness does your father and mother have now as the president and first lady and like how little attention do you get from them yeah because of that like and i’m not saying they’re the only ones but even those are people who you’re like oh they’re the president’s kid they’ll turn out great and you’re like how much trauma are they going through right the immense pressure of always being in the public eye they’re probably not doing like you know movie night on the couch i can’t really picture that unless it’s staged for their instagram you know feed but and celebrity kids too right like you can’t get out of the public eye you’re always getting pictures snapped of you you probably can’t go to a normal school like you have this odd upbringing and so we say oh they’ve got it great but really like their childhood might be just as traumatic as the next person’s for other reasons this is where yeah i get my gratitude for my small potatoes lifestyle you know i mean this this podcast is the probably the most celebrity thing i’ll ever do oh man that’s that’s slow that’s low on the totem pole but no i agree with you like i you know nobody’s calling to take up all my time all week and i do have a lot of time with my kids and i love it it’s it’s a true blessing um so i don’t know any anything really interesting you learned today that surprised you i forgot to ask her how popular russell brand is in england that was my question because i think he’s hilarious um and i wonder if he’s like as popular over there as he is over here he’s got he’s got mixed you know i just wanted her her perspective that’s a good question i i he i really like his material and yet when i you know the the pricing for it kind of bothers me oh like i listened to his book and because i listened to the bootleg version on youtube and it was brilliant i’m like this is so informative and entertaining and i like listening to him he’s a smart guy and but then he was like saying you could get stuff off his website that was cost money and i was like do you do you need it like why yeah i’ve only tapped into like i’ve used like audible credits for his books i’ll listen to the free podcast but i haven’t subscribed to luminary right well he and he’s got like recovery materials like workbooks or something and stuff that you can buy and i’m just like why really i don’t know uh maybe if i had money i would yeah and look for all i know all that money he makes from that goes back into recovery i have no idea right i just want to judge him for charge of money to begin with maybe i just don’t want to pay money maybe that’s my problem i just don’t want to pay for anything i just want it for free that is that is a theme with you yeah just want things for free that’s part of my own addiction so i’m only judging russell because of my own problem there we go he would tell me all about myself i’m sure if i would pay him my money do you think he’ll come on this show i highly doubt it you can always ask i you know i’ve thought about that i thought about it might be a guest host when that happens we’d have to ask billy okay i’ll arrange a vacation for you go buy billy a vacation that’s fine but yeah i don’t know i guess i was a little surprised i thought all their i didn’t think they did sponsorship i thought they were all called fellow travelers even if that was technically like your sponsor that’s kind of a word in the therapeutic community people moved away from calling their people patience and they started with the clients which clients is pretty okay but but now even more people are like it still feels weird and professional relationshipy and so we want to call our clients fellow travelers instead that’s interesting so the college educated paid person is a fellow traveler of the one one swiss patient artist formerly known as patient what i will say is for the good ones probably i i personally think the best therapists are the ones that understand they are right here with you not anywhere okay and some you know professional understanding level of being above you that is interesting so uh take that with a grain of salt if your therapist is above you and doing great for you then stick with it don’t take my advice but uh i mean i guess that’s about all i got you got anything else to wrap up thanks for inviting me oh thanks for coming on i appreciate you being of service and coming on and helping me do this podcast today yes with a fun experience i hope i was helpful yes absolutely absolutely brought good questions and uh an entertaining voice uh so we’ll look forward to having billy back next week as always you know check us out wherever the heck you check us out at and and join in the conversation the more voices the merrier we learn more that way uh and we’ll see you next week if you enjoyed this podcast please feel free to share it with people you think might benefit from the conversation look us up on facebook twitter and instagram to join the conversation also and share your ideas with us we’d love to hear it

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