ACA Program essentials

The Laundry List

14 Traits of an Adult Child of an Alcoholic

We have a list of characteristics we feel we have in common. In the past, they probably helped us survive growing up in a dysfunctional family; now, they get in the way of our living. We found that by identifying with this list and learning to see how these show up in our lives, we can begin to change.


  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 live life from the viewpoint of victims and we 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 became 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

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Tony A's 12 Steps


  1. We admitted we were powerless over the effects of living with alcoholism and that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could bring us clarity.
  3. We made a decision to practice self-love and to trust in a Higher Power of our understanding.
  4. We made a searching and blameless inventory of our parents because, in essence, we had become them.
  5. We admitted to our Higher Power, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our childhood abandonment.
  6. We were entirely ready to begin the healing process with the aid of our Higher Power.
  7. We humbly asked our Higher Power to help us with our healing process.
  8. We became willing to open ourselves to receive the unconditional love of our Higher Power.
  9. We became willing to accept our own unconditional love by understanding that our Higher Power loves us unconditionally.
  10. We continued to take personal inventory and to love and approve of ourselves.
  11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with our Higher Power, praying only for knowledge of it’s will for us and the power to carry it out.
  12. We have had a spiritual awakening as a result of taking these steps, and we continue to love ourselves and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

from “The Laundry List” by Tony A.