ACA Toronto Intergroup Newcomer's Package

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					      FOR NEW ACA MEMBERS)                                                                                    PAGE 1 OF 6

We l c o m e t o A C A                                                                   IN THIS PACKAGE
Ad u l t C h i l d r e n o f Al c o h o l i c s • To r o n t o In t e r g r o u p        Welcome to ACA

We adult children of alcoholics who have come far                                        ACA Bill of Rights
                                                                                         !But my parents weren%t alcoholic"
enough out of denial to recognize and admit the
                                                                                         First Steps
personal validity of !The Problem" are among the
                                                                                         Some ACA History and
toughest, sanest, psychologically strongest people the
world knows. We have shown a capacity for personal                                       Symptoms of Inner Peace
responsibility that is unusual, to say the least.
M E S S A G E             T O       T H E        N E W C O M E R                    !   Y O U      A R E       S A N E !

We adult children of alcoholics who have come far               And, $nally, we are safe. We have ourselves. We
enough out of denial to recognize and admit the                 have each other. We are sister, brother, father, and
personal validity of !The Problem" are among the                mother to one another. We can rely on each other
toughest, sanest, psychologically strongest people              until we are able to claim our adulthood, our
the world knows. We have shown a capacity for                   responsibility for ourselves, our lives, and everything
personal responsibility that is unusual, to say the             in them.
least.                                                           Anyone who can handle what comes up at six
Though in the past we may have adopted insanity,                meetings without retreating once again into denial
suicide attempts, self#abusive drinking, eating or              has begun an irreversible process of recovery:
drug use, compulsive working or obsessive                       everything in that person%s life can become part of
relationships as our method of coping, we now have              the recovery process, regardless of how chaotic it
a chance to be sane, totally sane, in all ways and all          may look or feel. Many of us act out out old dramas
our lives.                                                      and defenses at least once again, as if to see whether
 After surviving the traumas of childhood, we have              they really are as unnecessary as we hope. Indeed,
screened ourselves, selected ourselves, and found               they are, and typically we do not slip back into denial
each other, through twelve step programs, therapies,            and our other obsessions. We keep our other
consciousness expansions, insane asylums, jails, and            programs going. We are survivors.
hospitals. All that is needed now is a safe place               If you seek explanations for this miracle &many have
where we can $nally shed our defenses, our denial,              been o'ered, ranging from consciousness expansion
and admit to ourselves and others how angry, hurt,              through religion to psychiatry and science or
maddened, and wounded we have always felt.                      combinations of all of these(, any explanation seen,
                                                                heard, or thought of so far includes one central
                                                                statement in complete agreement with all the others:
                                                                !The Twelve Steps Work"!

     FOR NEW ACA MEMBERS)                                                                          PAGE 2 OF 6

WELCOME TO ACA                       You have the right to say nothing.
This note introduces you to ACA You also have the right to ask for,                     Resources
## why it is here, how it works, and or to not accept, feedback to what      Meetings
some resources that are available. you have said. This is not a              Meetings are a safe place to begin
                                     therapy group. You are                  our recovery/discovery.
We are adult daughters and sons of responsible for taking care of
alcoholic or dysfunctional families. yourself. Take what you like and        Telephone Calls
We meet to share our experience, leave the rest!                             The phone list is our lifeline
strength and hope in living a                                                between meetings
program of recovery and growth.      Most meetings do not allow
                                     !crosstalk". Each person is             The 12 Steps
The core of our program is the       allowed to share freely and             The Steps are at the core of our
Twelve Steps and Twelve                                                      recovery
                                     without editorial comments, one#
Traditions which guide us on a       liners, or interruption. This helps     Literature
path of physical, emotional and      create a safe place to share.           Materials from ACA, other 12-Step
spiritual healing. We also           Crosstalk violates the safety of the    programmes and our personally
recognize that we have many          meeting by recreating the family        chosen materials promote our
characteristics in common. These experience of not being heard or            recovery
are summarized in the ACA            of being ridiculed or criticized or     Anonymity
Problem and Solution and other       belittled.                              Anonymity allows us a new freedom
literature. ACA is independent of                                            to share our feelings and to
Al#Anon, AA, and other 12#Step       We avoid giving advice. We prefer       experience an identity apart for a
Programs, although we                to share the story of our recovery      label. We need to be free in our
                                     and of our experience, strength         meetings from the fear of gossip or
acknowledge the wisdom and
power of those programs which we and hope. We give support by
have adapted for our particular      listening, encouraging, verifying       Service
needs.                               and validating others.                  We serve by speaking, leading, doing
                                                                             group "chores", giving rides, talking
GUIDELINES FOR                        We learn to focus on our own
                                                                             with newcomers, and doing what we
MEMBERS                              thoughts, feelings and behaviors,       can to ensure the safety of ACA
                                     rather than on others, by making        being available to the next Adult
The group is self#supporting and     !I" statements.                         Child who needs it.
relies on voluntary contributions
from us to pay the rent and other Respect the needs of others for            The Serenity Prayer
expenses. We periodically appoint time. If you wish to talk at length        God, grant me the serenity
                                                                             To accept the things I cannot
members to perform various tasks. about some issue, ask the other            change,
These members are !trusted           group members $rst. Stick to
                                                                             The courage to change the things I
servants." responsible to the        your issue and avoid going o' on        can,
group. We try, through service, to tangents.                                 And the wisdom to know the
give back some of what we have                                               difference.
                                     Above all, remember that
received as part of our recovery,    everything said in the group
but not to give away all we have ## should stay there.                      other members we relate to
thus repeating our old patterns.                                            between meetings. Some groups
                                     Our progress depends on building       keep a phone list and other groups
    We ask you as a newcomer to      trust between us. Gossip about         simply encourage you to ask for
attend at least six meetings before each other is completely                the phone number of a member
you decide whether the group is      unacceptable. Anonymity is an          whose sharing reached you.
right for you. It often takes at     essential part of our group.
least six weeks to start                                                    If you decide to stop attending the
understanding and feeling how the What is said and who says it are          group, please tell the group. We
program works.                       not to be discussed with others.       hurt when someone we care about
                                     We use the telephone to talk with      leaves without saying goodbye.

      FOR NEW ACA MEMBERS)                                                                        PAGE 3 OF 6

ACA BILL OF RIGHTS                                        18. I have the right to decide if I am responsible for
                                                              $nding solutions to other people%s problems.
1.   I do not have to feel guilty just because someone
     else does not like what I do, say, think, or feel.   19. I have the right to change my mind.
2. It is okay for me to feel angry and to express it in 20. I have the right to be independent of the
   responsible ways.                                        goodwill of others before coping with them.
3. I do not have to assume full responsibility for        21. I have the right to think about myself, my life,
   making decisions, particularly when others share           and my goals and leave others to God.
   responsibility for making the decision.
                                                          22. I have the right to actively pursue people, places,
4. I have the right to say, !I don%t understand"              and situations that will help me in achieving
   without feeling stupid or guilty.                          agood life.
5. I have the right to say, !I don%t know".                23. I have the right to leave the company of people
                                                               who deliberately or inadvertently put me down,
6.   I have the right to say, !no" without feeling guilty.     lay a guilt trip on me, manipulate or humiliate
7.   I do not have to apologize or give reasons when I         me. That includes my alcoholic parent, my non#
     say !no".                                                 alcoholic parent, or any other member of my
8.   I have the right to ask others to do things for me.
                                                           24. I have a right to a mentally healthy, sane way of
9.   I have the right to refuse requests which others          existence, though it will deviate in part, or all,
     make of me.                                               from my parents% prescribed philosophy of life.
10. I have the right to tell others when I think they     25. I have the right to laugh and play and have fun. I
    are manipulating, conning, or treating me                 have the right to enjoy this life, right here, right
    unfairly.                                                 now. I have the right to carve out my own place
                                                              in this world.
11. I have the right to refuse additional
    responsibilities without feeling guilty.
12. I have the right to tell others when their            Remember, I am learning how to give to myself,
    behavior annoys me.                                   and that is not bad. I need to change old feelings
                                                          of being victimized to new feelings of being
13. I do not have to compromise my personal
                                                          about to meet cha!enges successfu!y.
                                                          I don"t have to take care of everyone else. I hav#
14. I have the right to make mistakes and to be
                                                          choices about how I respond to people.
    responsible for them. I have the right to be
    wrong.                                                Some situations can be resolved without my
                                                          being involved. Others can lend support to thos#
15. I do not have to be liked, admired, or respected
                                                          $ho need it when I am not wi!ing to b#
    by everyone for everything I do.
                                                          available. It is okay to put my own we!%being
16. I have the right to evaluate my own behavior,         &rst. I am important, too.
    thoughts, and emotions, and to take
                                                       I wi! read my Bi! of Rights out loud, everyday
    responsibility for their initiation and
                                                       to myself. I wi! feel some of the old guilt for
    consequences upon myself.
                                                       awhile, but it wi! be mixed with a new
17. I have the right to o'er no reasons or excuses for sensation...that of excitement along with a sens#
    justifying my behavior.                            of aliveness. I wi! discover that I am intuitively
                                                       handling situations which used to ba'e me.

     FOR NEW ACA MEMBERS)                                                               PAGE 4 OF 6

Many newcomers in ACA report they identify with the characteristics listed in (The Problem) *or
(The Laundry List) or (The Characteristics) which can be found in the ye!ow pamphlet+, but they
can &nd no alcoholism in their family. There can be many explanations %% perhaps the family denial
system prevents the newcomer ,om seeing the disease, or the family addiction has taken another
form *drugs, compulsive over%eating, workaholism, violence, gambling, etc.+ or there may actua!y
be no aspect of alcoholism in the home. The fact is, it doesn"t matter! Our program is not about our
parents or whether or not you can identify an alcoholic in your past.

For the $rst time in our lives,    for this vital process. Healthy   any change as a threat, can be
we are dealing with ourselves ##   exploration was distorted by      loved, supported and nurtured
we identify the characteristics    unstable, unstructured lives.     through the changes necessary
in each andevery one of us.        Individuation was not possible.   to become a healthy adult.
With this new focus on !self "     We enter ACA feeling more         We can see now that our lives,
and away from the personality,     comfortable talking about         while sharing history and
disease or identity of our         other people ## what they did,    learned reactions with our
parents orcaretakers, we come      what they said, what they were,   family, are separate from our
to see how our program             etc. We have had no               parents or caretakers. We are
addresses us as !Adult Children"   experience in de$ning ourselves   not doomed to perpetuate the
in the here and now. We begin      ## what we feel, what we need,    patterns we found necessary to
toexperience a reality that is     what we are. When we grew         our survival as children.
our own life, independent of       up, we became extensions of
the family drama that resulted                                         Any Adult Child, through
                                   those around us ## learning
in acquiring the characteristics                                       guidance of our loving Higher
                                   their fears, behaviors,
that brought us to meetings.                                           Power, can heal, accept the past
                                   limitations, and prejudices. In     and grow through the clear and
In a healthy home, a child is      ACA we $nd a need to discover       consistent direction provided
allowed to develop a sense of      ourselves as unique individuals     by the Twelve Steps and Twelve
!self " through the stability of   instead of living as extensions     Traditions. Whether from the
the parents, through               of those around us.                 most violent alcoholic
exploration and individuation. For many of us, the early stages background or from the illusion
The early stage called !The          of this process resulted in a     of serenity in other
Terrible Twos" is the time when feeling of guilt ## as though we dysfunctional homes, every
a healthy family allows the          are !bad" for betraying the role Adult Child can begin
child to establish appropriate       placed on us by the family        progressing through the process
boundaries. The child has            system. There are those among of Recovery and the Discovery
learned the quality of trust         us who froze at this stage of our of !self ".
necessary to risk $nding their       voyage of Discovery/Recovery,
own identity &"I want...", !Give but most of us progress at our
me...", !I don%t like...", etc.( and speed if we are simply willing to Joe D., Kelly M., Christian
the meaning of the word !No." admit those feelings to others. C., and Charlie Ann P 1987      .
In our homes &for whatever           The rigid and frightened child
reason( we were not able to          inside, who has come to view
experience the stability needed

      FOR NEW ACA MEMBERS)                                                                               PAGE 5 OF 6

FIRST STEPS                               examine your feelings. You may also      Try to keep the focus on
                                          $nd yourself getting physical            yourself and your feelings.
It is indeed confusing to walk into an
                                          symptoms: dozing o', getting dizzy,      While it is painful and di*cult to do
Adult Children of Alcoholic meeting
                                          feeling nauseated or headachey. All      so, we are in these rooms for ourselves
for the $rst time. Congratulations on
                                          are typical. Recovery is no day at the   and to feel our feelings. Lecturing,
your bravery! In these rooms you are
                                          beach.                                   advice giving, criticism, feedback,
welcome to share the confusion and
pain that has haunted you.                                                         commentary on others, and !$xing"
                                          Try different meetings.                  are detrimental to others% recovery as
Do you qualify for membership?            At the present time there are many       well as your own. Focus on your past:
Many beginners feel that they are not     di'erent ACA meetings each week in       your feelings, your problems, your
entitled to be in these rooms. There      this area. Although we try to make       patterns. This isn%t sel$sh; it is
may have been no alcoholism in your       every meeting a safe place, you may      healthy.
family, but if you identify with !The     feel more comfortable in some than
Problem" you probably belong. Adult       others. Sample and select. Take what    Don't follow leaders.
children of compulsive gamblers,          you want and leave the rest.            Be wary of anyone who acts as an
over#eaters, debtors, sexaholics, and
                                                                                  authority $gure. We ACAs are each
generally dysfunctional families have     Speak up at meetings.                   responsible for our own recovery,
found help and acceptance in these        If you can, get your hand up, even if   which comes through the
rooms. If you identify with us, you       you can only say your name and that it development of our inner voice.
are welcome to consider yourself one      is di*cult for you to speak. It has     Program is unique to each of us. We
of us.                                    been so for others of us. We embrace must learn to trust ourselves, not
You may hear words that are new to        you. Share with us if you can. And      authority. We have no o*cials and
you: !lost child", !hero", !scapegoat",   once you do speak, others will          our leaders are only !trusted
!mascot", !codependent", !introject",     identify and perhaps grow from what servants". There is no !approved"
!the child within". Read the literature   you share. More importantly, you        literature; we can all write it. Anyone
or simply listen and you will             will. This program works.               can start a meeting. We have no
understand. You may also hear about                                               spokesperson, representatives, or
spiritual recovery and the 12 Steps.      Reach out to other ACAs.                experts. Each one of us is expert in
This is not a religious movement, but     If there is someone you are drawn to    our pain, in our needs, in our recovery.
many of us have found that a belief in    or strongly identify with, you might
a power greater than ourselves has        tell them so after a meeting. It is not Get phone numbers.
been helpful. It is not necessary to      unusual for a group to go out for       While going through this exciting,
have religious beliefs, or even to        co'ee afterward. Invite yourself or     painful process, it is enormously
believe in God to participate in this     ask another ACA to join you.            helpful to have other ACAs to call in
program.                                  Isolation is part of this disease and   times of stress and need. Ask for
More than one beginner has                you can break it.                       people%s numbers &some may say no,
complained, !But I don%t know what                                                but that is okay(. Call someone. It%s
                                          Don't take rejection too personally.
I%m supposed to do. What are the                                                  hard to lift up that phone and admit
rules? How does it work?" Strange as      It hurts when we don%t get called on    your pain, but we have all been there.
it sounds, there are no rules or          or if a friendly overture is rebu'ed,
explanations except to keep coming        especially as we all feel particularly  Remember that this is a
to meetings. Newcomers are                vulnerable in these rooms. Try not to program of spiritual recovery.
frequently insecure or unsure about       take it too personally. It has          We practice anonymity, and try to
what recovery is all about. While         happened to all of us. Remember that have no gossip or criticism among us.
beginners occasionally focus on these     each of us is in the room because of
issues, they as often do not. So for      con+icts and problems, and some         If any of this is helpful, terrific.
beginner, a few hints:                    friction and disappointment is          If it is not, throw this away.
                                          inevitable. If you don%t get called on, You will recover in your own way at
Attend six meetings before you            ask to share with someone at the        your own pace. Just keep coming
decide if ACA is for you.                 break or after the meeting.             back. It works.
This is the traditional wisdom. What
you hear may make you sad,
uncomfortable, or angry. Try to

       FOR NEW ACA MEMBERS)                                                                                                       PAGE 6 OF 6

AA # Alcoholics Anonymous. The $rst of the         groups in metropolitan New York City. The            THE TWELVE STEPS # A system of
modern 12#Step Programs, founded in 1935.          $rst Adult Children meetings used this               recovery evolving through the Oxford Groups
                                                   acronym.                                             of the 19th Century, broadened and deepened
ACA # Adult Children of Alcoholics. Used by                                                             by the founders of AA in 1935. Adopted by Al#
the ACA World Service Organization in Los          PROGRAM # Usually referred to by 12#Step
                                                                                                        Anon in 1953 and by ACA in 1984.
Angeles.                                           group members, the Program is usually the
                                                                                                        Independent Adult Children groups use several
                                                   personal mix of 12#Step meetings, phone calls,
ACOA # Adult Children of Alcoholics. Used by                                                            changes in the First Step # !powerless over our
                                                   writing, and continual exercise of the simple
meetings and Intergroups in areas previously                                                            childhoods," !powerless over the e'ects of
                                                   principles in the Twelve Steps that lead to the
associated with Al#Anon and now registered                                                              alcoholism," etc. These steps are also used by
                                                   individual%s succesfully releasing the pain of the
with ACA WSO                                                                                            over 100 other groups dedicated to Recovery
                                                   past and the growing sense of well#being,
                                                                                                        from various addictions and compulsions.
ADULT CHILDREN OF ALCOHOLICS                       comfort and appropriate response to !life on
                                                                                                        ACA WSO rati$ed an o*cial version in April
# An independent 12#Step Recovery group            life%s terms". The independent ACA groups are
o*cially formed in 1984, founded on the Steps      generally quite open about the use of outside
and Traditions of AA, established for anyone       materials in the development of the individual       THE TWELVE TRADITIONS # A 12#Step
who !identi$es with the ,Problem%". In April       Program. Both AA and Al#Anon publish books           group usually follows the !Twelve Traditions",
1993 the Traditions were changed to !a desire to   and materials that speci$cally address their         also originated by AA to guide the service
recover from the e'ects of growing up in an        form of 12#Step Program and recommend that           structure for the autonomous meeting. The
alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional family."      members use !Conference Approved"                    Twelve Traditions clarify who may be a
                                                   Literature.                                          member, establishes that each group has no
AL!ANON FAMILY GROUPS # A 12#Step                                                                       dues or fees for membership, that each group
organization formed in 1953 and founded on the     RECOVERY # A word referring to the
                                                                                                        be self#supporting through its own
Steps and Traditions of AA, for the purpose of     personal process of discovery, release and
                                                                                                        contributions, declining outside contributions,
o'ering Recovery to !anyone a'ected by             change in the lives of the individual whether
                                                                                                        and that 12#Step recovery work remain non#
someone else%s drinking".                          recovering from additction to substances, sick
                                                                                                        professional &handled by the fellowship and not
                                                   relationships, overwork, compulsion, or other
COA # Children of Alcoholics, a generic term                                                            by therapists, doctors or other professionals(.
                                                   dysfunction. Generally, Recovery &with a
used to identify all o'spring of alcoholics,                                                            ACA WSO rati$ed an o*cial version in April
                                                   capital !R"( refers more to the results of the 12#
including dependent children still living at                                                            1993.
                                                   Step Program and self#help support groups that
home. Also the name for independent ACA            follow.

Be on the lookout for symptoms of inner peace. The hearts of a great many have already been exposed to
inner peace, and people everywhere possibly could come down with it in epidemic proportions. This could
pose a serious threat to what has been, up to now, a fairly stable condition of con+ict in the world.
Some signs and symptoms of inner peace:
• A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences
• An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment
• A loss of interest in judging other people
• A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others
• A loss of interest in con+ict
• A loss of the ability to worry &this is a very serious symptom(
• Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation
• Contented feelings of connection with others and nature
• Frequent attacks of smiling
• An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen
• An increased susceptibility to love extended by others as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it