Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) is a recovery program for adults whose lives have been affected by being raised in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional family. ACOA is an anonymous program that uses the 12 steps and 12 traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. The purpose of ACOA meetings is to discover how childhood affected each member’s past and influences his or her present life. The group identifies 14 traits of adult children of alcoholics termed “The Laundry List.” This list forms the basis for the “The Problem” statement.
After identifying and acknowledging the core problem, ACOA members practice the group’s 12 steps, focusing on “The Solution” and accepting a loving Higher Power (according to each member’s understanding of what that Higher Power constitutes). The goal is to find freedom from the past and a way forward to a healthier life. Being brought up in an alcoholic or dysfunctional household leads many adults to feel isolated or uneasy around others, especially authority figures. An adult child of an alcoholic may seek to please others, even at the expense of his or her identity or best interests. Too often, ACOAs become alcoholic themselves or marry an alcoholic or both. If not, they may turn to other compulsive behavior, such as becoming a workaholic, to fill their deep fear of abandonment. With the help of ACOA’s 12 steps — whether in meetings, by phone or online — members share experiences, strength and hope with each other; they learn to restructure their daily lives, releasing the past and freeing themselves to make healthy decisions and take responsibility for their lives.