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Emotional Health

Emotional Health

Emotional Health is just as important as physical health. And since there is no scan, blood test or magic pill to help, Emotional Helath is too often ignored.

Below are some starting points:


A Toxic Brew

Adult children of alcoholics face down denial, but it’s a trauma they carry throughout their lives.

By Pamela Weintraub,

The Signs

Thirteen characteristics of adult children of alcoholics

Janet Geringer Woititz, widely acknowledged as the founder of the Adult Children of Alcoholics movement, lists 13 traits to look for.

These individuals:

  1. Can only guess what normal behavior is
  2. Have difficulty following a project from beginning to end
  3. Lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth
  4. Judge themselves without mercy
  5. Have difficulty having fun
  6. Take themselves very seriously
  7. Have difficulty with intimate relationships
  8. Overreact to changes over which they have no control
  9. Constantly seek approval and affirmation
  10. Usually feel that they are different from other people
  11. Are either super responsible or super irresponsible—there’s no middle ground
  12. Are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved
  13. Are impulsive. They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsively leads to confusion, self-loathing and loss of control over their environment. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess.

The organization’s name is often ascribed to Janet G. Woititz (c. 1939 – June 7, 1994), an American psychologist and researcher best known for her writings and lectures on the adult children of alcoholic parents, and author of the 1983 book Adult Children of Alcoholics.[3][4][5]

The term ACoA was also extended to include PTSD by Tian Dayton PhD, specifically in her book The ACoA Trauma Syndrome.In it she describes how pain from childhood emerges and gets played out in adulthood, for the ACoA, as a post traumatic stress reaction. Childhood pain that has remained relatively dormant for decades can be re-stimulated or “triggered” by the dynamics of intimacy. “Just as a car backfiring triggers a soldier into unconscious memories of gunfire, when the ACoA grows up and enters the intimate relationships of partnering and parenting, the very vulnerability, dependency and closeness of those relationships can trigger unhealed and unconscious pain from childhood.”

 The Laundry List

Before Dr. Jan’s book was published, an adult child of an alcoholic, Tony A., published in 1978 what he called “The Laundry List,” another list of characteristics that can seem very familiar to those who grew up in dysfunctional homes.5

Tony’s list has been adopted as part of the Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization’s official literature and is a basis for the article, “The Problem,” published on the group’s website.

According to Tony’s list, many adult children of alcoholics can:5

  • Become isolated
  • Fear people and authority figures
  • Become approval seekers
  • Be frightened of angry people
  • Be terrified of personal criticism
  • Become alcoholics, marry them, or both
  • View life as a victim
  • Have an overwhelming sense of responsibility
  • Be concerned more with others than themselves
  • Feel guilty when they stand up for themselves
  • Become addicted to excitement
  • Confuse love and pity
  • “Love” people who need rescuing
  • Stuff their feelings
  • Lose the ability to feel
  • Have low self-esteem
  • Judge themselves harshly
  • Become terrified of abandonment
  • Do anything to hold on to a relationship
  • Become “para-alcoholics” (people who take on the characteristics of the disease without drinking)
  • Become reactors instead of actors

ACoAs and Relationships

Many adult children of alcoholics lose themselves in their relationship with others, sometimes finding themselves attracted to alcoholics or other compulsive personalities, such as workaholics, who are emotionally unavailable.1

Adult children may also form relationships with others who need their help or need to be rescued, to the extent of neglecting their own needs. If they place the focus on the overwhelming needs of someone else, they don’t have to look at their own difficulties and shortcomings.1

Often, adult children of alcoholics will take on the characteristics of alcoholics, even though they’ve never picked up a drink: exhibiting denial, poor coping skills, poor problem solving, and forming dysfunctional relationships.

Trait 13 – Para-Alcoholic

Alcoholism Is A Family Disease.  We Became Para-Alcoholics And Took On The Characteristics Of That Disease Even Though We Did Not Pick Up The Drink.   

  When any member of a family is suffering with alcohol addiction, all who live in the household are affected and become ill.  In some families the desperation and emotional turmoil is ever-present, while in other homes the entire family may go to incredible lengths to put on a show of normalcy.

Regardless of the family posture, however, the disease of alcoholism affects everyone.  The children suffer stress in countless ways.  Eventually the overwhelming pressures in the alcoholic family lead to emotional disturbances, many of which have been described in this chapter.  Appearances aside, all of the children in an alcoholic household become wounded and most of them carry those unhealed wounds into adulthood, home and social environment.  No child escapes unscathed, though many are under the false impression that they have.  It is most sad that so many ACoAs truly feel that they survived their childhood with only minor scratches and bruises.

Para-alcoholism is the transmission of emotional aspects of the disease from parents to children.  Children who are exposed to the illness eventually take on many of the characteristics of the illness.  It’s a fact of life that many ACoAs resist before recovery.

Excerpt from Chapter 4 – The Recovery Process in The Laundry List by Tony A. and Dan F.


  1. Melissa Whiteley Says:

    November 7, 2017 at 2:41 pm
    I would like to find an online ACA sponsor. I have recently moved to a more rural area in the UK where there no available sponsors (they have not completed 12 steps/gave enough recovery).
    I can give more of my history at a later date, if needed. I have been attending Alanon groups for about 10 years and am in my 4th step..kind of dangling, dawdling in it actually!
    Hope someone can help, or point me in the general direction of it!
    Just putting this out there as I haven’t -as yet- found anywhere else to ask!
  2. Craig K Says:

    March 28, 2017 at 1:39 pm
    I’m a sober member and have 29 years and didn’t understand what was missing in my soberity. I’d work the steps however felt the abandonment issue also feeling of isolation in social situations. I’m meet the person my dreams and within two months just miss understood something and I destroyed the relationship that meant the world to me. The old patterns came up so clearly it shocked me into a painful experance that rocked my life. In the after math I found ACA which was givening me answers to question I’ve never asked in my life of my self. The grace of God I’ve not taken drink due the fact my spritiual bank account had couple extra peso from helping men in their sobriety. I’m staring new journey in emotional soberity due to ACA meetings and step work book. The pain in my life has motived a true honest desire to grown in my life, I don’t want to repeat the old behaviors again. My honest desire in life is to best I can be in life of service and encouragement of others in my life, I want to have a full wonderful life. I hope is to have the relationship I’ve desired a life time to have to have a companion who will see the authentic person who I am and for me to share a life with on the journey of life, yes intimacy is my desire in this life of mine. I believe and now this program will help me grow into the man want to be n my life.