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Adult Children of Alcoholics Paperback – November 1, 1990
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The disease that keeps on giving
If you grew up in a home with alcoholism, as an adult you may never take a drink or abuse a substance but you suffer from the disease of alcoholism. In Adult Children of Alcoholics Dr. Woititz shares her observations of the impact alcoholism has on children gleaned from professional research and personal experience as the wife of an alcoholic and mother of three. Her work resonated with millions, and decades later, still does; not only COAs, but anyone who grew up in dysfunctional families where compulsive behaviors, chronic illness or profound religious attitudes existed.
The child of an alcoholic has no age
The same things hold true whether you're five or fifty; low self-esteem, a sense of isolation, depression, feelings of being unloved, unlovable and inadequate the list is long, but it can end.
Breaking the Cycle
This groundbreaking book identifies 13 characteristics of ACOAs, shared with others from dysfunctional family systems. From her belief that knowledge is power, Dr. Woititz gave millions of adults a second chance at a fulfilling life and the ability to break the cycle of addiction and dysfunction for their own children.
- ACOAs guess at what normal is.
- ACOAs have difficulty finishing projects.
- ACOAs lie when it's just as easy to tell the truth.
- ACOAs judge themselves without mercy.
- ACOAs have difficulty having fun.
- ACOAs take themselves very seriously.
- ACOAs have intimacy issues.
- ACOAs over-react to changes, need to be in control.
- ACOAs constantly seek approval and affirmation.
- ACOAs feel they are different from other people.
- ACOAs are super responsible or super irresponsible.
- ACOAs are extremely loyal, even when the loyalty is undeserved.
- ACOAs are impulsive.
About the Author
Janet Woititz was the author of Adult Children of Alcoholics, which was on the New York Times bestseller list for over a year. She wrote several other books, including Lifeskills for Adult Children; The Self-Sabotage Syndrome; The Struggle for Intimacy; Marriage on the Rocks; Healing Your Sexual Self and many others. Woititz was the director and founder of the Institute for Counseling and Training in West Caldwell, New Jersey.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
It is important to be clear what recovery means for adult children. Alcoholism is a disease. People recovering from alcoholism are recovering from a disease. The medical model is accepted by all responsible folks working in alcoholism treatment.
Being the child of an alcoholic is not a disease. It is a fact of your history. Because of the nature of this illness and the family response to it, certain things occur that influence your self-feelings, attitudes and behaviors in ways that cause you pain and concern. The object of AcoA recovery is to overcome those aspects of your history that cause you difficulty today and to learn a better way.
To the degree that none of us have ideal childhoods and to the degree that even an ideal childhood may be a cause for some concern, we are all recovering to some extent or other, in some way or other. Because there are so many alcoholic families and because we have been fortunate in being able to study them, it is possible to describe in general terms what happens to children who grow up in that environment.
To the degree that other families have similar dynamics, individuals who have grown up in other ôdysfunctionalö systems identify with and recover in very much the same way.
All folks in AcoA recovery need to learn the Al-Anon principle of detachment regardless of whether or not they are recovering from addiction or are living with an addict. Until you do this, you can go no further. Detachment is the key. Because of the inconsistent nature of the nurture a child receives in an alcohol family system and the childÆs hunger for nurture, many of you are still joined to your parents at the emotional hip. Even if you are no longer with them, you continue to seep their approval and are strongly influenced by their attitudes and behaviors. You will need to learn to separate yourself from them in a way that will not add to your stress. This is one of the primary goals of the Al-Anon program.
àWhat you learn about yourself as you are growing up because a part of who you are and how you feel about yourself. No one can change that but you. Your parents, even if they recover and treat you differently, cannot fix what makes you feel bad about yourself. You may start a new and healthy relationship with them in the present but no amount of amends on their part will fix the past. That is why dwelling on their part in your ongoing pain will not get you through it or past it. Your present difficulties are your problem. To put the focus outside yourself is to delay your recovery.
Emotions that have been held down for years and years will come to surface. That is why it is suggested that if you are recovering from an addiction, you need to focus on that first so that you will not be tempted to relieve those feelings in destructive ways. You will go through a number of powerful emotions in your recovery. It is part of the process.
Not everyone goes through the stages of the process in the same sequence, and many of you may block some of those feelings. There is no ôrightö way. I just tell you about the process because those feelings may surface without your conscious direction and frighten you. And they will resurface many times with each new discovery. The recovery process is different for different folks. Only you can determine the way that will work best for you.
Your immediate response to reading this book may be:
¬1983, 1990 by Janet Woititz. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Adult Children of Alcoholics by Janet Geringer Woititz, Ed.D. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.
Top customer reviews
There are sections on what happened while you grew up and what is happening now, but section 3, "Breaking the Cycle," raises this book head and shoulders above all the knock-offs that followed it. (Note: The edition with the pink cover is an old edition that has no section 3. Be sure to get the "Expanded Edition" with the yellow/gray cover.)
Therapists have a financial interest in keeping you coming back. If you recover and become functional, they lose you as a revenue stream. Moreover, a doctor told me that the medical students she knew who went into psychiatry did so "to straighten their own problems out." Most of them know nothing of the ACA syndrome, let alone how to fix someone who has it.
If you believe that a "higher power" and the twelve steps & disease model can save you, visit the ACA "world service organization" and observe pathetically sick ACAs with classic symptoms and behaviors. As the author points out, being an ACA is not a disease; it is a fact of one's history.
Not one of the three one-star reviews has a speck of evidence that those liars even read the book. A couple others said that the book is too short or too simple; for them I would recommend War and Peace or Advanced Differential Equations. :-) Check it out and decide for yourself!
I suggest highlighting the parts that resonate strongly with you because that makes for a quick review if you keep your copy. If no part of this book hits you like a freight train, then you are not an ACA.
The list of characteristics in the foreword to the book has grown, but that's probably only because ACOAs have been found to have more in common than was known in the First Edition. This book, that list, and the glimmer of hope that I could have a life other than the one I was living, helped get me to where I am today. I'm still working toward becoming a full-fledged responsible adult, but I'm a lot closer than I've ever been.
Today, in my job, I work at being the kind of help I saw a glimmer of in this book. There are times when I'll "loan" it to someone if it seems that it might help. I know that it was probably the hardest book that I'd ever read at the time - mostly because there was a piece of me on every page. I saw an idea in the pages, that I may have inherited more than hair and eye color from my parents, but now that I was old enough - I couldn't blame anyone else for being the way that I was. And, if things were going to change, the chief responsibility was mine and no one else's. This month I will be celebrating 16 years sober.
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