It was in the Spring of l986, in Toronto, that I first discovered that I was an Adult Child of an Alcoholic. This is a truth, despite the fact that neither of my parents were active drinkers! One of my clients gave me "Adult Children of Alcoholics Syndrome" by Wayne Kritsberg, a dynamite little paperback which for me, was loaded with "aha's!" I had always known that my father's mother and my mother's father were alcoholics ... our family lore is replete with tragic tales of death and destruction on both my father's English-Irish side of the family as well as my mother's Scottish side (making my parents the true ACA's and me, a grandchild of alcoholics). But I never had any "hook" on which to hang my terribly disruptive, abusive and emotionally deprived background. After all my years of therapy and training, it was not until reading Kritsberg that I finally emitted a sigh of relief at the acknowledgment and recognition (of exactly what went on in my childhood home) that I read there. It was there I found that six of the twelve characteristics of ACA's fit me to a tee. It was there I learned that an abusive / dysfunctional family with alcoholism in its generational background continues the cycle of alcoholism, addiction, compulsivity and abuse without there having to be much drinking going on!
Kritsberg describes the Roles of the Alcoholic-Abusive-Dysfunctional Family: the Alcoholic, the Co-Alcoholic or Enabler (usually the spouse) the Responsible Child or Caretaker, the Lost Child, the Mascot and the Scapegoat (one who does a lot of acting out and sometimes gets in trouble with the law). I found my mother, father, brother and I very easily in these roles, with my brother and I each adopting two: my brother became the Lost Child and the Mascot; and I was simultaneously the Responsible Child and the Scapegoat ... (I did lots of acting out in terms of getting into fights at school, but I felt too "responsible" to do anything illegal).
Kritsberg also describes the Rules of the A-A-D Family: Don't Talk, Don't Feel and Don't Trust, which ordinarily results in massive Denial and Isolation for each family member. At last, I felt I had a matrix which explained my extremely early feelings of isolation, terror and abandonment. Since it was my mother who was the "alcoholic" (the explosive, abusive, unpredictable one) I am now aware that I probably ingested these tensions while even in her womb!
Next, I discovered that more than 50% of my clients were ACA's and I began to connect them up with the literature as well as with some of the ACA groups (which are a direct outgrowth of AA and Al-Anon groups). Meanwhile, I started attending one ACA group and one CoDependency group per week. All through the summer and early Fall I began to do a different kind of grief-work than I'd ever done before, this grief-work was for Little Evelyn, who struggled so valiantly, fought so ferociously & worked so totally at so many impossible feats; (feats which not even the grown-ups in her midst could achieve ) that she had never before stopped to realize that she had long ago reached the possibility of simply letting go, surrendering to her highest self, to loving and forgiving of yes, her parents, but most of all, Little Evelyn! And in the Fall of l986, I attended and completed a training program for professionals and now have my Certificate as an ACA, Co - Dependency & Substance Abuse Therapist.
In ACA groups, they call what I'm in the midst of now: Recovery. I call it the glorious feeling of being whole and sensing a loving self all the way into my very core. Friends, colleagues and clients alike have noticed important and sometimes, subtle differences in me. When they comment, I smile and agree and sometimes want to say: "Of course! Beautifully lovable & loving Little Evelyn is with me all the time now!"
In my work with individuals, couples, families and groups in California, I now carry with me the added compassion and depth that my work with ACA groups, clients & literature has given me. Now I understand why Transactional Analysis has always struck a chord for me: it is the therapy of choice for ACA therapists among which group I gladly count myself.