In 1983 author Janet G. Woititz listed, in her book “Adult Children of Alcoholics”, thirteen characteristics most adult children have in common. This list is also known as the “A.C.O.A. Characteristic List” by many adult children.
The 13 Characteristics of A.C.O.A.
- Adult children of alcoholics guess at what normal behavior is.
- Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.
- Adult children of alcoholics lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
- Adult children of alcoholics judge themselves without mercy.
- Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty having fun.
- Adult children of alcoholics take themselves very seriously.
- Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty with intimate relationships.
- Adult children of alcoholics overreact to changes over which they have no control.
- Adult children of alcoholics constantly seek approval and affirmation.
- Adult children of alcoholics usually feel that they are different from other people.
- Adult children of alcoholics are super responsible or super irresponsible.
- Adult children of alcoholics are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.
- Adult children of alcoholics 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.
I remember reading this list in her book and feeling overwhelmed by my emotions. Here was my life outlined neatly in black and white ink for all the world to read. I welled up with tears in my eyes. I exhibited each of these traits in one form or another every single day of my life. It felt like a massive weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
If this is your first time reading the list you may feel overwhelmed, as I once did a few months ago. Breathe deeply and relax for a few minutes. Some of you are too familiar with this list of common traits among adult children. This list should not be used to condemn us to a life of misery. Do not beat yourself up about any inadequacy you may feel after reading this list. I suggest all of us use this list to bring awareness into our daily lives.
Reflect upon your activities from yesterday. Did you exhibit any of these traits throughout your day? At home? At work? Think about your actions and how these traits affected your decision making process. Now starting at this very moment in your life, wake up and maintain this awareness daily. Understanding why we behave the way we do in certain situations is one of the keys to our recovery. We must learn to recognize each moment when one of these traits surfaces. Once you realize you are behaving based off of traits from this list, you must make an effort to change direction. Take a few extra seconds before you speak, make a decision, or take action. Building awareness in your daily life will bring you closer to recovery.