A.C.A. ACoA/DF Recovery Tools: What They Are and How to Use Them
|You can't work this program by yourself, in isolation. People are the keys. Meetings are where you can find them. It's that simple.|
|It's hard to say much more than the above about the importance of meetings to recovery in the A.C.A. program. While independent reading and other learning activities can provide insight on yourself and your issues, co-dependency is all about people: so people have to be part of the solution (even as they were likely much of the problem). Meetings provide a relatively secure setting where you can focus on your issues and the new skills you are developing, learn more about yourself (often, that you are not "the only one who..."), by listening to others, and gain practice maintaining healthy relationships.|
|As Brad Roberts once wrote, for a Crash Test Dummies song:|
'Cause you're so kind
I know you would not mind
You'd send away the ghosts that haunt me now
And the things I fear
Just wouldn't seem so near
And when I stroll out late at night
There would be nothing rattling at my heels
In A.C.A., at the same time as we strengthen ourselves by understanding and dealing with the characteristics that operate within us and learning new and better life skills, we find that developing faith in a "higher power", as we may define that in a manner that works for us, can be a welcome source of added strength when our own runs low.
Reaching out for help in any form can be a new concept for many members. As a result, most begin the program by learning as much as they can about the characteristics before tackling the steps in earnest (this is, of course, a matter of personal choice, as everyone is welcome to join Step discussion groups, if for no other reason than to gain an understanding of what they're all about). Those who join A.C.A. "after" working through another 12-step recovery program also often address the characteristics first, but in their case it is often a matter of the time it takes to realize that the 12 steps they worked previously may need to be revisited in the light of their new awareness.Working through the 12 steps, once you understand them, is a challenging but enlightening experience, best undertaken with a close friend or therapist who understands 12-step programs or by joining an A.C.A. "family group", where available.
Recognizing the times when we need to talk to someone else and taking the simple steps to reach out and make that happen are critical life skills that will only develop with practice, so if you have a phone list and haven't yet tried it out, PLEASE do so.
Fellowship- the unstructured part of the program- not only offers a chance for a bit of camaraderie and fun; it also provides us with an important opportunity to practice the skills we are learning with people we know in a special atmosphere of understanding. One old-timer once referred to A.C.A. as the best "ground school" for relationships he'd ever found. So, don't pass it up too often; you may be missing something good.
If you're on the other side, that is you're the one suggesting or organizing something for the group, remember a few simple tips:
While the Chairperson often has the most immediately visible role, there are many, many more things members can do to help out their groups. Follow the link below to learn more about these.
A prayer, like an affirmation, is a highly personal experience within which we speak with our Higher Power. As such, perhaps moreso than any other aspect of the A.C.A. program, there is no one best way to achieve this, nor one special set of words (if words are even required), that seems to work for everyone.
|The door to recovery may not always be visible to you, but even when it's not, faith ("a power greater than ourselves"), can help you remember that it's still there.|
Spirituality is an important aspect of personal "wellness", as its development can provide, through faith, an important reservoir of strength when the sources within us have run low. In Step XI of the Twelve Steps, we seek, "through prayer and meditation, to improve our conscious contact with God", as we understand God. Some may find this through established religions and others through a more individual form of spirituality. Whichever path or paths you may follow, the rewards for developing closer contact with your own Higher Power can be great.
For some, particularly those who haven't practiced it, meditation may
conjure up images of levitating yogis, of monks deep in spiritial
contemplation, or of arms and legs in complicated positions beyond
the reach of most of us. However, while all the above may involve
meditation (at least, for those holding the corresponding beliefs),
meditating, by itself, is a fairly simple concept.
One definition of communications, taken from the field of electronics and radio waves is "the absence of noise in the channel", that is, whatever remains after all the surrounding clutter has been removed. Just as you can't hear a distant radio station clearly when the static level is too high, or enjoy your latest CD properly when there's a buzz from one of your speakers, it's hard to think clearly, or even to rest properly when your mind is preoccupied with other, possibly troubling thoughts. Meditation, pure and simple, is a skill you can learn to clear your mind so that the "noise " goes away. As such, it can be profoundly restful, both mentally and physically.
You can begin the learning process quite simply, by setting aside a little "quiet time" to relax (this alone, make take a little planning for some, but don't be discouraged). Try to remove whatever outside influences (bright light, loud music, etc.) you can and find a comfortable position for your body, but preferably not lying down in bed (unless you have the time available for a full, restful sleep, which might take several hours if you plan on waking up naturally). [I know more than one mother who has locked herself in the bathroom and sat in the tub as a first step.] Next, do your best to relax (but don't get stressed out doing so).
One simple method of helping yourself to relax is to slow down your rate of breathing by counting to ten (if that's comfortable), as you slowly breathe in as deeply as you can, pausing a few seconds, and then slowly breathing out to the same count, again as much as you can. Wait a few seconds and repeat the process a few times. You may be surprised at the results. Once your body has relaxed, give yourself twenty minutes or so of relaxation and then continue on with your day. During this time, if distracting thoughts come to you, acknowledge them but less them pass by- that's entirely normal (if you remember you've left the iron on, that's obviously another story). If you find you need it, restful background music or thinking of other relaxing or happy experiences you've had can also help your getting started, although you'll likely need these less the more you practice. Try not be concerned with any time you may feel you're "taking away" from your responsibilities; after you've given those few minutes to yourself, you'll find you're much better able to deal with anything which follows.
That's how it begins and, if you've never made it this far, this alone will bring you benefits. To go farther, however, you will likely require instruction and this involves certain choices. Many different groups offer further training in meditation, some of which (but not all), may combine this with yoga and/or a religious or spiritual program. Find out what you can before starting any about the various alternatives available and choose according to your own personal interests and needs.
A guided meditation is somewhat different. This is essentially a therapeutic technique whereby someone, or possibly a voice on a tape, helps you reach a certain destination of thought. Depending on where you're headed, this might be either a very restful or a very scary journey. Here, you may be best off considering your journey as a walk in the woods. Before setting out, consider where you're going and how much you want to get there, how well you know your guide and whether you want to bring a friend along in case you need help. In particular, revisiting painful periods in your past, alone with nothing more than a tape deck in the room, may not prove to be a healthy choice.
As children, many of us learned in a perverse way the power of repetition as we came to memorize (unconsciously, but far too effectively), false and often hurtful messages from the environment around us: "You're stupid." "You're nothing but trouble." "All men are / All women are " "Don't tell anyone about this, or else " Each of us has our own list and is aware of at least most of the messages it contains. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me " Yeah, right! I admit to having said that one myself sometimes, as a last defense, but it was pretty flimsy armour. Many of the messages penetrated it and some of the wounds still remain.
Affirmations are the "white magic" form of the false and unhealthy messages you may have learned as a child. By repeating to ourselves positive and truthful expressions of the way we really are, the many good qualities we do have and the realistic objectives we have set for ourselves, we can gradually write over those old, toxic tapes from our past and replace them with messages that heal, sustain and help us grow.
Writing and using personal affirmations is a fairly simple process, as we often start with a fairly good idea of the things we need to hear (if you find you do need help here, try asking a close friend, a therapist, or perhaps another group member you know and trust). However, a few tips can be helpful:
Another type of positive statement is the "daily affirmation" or "thought for the day". While these typically aren't repeated the way a personal affirmation would be, they can provide insight into issues we might otherwise not find and may well prove the inspiration for new affirmations we create for outselves The Related Books page in the Readings section lists a few of these and a link to one on-line source (of many) is also provided below.
Many of the books on adult child issues and co-dependency recommend a variety of written exercises, often including "journalling" (essentially, keeping a diary). If you're at all inclined towards this type of activity, it can be a very beneficial exercise while in program, as it provides a base for measuring your progress. Don't be concerned if what you write today shows you're still dealing with many difficult issues. After a few months, if you're working the program, chances are that in looking back you'll be able to spot at least a few areas of improvement. Later on, you'll be able to open your journal and "remember when" and take pride in the changes you've helped to happen.
One simple trick in journalling is to note any good things that happened over the day. There are always some, even if they're simply that certain things didn't go as wrong as they might have (or "usually" seem to do). This may seem a bit trivial at first, but learning to discover the many good things in life and celebrating even our small successes is a very strengthening life skill. By taking note of them, you also can help defeat crippling self-talk such as "Nothing good ever happens; nothing ever goes right." on the basis of your own evidence proving that's just not true.
Writing is also important for setting objectives and creating affirmations for ourselves and in doing Step IV work, where we take our "inventory" of personal characteristics we'd like to change, with the help of our Higher Power.
Attending regular meetings is the way most of us begin the program and typically the way most of our program time (aside from the parts we do by ourselves) is spent. However, sometimes there is a desire on the part of members who have been working the program for a significant period of time to "go deeper" and do more. When enough senior members to form a small group of their own feel this way, forming a "family group" (or "writing group") is one alternative.
In a family group, members will typically choose one of the A.C.A. or co-dependency workbooks available and agree among themselves to work through all or part of its exercises as a group over a number of months. Such groups typically hold weekly meetings, but replace the "discussion groups" segment in the middle with individual writing or group exercises following the outline of the workbook. An important aspect of these groups is the level of commitment required between members, so thet everyone stays "in synch"; there is also a greater need for mutual support, as the exercises may take them into new areas of personal exploration.
When there are not enough interested or experienced members in local A.C.A. groups to form a "family group" as described above, those seeking more in-depth work might consider seeing if there are therapists in their area dealing with co-dependency issues (many of which offer group sessions), or hospitals or treatment centers with addictions programs. The latter often offer "family programs" themselves, to help those affected by living with an addicted person in the present or in their family of origin.
On Teddy Bear nights, which typically take the form of a "speaker's meeting", a friend of the member celebrating (usually, but not always, someone else from the group), traces the progress that their friend has made while in recovery and "presents" to the person celebrating a teddy bear, or a similar special thing (such as a pet or toy), that the member celebrating has bought for their "inner child".
This concept may seem a bit of a stretch to someone outside the program or someone who hasn't worked it for long. However, it recognizes our acceptance of the fact that some of our less functional behaviours can be traced back to the parts of us that didn't quite grow up and the role we begin to play in reparenting ourselves, meeting needs that weren't met earlier and developing new and better life skills.
A Teddy Bear night, with the cake and celebration that most times accompanies it, is also one more chance for members to practice having fun and getting away from taking themselves too seriously (Characteristics 5 and 6).
If you're just starting the journey, laughter (or even feeling anything at all), may seem a pretty remote goal. In fact, the very idea of looking at some of our more trying life experiences without sorrow may be upsetting to some. But humour can be a very powerful ally in our journey, providing strength and perspective when there's not much else around to sustain us.
Humour on dysfunctional families is all around us; laughing at the fictional characters portrayed in these shows, books and movies can often help us learn to laugh at ourselves. "The Simpsons" television show and, even moreso, the earlier cartoons of Matt Groening, such as his "Life is Hell" series of cartoons, offer some particularly relevant humour. If you've been in program(s) for a while, try viewing the movie "Stuart Saves His Family" with a few other old-timers; it's not perfect, but there's some humour in there only you will understand. These are but two examples drawn from the many you can probably identify yourself.
Finally, always try to keep in mind the inspiring (if not quite scientifically accurate) line: