TeddysRule! (teddy bears) The Tools of the A.C.A. Program
Information for "newcomers" (and the curious) on A.C.A. ACoA/DF About the various tools the A.C.A. program offers for recovery The characteristics of "Adult Children" The Twelve Steps of Adult Children Anonymous Readings and materials for individuals and groups (freebies too) Meeting lists and links to other A.C.A. and recovery sites A complete list the content you'll find here (try our search engine too) All about this WebSite (why, what, technical and legal stuff) Back to the TeddysRule! front door What's New on the TeddysRule! WebSite? Find out... What's New on the TeddysRule! WebSite? Find out...

A.C.A. ACoA/DF Recovery Tools: What They Are and How to Use Them
A light-hearted review of the many paths out of codependent behaviour for those from addictive, compulsive, abusive and other dysfunctional families

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How It Works

key The A.C.A. program offers us many keys to recovery, some of which aren't immediately evident to the newcomer. What we soon come to realize is that these are tools, rather than solutions in themselves. While we might gain some small comfort by picking them up and admiring them (e.g. putting the members' telephone list on the refrigerator door), they can't do a heck of a lot by themselves. So find out what they are and how they work- then pick them up and start using them! Here are a few to begin with (see also the Questions and Answers at the end of the Newcomers' page).
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bullet 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.
bullet 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:
There's a skeleton in everybody's closet
I can think of one or two in my own room
But I would like to introduce them both to you
You'd shake their bony hands and so dispell the gloom

'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

from "The Ghosts That Haunt Me"
Ottawa Canada ("N.C.R.") Meeting List
Need help finding a meeting in any other area?
View the template for a typical meeting…
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12 Steps

12 Steps "We have adopted the Twelve-Step recovery program from Alcoholics Anonymous with minor changes… We use [their twelve steps] to help us to identify and change unwanted adult child characteristics."

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.
bullet Read the Twelve Steps of A.C.A.
see also " Prayer"
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The 12 Traditions of A.C.A.

The twelve traditions of A.C.A. help to define us as a program and provide common guidelines for the many groups operating under the A.C.A./ACoA name. While some groups may add to or amplify these, the core remains the same.
bullet Read the Twelve Traditions of A.C.A.
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Contact List

telephone ("adult contemporary" vintage) At an A.C.A./ACoA meeting, you'll almost always find a list of telephone numbers of those persons in the group who have decided it's okay for another member to telephone them on program-related issues. If you have a contact list and you're feeling troubled or unsure, use it; those on the list have been there and recognize that you won't always be phoning during normal office hours. You're not imposing (even if you feel you are- which isn't unusual); you're simply doing what the persons on the list expect you and the other members to do. If the first person you reach can't help you or isn't available to talk, just accept that and recognize that's why there's more than one name on the list. Try someone else.

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.

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coffee Have you ever left a meeting feeling a bit left out because the others were getting together for a coffee somewhere after group and you "just knew" you wouldn't be welcome? That's a thought pattern leading to a pretty lonely life, but you're not the first person to have it; in fact, that's what's Characteristic 10 is talking about. So if you do feel that way, recognize that you've found a part of you that needs a bit of work, but don't let it determine your actions as an adult. Most importantly, understand that when a group of members gets together for fellowship, you don't need to figure out how to join their group or whether you'll be accepted- you're already in the group. Simply "invite yourself" and join in!

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:

  • first, try to be as "inclusive" as possible, by not choosing activities or locations that exclude certain members (for example, a doughnut shop may not be the best place to go if you know that some members are recovering overeaters);
  • next, remember that not all A.C.A.s are "joiners", in fact some are quite the opposite; so do your best to ensure everyone gets invited; and
  • finally, while you're there, remember (along with the others that accompany you) that while you're not exactly in a discussion group, you are likely to have some sensitive people along who nonetheless expect behaviour worthy of their trust; so while you're having a good time, try to model the behaviours you've learned from program at least as much as the ones you're still working on.
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As The Solution states so well: "We also find that trust, fellowship and service with our support group can aid our growth."  Service not only provides us with a chance to give something back to the program; it offers a great opportunity for personal growth as we share in the responsibility for keeping our groups effective and in "good health". Participation by everyone- as they are ready and willing to share their time- is the lifeblood of a self-help group. It is for this reason that most of the roles we can play are rotated amongst all the members: offering both the responsibility and the opportunity on an equal basis to everyone.

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.

bullet Discover some of the many forms of service with A.C.A. …
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  • 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. The Door to Recovery
  • 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.

The Serenity Prayer
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levitating bear 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.

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  • 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:

    • Yes, I can! Be personal, positive and specific. Use the first person singular ("I") wherever possible and avoid negatives (compare "I am not a worthless pile of …" with "As a human being, I am worthy of love and respect."); chances are, you've already heard more than enough negatives to last a lifetime. Make sure the affirmation addresses your own condition and isn't just a generalization and that the words have meaning for you. At this point, if you've expressed yourself well, it is by no means uncommon to feel that part of you rebels and perhaps has unkind comments of its own when you read the words you have written; ignore that for now.
    • Keep it short, but don't hesitate to "paint a pretty picture". You have every right to be at least as positive in your affirmations as your unhealthy messages were negative (you are are, after all, describing a pretty resilient human being who has made it this far and taken some solid steps towards improving things even more).
    • "One step at a time" Be careful about working on too many affirmations at once; the more you have, the less time you'll have to concentrate on any given one. Stick with one or two: post them in a place you can see and repeat them at least once a day. Over time, if other issues become more important (perhaps because the first ones are starting to resolve themselves), address those instead. You can always return to the earlier ones as required.
    • Back to those negative reactions you might get when reading your affirmation… One simple and usually effective way to address these is simply to acknowledge them. Say your affirmation and, if a part of you cries out something like "No, I'm not!", just listen to the reaction and write it down. Repeat your affirmation again and, if there's another response, write that one down too. Do this for a few days, every time your affirmation is met by a negative response. Once you've built up a log of your reactions, set aside some time to look at them and see if there's any message there. Are these objections getting stronger or (more likely) weaker? Are they based on fact? Always remember that any shortcomings you really did have in your life are in the past; what you do with your life today and tomorrow is very much within your control
    A link to the A.C.A. Closing Affirmation (also called the Closing Prayer"), is provided below.

  • 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.

A.C.A. Closing Affirmation
Thought for the Day (Hazelden)

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  • Reading is how many of us discovered A.C.A. and keeping up that practice is a good way to keep our minds and our options open to new possibilities (as long as it's not at the expense of human contact). Within the main Readings & Materials section on the TeddysRule! site, there is also a partial list (it's a very broad area) of Related Books provided, should you want to see a cross-section of the types of titles available. Many groups offer a small lending library to their members which may be more accessible than your local Public Library (if not quite as broad).
Here are a few titles you could try …
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Writing & Journalling

  • 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.

  • pencil 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.

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Family (or Writing) Groups

  • 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.

Some recovery organizations in the Ottawa area
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Teddy Bear Nights

inner child teddy bear A.C.A.s celebrate their progress along the path to recovery in many ways (others are described in the section below), one of which is known as a "Teddy Bear night". A Teddy Bear night is typically held to mark one year in program, although it may be later (when the member feels this is more appropriate), or for some old-timers, it may mark milestones representing several years in recovery.

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".

teddy bear 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.

party 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).

Blank certificates you can use for a Teddy Bear Night
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Chips & Medallions

  • Teddy Bear nights are not a universal aspect of A.C.A./ACoA and a number of groups note members' progress along the path to recovery with different coloured chips and medallions, much in the manner of A.A. Whetever markers are used, offering members positive feedback on their recovery and and their strength in remaining on a difficult path is an important measure of support by their groups.
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A Sense of Humour

hammer and nail "Sometimes you're the hammer; sometimes you're the nail." Unfortunately, in A.C.A. we often discover early in the program that we're both - and we need to find our own ways to stop hitting ourselves on the head. Developing a sense of humour is a life skill that's especially important while working through recovery. That's part of what we mean when we say, in the Preamble, that the "program is not a forum for continually wallowing in our unfortunate past." Yes, we need to go there, take a look around, and sort some things out, but no, we don't always need to wear black when we visit.

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:

"Birds can fly because they take themselves lightly."

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Please submit all questions and comments to teddysruleinfo@netscape.net