Tony A. gave a talk, recorded Feb. 25th, 1991 in Orlando, Florida at the 7th Annual National Convention of Children of Alcoholics. The talk was given at an optional support group meeting before the main conference began. During this recording, Tony briefly explains his version of the 12 Steps of ACoA. However, by the time Tony was making this presentation, ACA had already approved their “official” version of the 12 Steps in 1984 at a Business Conference. Tony didn’t get his version of the steps completed and presented to the fellowship until 1991 when he published his book The Laundry List by Tony A with Dan F
Having worked the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, Tony A. placed a high value on the program that helped him become sober, but he had concerns about adopting the steps for use by Adult Children of Alcoholics. Although his suggested steps were not officially adopted by ACA, the concepts have been incorporated throughout the text of the Twelve Steps of Adult Children Workbook.
Tony A’s overarching concern about using the AA steps as written is that Adult Children experienced abandonment and victimization early in life, and therefore live lives based on shame and fear.
Tony A. explains that:
We cannot be restored to a sanity we never experienced (Step 2)
Our parents modeled a Higher Power we couldn’t trust (Step 3)
We are the victims, not the perpetrators, of the abuse we experienced as children (Steps 4/5)
Shame and guilt keep us from loving and accepting ourselves (Steps 6/7)
Adult children should not be directed to make amends to dangerous people (Steps 8/9).
Tony A’s 12 Steps of Recovery
Tony A. Version of Step 1
We admitted that we were powerless over the effects of living with alcoholism and that our lives had become unmanageable.
from page 56 of The Laundry List:
“When we lived with our sick family we had no way of avoiding the destructive forces of the illness. We were deeply affected by their insanity and sick behavior. Much of what we were taught as children now makes our lives unmanageable. We have taken on many of the destructive characteristics of the disease. We need to acknowledge that this is so, and be willing to commit ourselves to a recovery program.”
ACA Official Step 1
We admitted we were powerless over the effects of alcoholism or other family dysfunction, that our lives had become unmanageable.
Tony A. Version of Step 2
We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could bring us clarity.
from page 56 of The Laundry List:
“As children in a dysfunctional environment we had no balanced perspective or clear models to guide us. We had no opportunity to see a healthy, nurturing life process. With the help of our Higher Power, as we may envision IT, we can begin to experience a healing and nurturing approach to life. Clarity, and with it a new richer understanding of ourselves, is available to us all.”
ACA Official Step 2
Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Tony A. Version of Step 3
We made a decision to practice self-love and to trust a Higher Power of our understanding.
from page 56-57 of The Laundry List:
“Instead of surrendering our lives to the sick parents that reside within us, we choose to put our faith in a spiritual power greater than ourselves, however we choose to define it. In my efforts to resolve the difficulties in my life, I recognized that I would have to accept myself and learn to nurture myself. I found that I could no longer give myself and learn to nurture yourself. I found that I could no longer give myself away to the needs or demands of others.
…. Just as it is our Higher Power’s responsibility to give us unconditional love, it is our responsibility to give our child-self unconditional love.
…. I also learned that this nurturing approach could help me heal the break with my parents. I could sit in silence and visualize my father as a frightened, confused, defensive little boy [and surely he was] and visualize myself hugging his little child. In my efforts to practice self-acceptance and self-appreciation, I began to discern healthy actions from unhealthy actions, toxic people from accepting and sensible people, positive situations from negative ones — and to take actions that moved me toward self-love.”
ACA Official Step 3
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand God.
Tony A. Version of Step 4
We made a searching and blameless inventory of our parents because, in essence, we had become them.
from page 58 of The Laundry List:
“We examine, in a no-blame manner, the behavior of our parents. The ACoA’s emotional responses to life are largely a composite of the behavior patterns of our parents. Growing up in an alcoholic household almost invariably means that we take on both the constructive and the destructive character traits of our parents. In order for us to forgive and accept ourselves, we need to see clearly who we have become and how much we still react to life as our parents did. No matter how far behind we may think we’ve left them, they’ve always been with us.
Many ACoA’s have told me that early in life they vowed never to be like their parents, only to wake up many years later to see their behavior patterns and relationships were largely a carbon copy of their parents’. What confuses many ACoA’s is the misguided belief that because the financial, educational, employment or social structure of their lives is different from that of their parents, then it logically follows that they could not turn out “like their parents.”
As we work on this fourth-step inventory, two important discoveries may occur. One, we will come to see just how much we do resemble our parents emotionally, even though we may have steered clear of alcohol [and our family problems] when we grew up. And two, we may see few similarities in attitudes and behavior but come to understand the pain, fear, confusion and sadness of our parents’ plight. In this comprehension may be the seed of forgiveness and acceptance. ”
ACA Official Step 4
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Tony A. Version of Step 5
We admitted to our Higher Power, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our childhood abandonment.
from page 58 of The Laundry List:
“Out of a searching and blameless inventory of our parents we come to see how we reacted, adapted, revolted and resisted — and ultimately abandoned ourselves. When we review the nature of our parents’ illness, we come to see how many of their behavior patterns replaced our youthful innocence and spontaneity; we see all the desparate adaptations, frustration and flight. Through these parent – taught mechanisms we truly abandoned ourselves.
All these harmful acquired behavior patterns we adopted are truly our childhood losses. We need to acknowledge them to our Higher Power, to ourselves and to another individual so that we can move toward a healthy self. The intent of this step is to help us recognize how we were emotionally abandoned as children and how we abandoned ourselves and became our parents.”
ACA Official Step 5
Admitted to God, to our selves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
Tony A. Version of Step 6
We were entirely ready to begin the healing process with the aid of our Higher Power
from page 58-59 of The Laundry List:
“In this step we ready ourselves to turn to a power greater than ourselves. No matter how hesitant or uncertain we may be about the wisdom of such a move, we should keep in mind that healing can and does take place in our world and it is often propelled by acts of faith and belief. Here we are being asked to open ourselves to the healing help of a spiritual force.
Part of the process of healing comes from gaining an awareness of how much we suffer when we hold onto our damaging ways of living. We need to think to terms of preparing ourselves to shed the habits and traits that have so restricted our enjoyment of daily life. At this stage in our recovery we can make a resolve to open up and become more teachable; to embrace the opportunities and to move toward the development of a partnership with our Higher Power, as we understand it. No longer do we need to run our life by ourselves or in secret. This step does not direct us to take actions, it merely asks us to be receptive and willing to adopt a new approach to life.”
ACA Official Step 6
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
Tony A. Version of Step 7
We humbly asked our Higher Power to help us with our healing process
from page 59-60 of The Laundry List:
“This is a powerful step. It requires both humility and participation.
Humility involves becoming aware that we really are not masters of the universe, and that in all probability there is a divine order that we can tap into. There are, however, three states of being that may get in our way.
First, we may believe that we were quite mature and sane, capable of adequately directing our own lives. Second, we may suffer from a overinflated ego that keeps us from seeing what exactly we are doing to perpetuate our problems. We are blind to any form of self-revelation or counsel by others. Third, we have no real knowledge or understanding of the specific steps and actions we would have to take in order to begin the healing process. We may be able to describe some of our problems and issues, but we don’t know how to plug into the process of recovery. All of these can keep us from having humility.
This step also rests on a fundamental belief that we too can receive the gift of emotional well-being as so many others have through working the 12-Step recovery program. It is doubtful that all of these people could have recovered without some active request for assistance from a spiritual force of their understanding. Faith and willingness to seek out some kind of spiritual assistance has served many. Belief in a Higher Power is a form of humility. In seeking assistance, we move out of the driver’s seat. This approach opens the way.
Prayer, meditation and a willingness to see and change our responses to people and situations are key recovery ingredients. Eventually we come to see that part of the healing process requires us to be absolutely ready to change our behavior patterns. We need not be alone in our effort–we can always call upon our Higher Power and the members of our group to provide support and guidance. The healing path can be made easier; but we need to understand that while we need not tread the path alone, we do need to make a strong personal effort.
Like farmers, we never will be in complete control of the growing process. We are asked only to do the planting and hoeing. The harvest will come from our Higher Power with the aid of our neighbors and friends.”
ACA Official Step 7
Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings
Tony A. Version of Step 8
We became willing to open ourselves to receive the unconditional love of our Higher Power.
from page 60 of The Laundry List:
“In our alcoholic homes we were the victims and our parents were the aggressors. As we internalized our parents we became our own aggressors, unable to give ourselves anything but self-hate and self-criticism. Now we are willing to let go of the idea of ourselves as either victim or aggressor and open ourselves to the unconditional love of our Higher Power.
As we open up we are flooded with the warmth and love and acceptance we were denied as children. This infinite source of love is always available to us, waiting only for us to open the gates and let it in. ”
ACA Official Step 8
Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all
Tony A. Version of Step 9
We became willing to accept our own unconditional love by understanding that our Higher Power loves us unconditionally
from page 60 of The Laundry List:
“We became willing to give to ourself the unconditional love and acceptance we receive from our Higher Power. By actively working these steps we have begun the process of building self-appreciation and self-love, and affirming ourselves as full of worth and value. We are taking the important actions that will lead to well-being. We choose to put into play new behavior, new responses, new attitudes that will lead directly to a richer, more serene way of living. It is essential that we study these 12 paths to self-love.
As we learn to give love to ourselves, we also learn to give love to others, and to receive their love openly and easily.”
ACA Official Step 9
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
Tony A. Version of Step 10
We continued to take personal inventory and to love and approve of ourselves
from page 61 of The Laundry List:
In this daily action step we monitor our actions and seek out those opportunities and situations where we can increase our self-esteem and self-love. We can use this step to correct our course in the event that we stray from healthy actions and begin re-enacting destructive patterns of behavior. If we see ourselves flirting with or contemplating harmful behavior, it’s important to recognize that change must come from within.
We can ask our Higher Power for assistance and we can turn to our group for support as we struggle with those actions that bring with them self-loathing, resentments and guilt. We need to establish a new vigilance, one that centers on our behavior. This we can do by working this step on a daily basis: examining who we are and what we are doing this day to grow and change.”
ACA Official Step 10 / Alanon Step 10
Continued to take personal inventory and, when we were wrong, promptly admitted it
Tony A. Version of Step 11
We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with our Higher Power, praying only for knowledge of its will for us and the power to carry it out
from page 61-62 of The Laundry List:
The primary goal of our spiritual efforts is to become open and receptive to our Higher Power. Our emotional well-being can be greatly enhanced through prayer and meditation. Becoming a channel for the will of a Higher Power can bring us to a new understanding of who we are and how we can lead a full and happy life.
Spirituality and faith are very personal matters. The ways in which individuals make contact with a Higher Power are limitless. There are many different prayers, many approaches to prayer and numerous forms of meditation.
Many people do not approach meditation and prayer eagerly. Some find it very difficult to sit quietly in a contemplative mood; they are much more comfortable with momentum and action. Others have long-standing resistance to the idea of prayer, which they confuse with supplication and pleading. A few people have difficulty with the idea of spiritual intelligence. People with these kinds of resistances are asked only to be willing to consider some actions that may bring them closer to a spiritual path or truth.
When I become open to my Higher Power, I strengthen my sense of well-being and feel in tune with my spiritual self. In such a posture I go beyond my self-centered demands and actually experience life on a more giving and sensitive plane.
A small note of caution: When I first began to actively pray, my conversation and appeals were focused on what I wanted and needed in my life. I was unable to get beyond the “I want” for some time. Slowly, however, I began to sit quietly and listen as well as pray. As I developed this “deep listening,” which I consider to be the heart of true prayer and meditation, a new, richer peace and contentment entered me. I had begun to accept the simple concept, “Thy will, not mine, be done.: And in so doing I freed myself from blinding self-concern and self-indulgence.”
ACA Official Step 11
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understand God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry it out
Tony A. Version of Step 12
We have had a spiritual awakening as a result of taking these steps, and we continue to love ourselves and to practice these principles in all our affairs
from page 62 of The Laundry List:
“Self-love and self-acceptance inevitably lead us to feel connected with a larger universe. When we were victims in an alcoholic household we lost our authentic self to the demands of the disease. Throughout our adult lives, and especially in ACoA, we have been attempting to recover and cherish our authentic, spontaneous self. Through working these steps to the best of our ability and developing a relationship with our Higher Power, we can gain a wonderful new awareness and an opportunity to truly change. We can find a happiness and an opportunity to truly change. We can find a happiness and contentment beyond anything we could imagine. This does not mean that our life will always be trouble-free, only that we can readily and confidently deal with life’s problems.
There is a solution beyond ourselves. By working the program daily and admitting we are powerless over the effects of living with alcoholism, we can learn to love ourselves. And when we do we are free to love others in a new, healthy way.
By sharing with each other we act as a mirror, reflecting our new growth and love. By using this program in all our affairs we can dispel the old destructive personality that so crippled our enjoyment of life. No longer do we imitate a normal life. Now we embrace it.”
ACA Official Step 12
Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others who still suffer, and to practice these principles in all our affairs