"The Toolbag" is provided to aid the ACA newcomer in exploring the tools of discovery/recovery available in our program. We each have the option of deciding which tool we will use and how each may be applied to our path of recovery.
ACA is a Twelve-Step Program of discovery/recovery, and our purpose is threefold:
1) to shelter and support newcomers in confronting denial;
2) to comfort those mourning their early loss of security, trust and love; and
3) to teach the skills of reparenting ourselves with gentleness, humor, love and respect.
Not everyone will use the same tools; not everyone will attempt the same work. We each seek our own goals, dream our own dreams, and find our own niche in the scheme of things. There are many facets to our program of recovery. Each individual is gifted in very special ways; each can be a craftsman, choosing the tools to enhance their work.
1. The Twelve Steps, Twelve Traditions, Problem, and Solution
The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions are the rich heritage of our Twelve-Step Program. There are many books examining the exact nature of these steps and traditions. Recognizing the Steps imply a process of movement, and can lead you along the way to success.
Working these Steps means developing an understanding of how these Steps apply to us in our daily lives. Working these Steps, guided by our Traditions requires reading, writing, sharing, and living our understanding of these Steps and Traditions. We do so with the tools that follow in the light of our identification with "The Problem" or "The Laundry List" and our understanding of "The Solution".
2. The Meetings
The meetings are where we find the safety to share our fears, experience, strength, and hope. We share the similarities between our own characteristics and those expressed in "The Problem" and learn we are not alone. We learn that there are others like us, and there is hope. There is recovery. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, our fears can be overcome.
3. Reading and Writing
In order to further our own program of discovery/recovery, we educate ourselves. We do this by exploring the Problem, Solution, Steps, and Traditions and by reading literature that pertains to our program.
We write to explore further our understanding of our program. By writing, we document our process and clarify questions for ourselves. This process requires a level of discipline and dedication.
This dedication to the self (ourselves) leads to the freedom, understanding, and compassion needed to nurture our inner child.
4. The Telephone (and On-line Support Groups)
We listen and share in our meetings, often finding people that we strongly relate to. Using the telephone in between meetings, continuing to share, we further our process of discovery/recovery. We receive the support necessary to carry on our growth and provide support to others.
Often we are far more compassionate and honest with others than with ourselves. In the process of sharing with others, we learn to practice the same level of gentleness and respect for ourselves. We act as mirrors of one another and provide an avenue to escape the isolation of our childhood. We learn to set healthy boundaries in sharing with others.
Sponsorship in ACA may vary from other programs. Sponsorship is a way to avoid the isolation we experienced as children. We seek others to help us along the path, to provide us with a different perspective, with alternative choices. We are cautious in selecting sponsors and feel free to change if we are not comfortable. In sponsoring or being a sponsor, we develop relationships based on the Steps and Traditions. We can often share things with sponsors that may be too terrifying to share in a meeting.
Sponsors are not perfect -- we are all in this program to overcome the effects of our childhood. But, just like sharing in meetings or with our friends, we stretch ourselves a little farther, risk a little more. We do this with other ACAer's who show a level of recovery that we would like to develop.
Later, as our program progresses, we extend this same level of sharing to others. It is here in extending beyone ourselves that we develop a breadth of friendships. We learn about limited and casual friendships, and establish a support network of many types, levels, and intensities of relationships.
As an act of gratitude we try to give back to the program some of what we have received. Volunteering to do service soon after entering the program helps our recovery by giving us added motivation to keep coming to meetings. We form an identity with the program and develop a better understanding of a healthy family structure by being accepted and supported for the service we give. Service validates our self-worth.
There are many service opportunities: the meeting, the Intergroup, the Region, and World Service. Participating in service strengthens and allows each of us to practice our 12th Step, making this program available to the newcomer. By our voluntary efforts we continually improve the effectiveness and permanence of the ACA service structure.
Our service ensures the continuation of meetings where we all have the opportunity to work on recovery and carry the message.
All too often we overlook the concept of boundaries as a tool in recovery. Relationships, whether with ourselves or others, are core issues in our recovery. For some, boundaries are too strong. For others they are nonexistent. For others they may be ineffective.
The first step in establishing our boundaries is to love and respect ourselves. With that perspective, we are then able to communicate healthy messages to others. In this way we ensure our own protection and avoid giving negative or misleading messages to others.
The ability to give, to ask for, and to receive a hug is not something most of us practiced growing up. Sometimes all we need is the warm, friendly validation of a hug.
Hugs are common greetings and farewells we use in this program. We learn to ask for hugs when we feel we want or need them. We respect the feelings of others without question when they choose not to hug or be hugged. We respect our own feelings to turn down the offer of a hug when, for whatever reason, it feels uncomfortable.
Giving and receiving hugs can make a serious difference in how we view ourselves, others, and the world we live in. It is a milestone in our recovery to ask for what we need. It is a beginning step toward our goal for true intimacy.
Reprinted with permission from 'Newcomer', Page Numbers 13-16, Copyright 1995, by Adult Children of Alcoholics