The Web address of this article is
Clicking underlined links here will open a
new window. Other links will open an informational popup,
so please turn off your
browser's popup blocker or allow popups from this nonprofit Web site.
Follow underlined links after
finishing this article to avoid getting lost.
This article is written to
people interested in reducing psychological wounds and toxic compulsions
like addictions. It's also written to lay and professional people supporting
them. This YouTube video previews what you'll find in this article:
is for all active and sober addicts, their
supporters, and lay and professional people interested in understanding and
reducing toxic compulsions. The article assumes you're familiar with...
I am a veteran family therapist and an "ACoA."
(Adult Child of
Alcoholic parents). My
therapeutic work with over 1,000 average women and men since 1981
and my ACoA research and personal recovery since 1986 have convinced me that...
young kids enduring significant adult
abandonment, neglect, and abuse ("trauma") develop up to six psychological
''wounds.'' The key wound is significant personality "splitting"
- i.e. the unconscious formation of a group of talented
personality ''subselves,'' including a
wise ''true Self.''
These wounds and a
environment cause kids and adults major chronic "inner pain" - a mix of
shame, guilt, fears, loneliness, hurt, confusion, emptiness,
despair, frustration, and anger;
Without skilled education and family intervention, wounded kids
Grown Wounded Children,
or GWCs. Typical GWCs deny their wounds and are unaware of what they
non-organic addictions (toxic compulsions) are subselves' unconscious
attempts to reduce relentless inner pain -not a
"disease," "illness," or "character defect."
One implication is that addictions arenot shameful, and
recovery programs like AA should drop the old shame-based "Anonymous"
label because it promotes shame, denial, and dishonesty. .
are (a) aware of their psychological wounds and
have (b) hit true (vs. pseudo or trial)
wholistically-healthy ways to
free their true Self and
inner wounds and related pain over time; and...
compulsive toxic dependence on chemicals, mood-states (e.g. ''rageaholism,'
and sexual arousal), activities (e.g. gambling, shopping, and
over-eating), and relationships (codependence) without
ongoing dependence on a 12-step support group to maintain stable
35 years' professional study and
28 years' personal ACoA/GWC
recovery, I believe that the 12-step life philosophyfirst promoted in 1935 by
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) co-founders "Dr. Bob" and "Bill W."
can significantly help reduce psychological wounds (inner pain)
and harmful compulsive self-soothing (''addictions'').
However, to my knowledge, all the "Anonymous" world-service organizations
like AA, CoDA, Al-Anon, FA, GA, NA, SA, SAA, and ACoA are presently unaware
of how childhood trauma and psychological wounds promote addictions. Two
Traditional addiction "recovery" focuses on achieving and
maintaining "sobriety" - freedom from harmful compulsive behaviors -
on reducing psychological wounds and choosing high-nurturance
relationships and environments.
This focuses on controlling the symptom (addiction), not healing
the cause (psychological wounds, inner pain, and
the current 12 steps are genuinely helpful to many
addicts (GWCs) - but do not focus them on psychological wounds reduction. This means that
traditional "sobriety" stops short of full
wholistic health. Addictionrelapses and cross-addictions are widespread evidence
of this premise.
. These ideas pose a dilemma: which comes first - controlling an addiction
(stable "sobriety"), or reducing psychological wounds? My experience to date in working with hundreds of Grown Wounded
Children is that progress on each simultaneously is the best course, over
time. Ultimately, each GWC must find their own answer to this, based on
guidance from their
Higher Power and their wise true Self.
I propose that the proven 12-step principles and steps can be a major asset and
blueprint for both addiction management and GWC wound-reduction if the Steps are updated to reflect the reality of
psychological wounds and what they mean.
So - I offer...
A Proposed Update of the 12 Steps
With veneration for the courageous men and women who created, validated, and
implemented the original 12 "Anonymous" steps 80 years ago, I propose an upgrade to reflect new
Based on the beliefs above, this upgrade integrates the idea that addicts,
co-addicts, and all of us struggling to lift ourselves out of shame,
confusion, emptiness, and fear are really
trying to restore our
true Selves to
lead our other
with the essential support of our
The ACoA World Service organization
amendment of the original 12 AA steps is reprinted below on the left, and my
proposed update on the right. Proposed changes are in
italics. I offer this to fellow recoverers and their families and supporters as "wet clay," for
much is new, uncertain, and unexplored.
ACoA 12 Steps
1) We admitted we were powerless over the
effects of alcoholism or other family dysfunction, that our lives had
1) I accept that I have been powerless over
the effects of my
inherited psychological wounds, and that my
life has become unmanageable.
2) Came to believe that a power greater
than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
2) I believe that a power greater than
me can help me free my
true Self to
guide me and harmonize my
3) Made a decision to turn our will and
our lives over to the care of God as we understand God.
3) I decided to turn my will and
life over to the care of my
4) Made a searching and fearless moral
inventory of ourselves.
5) Admitted to God, to our selves, and to
another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
5) I admitted to my
Higher Power, myself, and
another person the exact nature of my false selve's harmful behaviors.
6) Were entirely ready to have God remove
all these defects of character.
6) I am
entirely ready to
accept help to permanently
reduce my psychological wounds.
7) Humbly asked God to remove our
7) I humbly seek to
help my personality subselves trust the wisdom and guidance of my
and my Higher Power.
8) Made a list of all persons we had
harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
8) I identified all persons my false
significantly harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9) Made direct amends to such people
wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
9) I made direct amends to such people
wherever possible, except when doing so would injure them or others.
10) Continued to take personal inventory
and, when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
10) I continued to take personal inventory
and, when I was wrong, promptly admitted it without undue
guilt, shame, or
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.
11) I sought through prayer and meditation to
relationship with my
Higher Power, seeking to improve my awareness of God's will for
courage to carry it out.
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.
had a spiritual awakening from these steps,
try to practice them in my daily
life, and to
model and respectfully offer these principles to others who
Whatever expression of these ideas fits you
best, I believe the spirit of the 12 steps offers health-seekers an effective framework and guide
wholistic health, compassion,
serenity, high-nurturance families, and
being all we can be. There are many Web sites devoted
to addiction recovery. It's comforting to realize how many of us are
working toward the same goal!
experience as a recovering ACoA (Grown Wounded Child), this article proposes that:
non-organic addictions are unconscious attempts to reduce major
psychological pain originating in early-childhood abandonment, neglect,
and abuse (trauma);
addiction management ("sobriety") depends on freeing the resident wise
true Self and reducing related psychological wounds; and...
traditional 12 addiction-recovery steps can be a useful guide to
reducing psychological wounds and addictions
12 steps are amended to include the goal of reducing my psychological
The article proposes such an amendment, and compares it
to the official ACoA version of the traditional 12 steps