Our ACA Banner Logo
Button End Home Literature Meetings Notices Humour Site Map Button End
Inner Peace Group of Ottawa, Canada

Questions and Answers
for Newcomers


It is neither. ACA is a support group or self-help fellowship with one purpose:
To heal ourselves and to carry our message of hope to other ACA’s who are still suffering. We have no direct affiliation with them.

Return to Top


By attending one or more meetings. You do not have to give us your name, address, phone number or anything else. However, a individual group may keep a membership list for their own purposes, such as calling business membership list for their own meetings and notifying members of upcoming events or change in time or location of the meetings. Remember that ACA is an anonymous program and we do not use our full names publicly when we speak (or write) about ACA. We also have the right to choose our own level of anonymity.

Return to Top


Membership in ACA is absolutely free. There are no dues or fees. We are self-supporting through our own voluntary contributions, which cover the costs of rent, copies, literature, stationery and expenses of running the meetings. Revenues over and above the costs for individual group may be donated to Intergroup to cover costs incurred by the Society as a whole, as well as helping to finance ACA rallies, conventions and other special events.

Return to Top


No. You do not need to speak or offer your services to ACA in any way. Anything you say at a meeting, anything you undertake to do for your group or for ACA as a whole is entirely voluntary. We will always respect your right to say “No” if there is anything you do not want to do. However, it is with love and respect that we hope you will participate in ACA, either by sharing your feelings at a meeting, chairing a meeting, becoming a group secretary, acting as an Intergroup representative or an Executive member or in any other capacity. We are all needed here.

We have found that participation is helpful for our own growth and we are grateful for whatever you may contribute to this fellowship. Remember, even just your attendance is appreciated. The most important person in ACA sits in your chair. Without you, there would be no meeting.

Return to Top


When at one of our meetings, you hear someone introduce themself in the above manner, they mean that they identify with the characteristics of an adult child as expressed by our fellowship. Additionally, our third tradition states: “The only requirement for membership is a compulsive (dysfunctional) family background and a desire to become well emotionally”. If this sounds like you, you belong too. The above tradition, coupled with tradition one, guarantees one full rights and respect in our fellowship.

Return to Top


The Twelve Steps are only one of a variety of tools of recovery that are offered in our fellowship. Using or discussing the twelve steps is strictly voluntary. “Take what you need and leave the rest”is our motto. Taken from the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, we have modified this spiritual tool to better suit the needs of our members. At our meetings, one will hear such spiritual terms as God, Higher Power, Moral Inventory, etc. Please do not be put off by such terms. We use such terms in a spiritual sense.  In any case, one has the wide and complete freedom to have one's own understanding of such terms. We do not impose such matters on anyone. Our aim is to improve our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

The twelve steps are just one tool, amongst many, that we can choose to use or not.
No. ACA is not a religion. The Twelve Steps are a program for personal recovery from addiction and compulsive behaviour, when all attempts at control or cessation by virtue or willpower have failed.  Originally part of the Alcoholics Anonymous program, we (and many other programs) have adopted the 12-Steps as they have proven effective in treating alcoholism and other addictions for over fifty years.

If you have read the 12-Steps or heard them read out at a meeting, you will have heard such words as God, Higher Power, Moral Inventory, Making Amends and Prayer. Sometimes, with a person's previous experience of religion one can be put off quite quickly by these terms.  Furthermore, others may be quite offended at the thought of relying on God, when it was “He” who let them down as children. Still others, burdened with shame and guilt from having been told all their lives overtly or covertly that they are “the cause” of their parents drinking or acting out behaviour, might jump head first into the steps and use them as a big stick to beat themselves with. Neither of these extreme attitudes will be healthy for you and it is better to let the Steps be for awhile until you have a better understanding of ACA issues and of your childhood experiences.

Listen to what others in the program have to say about the Steps and if necessary get some professional help and/or spiritual counselling. Remember that the Steps are a tool for spiritual growth, not to increase your level of shame. It has been our experience that recovery is a spiritual journey in search of the beautiful unique and loveable beings that each of us was created to be. Ultimately we feel that all recovery is indeed, spiritual.

Return to Top


In a word, No. That is entirely your choice. They are simply a suggested program of recovery. They may also be interpreted to suit your own individual needs depending upon what stage of recovery you are at. There are several books available, in local bookstores, that are used by ACAs which can serve as guides for working the Twelve Steps in your life. There are also meetings in ACA which deal specifically with the Twelve Steps.

Return to Top


In the Ottawa area we support co-sponsorship as opposed to sponsorship. Those who have been in other Twelve Step programs, such as AA and Al-Anon will be familiar with the concept of “Sponsorship”.  This is where a long-standing member in the program works with a newcomer as a guide and mentor. In ACA, while we are not necessarily opposed to the idea, we are not entirely in favour of it. We feel that with our individual histories we are pre-disposed to “care-taking” others rather than taking care of ourselves. For many of us this has had dire consequences. There is a fine line between effective sponsorship and co-dependence. Therefore, we have opted for the concept of “ co-sponsorship”.

Co-sponsorship means that we encourage the exchange of names and phone numbers between members, whether newcomers or old timers, and “share” our experiences, strength and hope with one another as caring brothers and sisters who are all on the road to recovery. There is no seniority here. We take it “One Day At A Time”. We all have something to share regardless of the length of time in the program, which might benefit another. We are all in need of love and support because after all, life will never be easy. Remember that the time and energy you invest in personal contacts between meetings will be returned to you I full measure.  There are none among us who could not do with a little love for little or no charge.

Return to Top


You can talk to a dozen experts, read a dozen books and get a dozen different interpretations.  Many accept it as a disease in as much as it has an onset, is progressive, predictable and in time potentially fatal, although other causes of death are generally cited. It is assumed that all ACA’s are co-dependents, but we each act out this illness in a different way. Basically, there are two general concepts:

1. As children growing up in an alcoholic or dysfunctional home environment, we learned to hide or dissociate our feelings, our true selves (also knows as the “Inner Child”) and we adopted a survival role in order to cope with the stresses. The experts in the field of alcoholism have identified four main roles which although are not always mutually exclusive, seem apparent in all children from dysfunctional homes. The four roles are: The Hero, The Scapegoat, The Mascot and The Lost Child. Most of us discover that we identify with one or more of these roles, and are in the process of trying to separate our true selves from our childhood role.

2. In relationships, many ACA’s find that, as a result of the traumatic bonding with our sick parents, we are now drawn to relationships with alcoholics or addicts of one sort or another. We become addicted to these dysfunctional people to the point that our own lives revolve around the addict, to our own detriment. We have difficulty in “letting go” because we convince ourselves that we are “in love” and that we need this other person in order to feel fulfilled. In short, co-dependents are “people pleasers”. We have lived our lives focused on significant others in our lives rather than living from our own beingness, adapting to the wants and needs of others rather than from our own agenda.

In ACA we give up this “other centredness” and begin (perhaps for the first time) to be “self-centred”. Not in the narrow, egotistical or narcissistic sense, but in a healthy way that builds self-esteem and self-confidence. We learn to love ourselves.  This is sometimes referred to as “re-parenting or self-parenting”. We are re-programming our inner child, giving up the “old tapes”, the beliefs and the projections of our parents. We grieve our losses and become the ones we are, rather than what someone else tried to make us.

Return to Top


Recovery is a process. Perhaps, more aptly, we should call it “discovery” because we begin to discover who we really are, what really happened to us (validation) and what we can do about it. We gain a sense of inner peace, self-confidence and connectedness (within ourselves and the rest of the world). Most of us feel that once you have come to ACA and have identified with the symptoms or issues we have in common the process has begun.

Having begun, your life will begin to change, though it may not always be immediately apparent. Be forewarned, that it is not always a pleasant road. But as they say, “no pain, no gain”. While each case is different, the experts generally feel that on average, it may take three to five years before things begin to level out for you. But the rewards are worth the effort. Be patient with yourself and share with us what you are going through. Trust us. We will not tell you that you are wrong or that you are crazy. We accept you as you are.

Remember, we have been there too! And whatever you are experiencing right now, remember that “this too shall pass”. Will it be all better? Probably not all better but there will be significant positive change. However, we do make progress in our own way, at our own pace and should not compare ourselves to others.  Recovery is a personal matter. It is you becoming the beautiful, loveable you that you were meant to be.

Return to Top


Intergroup serves to provide communication between the ACA groups in the local area and to communicate with outside agencies on behalf of the ACA fellowship in general. Specifically: Intergroup is a coordinating body comprised of representatives from each group and an facilitating body consisting of Chairperson, Co-chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer, and others. All positions in the intergroup body are filled by volunteers from within ACA.

Intergroup meets very infrequently at at this time because only 2 group exists. When it does, it discusses issues and votes on matters affecting ACA as a whole, as well as to assimilate and dispense information such as newsletters. Intergroup also receives and manages funds donated by the ACA groups, which are used to finance a postal box, special printed material, miscellaneous projects, and other public information expenses underwritten by agreement of the Intergroup members.

The individual groups presently handle printed materials such as brochures, meeting lists, and instructional material.

To contact Intergroup you may either speak with the Group Services Representative of the meeting you attend, write or email the Ottawa Region Intergroup.

Return to Top


Teddy Bear Nights are special meetings held to celebrate the attendance anniversaries of members within an ACA group. Individuals acknowledge their recovery by accepting a self-acquired gift awarded to them by a special friend or mentor. This present is usually a Teddy Bear or a toy chosen to reflect their desire to recognize an Inner Child. A diploma is also often bestowed.

The main events for these party-like meetings are the presentations and a speaker biographical speech. In the Ottawa Area, Teddy Bear Nights may also include decorating the room, snacking on cake, cookies, and refreshments, and occasionally a musical performance is given by a member/s. They occur infrequently because of the limited veteran membership at this time.

These special occasions are a relatively recent practice adopted by the Ottawa Region organization approximately 15 years ago. Their exact origin is unknown but many other ACA districts and 12-Step Organizations do not run them. Hopefully, this positive custom will find greater adoption worldwide.

Return to Top
Literature Index <—– back to —– Return to Top –— next to –—> The Problem

This information is current and unlikely to change soon.