At the end of 1976 or the beginning of 1977, four or five young people who had recently “graduated” from Alateen joined Al-Anon, the adult version of their program. In Alateen they had explored the impact that alcoholic and coalcoholic parents and living in an alcoholic household had on their lives. Upon entering Al-Anon, they were suddenly faced with the concept of learning to live serenely in a dysfunctional setting. We can only guess at the inner turmoil this presented to these young adults, not to mention their being afraid to displease the parent figures around them in Al-Anon.
Alateen must have taught them well how to get their own needs met. They formed their own Al-Anon meeting which they named “Hope for Adult Children of Alcoholics”. Meeting at the Smithers building in Manhattan, this group used the Al-Anon greeting and closing, but “winged” the rest of the meeting.
At the same time there was an older member of Al-Anon and AA who had turned his sharing focus to the impact his “ancient history” in an alcoholic home of origin had on his adult life. Tony A. was about fifty years old then. Cindy, a member of the “Hope for Adult Children” group, heard Tony and asked him to be a guest speaker at her group.
Tony A. went and shared his experience, strength, and hope on the characteristics he found he had in his adult life due to growing up in an alcoholic home. The new Alateen graduates were in their early twenties, while Tony was a half century old. Yet, the differences in their ages dissolved with the shared background, experiences and feelings. There were tears and laughter, and a sense of belonging and understanding that transcended their years. They identified with Tony and he stayed with the group. After six or seven months, instead of the increasing membership they had expected, the fledgling meeting had dwindled to three or four people. The meeting was about to fold.
Something rather powerful in Tony motivated him to invite members of Alcoholics Anonymous to join the little group. Some of them, after all, had alcoholic parents of their own, didn’t they?
Seventeen members of AA showed up that next week. At the following meeting there were 50 people. At the next there were over 100 AAs. The somewhat radical Al-Anon meeting was on its way with a lot of help from some very good friends. The group then established, some of the members formed another meeting at St. Jean Baptiste Church. Tony A. chaired that second meeting called “Generations”. He also attended the “Hope for Adult Children” meetings during this period.
“Generations” was not affiliated with any organization. For about six months they operated with no format. Members of that group vehemently encouraged Tony to do something – to formalize, to legitimize – anything to establish the group.
So Tony sat down at work the following morning and in two hours jotted down 13 characteristics of the fellowship. He said of the experience, “It was as if Someone Else was writing the list through me”.
Tony worked near Chris, who had offered to type up the list so he ran it over to her. She typed up the 13 characteristics. Then Tony realized he’d forgotten to add that little piece about fear, reflecting, No, they’d never “admit” fear. Excitement. Yeah, Better. They’d accept excitement….
Tony wrote the characteristics. He also wrote the solution. Chris edited the solution (things like “God” became he/she/it in the transformation).
When Tony read the characteristics a the next meeting, one of the members – Barry – said, “Hey, that’s my laundry list!” That list of characteristics has since been called “The Laundry List”.
This was the official beginning of ACA (ACoA). No one quite remembers the date of this most auspicious occasion, but who’d have expected these humble beginnings to become a worldwide movement to stop child abuse from the inside?
“When we began, “Tony said, “there was a wonderful feeling of mutual love, empathy, and understanding”.
They did try working with the AA Steps at the “Generation” meeting, but most of the early members felt these steps did not apply to them.
About that time a lady visiting from Houston asked for a copy of the Laundry List. She took it to Texas to begin a meeting there. A gentleman by the name of Jack E. was moving to California. And then there was the lady from Switzerland….
Fragment from "Early History of ACA"