Tony A’s 12 Steps

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.

Tony’s Steps:

1. We admitted that we were powerless over the effects of living with alcoholism and that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could bring us clarity.

3. We made a decision to practice self-love and to trust a Higher Power of our understanding.

4. We made a searching and blameless inventory of our parents because, in essence, we had become them.

5. We admitted to our Higher Power, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our childhood abandonment.

6. We were entirely ready to begin the healing process with the aid of our Higher Power.

7. We humbly asked our Higher Power to help us with our healing process.

8. We became willing to open ourselves to receive the unconditional love of our Higher Power.

9. We became willing to accept our own unconditional love by understanding that our Higher Power loves us unconditionally.

10. We continued to take personal inventory and to love and approve of ourselves.

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.

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.

27 thoughts on “Tony A’s 12 Steps

  1. No for me. Non secular programs have stopped too many folks from even trying regular 12 step recovery. I know there are so many folks that left the 12 step program that hundreds of meetings folded too. Would never go back to that. Ever.

    • Here’s that history, if anybody’s interested.
      Excerpt from ACA history:
      With that addition, ACA had its 14 characteristics or common behaviors that would be read as the Problem in the Generations meeting. He also wrote the solution edited by Chris.

      When Tony read The Characteristics at the next meeting, one of the members, Barry, said, “Hey, that’s my laundry list!” Since then the 14 common behaviors or traits have been known as the “The Laundry List.”

      Tony marks this as the official beginning of ACA or ACoA. It was early spring of 1978. No one quite remembers the exact date of this moment but the Problem and the ACA Solution would allow ACA to become a worldwide movement of adult children.

      At the conclusion of a Generations meeting in late 1979 or early 1980, two women from General Services of Al-Anon approached Tony. They invited the Generations group to join Al-Anon. To join, the meeting had to discontinue reading or using The Laundry List. The group unanimously agreed that it would not give up its Laundry List. The decision marked the beginning of ACA’s break with Al-Anon. Today there are 580 ACA meetings across the globe. Al-Anon meetings that have an adult child focus are not associated with ACA or ACA World Service Organization.

      In 1979, Newsweek magazine published an ACA article about Dr. Claudia Black, Dr. Stephanie Brown and Sharon Wegscheider. The article was the first nationwide announcement that family alcoholism could and did cause life-long patterns of dysfunctional behavior even for those who never took a drink. The family systems concept of addiction and family dysfunction became more visible as well. Before that time, most addiction or mental health models focused on the individual addict. Black and others were saying that the disease of family dysfunction had long-range effects on the children, who became adults. The children were affected by the alcoholism even though they were not putting alcohol into their bodies.

      The AA Adapted Steps for ACA Purposes

      At this time, 1979 or 1980, Tony recalls raising questions about the adaptability of AA steps for ACA meetings. While Tony believed in the AA steps and their ability to sober up an alcoholic, he had reservations about the steps being a good fit for ACA. For one thing, the AA-adapted steps directed the adult child away from looking at the family system of dysfunction. Tony believed this occurred in Steps Four and Five, the steps on self inventory and an admission of wrongs. In these steps, the adult child is required to focus primarily on one’s self and one’s wrongs. The adult child is directed away from raising the question of the effects of being raised in a dysfunctional home. Tony believed that this served as a disconnect between an inventory of the adult child’s behavior and the contribution that dysfunctional parents had in planting that behavior. Tony believed in adult children taking responsibility for their behavior and changing; however, he also believed in fairly distributing the cause of an adult child.s destructive and anti-social behavior found in Steps Four and Five.

      Tony believed that the AA-adapted steps created a gross vulnerability for adult children in Steps Eight and Nine. In these amends steps, Tony believed, the adult child could be sent to make amends to violent or abusive parents still in denial about the harm they had rained upon the adult child.

      Tony recalled the odd looks he received from AA members as he raised these questions. “They were looking at me like I was a little crazy…”

      Tony advocated for a departure from the AA Steps. In 1979, with the help of Don D., Tony wrote his own variation of the Twelve Steps, which he believed more fitting for adult children and victims of abuse. These Steps encouraged taking an a “blameless” inventory of the parents and focusing on self love. During the next 10 years, Tony refined these steps, publishing another version of the Twelve Steps in his 1991 book “The Laundry List…” In the end, Tony’s version of the Twelve Steps balanced taking a “blameless..” inventory of the parents with a focused program of self love and self forgiveness.

      In 1984, the ACA fellowship voted to become an autonomous Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions fellowship, using the AA-adapted steps. This was seven years before Tony published his version of the steps. Some ACA groups use Tony’s steps and his book, which is allowable under the suggested ACA literature policy.

      For the most part, the AA-adapted steps have been accepted by the ACA fellowship. ACA members, in practice, have modified them to allow the person to look at the family system, beginning in Step One. This family history or inventory includes the behavior of the parents in addition to naming family roles, dysfunctional rules and abuse. Meanwhile, counselors and informed sponsors are aware of the vulnerability an adult child faces when considering a possible amends to a sick or abusive parent or parents. Some parents are too dangerous or too sick to approach.

      In ACA today, the adult child looks at the patterns of family dysfunction and is encouraged to talk about all aspects of the childhood in ACA meetings and with a sponsor or informed counselor. At the same time, the AA-adapted steps require the individual to inventory one’s self and to change destructive behavior. We take responsibility for our behavior knowing that some of that behavior was handed off to us by our parents.

      Full text can be found at –

    • No thank you Tony.
      The nonsecular 12 steps/program has what’s kept thousands from recovery or going back to it.
      There are too many great alternative secular 12 step lists out there, &, we need a heck of a lot more meetings nation wide to utilize them.

  2. i have listened to this and love the new steps. does anyone have a workbook based on these steps. ? not the yellow book something different?

    • I do not know if there is a workbook based upon tony a steps. I have read only his book Laundry list. And just noticed that in aca wso literature i might have seen like they say Tony A as secondary founder of aca. I might seen wrongly….

      • Yes there is. However Tony A made only first 14 laundry list but there in that book, is 4 set of them laundry list other laundry list and their flip sides….

      • This subject is such a tuff one for me. I listened to that recording and loved his approach and I started digging. I have part of a historical blurb that talks about the transition to using the AA 12 steps. Right at the point when he gave that talk and just before he published the book, the group was switched to a 12 step study under the authority of WSO. I can only speak for me but when I look at what those steps brought to ACoA it makes me sad. People are asked to uncover some of the most unimaginable traumas and assaults, only to be required to do the following steps:
        4.made a moral inventory of ourselves
        5.Admitted the exact nature of our wrongs
        6. asked God to remove all these defects of character
        7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings
        8. made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them
        9. Made direct amends to other people except to hurt them
        10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

        I realize this may not get posted but it breaks my heart to see this in place. To me, it reads like a bad rape trial in the fifties and I think it creates a loop of discovery and self-punishment that is difficult for many to get out of. Where these steps make sense for an alcoholic or addict, they make no sense at all for the victims.

        The reason?? The copyright of Tony’s book kept it from being absorbed into the AA system. They would have maintained their independent status.

      • I feel that Tony’s steps are more gentle, more appropriate to those recovering from childhood trauma (me!), and contain less “god-speak” than the original AA Steps converted for our use.

        I don’t know anyone in ACA who doesn’t see Tony as our founder, whether they like his version of the Steps or not. There has been a lot of chatter about adopting these Steps and the copyright laws which prevent this.

        The Laundry List workbook isn’t about working Tony’s steps, it’s about integrating our laundry list traits and flip side traits (I was a victim, but I also became a perpetrator).

      • I did not meant LLWB published by WSO but book written by Tony A called “the laundry list” published in 1991. Ebook is available in amazon

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