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As an ACA, letting go of anything always felt like jumping from an airplane without a parachute. I held on for dear life and didn't let go of anything. It’s how I ran my business, it’s how I was in charge of my family, and it’s how I held on to my traumatizing childhood which included memories and feelings of being inferior, of not knowing when someone was going to be drunk, or wondering when I was going to be attacked the next time.

All of those things happened to me in childhood. My earliest memories would be from about age 5 or so, when I first noticed my parents fighting, my mom being in her own world, always angry. Growing up in a household with dysfunctional parents meant I didn't get close supervision and my parents weren't a part of my recreational time when I could "get into trouble".

My Mom used to remind me how when I was 2 or 3 years old, I had wandered out into the street and was "directing traffic" on our somewhat quiet street. It took a neighbor to tell them what was going on. In today's world, the neighbors would have called the police and I would have been in foster care because my parents would have been found negligent. I don't agree with how today's world treats situations like that either, but a wakeup call like that might have averted the abuse I went through when a neighbor abused me, and my parents were totally oblivious to what was going on.

As the reader tells us "fear holds us in bondage". As I sit here in Federal prison, I've had time to reflect on how I held on to the fear of being abused and the fear of telling anyone what happened for years. I got so good at holding on to that hidden fear that it became a part of me that I couldn't see.

Having worked the Steps, I've been able to recognize the signs and behaviors that I adopted and ingrained in me that programmed my actions before I even thought of it. Everything became a fear. Fear of being late for work. Fear of bills not being paid on time while they were paid months in advance. Fear that my accomplishments were never good enough. Fear that my parents would look at my accomplishments as inferior compared to my siblings. Fear that my wife didn't love me. The list goes on and on.

Working the Steps and studying the Laundry List have helped me recognize and understand my behavior traits. Studying the Big Red Book isn't like waving a magic wand where all of a sudden, I can easily react as a non-ACA in a situation involving a perceived authority figure or handling stress. ACA has taught me that the traits and behaviors that were programmed into me during childhood are programed deep into my cellular structure and thinking. When I have to interact with high-ranking officers in prison, my body automatically tenses up. I get cold sweats and start panicking. My voice takes on a defensive tone even though I haven't been attacked.

But because I've worked the program, I can take baby steps and maintain my composure in situations and not let myself become a welcome mat. ACA has helped me let go of that need to clench my fear, worry, and panic, at minimal to survive the situation and not be runover by what I think would be an 18-wheeler that in reality was a Moped.

ACA has taught me to be an actor, not a reactor. I know how extremely difficult that is as an ACA. It’s even more difficult in prison, but knowing the Steps, the Laundry List and having people in the program I can write to has helped me surrender as much as I can to God and just let go.

Jon F

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