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Times Change And So Do We

Stephanie Abbott, M.A.


In The Beginning

On Valentine’s Day in 1983, twenty pioneers who cared about the plight of children of alcoholics met in California to formalize their vision of a national organization that would be a voice for these children of all ages, and would mobilize community awareness and involvement.  They were program developers, social workers, psychiatrists, clinicians, researchers, writers, and professors who had found each other in mid-1982, mostly by word of mouth. They formed what became the National Association for Children of Alcoholics. 

The goals established by the NACoA founders focused on 1) protecting the rights of Children of Addiction (COAs) to live in safe and healthy environments by mobilizing community involvement; 2) increasing public and professional awareness, understanding, and recognition of the needs of COAs of all ages, especially in the fields of education, human services, mental health, medicine, religion, and law enforcement. A very tall order indeed.

Why COA Awareness Week?

Sis Wenger, NACoA President/CEO

If a child grows up with addiction, that is probably not the only risk factor in the home. ACEs or adverse childhood experiences tend to cluster; once a home environment is disordered, the risk of witnessing or experiencing emotional, physical, or sexual abuse actually rises dramatically (Anda, et al., 2006).

While addiction, with an emphasis today on opioid addiction, is very much a part of the political and public discourse, the needs of the children hurt by addiction in the family – too often with lifetime consequences – are seldom part of the conversation. The confusion, fear and helplessness present in their daily lives creates a chronic emotional trauma that is unseen and unaddressed in their homes, their schools and their faith communities. It is also too frequently ignored in the family doctor’s office.

Countless adults interact regularly with these children and neither say nor do anything to provide them clarity about their lives or how to find and connect with a safe and caring adult. This is one of the greatest public health problems in our country right in front of the people who could make a difference — if only they would learn how and then to do it. In the meantime, absence from “the conversation” continues to support this hidden human rights problem. We know what to do, but we continue to lack the will to do it, and that is Why COA Awareness Week.


Sis Wenger, NACoA President/CEO

September is National Recovery Month. For the first time, in 26 years of celebrating and strengthening public awareness about the transformational nature and breadth of recovery, this year’s theme is focused on family recovery. Finally, in legislation and in federal and state program policies – and in increasing numbers of treatment programs across the nation, wording demonstrating concern and development of programs for those impacted by another’s addiction is being added, such as “… and impacted family members, including the children.


Sis Wenger, NACoA President/CEO

Nothing is more impactful in shaping the life trajectory of a child than the values he or she learns at home. Children learn through the modeling of their parents, grandparents, siblings, and other caregivers.

But what if that family at home is broken? Every day in the United States an estimated 19 million children and teens are affected by or exposed to a family alcohol problem. Many others are impacted by a family drug problem. Research convincingly reveals that children growing up in these environments are much more likely to be subjected to adverse childhood experiences, use drugs and alcohol more than others, use them earlier, and develop mental and physical health problems that negatively impact them throughout their lives. Most will never receive the focused early intervention and support they need unless they attend a school with a student assistance program that includes addressing their issues. They suffer in silence as they attempt to navigate through the chaos that alcoholism and drug abuse create in families.


Jerry Moe, MA

Africa. It’s always held a gripping allure and mystique for me. During moments of prayer and meditation, this has only grown stronger. Doing the 3rd Step Prayer every morning, I asked my Higher Power to guide and show me the way. I had twice been invited to work in Africa, but dates and work schedules precluded these opportunities to come to fruition. Truth be told, neither invitation felt right for a number of reasons. I kept putting it in God’s hands. Read More >>


Dr. Tian Dayton, Clinical Psychologist and Author

Mother love, the kind that sinks deep into your mind, body and heart and shapes forever your ability to live comfortably in your own skin, is a gift that lasts for a lifetime; a legacy that passes down through the generations. Neuroscience tells us that love is a full brain and body experience associated with the kinds of neurochemicals coursing through us that we experience as emotions. “Feel good” body chemicals, like dopamine and oxytocin, are actually turned on by behaviors like holding, hugging and touching associated with love and connection. They are Mother Nature’s way of rewarding the deep bonds that lead to survival.