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Dziennik Zachodni, 22th March 2014


Teresa Semik – Polish journalist associated with Polskapresse, since 1978 Polska Dziennik Zachodni publicist, Dziennik Zachodni journalist; graduate of law and administration faculty at Silesian University.

Adult Children of alcohol abused parents, domestic tyrants, divorced parents still suffer anxieties, lack of acceptance, rejection

Research shows that nearly 40% of Polish adults can be classified as adult children of alcoholics but we observe a snowball effect in this matter. And the number will increase because those problems are being passed on to next generations who also become mistrustful, fright and have low self-esteem.

Ala writes: “I’ve been living with a constant sense of guilt, guilt for everything and everyone. I think each member of my family has such a problem now”. And that adds up to a significant percentage of Polish adults who grew up in families affected by physical and also mental violence, and those who grew up with divorced parents, divorced not only in legal meaning. All of them have very similar problems to cope.

How to break up a vicious circle of bad experiences, how to deal with emotions that constrict our own lives?

We pay attention to “Spread the wings” campaign that was initiated in Katowice by Father Grzegorz Polok from Public Management and Social Studies faculty on University of Economics, who wrote a book under the same title. Check how many characteristics of ACA (adult children of alcoholics) you have, test yourself on


“Spread the wings” by Grzegorz Polok, a book for nearly 40% of Polish adults described as Adult Children of Alcoholics

Check on if you are one of the ACA and think of a therapy

They don’t talk about the amount of drank alcohol nor violence or fights. They do talk about anxiety, anger, low self-esteem, rejection and loneliness, failed relationships. They try to find and name the source of their problems. Is it alcoholism or other addictions in their families? Physical or psychological violence? Or maybe parents’ divorce.

It is estimated that today approximately 40% of adult Polish can be bracket to an ACA group. Do you belong to this group? You can verify this on by taking the test. If you honestly evaluate your emotional states the test will reveal smaller and bigger wounds caused by meaningful childhood experiences. And then there is no point in pretending that everything is alright, it is time to make changes in your life.

Ania, 34 year old, wrote: “I’m ACA and I still feel like an 8-year -old girl who runs around kitchen table away from her drunk father, after telling him that he could rather kill her than expect that she’ll do what he wants” (quote from the book “Spread the wings” by Grzegorz Polok).


Therapy - regaining balance

For years on an adaptive day at University of Economics in Katowice, Grzegorz Polok- Academic Pedagogical Workshops rector’s proxy has been lecturing on emotions and behavior of people growing-up in families with alcoholic and violence problems. Possible obstacles, that students might encounter during studies, are illustrated by slides.

             - I was afraid that on the last slide of this presentation I will find my name, it was so similar to my situation – said one of the students. And she received help for adults from dysfunctional families.

Since 2001, different groups of students have benefited from free of charge therapy. Its cost is covered by public funds of Katowice, and the room is provided by Academic Ministry “Zawodzie” in Katowice in God’s Providence parish. Many people do not realize where their disability to build a healthy relationship comes from. They cannot indicate the source of their anxieties, lack of trust, low self-esteem, but also workaholism, and overwhelming perfectionism.

Therapy is available for every student regardless his or her personal beliefs, but at the same time they can receive spiritual and emotional support from Father Grzegorz Polok.

As 25-year old Weronika wrote: “ACA therapy helped me to realize that I have the right to my own feelings, my own needs and I should express them. Earlier I had been completely lost”.

Sometimes a simple conversation with psychologist is enough, and students can benefit from this kind of support during psychologist’s work shifts at the University of Economics on a daily basis. A good start might be the book “Spread the wings” wrote by Father Grzegorz Polok with adult children of alcoholics in mind

            - Students who went through the therapy and wanted to change their lives helped me to write the book – says the author. The book contains many ACA testimonies. It is given out to the students for free and about 30 thousand copies have been edited until now. It is also available online (on, 45 thousands of potential readers download it every year. The book is not only for the students but also for their parents, since they are part of the problem.

             - We receive many phone calls from people who read the book asking what they should do now. They’ve discovered that they are ACA, some of them already have their own children with this syndrome. How can they protect their children from it? How can they help? – says Father Grzegorz Polok.

Even in families where there is no more alcohol parents can still carry within themselves ACA features that they pass on to their own children. That is just a snowball effect.

Weronika, age 25: “Since I was little I haven’t had close emotional relationship with my parents. Meaningful and important matters haven’t been discussed, we prefer mentioning something briefly or quickly end the conversation”.

There is a belief that we are all born as tabula rasa, and then we are formed by our experiences. But in case of alcohol problems it is slightly different, child perceive his mother’s emotional states even in her womb. Therefore, it is essential in ACA therapy to look back and examine all the burdens we inherited, even after our grandparents.

Magda, age 27: “Workaholic mother, almost never at home, always with the bottle of vodka. (…) Problem with alcohol was meant to be kept within the four walls”.

How do ACA overcome the embarrassment and decide to start a therapy? - It’s a little bit like dealing with an illness, the bigger the discomfort we feel the sooner we decide to get a treatment – explains Father Grzegorz Polok – we cannot run away from the past, it is a part of who we are. It is much better to face it, and it is never too late to start a therapy.

               A grown-up can either realize that they must face his problems or surrender and live believing that all the fears, getaways and lack of acceptance is normal – continues Father Polok.

The real drama is that dysfunctions attract each other. Up to 60% girls from alcoholic families engage themselves in relationships with men who are addicted to something.

Julia, 24-year old, wrote: “I was a very good student, I socialized and everything seemed to be just fine. But at the same time I attracted boys with problems, those with ACA problems as well. I was in many relationships because I was desperately seeking affection. When it became serious I always walked away”.

-Once I asked a student how much fear there is in her life. She told me that she was anxious 365 days a year, but after the therapy she admitted to have only a few worse days now – Father Polok recalls.


7 millions singles

In Poland 33 of every 100 marriages end up with divorce, but even if they are not legally finished some marriages are only a formality. 80% of students declare the divorce of their parents to be the most traumatic experience they had. Statistically, alcohol is the second most common reason of divorces, the first one- infidelity.

Half of the ACA will never start a family. 7 million Polish people stay single and Father Polok believes that it is connected with childhood’s bad experiences. Some of these young people have so dramatic memories that they do not want to repeat them again. Sometimes they resign after one or two failed relationships, even though they are not happy being alone.

A quarter of adult Polish people suffers from mental problems, something wrong is going on with us – says Father Polok – it is worth looking carefully into our past, to become able to spread the wings in time.


Do I drink hazardously?

In the first year of daily and extramural studies students take an anonymous test for alcohol addiction as part of preventive program “Correction”. The results are similar at every college – about 5% abstainers and 5% addicted. Up to 30% of those young people should be considered as a risk group. If during studies they don’t get too much into parties and heavy drinking, in the end they might be drinking compulsively.

Results of the test give an opportunity for reflection on who I am, why I am drinking, how my family situation influences my drinking – says Father Polok. Similar surveys were conducted years ago to evaluate problems with narcotics. But today alcohol is much bigger problem in every environment.


Translated by Joanna Bonecka