What I talk about when I talk about ACOAs.

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Photo by pawel szvmanski on Unsplash

Several years after starting it, I thought I might finally introduce my little publication, Adult Child, a bit more properly.

I use the publication as a place to hold a number of my pieces about growing up in dysfunction via an alcoholic-codependent family system. I often use the tag ACOA, which stands for Adult Children of Alcoholics, also sometimes referred to as ACAs.

Adult Children of Alcoholics / Dysfunctional Families is an official twelve-step group designation; I’ve been a part of ACOA groups in the past but am not right now…


My reasons for writing now are different than they were when I started out.

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Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

The early dream

When I first started pursuing writing for publication, I was twenty-five and deep in a quarter-life crisis. I’d made it through a challenging childhood and adolescence, through a six-year struggle through college to get a B.A., and was even happily married.

The stability of my marriage and having gotten college finally checked off my list meant I was no longer living in the survival mode that drove my early life. That made space for the realization that, actually, I was kind of miserable.

My job was…


I’m moving on, and taking Jesus with me.

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A shot from Paul Schrader’s film FIRST REFORMED

On January 6, I sat in my car outside a laundromat and pulled up Twitter to see how the certification of the election was going. Not good.

I’m sure I don’t have to describe the sick ache in the pit of my stomach, that bizarre mix of “this is both utterly shocking and completely predictable” that has become a hallmark of the Trump era. The familiarity doesn’t make it any less traumatizing.

Aside from and in addition to everything else I’ve felt since then, there’s a major realization for me that the…


Misconceptions and assumptions are rampant, and almost killed me.

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Photo by Mykenzie Johnson on Unsplash

November is National Diabetes Month, which means it’s a good time to cut through the jokes (“Just looking at that cake is gonna give me the diabetuss har har”) and the misinformation (“Cinnamon and turmeric can cure you!”) and talk about what it actually is.

As a type 1 diabetic (also known as “juvenile diabetes,” which is a potentially dangerous misnomer ), I’ll going to focus on that and the things I find myself repeating over and over to people who don’t understand this disease but think they do.

  1. It’s an…


I had issues with the original Freewrite; will I send up selling the Traveler, too?

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Astrohaus Freewrite Traveler

I am a sucker for writing gadgets — especially anything that taps into my aesthetic pleasure center. Why would I write with a ballpoint pen I got for free at a motel when I could spend $80 on a fountain pen? Why use a drugstore composition book when there’s an entire world of French paper to explore? My credit card is often smoking from orders of pens, paper, ink, journals, apps, keyboards, and my stockpile of now discontinued Alphasmarts.

When a gadget promises a distraction-free…


A careful reading of the NXIVM story reveals some familiar truths.

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Photo by Alex Eckermann on Unsplash

A few years ago while my husband and I were fully absorbed in Leah Remini’s A&E show, Scientology and the Aftermath, I turned to him and said, “And so what? Why do we care about this?”

Fair question, and one I’ve also found myself sometimes asking about the HBO docuseries, The Vow, about a small group of escapees from a cult or community or group or company — depending who you ask — called NXIVM. …


Figuring out celebration when you grew up in dysfunction

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Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

“Many of us who grew up in alcoholic or dysfunctional homes had little time or opportunity for play. Faced with adult chaos, much of our early life was spent in survival mode.”

This is from the October 5 meditation in this little book of daily affirmations published by the Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service org. It comes two days after my 50th birthday, a big one in terms of life milestones.

I spent it all by myself. A few days ahead of the Big Day, I drove the 700 miles…


Life beyond the Medium aspiring-writer-industrial-complex

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Photo by Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash

Back when I started writing, we didn’t have blogging or online journals or digital platforms of any sort. (Yes, I am very old.) The only way to get work in front of other people was to craft it to the best of our ability, do lit journal and publisher research at the library, then put the printed-out thing in the U.S. Mail and sit back and w̵a̵t̵c̵h̵ ̵t̵h̵e̵ ̵m̵o̵n̵e̵y̵ ̵r̵o̵l̵l̵ ̵i̵n̵ wait.

Oh, how we fretted and argued about fonts and cover letters! We learned how to fold SASEs (self-addressed stamped envelopes) — big ones…


The word might have more baggage than you realize.

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Photo by Alice Dietrich on Unsplash

Remember the word “creative” when it wasn’t a noun or a corporate job? Once upon a time, it was an adjective, describing a person or a thing. That’s what I’m talking about here.

Some of us heard that adjective used in relation to us very early on, for better or for worse, depending on the values of our family and community.

In some families, to be “creative” was a good thing. It meant, Wow, you’re a person I find inspiring and interesting! Or, Yes, you are one of us.

In others…


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Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

Forget “Always Be Selling” — ABL is the new ABS

When I budget out my freelance expenses every year, no matter how tight money is I know that I’m going to spend anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on continuing my education as a writer. It’s a line item I call “professional development,” and I don’t consider it an optional expense.

I’m far from a beginner. I’ve won awards for my books, have been a National Book Award finalist, and have seen a project go successfully from film option to movie. …

Sara Zarr

I’m a novelist and I also write about writing (and writing-adjacent topics), personal growth, and growing up in an alcoholic family system. sarazarr.com

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