Nacoa is here for everyone affected by their mum or dad’s drinking. It’s OK to hate the problems drinking can cause, yet love the person who is drinking. If your parent, step-parent, grandparent, or anyone else important to you drinks too much, finding out more about alcohol problems can help you feel better.
Why people drink alcohol
People have drunk alcoholic drinks for thousands of years. There are many reasons why people drink. Some people like the taste. They drink at social occasions such as parties, often with family and friends. Some people drink because they like the feeling of being drunk. Alcohol is a drug made from fruit or grains that have been put through a special process called fermenting. Drinking alcohol affects the brain and the body, so it can change the way people feel and act.
Some people use alcohol as a way to help them feel calm, or to try and cope with problems. Alcohol can affect memory, meaning people often don’t remember silly, embarrassing or other things they have done when drinking. People keep drinking because the good feelings they experience outweigh any horrible effects, such as being sick or feeling ill the next day (a hangover).
When drinking becomes a problem
Many people drink alcohol without it being a problem. But for some people, their drinking can start to cause problems in their lives.
- When people regularly drink too much, they can develop an alcohol problem or alcoholism.
- Alcoholism is like an illness, where the person has lost control over their drinking and usually needs help to stop.
- Drink problems can affect people of all ages from all sorts of families and places.
- People don’t set out to have an alcohol problem. They often start drinking for fun with friends and end up drinking heavily and needing alcohol to feel ‘normal’.
- They continue to drink even when it is having a negative effect on their lives, their health and those around them.
- Often the person drinking doesn’t realise they have a problem. Even if they become aware something is wrong, they may not think it has anything to do with drinking. They may blame other people, or problems in their life. Whatever anyone says, you are not responsible for your parent’s drinking and it’s not your fault.
- When someone has a drink problem, alcohol often becomes their main focus in life. They see drinking as the solution to their problems. The need to drink becomes so important that they may hurt and upset those they love. If they are a mum or dad, this can leave children feeling like they are not important or cared for.
- When people have a drink problem, there is help, but they have to accept they have a problem and want help
Alcoholism and the family
Alcohol problems do not only affect the person drinking, but also everyone around them, including family and friends. It can be especially difficult for children when their parent has a drink problem.
- 1 in 5 children in the UK are currently living with a parent who drinks too much. This means millions of children like you are being affected by their parents’ drinking.
- You can be affected by your parent’s drink problem, even if you are not living in the same house, or if they no longer drink.
- The drink problem is often not talked about and alcoholism becomes the family secret.
- Alcoholism can lead to other problems. Sometimes there are money problems, parents can argue a lot or there can be violence and mood swings. What’s OK one day may not be OK the next.
- Children may feel scared, lonely, confused, forgotten, embarrassed or ashamed.
- Worrying about your parent and what is happening at home, or being woken up in the night by arguments, can make it hard to concentrate at school
- When drinking is hidden, it can be hard for anyone else to notice there is anything wrong. If adults notice, they often don’t know what to say or do.
- Other children often do not understand and may say upsetting things.
- When no one speaks about the problem or offers help, children can think they are the only ones going through these sorts of difficulties.
- You are not alone and you can talk to Nacoa who understand what it can be like when a parent drinks too much.
See how a young boy called Toby is affected by his dad’s alcoholism in a short BBC film called "Toby's Dad". Watch Toby’s Dad on the BBC website.
Newsround have also made a special programme called "Living with Alcohol" which shows how children can be affected by their parents’ drinking. Watch Living with Alcohol on the Newsround website.
You are not alone
Remember Nacoa is here for you. If you want to talk about anything on this page or in these videos, please call or email us.
However you are feeling, or whatever questions are on your mind, we will always try to help.
When a parent has a drink problem, it isn’t easy for children but you don’t have to cope on your own.
See Help & advice for ideas on ways to feel better.
You may also find it helpful to read Experiences of other children affected by their parents’ drinking.