The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service

Experiences

Reading experiences of other people affected by their parent’s drinking helps you to know you are not alone.

Hearing how people felt as children and as adults can help us make sense of our own experiences. Whilst every family is unique, many young people face similar issues

There are lots of personal stories in the followings sections. Why not try reading a few and perhaps come back another time to read some more? Remember, you can always talk to Nacoa about what’s going on for you and your feelings and memories.

You may also find it helpful to write about your own experiences. If you would like to share your story for others to read, please email Hilary Henriques. You can write as much or as little you want and we don’t have to use your real name.

Keeping secrets and feeling isolated and alone

+- I used to worry about him all the time. (Georgie)

As a teenager, as soon as I realised that my dad was an alcoholic, many memories throughout my life until that point began to make sense. Memories such as being scared when I always heard my dad screaming and shouting in his sleep, or finding him passed out in his bedroom with a bottle of the wine next to the bed, or being confused when my mum would always remind me to ring an ambulance if I can’t wake him up or if he collapses.

I was lucky in a way, my mum and dad divorced when I was 4 years old due to the stress his drinking brought on the marriage. Me and my brother would live with my mum during the week and then during the weekend lived at my dad’s. This protected me in a way, as I wasn’t constantly exposed to his drinking. However, it meant I had a constant fear of not knowing if he was safe.

I discovered my dad was an alcoholic when I was about 13 years old, he lost his job for being drunk at work. During this time, I spent almost every weekend at my dad’s flat, and I began to notice him drinking all the time, even in the morning he would be drinking wine out of a mug. Eventually he began to run out of my money and he would ring me up when I was at my mums, and be aggressive on the phone and tell me to get as much money as I can and bring it to him, usually though I would only be able to bring about £10.

When I went round to his flat, I found him physically shaking as he hadn’t had a drink in a few days, and he was sitting at the table counting pennies so he was able to get enough money just to buy a cheap takeaway and some wine. It was then that I realised that he was an alcoholic with no money. For a while, I was too scared to tell any other family members as I always felt a bit intimidated by my dad, and I didn’t want him to be angry at me or for him to get in trouble, so I just bottled up my concerns.

I eventually, told my mum that I thought he was an alcoholic and she told me that he had been an alcoholic all my life and she hadn’t told me as she was wanted to protect me and my brother. It was at this moment that lots of bad memories throughout my childhood began to make sense.

During my teenage years, I felt responsible for making sure my dad was OK, and I was constantly worried. My brother had just moved away to go to University and all my dad’s siblings lived away. I felt like I was on my own and I had to deal with the situation, when he wasn’t looking I would regularly check his bedroom and find 100’s of empty bottles of wine on top of each other. There were moments when I would try to talk to him about his drinking, but he was a very stubborn man, and he’d just deny it. As I mentioned earlier, as much as I loved him, I felt intimidated by him, so I hardly ever brought up the subject as I didn’t want to get in an argument. I used to worry about him all the time.

Finally though, his drinking caught up with him. One day he collapsed in the street and ended up being in intensive care for two months. I was 18 and used to visit the hospital nearly every day even when he was unconscious and constantly get updated from the doctors and nurses. When he was getting better, I really thought this would be the moment he’d be able to give up the drinking, as while he had been in hospital, he had been sober for two months.

The day he was discharged, I met him at the hospital so I could help him carry his things back to his flat, I suggested that I call us a taxi as he hadn’t walked for such a long time, but he said no and he said he wanted to go to the shop to buy some wine. It was at this point where I felt so much anger and frustration, I pleaded with him not to buy any alcohol as if he drinks it he could easily die, but he just swore at me and bought it anyway, I felt betrayed.

My dad died two months later. During them two months, I had simply washed my hands of him and barely went to visit him. I’ll always regret not seeing him as much in them last couple of months. But what I now realise is true, I had an impossible job of trying to stop him drinking on my own, and that’s why I feel it is important to support the ‘Nacoa charity’ so they can help children, young people, and adults in a similar position.

Georgie

+- From the age of 13 I felt as if I was the adult (Kaia)

I can’t actually remember the one point when I realised that my dad was an alcoholic, I thought it was normal for adults to drink after work. It wasn’t until my dad quit his job when I was 11 that I realised there was a problem. My mum started crying more and my dad started drinking earlier and earlier in the day. He’d always go to the shop and the ‘forget’ something (which I later found out was an excuse to drink some cans on the way home).

It became a real issue not long later when my dad was rushed to hospital with a stomach ulcer that had caused him to vomit blood, he was then told that he would no longer be able to drink without the chance of this happening again (which of course it did).

From the ages of 11-17 my dad drank despite how well I behaved, how much I helped around the house or even how much I shouted at him or cried to him that I didn’t want him to die. He was in hospital over and over with various complications from the drinking and developed pancreatitis. All in all he was admitted to hospital around 35 times. Life at home was a living hell, my mum had to work all hours to make ends meet so from the age of 13 I felt as if I was the adult . I took care of my family as much as I could, being there for my frightened and confused siblings and being a shoulder to cry on for my mum. My friends and my school were all aware of the situation and knew that if I disappeared during the day it was because my dad was sick again.

Some of my clearest memories of my childhood are so painful I struggle to talk about them. My parents divorced when I was 17 and my Nan was too elderly to understand all the hospital speak so I was next of kin. The doctors told me that my dad needed a liver transplant but would not get one and if his heart failed they would not be able to get him back. 6 months later I was stood at the end of his hospital bed while he was on life support crying my eyes out, I was only 18 and had no clue what to do, who to call or what to say.

Fast forward 5 years later and my dad died in his sleep (cause of death was undetermined but we believe it was something to do with alcohol withdraw) I will always take comfort in the fact that despite our volatile relationship, the months of not speaking, the screaming at each other and the complete lack of love I ever felt from him that one week before he died he gave me a hug, told me he loved me and to take care of myself and I told him that I loved him too.

It took such a long time that realise that this was not my fault, there is nothing that I could of have done and addiction is an illness that not only affects the addicted person but all the people in their life. I am not a victim of alcoholism, I am a survivor, I doubt I would be as strong in life today without all the terrible things I’ve lived through and I hope that sharing my experience may bring some comfort to someone else.

Kaia

+- I feel like my story might be able to help some people relating to death and alcoholism (Anna)

I can’t believe I have discovered this website. When I was a teenager I dreamt of starting a website to help young children dealing with alcoholic parents. I always felt so alone and scared whilst being a part of an extremely loving family. I feel like my story might be able to help some people relating to death and alcoholism:

My mother was a closeted alcoholic ever since I can remember. She was loving and took care of us so I never thought it was a problem. My father passed away when I was 14. This left us with a mom who couldn’t really take care of us, yet no one knew. This is the hardest thing to share, but I found myself saying ‘you took the wrong parent’ even though I loved my mother so much.

Tragedy struck our family even harder when my mother got diagnosed with colon cancer four years later. No one ever told us but I knew that it was because of her drinking. My feelings no longer were feelings of resentment and hate for her drinking, I now felt terrible for any bad thought I had ever had about her. All I wanted was for her to live. To be there for us, she could do no wrong.

It has been almost 8 years since she has passed. I have been through a lot, but have learnt a lot of lessons along the way:

1) It’s ok to be mad at someone who has died!!

2) Even though alcoholism is a disease and that person might not be able to help themselves, others can help. It’s ok to be mad at others who didn’t help

3) Being angry and feeling pain is the only way to help anxiety. For the longest time I kept it all in, 8 years later anxiety hit me harder than at any point of my life. Feel the anger, the resentment, the unlove, it’s the only way to eventually let love in again.

4) Find an outlet. Yoga became my outlet and MY space. My place of true being.

I am just now finishing a Masters in Early Years Education and my dissertation was on yoga with young children. I am passionate about helping children who you might not know need help… like myself as a child. No one knew my suffering, my disconnect was described as daydreaming, and I had no place to go. If I had discovered yoga, I believe that I might have had a space to feel ok, to feel connected with myself.

Anna

+- When everything changed (Becky)

I was 16 years old when I decided to tell someone how bad things had got at home. My mum was the classic alcoholic and had been for 20 years but nobody knew except us.

I must have noticed a problem when I was a little girl, around 9 or 10, mum would constantly be late picking us up from school. There was one day when I was a bit older, 12 and my brother was waiting to be picked up. His school phoned the police when mum turned up drunk. Nothing ever came of it, social services didn’t even follow it up. It was our problem and that’s how it was going to stay for many years.

To the outside world we were a happy family, but behind the door, we were the “normal” alcoholic family, there were arguments, falls, overdoses and all the upset that comes with it.

It was a lonely place, dad worked away a lot, leaving me to look after my younger brother and cook our teas. Mum tried to give up the drink but it was just too hard. She was given a medication which reacted badly with alcohol in one last attempt to stop.

It worked for a while but after 11 months of sobriety, she began drinking again. It was the hardest thing for me to deal with, I was 8 weeks from sitting my GCSE exams and dad was living 200 miles away.

That was when I first contacted Nacoa and that was when everything changed. I got so much support and advice from the emails it was amazing. It gave me the strength to get help, help for myself.

I spoke to my form tutor who has been so supportive, I only wish I’d told her sooner. I was scared about being taken into care (more so for my brother) and what people would think of me. We did get some social services involvement, but it didn’t make it any worse.

In the last year, things have been so different. What should have been harder to deal with was easier, all down to the support I am now getting. I’m 17 now, doing my A Levels and although things are hard, I am getting through it, with a smile and determination.

Counselling has helped so much and I’d recommend it to anyone, Nacoa have been there when I needed them most, so have COAP which I am still very much involved with and most recently Al Anon meetings. There is so much support available, you just need to know how to use it. For everyone going through this, reach out and you can get help. It will be hard but things can get better.

Becky

+- This is a story I’ve never told (Suzie)

Well it all started when I was about 13.  My Dad always drank but before I was 13 it was never really a problem but then it all got worse. He used to go to the pub every night up until about 11 o’clock at night.  I would sit at home all on my own feeling very worried and wondering when he was going to come home.

I was constantly on edge and worried sick, then he would come in stinking of beer or whisky and from that day I have felt sick at the smell of whisky. He’d walk in hardly able to stand up straight.  I would say “you promised you wouldn’t do this again” and he said “I know I’m sorry I won’t”.  It was just lie after lie, broken promise after broken promise.

Then I’d go to bed but not be able to sleep as he’d be shouting on the phone to someone, keeping me awake so I’d put music on to block out the horrific sound of his drunken shouting voice.

When it was time to get up for school I could never get up and I was always tired but somehow I managed to put on a brave face at school and get on with my school work because I somehow had some determination in me to make something of myself.  The one thought that kept me going was ‘I can’t end up in the same place as my Dad’ but would always dread going home because I knew my dad would be drunk at home or in the pub.

I often felt lonely going home to an empty house knowing I’d have to fend and look after myself and on top of that look after my Dad.  It was so painful to see how low he was sinking and I tried everything to help him up when he fell.

I never told anyone about the problems at home because I didn’t know who to tell and I could never bring myself to tell anyone. I thought they would look at me like I was mad, so I just bottled it all up and acted like it wasn’t happening.

I kept running away from it I guess which didn’t help at all and I realise that now. I still feel the guilt of not telling anyone but I was so scared of losing my dad and always thought I needed to tell someone. I used to find empty whisky bottles in his room and in his coat pocket. It always made me feel so hurt and sad and the thought of it still makes me feel the same.

After a year of living with my Dad I moved in with my Nan because my Dad got to the point where we nearly ended up losing everything and it wasn’t the right place for me to be, but living somewhere else still didn’t take away the worry and fear I carried around with me.

My dad used to ring me up at night drunk shouting for hours and yet again I’d be lying awake upset and worried but still had to put on a brave face when I went to school or even when I saw anyone. I would smile at everyone that walked past me but inside I was dying and that feeling just seemed to get worse every day.

I honestly don’t know how I got though it all but I did and I’m very proud of that.  If it wasn’t for the bad experiences I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

So for anyone who is going through similar situations please don’t give up on yourself.  Believe, stay strong and smile, turn a negative experience into a positive one and learn from past experiences to change your future.

A part of me will always miss my old Dad the man he used to be before the drink took over him and I just hope one day he realises it and he gets help.  A part of me will always feel sad about the past but it’s made me a stronger person and for anyone going through this,  TELL someone, ask for help when you need it and talk about it you will feel much better trust me.

Keep smiling

Suzie

+- Sharing pain, giving hope – Facing my past was hard but I felt like I was coming home (Karen)

When I agreed to talk to Nacoa helpline volunteers from Student Community Action at Bristol University, I had to sit at my computer and write down all those dark secrets I had carefully stored away.

As a perfect child of an alcoholic, I had not told anyone my story.  Even my husband had not heard the whole tale, only bits gleaned from snatches of conversation.

Facing my past was hard.

To start off, I did something I had never done before: I read some of my diary entries from when I was younger.  I was shocked to find that reading those pages unlocked the little girl inside me.  For the first time in years, I cried.  I cried because of the hopeless situation Little Karen had lived through.  Then I cried because I had done just that; I had survived.  I looked through old photograph albums, read letters from years back and kept re-reading that diary.

It took many attempts to start writing my thoughts and even more to put them in a logical order.  As I wrote, I would either cry or sit in a trance-like state replaying incidents in my mind.

When I got started, my limited keyboard skills had problems keeping up with my thoughts.  I read the words on the screen and asked what on earth they meant.  Reading my diary entries and letters and looking at photos had been a catalyst for all the pent-up emotions inside me.  Suddenly, I had a mass of things which I wanted and needed to say.

The problem then was that I had too much to say, and an alarming amount of it was negative anger.  Then I thought

“I have the right to be angry.  I have the right to cry.  And now I have the right to tell”.

So I sat and wrote and, at points, I cried, interspersed with fits of frustration and rage.  At the end of a five-hour session finishing about 2 am, I had completed my notes.

I was more physically and mentally drained than I have ever been.  Yet I felt more at peace with myself than I had ever felt.  It was as if all the badness had been sucked out.

The next hurdle was the night itself.  It was one thing telling my computer screen all the dark secrets of the past – but a group of strangers….  I drove to Bristol with a sinking feeling, not sure about what I was doing.

The only way I can describe the evening was one of coming home.  The volunteers were responsive, understanding and, most importantly, they listened.  I don’t know who gained most from the experience, the volunteers or myself.  My thanks go to Hilary for encouraging me to face my past instead of running away from it and to those amazing students from Bristol University.  I would say to all helpline volunteers ‘Believe callers.  Always believe’.

Karen

+- I felt like I was made up of pieces from other people – my mum, my step-dad, my brother, my grandparents, other people’s expectations. There was no me underneath it all, just an empty space (Naomi)

They don’t understand, they’ve never seen my pain; I have no visible scars. They don’t know how I used to cry every day.

I was 16 when I realised that I couldn’t remember the last day that went by when I didn’t cry and feel utterly miserable and unhappy.

I overdosed out of depression for something to change, for someone to notice, for someone to help me. No-one did, so I did it myself. I made it possible for me to leave.

No-one knows how I struggled.

No-one believed that my family were not there for me.

No-one helped me to survive; I did it myself. I just clung to the belief that there was more to life than what I already knew, somewhere out there was a whole world of better things for me.

Even in therapy, only the people who were there with me know what it’s really like – the pain, the terror, the blood, sweat and tears, the rage of helplessness and fear. No-one saw me come home and cry and beat my fists on the furniture.

People don’t understand how terrifying it feels to release that rage.

I felt like I was made up of pieces from other people – my Mum, my step-Dad, my brother, my Grandparents, other people’s expectations. There was no “Naomi” underneath it all, just an empty space. I would be nothing at the end of all this exorcism.

No-one really knows just how hard it was to keep going back to therapy every week, to keep struggling, to face reality in all its harshness, to accept that my Mum and Dad did not, and do not, love me.  If they don’t love me, who will??!!

If my own mother hates me, I must be bad, because every mother loves her kids, right? (wrong!)

No-one saw me shake and cry and scream and hurt. Can anyone see me hurting??

People see me surviving, living, coping, paying the rent, the bills, keeping house, working, studying. Naomi the student, Naomi the professional, Naomi the home-owner, Naomi the car driver. Successful Naomi, achieving Naomi.

No-one sees how much I struggle inside to make it, to get there on my own.

No Mum or Dad to turn to for comfort when things go wrong, when bad things happen, as they do. No brother or sister for company, support, encouragement, understanding. No-one to find me if I fell down the stairs and died. Would anyone care if I did??!!

It’s hard, so very hard, but I made it.

I am intelligent, I am resourceful, I am successful, I am attractive, I am liked and cared about by other people.  People who now show me they care. People who stick by me when bad things happen. People who like me and love me even when I’m in a bad mood or do things they don’t like. People who respect me, who can see my strength of character and my goodness and tell me so.

Now I’m seeing it in myself, believing it in myself, feeling it inside. I feel good, strong, able, proud of who I am and what I’ve achieved. I look in the mirror and I like what I now see.

I don’t feel defective, damaged, bad or dirty anymore.

I am unique, special, whole and wholesome. I am “Naomi”. I know I can survive anything. I believe I deserve it when good things happen to me and I know it’s not personal when bad things happen, because they happen to everyone sometimes.

Most of all now, I believe I am not like my mother and I will not damage or hurt my children like she did.

I have had the courage to heal the sickness inside me. To rid myself of the shame and blame and guilt that was never mine anyway.

My children will know they are loved, that they are valuable human beings with feelings and rights.  They will know that no-one has the right to use or abuse them or make them do horrible things that they don’t want to do. They will grow up respecting themselves and their bodies. They will grow up surrounded by love and friendship, support and guidance, help and understanding.

They will never have to suffer the way I have suffered because the chain of abuse stops with me and is now broken. I hope they will inherit my strength of character and then they can be and do anything they choose to.

I miss my Mum. It is a gap in my life that cannot be filled. She is poisoned by buried guilt, shame, blame and hatred.

Her vision is clouded by years of fear and rage and unexpressed grief.

She is where I would be if I had not gone into therapy. That’s why I am so grateful now that I did it. “You get back what you put in”. I am living proof of that and it feels so good!!!

Yours with love and fellowship, hang in there, it is worth it!!

Naomi

+- After my dad died (Alex)

My dad left me five years ago now
He killed himself and I know how
It was all my fault
I should of been there but I was at home asleep and that means I don’t care
I was seven years old
All on my own
My dad had died and my mum left me at home


All on my own for several weeks she would come back home and batter me because she hated me
I don’t know why
I had to sleep on the floor and it was cold
I thought I was going to die
The man she was with came in my bed and instead of hugging me
He would hurt me instead
I thought I was going to prison – that’s what he said


I told my teacher and she started to cry
I saw the tear in her eye
She took me from home straight away
She said it was not my fault but that’s not what they say


I was in care but not for a long time because Chloe fostered me and said every thing will be fine
I couldn’t trust her
I didn’t know what to do but I noticed she never hurt me
So I knew she was true
We started to know each other a very lot more and then she adopted me
What did she do that for?
I tell you why because she loves me
And now I am her daughter and she is my mummy


Alex

+- After all these years the one thing I have learnt is that the past doesn’t define who we are, we do in each new moment (Atalina)

There is a darkness that shields the eyes
even from the brightest of skies,
that hides us from the brutal truth
already damaging our precious youth

Don’t be deceived or look for thunder
“What is it then?” you ask with wonder,
A powerful force kept out of sight,
Gathering fuel in the dark of night

A common illness, from which many suffer
most often hidden from each other,
Yet why is that so? why must that be?
Why should we turn from what children see?

So if just for a moment you could hear
the silent whispers filled with fear,
you would know of the sadness that fills each day
when the two headed monster comes out to play

And so as some children survive, others will not,
if only we listened closer to those we forgot.
Those with another’s illness lurking above
Paying dearly for loyalty to those they love

And while some will sleep sound in their beds,
others will suffer abuse and violence instead,
crying out in pain but no one hears
the desperate sadness in their tears

And so it goes on night after night,
until the child grows up and starts a fight.
Teachers bemused at this odd outrage
Say “they shouldn’t behave this way, at this stage’”

Yet no one helps and so it goes on,
until perhaps the little child is finally gone,
and the young adult that now grows, is lost and confused
not knowing which path in life to choose.

Lost in their mind and set in their ways,
they seem okay to others most days,
and when eventually the pain begins to rise
people looked stunned but perhaps not surprised.

So a journey begins deep down in the soul,
to mend the enormous grieving hole,
caused by the loss of her father at eight
and her mother’s ongoing alcoholic fate.

And with each passing day, a little light grows
and she begins to forget the heartache she knows,
instead the little girl surfaces playfully once more,
only different this time, wiser than before.

There is no sense of sadness, bitterness or dismay
And at last it seems she has the confidence to say,
“this really happened, it happened to me”,
and yet through it all, I feel happy and free.

It is with much hindsight she can see
that for a long time, ‘it was not the real me’
Lost in grief, in anger and despair,
looking for love from anyone, anywhere.

And now that she’s a mum
And has broken some ties
She begins to unravel the web of lies.
Consequently there are those who are not impressed
at her apparent selfish ways and disrespect.

For alcoholism is a secret families like to keep,
away from prying eyes, hidden deep.
that way it is easier to avoid any blame
and to keep things running exactly the same,
to pretend and lie in spectacular style,
she calls it insanity, doctors call it denial.

Now she sees things as clear as day
and hopes to show others a brighter way,
because really no one has to suffer alone,
help is now there by email or phone.

And that’s the secret to this tale,
that we can help to free others who are desperate to sail,
into the light that we will shine,
to let them know that they will be fine.

But in order to get to this happy place
there is one difficult task they must all face,
and that is to speak out, to find their voice,
and to learn that saying ‘no’ IS their choice.

For in every moment there is a new way,
to do the things we love each day.
To see the things we want to see
And be the person we want to be.

Atalina

+- It was all hidden, my mum was the classic secret drinker (Louise)

I don’t think you ever recover from growing up with an alcoholic parent. What is interesting is how far you go to hide it.

When I was a teenager I’d rather look bad to teachers than admit there was a problem. So it was my fault that I had no PE kit, or my uniform was tatty.

It was all hidden, my mum was the classic secret drinker, the Jekyll and Hyde. What hurt most was that she loved her gin and vodka more than us, and shut herself away from us to drink – slammed doors in our faces.

I pretended I did not care about things I wanted but could not have – it’s less painful that way. I became so good at ‘coping’ that now I am not very good at making life easy for myself, because I am expert at putting up with rubbish!!!

Both me and my sister went into serious relationships very young, looking for security and unconditional love. My sister married her first ever boyfriend.

My mum now has vascular dementia and her health is failing, but my sister does everything for her and we are not going to put her in a home, we’ll do everything to make her last few years as good as possible.

I feel more sad for her than for myself, because she is the victim of a disease and she was not strong enough to conquer it.

Louise Smith

+- I was too scared to tell anyone my friends or school because I was so worried they would take me away (Tuesday)

I am writing with regards to your personal experiences growing up with a parent that is an alcoholic. I unfortunately became the child of an alcoholic at the age of 8 when my mum began heavily drinking. My dad left when I was two, but he stayed a regular stable figure in my life every weekend and half the school holidays.

I have two older sisters who left home early because it became too much for them. Although my house was rarely empty or quiet I became very isolated and lonely and with only me to care for my mother our roles reversed and at aged nine I became the parent.

I was too scared to tell anyone my friends or school because I was so worried they would take me away from her and she needed me, she had already lost two daughters and I couldn’t leave her alone. Things were very up and down by this point. There were good days and bad days but I always knew she loved me very much and whether she was drunk or sober I never felt she didn’t love me just that the drink had taken over her body and in some way stole her.

When I was 15 after numerous times of being in and out of hospital she decided she wanted to get sober but she was too far-gone and her body couldn’t take to her not drinking and after 2 weeks of horrendous withdrawal symptoms she died.

I loved my mother so much and my heart is broken without her. But I felt a sense of relief afterwards, no more worry in case she fell down the stairs, or carrying her to bed, or helping her take her medication, and skipping school to get her to Dr‘s appointments. No more strangers in and out of the house, or cleaning up sick and no more standing outside the shops trying to get her alcohol.

I was forced to grow up too quickly so after she died things for me took a turn for the worse. I quickly moved in with my dad who was a heavy binge drinker and I began doing the same. I would drink a lot to block out the pain and take drugs, which lead to getting into trouble with the police. I felt worthless so abusing my body and torturing myself for things that had happened seemed the only punishment because I had convinced myself it was my own fault.

I managed to stay in my last year at school and around the partying and drug taking I sat my GCSEs. I didn’t do as well as I should of but I pulled through with enough to get me to college. But things didn’t get any better. I left college and got into an even darker place and tried to take my own life.

After a year of ups and downs my dad stopped drinking altogether and provided me with the stability I longed for. I slowly began to piece my life back together. I met a lovely supportive boyfriend and we got our own place together, then last September (2011) I got myself a part-time job and enrolled on a college course. I took driving lessons and got myself a car.

I am now coming up towards the end of my course and have been accepted for university to study BA Honours degree in Psychology which starts this September (2012). I am in a much better place in my life now, I have built a wonderful relationship with my dad and two sisters and although there are still bad days, which can sometimes, be quite a struggle I have managed to turn things around. Instead of not wanting a future I can’t wait to see what it holds for me. I will always miss my mum and wish things could have been different but it has shaped who I am.

I have a project at college to write a report and present my findings and I have based this on ‘The effects of an alcoholic parent has on a child’ and your website has really helped with my research. I also plan to use this as my third year dissertation for university and continue in this Field helping children like me.

I would also like to ask you if there is any voluntary work that I could do. I really want to raise awareness that there is help out there for children of alcoholics and that they are not alone. If I would have known what help was available things may have been different for me. I want to show others that however hard times get there’s always light at the end of the tunnel and if I can turn my life around then so can anyone.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Tuesday (aged 19)

+- Talk to Nacoa (Megan)

Are you feeling sad or maybe bad about something at home, possibly an alcoholic? Well u can talk to Nacoa and that will make you feel much better.

Nacoa can help… you can call us on 0800 358 3456 or email helpline@nacoa.org.uk! You can talk to someone about it and how you are feeling. We are very trustworthy, we will not tell anyone about it even your family… you can trust us. Nacoa will make a change we are here to help. You can be any age to call us we really don’t mind.

Megan, age 11

Feeling like you want to get away from it and being unable to live your own life, sometimes leading to difficulty with relationships

+- We’re all human stop the hostility (Felicity)

If I were on Mars or Jupiter,
Looking onto earth what would I see?
Follow this and read each word wrote by me,
The truth is here for all to see,
Children sleeping on nothing but cardboard,
All faith lost in humanity,
Wanting a hot meal inside of their tummy

If I were on another planet what would I see ?
Bombings and terror attacks,
Suffering and pain,
Read this and follow along every word is wrote by me,
People wanting a friend in a lonely place,
Looking for a friendly face,
When all they’ve known is hostility

If I were on Mars or Jupiter, what would I like to see?
Follow and read along and you’ll see,
It’s quite simply really,
Faith to be restored in humanity,
No more wars and suffering,
Everyone living in harmony

If you were on Mars or Jupiter you’d see the same as me,
We’re all human stop the hostility.

Felicity

+- Maybe my promise drowned in your bottle (Sally)

When I was twelve,
I wrote a promise on a napkin that I intended to keep.
I will never drink myself stupid.
I will never become an addict.

I knew the words meaning,
Heard it so many times in conjunction with you.
I remember,
You smiled.
You laughed,
as though I had told the type of charming tale
that twelve years olds are supposed to tell.

I wrote it because you could not stand straight,
Because you wavered when you walked
And my voice wavered when I talked.
Because I was afraid that it was dark,
That you still had to drive us home.
I wrote it because I cared.

The years went on,
We fell out of touch,
Out of love,
Out of sight,
Out of mind.

I have broken that promise.
I have drunk myself dizzy,
Drunk myself silly,
Drunk myself to ecstasy,
Drunk myself salty with tears.

I am an addict.
Nicotine.
I am hooked on the feeling of smoke leaving my lungs.
A purge somehow.

I am addicted to men with pretty smiles, too.
I am addicted to men who bother to look twice.
I am addicted to men that don’t last the night.
I am addicted to men with words of wit,
And charming eyes.
The kind of men that you would despise.
I am addicted to the words
‘I love you’.

We spoke,
Civilly,
A truce.

You asked me if I had kept my promise.
I said,
‘you never kept a promise in your life.’
I diverged and then I lied,
‘ I drink’
I said
‘But I’m no drunk.’

I hung up the phone and shook
with the recoil of the warning shot that had been fired.

Sally

+- ‘It’s not your fault’, people kept telling me, yet it never has sunk in (Megan)

Me and my mum would constantly argue, about anything and everything until one day she kicked me out. At the age of 16 I was told to pack my bags and never come back, so I lived with my best friend.

After days of verbally abusive messages from her, I never replied and kept everything, I decided to confide in my dad who lived away about the arguments and what was happening with my mum. He offered for me to live with him but what he didn’t get was that I didn’t want to move hours away, I wanted my mum to stop drinking so we could be happy and get on.

Days later, I had my brother who was in University ringing me having a go at me for all the nasty things I had said to my mum, what he didn’t realise was that it was all lies. I never said what my mum had told him, I showed him the proof of my mum calling me all the names possible, saying I was a vile child, I should go and live with my dad etc.

The day after, I was at another friend’s house and my Uncle rings me telling me to go home, ’no’ I told him, ‘I won’t go home until she apologises to me’. That’s when he turns around to tell me she’s ‘done something stupid’.

After rushing home, I find my mum lying on the sofa barely conscious, her close friends all on the phone, I’m so confused thinking what has just happened?! They tell me she has overdosed and to pack things and go to my friend’s house again. I’m stood there, in shock and horror of seeing my mum not herself. I didn’t know what to do or say. After ringing my brother crying down the phone trying to tell him what happened, I had to ring my dad and I felt weak and vulnerable. As far as I was concerned, it was my fault she did this.

I decide to go back to my best friend’s house and all I do is cry, for hours and hours, so scared that my mum might die. ‘It’s not your fault’, people kept telling me, yet it never has sunk in. I still think that this overdose was my fault. A few days later when I hear my mum is now home and safe, my dad travels down to see me and takes me for some lunch. He mentions that I should speak to my mum, as long as I’m ready and Ok with it considering I’m the one living with her. After time thinking and encouragement from my dad, I decide to.

I go to the house, my dad waits outside with my Aunty and Uncle, and I walk into the kitchen to see my mum, pale and bruised up, looking more vulnerable than ever. I give her the biggest hug ever and then I start talking, so scared she won’t like what I have to say. I tell her I need time away, that I’m so scared and so upset because of what she did whilst telling myself not to cry, not to crack. She denies all of this, it’s not my fault and yes I can have the time away.

A week later I move back in, our relationship is what I’ve always wanted, no tablets and no alcohol. It’s amazing. Months pass, and she starts having the occasional drink when she goes out, or when she gets home from work and suddenly all my feelings are back – ‘will she do this again’? It took me months to get over it and I still am not. To this day, a year later, I still think of it as my fault and well up inside every time she drinks. Our arguing is still occurring and I don’t think it will ever stop.

After months of feeling the same, I asked my step-mum and dad if they could get me a counsellor, someone to talk to without judging me on what my life has been about – putting her to bed, cooking tea, dealing with her when she is drunk. I have been seeing a counsellor for a couple of months and every time I think I’m getting better, we suddenly argue or she drinks and I’m back to square one.

I don’t think I’ll ever be okay with the incident that happened, but I hope that I can one day move past it.

Megan

+- Like many of other children from alcoholic parent(s), there were no birthday parties), no sleepovers, no family Christmases, no holidays in the sun, no father at parents’ evenings or in the school-play audience (Sabrina)

Now in my mid-thirties, I still struggle to come to terms with the loss of a childhood and teenage-hood.

My father was an alcoholic from the day I was born, he stopped drinking 5 years after I left home, so I do feel I got the ‘bum deal’.

Like many of other children from alcoholic parent(s), there were no birthday parties (which meant I never got invited either), no sleepovers, no family Christmases, no holidays in the sun, no father at parents’ evenings or in the school-play audience.

But worst of all was the ongoing fear that gripped you all the time. At school, on the bus back home, in bed way past midnight, shaking with fear in wait for the eventual return of the horrible drunken beast that would be the life of the party/pub, but once home, would physically abuse my mother, threaten us with our lives and smash anything treasured by us to smithereens.

I remember times when I, a sobbing 8 year old girl, literally clung to his legs trying to stop him from going back to the pub, begging him to not drink anymore. I remember spending a 50 minute car journey saying ‘Our Fathers’, praying for my life as my father was trying to drive us home – drunk beyond recognition.

You spend your childhood pandering to a messed up adult’s moods, counsel your mother on the poor state of her marriage, all by the age of 10. It never rains, it pours.

In addition, I was bullied in school (there was no time or room left for me to talk about this – my father’s alcoholism took all that). I had no friends or relatives I could talk to, had no confidence and carried the shame of living in a chaotic pit of alcohol ruled hell.

BUT, once I left home, I was very, very determined. I’ve achieved a lot since then, from having my own happy family unit to a successful career.

There are times though I still feel very resentful (usually after a visit to said parents). My father attends AA meetings; I think it unfair that he can talk total strangers, out of hitting the bottle where he won’t even discuss the past with me.

No excuses, no frank exchange. Apparently ‘it’s too painful for him’ and such an interaction could send him ‘over the edge’. Such preventative measures and allowances were never made for me.

Like some of the other people on the postings, I still find myself trying to please other people, lack assertiveness, am very distrustful of people, find it hard to open up emotionally and am very protective of my feelings.

You learn to live with the traumatic historic luggage, you move forward and have a better life than that – but your relationship with your parents is irrevocably broken and way off the norm.

I still think and pray frequently for children all over the world, who are going through what we went through. It’s an issue very close to my heart.

Sabrina

+- I love my mum and hope she gets better. I wish more than anything in the world that my mum could recover from being an alcoholic and could live a normal life (Anon)

My mum has been an alcoholic for as far back as I can remember. In the last couple of months I have been trying to find someone that can relate to what I have been through.

I’m only 18. I have seen the best and the worst of my mum and I feel like I saw it all too soon.

When I was 14, she should have been there for me as a parent, she should have given me the right advice and encouraged me to travel down the right path. That is something that she never did and I always blamed her for that.

A few years on, now that I am a little older, I understand that my father drove her to be a lot of things that she had become during my childhood. Mum had been turned into a bit of a monster because she was trying to cover for my father.

I now know now that he was really the bad guy. Now that I am an adult I can see what was really happening.

My father had treated my mum so badly that she felt like she had to cover for him and be the person to take the brunt when it was really him causing all of the hardship.

Yeah mum was, and still is an alcoholic, but she still cares a million times more than Malcolm (my father) ever will, and that means more than anything.

I love my mum and hope she gets better. I wish more than anything in the world that my mum could recover from being an alcoholic and could live a normal life…But I know that those things are just a dream.

I have finally come to accept that my beloved mum will be gone forever because of her addictions and I will have to deal with that……I’m working on it anyway. xx

+- He never abused me or my sister, physically or verbally, all he did all day was sit, drink and watch television (Donna)

I stumbled across your website a few months ago and reading some of the experiences brought a tear to my eye. A lot of the experiences were all too familiar to me. My sister and I have been the children of an alcoholic since we can remember.

My parents divorced when I was 12 and I never knew why. Obviously my Dad got drunk at parties and occasions but who didn’t? He later got together with his girlfriend who he split with about 4 years ago. This was the same time I found out about my Dad’s drink problem. At this point I was about 18. He would pick me up from work and he always seemed distant and tired on the way home. On one particular car journey I noticed an empty vodka bottle on the floor under his seat and over the next few weeks I started to notice more and more. One evening I confronted my Dad about these bottles and he just got angry, kicked the door and went out for a drive (and another drink).

This was the start of the worst time of my life.

After his girlfriend left we were all alone. It felt as though everybody else could get away from it but me and my younger sister had to suffer.

Daily, he would walk round to the local shop to buy a litre bottle of vodka and we would find it empty the next day, hidden behind the sofa or under the stairs. He lost his driving license after being caught by the police, drinking at a set of traffic lights. He had been a lorry driver for the entirety of his life but losing his license meant he lost his job, meaning he had all day now to drink.

He never abused me or my sister, physically or verbally, all he did all day was sit, drink and watch television. He stopped eating, answering the phone and the only time he would leave the house was to buy more booze.

At this point I knew we couldn’t handle it alone any longer so decided to involve my aunts (his sisters) who knew he had a problem but seemed to brush it over like it was alright. One of them managed to get him to go to a few meetings but they didn’t last. By this time the house was an absolute mess, we rarely had food in the house, we had no heating and my sister and I would spend the majority of the time either at our boyfriends’ houses or in our own bedrooms to try and escape the madness that we lived with for so long.

He became a recluse and we would often find him passed out on the sofa most of the day. At this time I was 21 and my sister was 17 and our work and college lives were suffering too. We hadn’t received a birthday or Christmas present that year and thought that the only thing left we could do was to try and get him sectioned. The doctors agreed and were coming round the following day for him.

That evening my mobile phone rang, it was my sister. “You need to come home now” she cried “Dads collapsed again”. I raced home to find a paramedic car pulling up outside my house and my sister sat on the doorstep with my neighbour. I ran inside the house to find my Dad face down on the floor in the hallway, semi naked. The paramedic looked up at me and pronounced him dead. All the family gathered at mine that evening as we answered questions for the police and the paramedic. Apparently he died from inflamed organs which had caused internal bleeding. The worst part of all though was that we never got to say goodbye. I can’t even remember the last thing I said to him.

It’s been nearly a year since he died and every day I picture him dead in the hallway and following that, a feeling of guilt that I always thought it would be easier once he was gone, I was wrong.

I really hope that if only one person reads this I will help them to realise there are lots of people in the same boat and if they are filled with the same thoughts I was its OK to feel like that, we all do. Try not to be offended if they brush you off when you try to help, they’re sick and can only help themselves. I’ll miss him every day!x

Donna

+- It took me years to admit to myself that I had a mother suffering from alcoholism (Christine)

As an only child, I was raised by a loving and caring single mother. Until I was about 7 years old I had a secure and stable upbringing.  My Mother struggled financially as a single mother but always managed to put food on the table and give me love and warmth.

Unfortunately she had suffered from depression for many years and when both her brother and mother died in just a matter of years, she began to drink socially with friends in local pubs.

It was a gradual thing over the years and she began drinking more and more. It affected our lives in many different ways.  She suffered from hangovers so did not have much patience or time for me and could not deal with day to day pressures of life.

She also only socialised with other drinkers so there were always unstable friendships and relationships and nothing ever seemed to run smoothly.

All in all our lives were erratic, you never knew what was going to happen in my house, there was no routine and no rules.

She would go missing for days, I would spend days searching for her or nights crying and worrying about her.

I became a very serious, lonely teenager who was not able to trust anyone. I suffered from terrible mood swings and although I was considered a smart child, sadly I left school with no qualifications.

In my early 20’s I worked for various corporate firms but still found myself unhappy and longing to be somewhere else, to escape from my old life and from myself.

I decided to travel and have never looked back. Thankfully my travels enabled me to grow and mature as a person.  To realise my needs instead of my mothers, my fears and to realise who I am and most of all to accept that I had a mother who was suffering from Alcoholism.

It was very hard to come to terms with. As I had never been aware of what was wrong with her.   I had had no one to guide me or to tell me that it was not my problem or that she had one. There had been no support for us whatsoever.

It has taken time but she has now been sober for one year and only just starting to live life, once again.

All my life I had hoped that one day my loving, beautiful, intelligent mother would return, always hoping that she would be the person that I had always believed her to be…. but in fact she is even more amazing.

I am in the process of now completing a degree but hope to seek some type of counselling, so that it does not affect my life any longer or my future children, one day.

I think that the British drinking culture is awful and that there are so many children suffering, as I did, alone.

Christine

+- The feeling of having an alcoholic parent or relative (M)

It’s not the best feeling to be growing up with. And at the age of 14, (older or younger) carrying something as big as that on your shoulders can feel like a lot. I should know.

Anyone reading this can trust me when I say I know how you are feeling. But don’t let something like this hold you back, it is their problem not yours.

You have your own life to live, your own friends to hang around with and be away from the stress and bad decisions being made back at home. You didn’t cause this problem. You aren’t involved in this problem, and most important of all you cannot stop it.

From M.

Feeling different from other people and guessing what normal is

+- Broken (Flick)

Lonely voices echo through the walls
Lost dreams hide in darkness behind closed doors
Broken promises and failed hopes drift out the windows
We are broken

Shuffling through empty corridors
Lonely, lost, empty, hopeless
Looking for a future
In a world where money’s tight
The distant hopes and dreams shake the walls
Failed futures leave dust marks where certificates once hung
Now we just walk the streets all day long
Voices of the voiceless hide in the shadows
We are broken

In a world where jobs are non-existent
Failed dreams and hopes
Line shop doorways
Homelessness on the rise
Unemployment at an all-time high
We are the youth of today
And we are broken

Left out in the line to hang and dry

 

Flick

+- Some people may judge my mother for her illness, and call her an unfit parent. Don’t. (Anon)

Waiting for the kettle to boil, I peeled back the kitchen curtains to be greeted by the birds singing and the first sunshine in weeks. Everything seemed so peaceful and fresh.

Admiring the calmness and tranquillity of the garden, I felt my cat brush past my leg, purring as if to tell me it was time for her breakfast.

As I turned to reach for the cat food cupboard, I noticed in the corner of my eye the overloaded bin of empty wine bottles I had confiscated from my mother last night. Suddenly I was back to reality.

My life was not peaceful.

Nor was it calm or tranquil.

I would compare my life to a ghost train at your local fair. Lonely. Dark. Haunted. Erratic. Full of nasty surprises. I am the child of an alcoholic.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a unique fellowship founded in 1935, boasts more than 2,000,000 members worldwide. My mother is one of them and attends local meetings.

The AA website says the basic purpose of its meetings is to give alcoholics a chance to speak out about their illness and help one another stay sober.

Today is the morning of my mother’s one year anniversary of attending AA. She thought it would be appropriate to celebrate this occasion last night, with her best friend. Alcohol.

CLICK. I reached for the kettle and poured the boiling water into the two mugs I had pre-prepared with instant coffee. Watching the milk swirl and blend into the coffee as it was added to the mug, I thought to myself, just leave the house now and do not look back.

I was tempted, believe me.

However, I put the thought to one side as I clasped a cup in each hand and started to make my way up the stairs, towards my mother’s bedroom.

I felt anxious as to what awaited me on the other side of the door. What mood would she be in? Will she be angry? Or will she simply not remember anything? Thoughts like these always run through my mind, the morning after a drunken drama.

On entering the bedroom, I discovered my mother was fast asleep, blissfully unaware of her actions several hours before. Placing the cup of coffee on her bedside table, I noticed how peaceful she looked.

I stood in silence next to her bed, experiencing a succession of emotions. Disappointment. Anger. Rejection. Frustration. Love. Pain. Loneliness.

The National Association for Children of Alcoholics believes there are almost a million children living with an alcohol dependent parent(s) in the UK today, many of them hiding their problems, living in fear and without support. I guess that makes me a statistic because growing up, I never told anyone about the daily goings on behind our front door.

For as long as I can remember, my mother had always liked a glass of wine, but it was not until my parents divorced that it seemed to become a major issue.

I’m an only child so it was just my mother and me in the house.

Do not get me wrong, I love my mum deeply. She was and still is a good mum. I never went without. There was always food in the cupboards, I had clean clothes and I was given the best of everything material. To all my friends she seemed the perfect mum, and she was, financially. Emotionally, I have to say, she did not have a clue.

Throughout my teenage years, on the walk home from school/college, I would always wonder what mood my mother would be in that evening. Her mood determined the type of things she would say after her compulsory glass of wine when she returned from work.

Television was my escape. I would sit and watch it all night, to avoid witnessing my mother’s transformation from a kind, hard-working, professional person, into a nasty, crazy, mad woman as she sipped her daily poison! I guess she had a case of the Jekyll and Hyde syndrome.

“YOU made me drink.” “This is your fault.” “Your father never wanted you, he wanted me to get an abortion.” “You think you’re so perfect don’t you.” “Get out of my house!” “I don’t want you in my life.” These words are imprinted on my mind.

As is the daily routine: watching my mother stumble around the house, to finally fall asleep in front of the television. Tucking her into bed night after night. Only for her look up at me, like a baby, to tell me she loves me as she falls into a deep sleep. Simply forgetting the painful things she had said just a few hours before.

Special occasions are the worst. I especially hate Christmas. My mother seems to be out of control around this time. It is guaranteed she will get legless and ruin the festive fun.

My last two Christmases, I have been thrown out of the house, for no other reason than standing up to her drunken behaviour.

I ended up spending Christmas and Boxing Day alone at my university home. On my flatmates’ return, they all told happy and funny stories about their Christmases. To be honest I envied them.

I wanted to spend a “normal” Christmas with a “normal” family. When they asked me about my Christmas, I just lied. “O yes, it was fantastic, lovely to be home.”

There was no way I was going to tell them the truth.

I also recall my eighteenth birthday, when we had all the family around. As usual, my mother had had too much to drink before anyone had even arrived. By the time my cake was brought out, my mum was in a mess. She attempted to make a speech, but just started crying and telling me she loved me. I was ashamed and embarrassed. I just wanted to disappear and for the day to end.

The family knew she liked a drink: “Here she goes again, the family drunk,” some would say behind her back.

This was extremely hurtful to hear, even though I knew it was true. No-one had the right to talk about my mother like that. If family members were judging her, then I was certainly not going to receive help from anyone else.

That is why I decided not to tell anyone the full extent my mother’s drinking had reached at this point.

A study, conducted by The Priory in 2006, concluded that problems children of alcoholics experience in early life have a profound impact later on.

I could not agree more. Things just went from bad to worse as the years passed. I witnessed some awful things such as cleaning urine off the kitchen floor, forcing my mother to be sick over the bath as she attempted suicide with an over dose of pills. I have had to drag her from a car while intoxicated at four in the morning. I lost my job the following day, as I slept through my alarm.

My education also started to suffer. All my energy and time went into worrying about and saving my mother from her drunken dramas. It was extremely draining being the responsible one. I was not sleeping or eating properly, and constantly felt ill with headaches through stress.

From the outside, tutors and employers just assumed I was lazy and not motivated to get anywhere in life.

I will never forget when my English Language teacher, Mr Beard, laughed in my face when I told him I had been offered a place at university: “As if you have been offered a place.”

The Priory Study also believes children of an alcoholic are four times more likely to become alcoholics, compared to children living with non-alcoholic parents.

There was a time I did think: if you can’t beat them, join them.

I started drinking from the early age of thirteen.

I am an angry drunk, just like my mother. I started to push friends away as they could not understand my behaviour. How could they?

One day, I looked in the mirror and saw my mother’s reflection staring back at me. I burst into tears.

I was now everything I had been fighting against all my life. I decided there and then, I had to focus on me and my life.

I joined ‘Al-Anon’, a support group, for family and friends of alcoholics. They made me realise I had to go through ‘detachment’ from my mother. Al-Anon said: “Detachment allows us to let go of our obsession with another’s behaviour and begin to lead happier and more manageable lives, with dignity and rights.”

I remembered this phase, as I was looking upon my mother sleeping peacefully in her bed. All the feelings of disappointment, anger, rejection, frustration, love, pain and loneliness that had filled my body, suddenly defused.

Professor Martin Plant, an addictions expert at the University of the West of England, said: “The children of alcoholics can break the cycle.”

“Many end up loathing alcohol and refusing to let it destroy their lives like it may have done to their parents.”

I have now moved out my mother’s house and live at the other end of the country, to start pursuing a career for myself. At the age of twenty-one, I have only just started living MY life.

It has been extremely difficult to adjust to life without the drunken dramas night after night, as they were a “normal” way of life for me.

I do still worry about my mother, especially as last night highlights the fact that she is still drinking. I do not think a part of me will ever rest about her drinking, until the day she dies. I will also walk around with the invisible scars of her drinking until I die.

However, I now realise it is out of my control and the only person who can stop her from this misery, is herself.

I smile to myself and softly say, “One thing that will never change mum, is that I love you.”

I kiss her on the forehead. I silently close the bedroom and leave her in peace.

Some people may judge my mother for her illness, and call her an unfit parent. Don’t. I am the child of an alcoholic. But I still would not trade my mum for any other.

+- I had a feeling then that something was different and that she was not meant to be acting in this way (Lexie)

I read the personal experiences and I thought that I would write my own. I have not told anyone what happened but maybe this is my chance!

So I will start at the beginning. My dad was in the navy so he was away all the time. My mum found it very hard and that’s when the violence started toward me, and my brother. My brother spent most of the time out of the house he was four years older than me.

I had a feeling then that something was different and that she was not meant to be acting in this way.

I lived with being a carer for her from when I was 5 to when I was nearly 15.

Just after Christmas this year my dad went back to Belgium where he was serving and my brother went back to university in Aberdeen, it was then that my mum started becoming ill. She stayed down stairs all the time, she couldn’t even go to the toilet. My work started to slip, I had to tell someone that I thought she had a problem.

By last lesson on Friday I had picked up the courage to tell someone but the person I was going to tell wasn’t in, so I want home hoping that my dad would be back on Sunday.

I got home and my mum was acting weirdly, her speech was slurred and she was hallucinating. On Saturday I went down stairs and there she was, lying on the floor, she had collapsed during the night. I phoned an ambulance and waited, hoping my dad would be back the next day.

She went in to hospital and I had to tell the doctor that I thought she had a drinking problem, he asked how much she drank, I told the truth, ‘7 litres in two weeks’ I said looking at the floor. I sat with her all day holding her hand until a social worker came and said that I had to phone someone and find somewhere to stay.

When I was on the phone a call came for me, it was my dad.  I felt really confused and picked up the phone, he had got home a day early and had found the house closed up and a neighbour told him we had gone to hospital.  I told him where we were and waited as my mum went for tests.

She stayed in hospital for 1 week and 6 days. We went in one day and she had got worse, my dad had seen her in the morning and she was fine then. A doctor told my dad that she wouldn’t survive the night, I was gutted.

My dad and me sat with her crying, until 7pm when a nurse on night shift came in and said that she would sit with mum all night.

I said goodbye to her for that last time, but had no idea what to say, so I said that I loved her and would never forget her, and hoped she had a good journey to where ever we go to afterward. She died at 1.am on Friday 28th 2005, I remember it so clearly.

We went to see her in the Chapel of Rest the next day; she looked so peaceful, like she was asleep. A priest came and said some prayers with us. I have never regretted going to see her.

So that’s my experience, and to anyone that has gone through a similar thing I would like to say: things get better, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Lexie

+- My name is Joe. I am the child of two alcoholics (Joe)

Or at least that’s what I would say if I was actually standing before you right now… probably fidgeting nervously, heartbeat quickened with anxiety ridden nostalgia.

To be honest, I might scream or pound my fists; pace back and forth or run away if thought I could cause sympathy with this admittance. So perhaps it’s just as well that I’m not present, but presented through the voice of another.

I’ll admit it. I’m not normal or even happy sometimes. But neither are you and neither were my drunk parents. No one is. That is all I want to say. No one is perfect.

The fact is, alcohol, cocaine, and playwriting stole my father away from me when I was about two. I don’t remember his leaving, or his ever even being there at the beginning, actually… But I do remember my mother’s crying on the floor, and empty bottles in the garbage. I remember her laughing and playing childish games, and then condemning my games as childish when she needed to cry into her drink about the mortgage.

She was a kind, if unrelentingly honest woman, and forever steadfast in her one goal: To always put her children first despite her complete lack of control of her own life. For me to go on, I need this one distinction to be made with the clarity of crystal: My father left. My mother stayed. They were both totally messed up… just like the rest of us.

I think the cocaine and spirits made my dad a social beast, living the artists’ lifestyle, and having a beautiful and horrific time. But back home, Mom was a bankrupt, bi-polar, single parent, desperately trying to make do with what she had: A bottle and a dream.

I imagine most people can pinpoint the exact moment when they lost utter confidence in their parents’ perfection, but I don’t. And if you’re listening, I bet you don’t either. People like us have never had the liberty of hold onto such convictions for long. We never knew that magical world of early life, which cushions the blows of beautiful brutal humanity.

We’ve always known that no one is flawless; and maybe some of us don’t ever learn to discourage those flaws, whose very existence defines us, but wield them like weapons against each other or themselves instead. Some of us can only hope to defend ourselves, but any way I look at it… we are all wounded.

Everyone has defence mechanisms and weapons of mass destruction at their disposal… But the destruction is always mutually assured. And just like the nations of the worlds, we are judged by our use or disuse of our arms and armour.

What I want my parents, and everyone else to know, is that these things that hurt the people we love, make them who they are. It also hurts us, which makes us who we are. Does anyone truly condemn that which they cannot see within themselves?

So what should we do? Walk around with a big open wound all the time? No, of course not we get out the antibiotic whose cleansing sting we know will be worth it in the long run. My parents taught me this, by crumbling before building themselves back up on a stronger foundation. And I don’t blame them. No one is perfect. That’s why I am proud to say: My name is Joe, I’m the child of two alcoholics.

Joe

+- I didn’t tell anyone about the bottle, just kept it to myself as with everything else (Amy)

When I was little, I lived in a big house on top of a hill with my mum, dad, big brother and two cats. There were woods and fields nearby where we had lots of fun and a big hill for tobogganing in winter.

There were lots of happy times, parties and family gatherings. We had lots of nice things. My parents argued a lot. I felt scared and would hide in my room. At least I had the cats to talk to.

I loved animals and spent lots of time in the garden collecting snails. At school, my favourite subjects were English, art and drama. I liked writing stories and poems. I didn’t really like sport. I enjoyed school but I remember feeling different from other children there. I often felt embarrassed. Sometimes I hid things or told lies.

When I was 10 my parents separated. This meant we all had to move house. It was difficult to know what you were allowed to tell other people. I remember one day my friend’s mum drove me home and saw the sold sign outside our house. She asked if we were moving. I knew we were but didn’t know what to say, so I just said ‘I don’t know’.

Me, my mum and my brother went to live in a much smaller house. Moving to a new house was like an adventure. My dad went to live in a flat in a different town. I used to go visit at the weekend. He was often late coming to pick me up so I would have to wait around and mum would get cross. His flat stunk of cigarette smoke and he wasn’t very good at cooking. He lived near a big shopping centre, we often went there together and ate at restaurants, which was fun.

I think around this time I was told my dad was an alcoholic. But since I don’t really remember seeing him drunk and everyone else drank too, it didn’t really mean much to me. Besides my mum said lots of horrible things about my dad anyway.

My mum cried a lot. She would drink lots of red wine to feel better, but this just made her cry more. She would talk to me about things I didn’t understand, I just smiled and nodded at the times I felt like I should, and when it seemed required I would give her a hug. My brother would go out a lot. I think he didn’t want to have to listen to mum.

It was some years later when I made the connection between my dad’s ‘glassy eyes’ and funny smell and alcohol. One day I found an empty bottle of vodka in the glovebox of his car. This was confusing, as I had only ever seen him drink wine or beer. Of course I didn’t tell anyone about the bottle, just kept it to myself as with everything else.

My mum continued to cry and shout. We used to argue at lot. Her rules didn’t seem to make any sense. It seemed like I was permanently being grounded.

As I got older, my dad was always happy to collect me and my friends and give us lifts home late at night. This was great, then one day my dad gave me a lift after I had been drinking in the park with my friends. Whilst in the car on the way home, dad and I were chatting away in French (I don’t think I could actually even speak much French) it dawned on me that my dad was drunk too! After this I generally arranged to sleepover at friend’s houses rather than get picked up.

It wasn’t until I was 18 that I realised it was OK to talk to friends about important things. I discovered that some of them had grown up with parents similar to mine. I started to experience feelings and get to know what I liked and didn’t like.

I am incredibly lucky. Both my parents have stopped drinking. It’s not always perfect but we are able to be much more open with each other, and I can talk to them about problems I have. Now I know I am an ok person, I am loved and am able to show love to others. Most of the time I can understand how I am feeling and can communicate with people. Sometimes I slip back into feeling numb or being unable to tell the truth. But most of the time, I like who I am and am proud of my family.

Amy

Feeling confused by parents changing when they drink or feeling alcohol takes priority over everything

+- Forgiveness (Carly)

My dad had always been a drinker for as long as I can remember. It was the root cause of tension between him and my mum. He would disappear for weekends, leaving my mum with no clue about where he had gone, I remember from a young age the explosive arguments, the searching round every pub in the area, finally he would be found, the arguments began again…although times were tough his alcoholism hadn’t reached its peak, he was still at times, a very nice and loving father, I remember the good times.

Every year my dad’s drinking got worse, he became more and more about himself, he grew selfish, more self-indulgent and increasingly less self-aware. My mum was not able to cope with his behaviour any longer, that point reached for her when she didn’t feel comfortable leaving us alone with him. There were a few occasions when he would drink too much and end up needing assistance to get to bed or go into a diabetic hypo (as he was a type 1 diabetic) resulting in ambulances being called out.

When I was 9 we moved 500 miles away from the area where I had grown up and known. My mum had found another job and had hopes for a better life for my sister and I. My dad decided that he didn’t want to come with us, this was when my parents split up for good. Eventually, he moved back in with his mum and dad as he couldn’t afford to support himself, he wasn’t able to hold down a job and lived life on the dole at his parents’ house, he was 37.

Our relationship grew distant; I didn’t see him very often after the move. I maybe saw him two or three times a year, every-time I saw him, he would be a little bit worse than the time before, he was suffering so much but there was nothing we could do. The thing with many alcoholics is they believe that their drinking is never as bad as other people that they know. After all that had happened in his life he still believed he had his drinking under control.

My dad’s drinking reached its peak when his best friend passed away. He was never the same and quickly reached rock bottom.

Due to being a type one diabetic my dad had a weakened immune system so alcohol would eventually get the better of him health wise. When my dad was 42, the doctors had warned him that if he continued to drink he would be dead within 4 years. Unfortunately, he never got the help he needed, his drinking had spiralled out of control, he sadly ended up in a home for Adults with learning disabilities and died aged 46.

For many years I was angry at my Dad. Why wasn’t he a proper father? Why did everyone else seem to have a normal responsible father and I was given someone that was pathetic, useless and couldn’t handle his responsibilities in life. Why was I dealt that hand?

When Birthday’s and Christmas’s came along, why did he never think to get us anything? Or just something to let us know that he cared? What was so hard about writing “Happy Birthday” in an 89p card from card factory? Why did every penny count towards getting another can of special brew or some other kind of cheap poison he was into at the time? Why did that poison come before my sister and I?

Why would he get drunk almost every night and shout abuse at the people that loved him the most, that helped him the most? Why did he bite the hand that fed him? Why did he create so much drama, embarrassment and shame not only to himself but to us, his family?

Eventually, over time, I have grown to forgive my Dad, I am no longer angry at what happened, nor am I angry at him, it is hard to be angry at someone that has died. Had he not drank our lives might have been so much different, but it was how it was and I appreciate the good times. I forgave him for myself and for my own heart, I didn’t need any more hurt or suffering. All I feel now is sadness at what my dad went through, I truly believe no one chooses to become an alcoholic, it can just happen.

Carly, Aged 24.

+- Missing mum (Ceri)

I don’t know how to explain the gap my mums left in my life, and with a turbulent relationship I don’t think she ever realized just how much I needed her. I don’t miss her guidance or stability, she couldn’t always give me that, I just miss her presence deep in my stomach and the aching never goes away, just her smell, and the bond we had. I hear people say you should never bury your child, but I live with an irrational fear now that I’m a mum, of my own mortality, as the thought of my son going through the pain I’ve been through is one of my worst fears. Life continues and you do get through it, not over it, but when you least expect it the grief returns in a different form, and all your energy is used just trying to process it.

I’ve spent the last year coming to terms with the fact that I may be grieving for the loss of my mum again, which shocked me after 12 years, but I guess having my boy has really made the pain raw again. I spend most of my time living in the present, but then sometimes I can’t help but think-how could my mum not put me first? Ok, so alcoholism’s a disease, I completely understand that, and I mustn’t live in the past, I should be grateful for what I have, and I am, eternally grateful. But somewhere inside me, I’m so hurt and confused, when I feel this unbelievable animal instinct to protect my offspring, why didn’t my mum protect me? I guess this questioning has made me feel pretty worthless, if my own mum didn’t love me how could anyone? But then I remind myself again addiction was out of her control, and I know deep down she did care, but it’s still so painful. I feel so much anger sometimes, but then anger’s easier than what lies beneath the surface-because deep down I just miss her, and I’d give anything for her to see me now, and see what I’ve become.

Over the years I‘ve battled with the thoughts, is it in my genes? Am I – like mother, like daughter? These worries contain me when I’m unaware, and it takes a lot of strength to ask them to leave. I understand that one of the outcomes of being the child of an alcoholic is the inability to let myself be happy but as I acknowledge that I find ways to get support. I also sometimes struggle to cope in times of calm, after living with drama and upheaval for so many years. It’s like I’m waiting for something just around the corner to come and take away all that I have, or turn my life into chaos but I’m adjusting to calm being my ‘normal’, whatever that is!

Although I doubt my ability I hope one day I’ll just accept the evidence, I have made a fantastic life for myself. I have a handsome supportive husband, a lovely home, wonderful caring supportive friends and the happiest little boy that worships me! I could just spend every hour of every day just playing with him, and I try to live mindfully through his eyes. I spend a lot of time ensuring he has the most enjoyable secure childhood, and a lot of time worrying that I’ll make a mess of it, but I’m pleased to say he’s a confident, happy and hilarious little man!

The good days with mum were amazing. I could be a child. I’d come in, throw my bag on the floor, get moaned at for dirty shoes. I would then enjoy a huge dinner that kept me in my chair all night, watching comedies with Mum. I’d look at her sometimes, and hope that I’d age as well as her; she had flawless skin, and was often mistaken for my sister. She would wear clothes I loved, and borrow mine, her makeup looked fresh, and her hair styled with so much hairspray it didn’t move. We had such laughs, doing silly things like dressing the dog in my t-shirts, and taking her on long walks where I’d paddle in the stream. Mum would make picnics, and we’d jump around the lounge to Rod Stewart. Sometimes the good days rolled into weeks, and I would invite friends round for tea, and Mum would chat to them, I’d forget the constant anxiety and then with one day and one noise everything changed – clunk pssst!

I’d hear it as the toilet flushed or as Mum coughed. It was a subtle sound, but very apparent to me as I was sensitive to it. Clunk pssst as she opened the can. My heart would race, and I would feel myself burning up within seconds. If friends were round, I would make my excuses so they’d leave. If I could get out myself I would, but the first thing I would do was search. I looked in the laundry basket, under the mattress, in the fridge, anywhere, in the hope of preventing a binge. I wanted to keep my Mum, and this kept taking her away.

The first sign was the look in her eye, hard to explain, kind of vacant, and dazed. She’d look at me and I could tell in an instant, even after just a few sips. The next was food, well, lack of it. I’ve known Mum to go for a week without eating anything but a packet of pear drops and lucozade. The main side effect was her mood, and this affected me the most. When it began Mum was irritable, she would snap at everything I did – my music too loud, my hair a mess, my voice annoying, but the worst was being called a liar constantly. The house was out of control, with a layer of dust on everything, and nothing had a home, just a pile. I would try and tidy to avoid embarrassment when visitors came, but I didn’t really know how, or where to start. Dinner turned into microwave meals, with the occasional Chinese when she was on a high. When she was in the thick of it I could do whatever I wanted, there were no rules or boundaries, I’d go out all night and she wouldn’t even notice, she’s just be semi-conscious in her chair, talking under her breath to herself.

It was difficult when I needed her, and felt really lonely with a stranger living in the house. At times she could be hurtful, she’d say she needed to be honest with me, and then she would tell me I had ruined her life and that she never wanted me. She talked of her abusive ex as the cause for her pain, but then she would say he was only aggressive towards her because I wound him up. The things she said have never left me, and I often wonder how life would have been for her without me. I know that before I was born Mum was very different as the alcoholism didn’t start until I was 4, I wonder if it was my presence that destroyed her or her violent husband, or would something have always triggered the drinking?

When binges lasted weeks, and then ended abruptly due to lack of money or fear of being found out it became hell in our house. It started with anger, physical shaking and nausea, and then at its peak Mum would hallucinate and feel everyone was against her. I understand that must have been horrendous to go though, and why at times it was easier to give in, but the end result meant that I became the child again, and this got me through the craziness. She’d go into hospital and get fluid removed from her lungs, but the heart of the problem was never fixed – her mind, and the root or trigger of the addiction, so each time she’d finally accept she was ill she was then sent home with tablets she couldn’t swallow and no way of controlling the next urge to drink. I’d call the hospital social workers, so tense I could hardly open my mouth to speak, begging them to help me get support for her, but she always told them she’d be fine, so they said it was out of their hands.

I moved in with my grandparents frequently, moving 15 times in 10 years as they’d see mum’s drinking was out of control. They followed us around the country ready to swoop when needed. The years with them were the most stable and safe, they were my rock, giving me boundaries, routine, stability and so much love. This time I feel has given me the roots and guidance to be the mum I am today. Without them, who knows where I’d be. There was always something missing when I was with them, and I spent a lot of time hiding tears, as I didn’t want to upset them, but I missed my Mum terribly when I was away from her, despite her mood swings and erratic patterns of behaviour, I needed her, and I realised no amount of stability could take away the bond between us (or at least on my part), and I’d return home each time.

As the years went on it became more difficult for me to watch her put herself through the same torturous cycle, I felt I had no energy left, I called the Doctor – she locked the door, I called family – she wouldn’t speak, I cooked dinner – she fed it to the dog. She was ill, and I was getting ill through stress, my immune system was weak as my mum’s illness contained me. I just wanted to fix her and it was starting to dawn on me that I couldn’t, so I left home at 19. She was distraught and didn’t speak to me for a while but I didn’t know what else to do, and we were soon chatting 3 times a day on the phone again, it was just easier at a distance.

Mum changed when I went back home to visit. The house smelt different, stale and earthy, and Mum’s eyes didn’t look like her own anymore. I looked at her by the window, and saw a tinge of yellow in what should have been the whites of her eyes, and her neck. She looked a lot fatter, which at the time I thought was good, as I thought she had built up an appetite, but then I never saw her eat any more and if she did she had become unable to swallow chewy food. Her face was full of broken veins, and her skin was bruised and peeling. Her breath smelt toxic, so I never got close to her, I couldn’t bring myself to anyway, I think she had let me down too much. Mum didn’t shout anymore, nor did she care what I said or did. I continued to be a moody teenager, but her moods never adjusted. She’d just sit there and look at the TV, but I don’t think she was watching it, as her expression never changed. She answered yes or no and sometimes not at all, and I longed for the days she would chase me round the house. I wished she would sneak out to the shops, and spend all my child benefits on clunk-pssst. I’d take round presents for her in the hope of a smile for me, I’d try to get her things she’d enjoy at home, paintings, videos, and clothes, but she never opened them and said she was saving them for when she was better. I still dreamed for the day she’d take me clothes shopping, or we’d go for lunch together, just like my friends did with their mums.

I knew she was ill but she had always been ill, that was all I was used to, that was until I was 21 and Grandad came to my house to tell me she was gone. “Gone where?” I asked. “She’s dead Ceri.” Came my Grandad’s reply. How ridiculous, was my first thought. My Mum was always ill, and always would be, she was 47. Who dies at that age, in their bed in the night? It didn’t make sense. What could have killed her? I demanded a post mortem, as I was grieving hard and needed someone to blame. Had she been poisoned, or was it a stroke? Mum had always been ill, I repeated over and again. My family smiled sympathetically at me, nodding and saying she had problems. Didn’t they want to know too? I opened the envelope of the death certificate, so beautifully written, such unpleasant wording. There, in black ink read – Cause of death: alcoholic liver sclerosis, and hepatic failure.

Drinking a few cans of cider every day was traumatic for me as a child, and I know Mum liked it way too much, but to think that it had actually ended her life made me angry. If Cancer or a stroke, or any other disease had taken her from me I could have coped, as that would have been beyond her control, but this was something she had chosen to do. She made a decision to pour the alcohol into her mouth each day, and in doing that she chose not to be there when I married, or had children, or just needed to pick up the phone after a bad day.

Time passed and I’ve learnt to forgive Mum, I now understand that Mum wasn’t in control, instead it controlled her. I’ve now also learnt that I can say ‘my Mum was an alcoholic’ without feeling panicky and disloyal for not protecting her secret, Every day I still miss our phone calls and having someone who I could just be me with, who knew how to make me laugh and wind me up, and shared my humour, and looks. I miss having a connection to my childhood as I have no other family left, but I find relief in the hope that she’s at peace now, and hope that she’d be proud of who I am, and the way I’m raising my family. I’ll love my mum forever, and hope one day, just as with cancer, that they find a cure for this awful disease.

Ceri

+- I developed a plan to stop the constant longing for my father to come home and wondering why I wasn’t good enough to stop drinking for (Heather)

My father was Graham Paddon, professional footballer and coach. When I was born in 1991 he was assistant manager at Portsmouth football club. I have some of my earliest memories in the crèche at Fratton Park alongside the earliest memories of my dad, watching whilst he watched his team on the sidelines. I think that was the first time I felt pride I must have been four years old.

My parents separated when I was five. My father was an alcoholic and the reason for their divorce, a fate I believe that was brought on by the pressures in his career. Following their separation my mother, sister and myself where placed in a safe house so my father could not find us. To this day I don’t know exactly how or why this happened, I only have scattered memories of fights and shouting. I was too young to really know what was happening. Dad’s career was ending, his drinking increasing and in the end he moved back to Norfolk, where he eventually ended up residing in a caravan park. The disease got the better of him.

Growing up I saw my father a handful of times, a couple of which had to be cut short because he would drink whilst I was in his care. Our relationship was reduced to a phone call every Sunday and letter writing. I developed a plan to stop the constant longing for my father to come home and wondering why I wasn’t good enough to stop drinking for. I turned it into to hope, I told myself I would ‘fix’ him (not realising he was the only person who could ‘fix’ him).

As soon as I was able to drive I was going to drive to Norfolk and help him get better, because I knew that if it wasn’t for the drinking my parents would still be together now. Unfortunately he passed away when I was sixteen and before I had learnt to drive. When I was a teenager I was confused and angry with a lot of things, I definitely felt depression and anxiety most of the time. The day I had a phone call to let me know my father had died, I lost the hope that was driving me to carry on. All I ever wanted was a relationship with him, and the chance was stolen from me by a disease that is so easily swept under the carpet. The last words I said to him were in an argument about drinking. Such is the case with so many children of alcoholics. I didn’t manage to get to know the man behind the alcoholism; my memories are based on photographs and home videos.

When I was twenty-three, and in my third year of university, I pursued a project to document my journey to find out more about my dad on film. I finally felt I could face the past and find out more about my father, rather than reading about him on the Internet or relying on my broken memories. I asked old friends, colleagues and family how they remembered him. I wanted to have the fond memories people shared with me forever, and to remember the man he was before the drinking started.

Although I was kept relatively sheltered from my father’s drinking, as he moved away and I didn’t witness the effects to him on a daily basis, I have also been the stepchild of an alcoholic. It was my stepfather’s addiction I had to learn to live with regularly.
My mum was with my stepfather for 7 years and it was during those years I witnessed the common dilemmas a child of an alcoholic faces; what am I going home to? Will he embarrass or humiliate me tonight? Is my mum ok? Every night was the same back and forth between parents, “you have been drinking” “No I haven’t” and so on. All the while my brother and I have found the bottles of whisky hidden in the garden. Do I say anything, when I know the man I look at like a father is lying? You begin to loose respect and it only gets worse and worse.

For me I wasn’t directly related to him, so I think that’s what I used to cope with it, but I watch it affect my brother to this day. He no longer hears from his father and goes through all the same pangs of guilt and confusion I go through, could I have helped? Why wasn’t I good enough? Guilt is the feeling that sticks with you (even though you know it wasn’t your fault) and it spreads through the family: Mum, she feels guilty for putting us through it. Me, I feel guilty for watching my brother going through it and my mum constantly getting her heart broken. My sister, she deals with all the same feelings I deal with yet for two siblings. All of us are wishing there was something we could have done.

Both father figures in my life were children of alcoholics. I refuse to continue the pattern. We need more awareness to help other children suffering because of an alcoholic parent, and help the parents to understand the effects of their drinking and perhaps even the cause. We need to out this disease and offer more support like Nacoa to children of alcoholics everywhere. I made a film as my coping mechanism before I found Nacoa. Perhaps if I had known about them sooner I wouldn’t have had to wait so long before I felt I could face my demons.

Heather

+- Listening to you drunk on the phone today broke my heart (Jayne)

I love you and I always will. You’ve always put others needs ahead of your own. For once, put yourself first and get some help. You’ve cared for us, raised us well and worked hard your entire life. You deserve a life that is full of happiness, love and support from your family and friends. I will support you and Dad by attending family counselling.

I know that you hate the alcohol and how it has pushed us apart. The only thing that will bring us closer and make us strong again is if we tackle our family’s problems including the alcohol head on. I can’t bury my head in the sand. Listening to you drunk on the phone today broke my heart. Being around you when you’re drunk brings up so many unhealthy emotions – frustration, anger and helplessness. It saddens me more than you realise. The alcoholism is driving me away and I want to be close to you. I can’t accept the alcohol mum.

You’ve always believed in me and supported every decision I’ve ever made. Now it’s my turn to support and believe in you. I have included some names of family and addiction counsellors at the bottom of this letter. We’ve never tried this so please give it a go but you need to be willing.

I love you Mum. I want there to be so many good times in the future but I just can’t see that happening like it is right now. I want us to be a close and strong family. Please try – I’ve never wanted anything more than this.

I love you. Jayne

+- I’m Stacey, I’m 18 and my mum is an alcoholic (Stacey)

I’m Stacey, I’m 18 and my mum is an alcoholic.

Recent events have left me feeling angry and full of hate towards her and what she is doing to herself, me and my dad. She has been addicted to alcohol for as long as I can remember – I thought it started when I was around 8, but have recently discovered it started around 20 years ago, which would also explain why I was born premature, weighing 3 pounds and asthmatic – her first of many parenting disasters.

I remember when I was younger, she used to scare me so much. I didn’t know what was wrong with her, I just knew that she wasn’t normal and that I didn’t like it. She used to make me do weird things like phone family members and tell them that she wasn’t breathing when really she was sat there forcing me to say these things – I still don’t understand what she got out of doing it but she was my mum and I was her little girl, so I did what she told me.

She’d pick fights with my dad and wound him up to the point where he would hit her, there’s been moments where he probably would have killed her if it wasn’t for me. She has pinned me against the wall with my neck, dragged me down some steps with my hair and grabbed me so hard by the stomach to stop me from running away I couldn’t breathe. My dad couldn’t help me because he was always at work, he has 2 jobs to provide for me while my mum uses my child tax credits to get drunk. I don’t think I ever told him about that.

There’s been 2 occasions where she has tried to kill herself… I found her just hours away from dying after taking too many painkillers.

Usually I cope pretty well – better than expected. But mine and my dad’s money has started going missing, we knew it was her but we didn’t have any proof – until I caught her stealing some this week. This caused an explosion of arguments and feelings. I leave college in a few months which means her money stops, and she knows me and my dad won’t fuel her habit. It makes me so angry that me and my dad work hard for our money and she thinks it’s okay to take it and have the cheek to deny it! She doesn’t even think she is in the wrong.

Like most kids in this situation, it has affected my personality and relationships. I sometimes find myself being selfish – talking about myself and my problems and not taking enough time to listen to others about theirs. I think this is because I can’t talk about myself or my problems at home.

I lack confidence. I’m not close to many people in my family – maybe because I’m scared they’ll hurt me like she has? I don’t know. I can’t bring people back to my house, I feel like they will judge me. I sometimes snap at people when they’ve done nothing wrong because I’m stressed because of things at home. I have come to terms with the fact that I cannot make her stop, she is the only person who can help herself and clearly she doesn’t want to.

I’ve learnt not to blame myself or my dad. Some people say it’s an illness, I say it’s a choice. It was her choice to pick up the bottle and now she has a choice to put it down and she won’t. To anyone who’s going through this – hang in there, you will learn to cope with it in your own way. To anyone who happens to be reading this that isn’t affected by alcohol/substance abuse, you will most likely have other problems in life, but maybe you’ll appreciate that this isn’t one of them – do I sound selfish again? Stay strong guys

(Stacey)

+- My name is Shelby, I’m 19 and I live in Exeter (Shelby)

My name is Shelby, I’m 19 and I live in Exeter.

I was looking at the Nacoa website and really liked that there was a charity out there like this for children and wish I knew about this when I was a child dealing with my mum’s drinking.

My mum has been drinking from what I remember since I was 8 but my family have explained it was before this. At this age my mum was still able to do stuff for us and keep things at bay just about.

When I was 11 my dad had passed away from kidney failure which took a strain on me and my brother but clearly on my mum. My mum started drinking heavily and there was no emotional support for me and my brother who at the time I looked after as she was not capable of this.

This put a lot of pressure on me but at that age I was confused and thought I was the reason she was drinking. This went on through my teenage years and at the age of 14 I was admitted to a psychiatric ward for young teens as I had tried to commit suicide and self harmed.  This also continued while I was in the hospital as well and all my mum could say was when are you coming out?

I was in there for 8 months and had processed my thoughts a lot more and felt better. But I returned back to my mum’s and within a few months everything just came tumbling down again and social workers were trying to enter the home and my mum told us to hide and act like we wasn’t home.

My brother was severely underweight for his age and my mental health was still not great. I had no other family support around me so I felt all on my own and. I was trying to stay strong for my brother. At the age of 16 I finally had the courage to go to my local social services this was also thanks to the Yes Centre who helped in the right direction.

I told social services what was happening and me and my brother went into care that day and my mum got admitted to a psychiatric ward for 4 days as she has been in the same position at home on the sofa just shaking and she has also had previous mental illness.

At first it was very difficult going into care because I had heard some horrible stories but luckily enough me and my brother were placed together and we had an amazing foster mum who I am still in contact with as my brother is still at that placement as he is only 16.

I currently don’t speak to my mum and she has got severely worse she was seen walking around town with no shoes on trying to get into my cousin’s flat. She doesn’t bother turning up to the social services meetings anymore and my brother is starting to realise she’s is not a healthy person to be around.

For a long time my brother didn’t understand why I didn’t like her as I tried to protect him as much as I could when we lived at our mum’s. When she had parties if he would wake up I would comfort him and tell him to go back to sleep.

I would love to get involved with this charity as much as possible and am happy to share my experiences as I have come out the other end and I’m currently an apprentice at a care home. I don’t want children to ever feel alone as children deserve a safe and happy childhood and it shouldn’t be spoilt.

(Shelby)

+- I am Georgia Lee. My father is an alcoholic (Georgia)

I am Georgia Lee. My father is an alcoholic, this affects my life immensely even though I no longer see him he’s still there at the back of my head. He doesn’t deserve a place there but he’s my dad. And always will be.

When I was younger I was daddy’s girl, the guilt I felt when I realized what he had done to my family, but I’d been to wrapped up in how much love I had for him to see it. It hurt and it still does but right here I am living proof you can get through the bad times I can think of one good memory when my dad wasn’t drunk.

I think back and see the damage he was abusive not only to my mother to my sister my brother and me. The one who was always on his side. As I got older I offered him help, when I was 13 he stood in my kitchen, and cut open his wrists that alone was mentally scaring but I’m a strong girl. I won’t break for him, the only thing that this man done for me was made me realize drink means nothing.

You don’t need drink to have a good night or to feel happy you can do that yourself, at 17, four years on after endless meetings in school I’m finally through it. I no longer feel guilt because I believe I helped my mum overcome the toughest time of her life leaving her 20 year marriage. And this is my story I may have missed a lot out but that’s due to hurt it causes to over think them.

I am now a strong person with 6 GCSE’s and a fabulous job. I feel I’m finally free. I’m not angry like I used to be, I lost my dad 5 years ago at 12, and 5 years on I see in the street my dad’s body but another man. I am over it all now because he doesn’t deserve the love he gets to not love back.

Georgia

+- Now I will never know whether or not he intended to take his life, or whether it was a drunken mistake. But either way, the alcohol had won. (Nicole)

I’m sixteen now, and I lost my dad to alcoholism three years ago. It’s difficult to open up completely about it because to be honest, no one apart from my mum and brother know just how bad it was.

My dad was a severe alcoholic ever since his father died in 2004 when I was six years old. He became very depressed and drank to cope with the pain and it became a huge problem.

It seemed to get worse as time progressed with him drinking more and more as days went on. He became very aggressive when he was drunk, swearing and saying lots of cruel things, some of which I’ll never forget.

I remember standing up for my mum calling him names and shouting at him because I was so angry at the mess he was in, and he would argue back calling me ‘the worst daughter’. But that wasn’t my dad at all. My dad was such a softie, he was kind and caring, always putting a smile on his face and covering up his pain. He’d do his best to cheer everyone up and make us laugh when he was sober. But when he was drunk it was like he was a completely different person. That wasn’t my dad at all.

I remember all the horrible memories: him leaving in the middle of the night to go to the shop to buy more drink. He even took the car some times, mum had to hide the keys so that he wouldn’t drink drive. But that didn’t stop him, he would call a taxi and just go out for hours leaving my family at home worrying about him, where he had gone, whether he’d passed out from being so intoxicated, whether he’d gotten into a fight, whether he was hurt. He’d eventually come home later on. But sometimes he would end up in A&E or be brought home by paramedics or the police.

I remember being embarrassed because he would go out into the village to the pub, and he would start shouting in the street, no doubt many people I know saw him in his drunken state. One night he had been out for a long time, and the police were on about sending a helicopter to search for him. He was brought home by police officers, and he was so aggressive they had to restrain him and pin him to the floor. They took him away and he spent the night in a cell.

He was very ill, not just from his alcohol problem. He was diagnosed with coeliac disease and he had high blood pressure. He was later diagnosed with diabetes, probably caused by his excessive alcohol intake. His drinking caused a lot of health problems. It caused his blood sugars to drop to such a dangerous level he was in intensive care and could have died. He also developed pancreatitis. During his last two years he got pneumonia and was in hospital very ill.

He would often also do stupid things like taking too many of his prescribed pain killers. I remember him once tipping over the sofa in anger because he couldn’t find his box of medication. He even threatened to kill himself on Christmas Day by running up the stairs with his box of tablets and locking himself in the bathroom. Mum broke down the door and had to flush every tablet away and he had to go to the doctors when he had sobered up to get new medication.

There are so many painful memories of him being drunk. He would never hit us but the emotional abuse was very difficult to cope with. Social services visited us twice and it’s possible that me and my younger brother could have ended up in care had my mum not made the tough decision to move to my grandparents’ house.

We moved out several times, and my dad stayed at home – he had nowhere to go. We didn’t want to leave but we had to. My dad would promise that he would stop drinking, and with the support of friends and even the local police officer, he tried very hard. I remember I would always worry that he would kill himself when we left, and would want to go back home. We moved back home and eventually we did believe he had stopped.

Life improved for a short time, we thought he wasn’t drinking and he would get better. That was until the lies emerged. My mum found a bottle of vodka hidden in the kitchen drawer, and sat on a vodka lid in the car. My dad lied and drove out in the car and parked by a field and had a drink and when we were at school he would drink at home.

He lied to us a lot, but I know he did it to protect us, he knew how hard it was and he didn’t want to hurt us by us knowing he was still drinking. He lost his job through being ill and not going to work, and he lost the job before that by drinking and turning up at a job drunk whilst working overseas.

I’m nearing the end of my story now. The end is on Boxing Day 2011.

It was Christmas Day and we went to my grandparent’s house like normal. My dad, along with the other adults had quite a bit to drink as it was Christmas, but he got extremely drunk. When we got home that night, mum and dad had an argument like normal because my dad had drunk so much. It’s weird because for the first time, I decided not to say anything horrible to my dad, I kept calm and just left him to it, and I’m glad I did.

He cleared off upstairs to bed, and that’s the last I saw of him. We went to bed and didn’t even say goodnight, which is one of my biggest regrets… I woke up in the early hours of Boxing Day to find paramedics running up the stairs. I went into my brother’s room to comfort him, telling him dad would be fine, but deep down, and I don’t know how, I knew. I knew this time was different.

We were called downstairs where my mum was violently being sick. The paramedic told me to fetch a duvet and me, mum and my brother were wrapped up in it and she gently broke the news to us. ‘Dad has died’. Those three words broke my heart, and now my heart is still breaking. It turns out that he had gotten up in the night and taken an overdose. The combination of the drugs and alcohol stopped his brain from working and he died.

Now I will never know whether or not he intended to take his life, or whether it was a drunken mistake. But either way, the alcohol had won. It took my dad. And all those lies and broken promises, me living in fear of him hurting my mum, of him hurting himself, I will never forget. But I know that the drunken state wasn’t my dad. It was the monster alcohol created. My real dad would be horrified if he could see what he did to our family. He was in so much pain, but now he’s at peace.

But if there is one thing I have learned from this, it is to stay strong, and to always talk to someone. I was lucky to have such a strong mum, she supported us all the way, and would always let us tell her how we felt. And she still does. She’s by far the strongest person I know. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, a teacher at school, Nacoa, there is so much support out there. You might feel alone, but believe me you aren’t. There are so many people out there who will listen to you and support you. Never keep it bottled up, it won’t make the situation any better, it will make it ten times worse.

+- Suicide is the main thing I think of every day, not for myself but that she will eventually take her own life, can you imagine, how would I live with that? (Jessica)

Still now, at the age of 21 after 15 years of my mother’s drinking does it pain me to say my own, darling mother is dependent on alcohol.

It kills me because she is the most wonderful, amazing person when sober. How is that possible? All I’ve ever wanted is a mum, and I think that’s all I’ll ever crave.

My mother’s drinking has spiralled out of control now, to the point where she is, drinking before work, and early hours the morning.

She’s not the person I thought she was and it breaks my heart, I try and tell myself every day that she is poorly and so sad and can’t help this disease taking over her body. I wake up and have constant reminders that one day my mum is going to die because of this awful disgusting disease that’s controlling her.

I get scared most days when I see a car that’s the same as my brother’s, or dad’s or another family member because I think they’re here to tell me she’s died, or killed herself. Suicide is the main thing I think of every day, not for myself but that she will eventually take her own life, can you imagine, how would I live with that? The heartache, the pain?

As hard and painful as it is sharing this, I want people who are going through similar things to feel okay, they are not alone, like myself as I haven’t seen many things about mothers and daughters on here.

All I want is a mum, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

Jessica, age 21.

+- My dad was an alcoholic before I was born and has carried on drinking ever since (Harriet)

I remember the feeling of being anxious for my sisters and my mum when he was in one of his moods. I would always want to just watch films or read books so that I could escape to somewhere else.

The bit that upset us all the most was that he was never going to change his mind, he chose alcohol over everyone me, my sisters, my mum and his own parents. I felt like I had failed and that I might have been able to do more. Although going from rehab to rehab from the age of seven it wasn’t like we didn’t try.

I think it’s important to realise that they themselves are the only ones who can change for the better. My parents divorced when I was eight, we still continued to see him but I always had that knot in my stomach of not knowing what state he was going to be in when we got there.

Even though its been a tough part of my life I always view myself as very lucky. My mother was our rock, she supported and cared for us through everything, my grandparents were always there when needed and us sisters well we stick together like glue.

I think it’s important that you find a hobby that you love, to take your mind off of everything. Talking it out with family or friends is another way I coped.

But most of all, accepting that not you or anyone else has failed, addiction is a mental illness that can be a long road to recovery.

Harriet, aged 21. 

+- I suffered the confusion and unhappiness of not understanding why one minute my dad could be the most amazing man in the world, yet the next he was an ugly, frightening man (Natalie)

I was 18 before I could admit out aloud to myself that my father was actually an alcoholic. Even then it took another 12 months before I was brave enough to tell anyone else what I had always regarded as my deepest secret and something which I was also terribly ashamed of. I’m now 22 and the last four years of my life have been the biggest emotional roller-coaster I’m ever going to take a ride on, more so than an entire childhood of growing up being the child of an alcoholic. It’s taken me a few weeks to begin to write this experience, I wasn’t sure if it would sound right, but now I think that doing this is going to be the most therapeutic thing I’ll have done.

I can’t remember when exactly my father started drinking. On the same hand, I can’t remember a time when I was growing up that he was actually sober. What I do remember is the violence, the smell of whiskey when he kissed me goodnight, and the times spent crying in my room, scared of what he might do next. For many years I watched my father systematically drink his way through several bottles of whiskey and then begin to berate my mother. It would start with him going exceptionally quiet and becoming withdrawn. It would slowly escalate into an argument, and then the violence would begin. My mother suffered broken arms, black eyes and broken ribs, I suffered the confusion and unhappiness of not understanding why one minute my dad could be the most amazing man in the world, yet the next he was an ugly, frightening man.

It wasn’t until I was older that I could understand that my father lost many of his jobs because he was either drinking at work, or going to work in a stupor. One of my earliest memories at school was when I was about 10 years old and a friend had come to my house for dinner the night previous. The next day at school he told all of my friends that my father had been drinking, and they all laughed at me, even though they had no concept of what it meant. Perhaps this was one of the many reasons I couldn’t tell anyone what really happened at home. I know we were portrayed as the perfect family, so much so, that nobody really believed me when I became brave enough to talk about what really happened behind our closed door. Every special event during my childhood, such as gaining my GCSE results, became tarred with a drunken argument at home and my father becoming violent and aggressive.

I never blamed myself for his drinking, but I always wondered how different my life would be if he didn’t drink. I frequently wondered what a ‘normal’ family life would be like, without my father reaching for his first drink of the day at 7am. Progressively my father’s drinking escalated, he went from drinking expensive bottles of whiskey to drinking several litres of cheap white cider. He was once such a proud man, now he cared about nothing, he would not bath for days, would rarely change his clothes and I became incredibly ashamed.

I wouldn’t invite even my best friend round to my house, I couldn’t bear for anyone to see my father. I was worried they would talk about me, worried about what they would think of me. In reality, I know now they would have thought no less of me, because his drinking wasn’t about me and was no reflection on me. But all the same these thoughts would run around my head and every time my father got his glass out my heart would sink.

Of course there were times he would attempt to dry himself out, but these never were successful, perhaps because up until very recently my father was unable to admit that he had a problem with alcohol. Eventually my family split up and my father moved 40 miles away from us.

To everyone’s surprise I was over the moon about this, of course I love my father very much, but him not being there meant the end of arguments and fights and not having to worry anymore about what people might say about me. I was able to admit that he had a problem and able to talk a little about it. Even today there are many things I can’t talk about because the stigma of shame never goes away. I thought that part of my life was over, how wrong I was.

I still visited my father. I know some people would say that I should have given up on him, in fact many people did say exactly that. But he is my dad, I love him, I could never desert him, probably because I am all he has. In August 2004, I visited my father for the first time in ages. It was clear he was still drinking, he’d lost lots of weight and looked terrible. Two weeks later I telephoned him to see how he was and he told me he’d been sectioned. My father had been detained in a psychiatric unit because of his drinking and the way it had destroyed his mind.

This is when I felt my world crumbling around me. I felt immense guilt, perhaps if I’d been to see him more often this would not have happened. Maybe I could have prevented his drinking. Obviously I know now that I couldn’t have done anything to help him as he clearly didn’t want to help himself.

When he was released 4 months later, he was determined to begin afresh. And he did incredibly well. It wasn’t until January of this year (2006) that the drinking began again. This time it did destroy him. I had known for several weeks he was drinking and it broke my heart. But still I could not desert him. Again I felt immense guilt, like I had not helped him enough to remain dry.

In March of this year I fought for an appointment for my father at the local rehab clinic and took him myself. He was admitted and diagnosed with Wernicke’s Syndrome. The brilliant engineer I knew and loved had become both a physical and mental wreck. He is even now unable to remember the day of the week, what he has eaten for dinner, or his date of birth. All this, because of something in a bottle which amazingly is now legal to obtain for 24 hours of the day. My dad now spends his days in a residential home, being cared for by nurses as he is unable to do so for himself.

And what about me? My father’s drinking has had a profound effect upon my life and the person I have become. I struggle to form relationships with people, it is ingrained into me that nobody can be trusted, and that all promises are false.

When I do form relationships with people, I cling to them tightly because I am scared they will leave me and in the end frequently this obsession only serves to push them away. I find it difficult to talk to people, and open up. I think this is something I’ll never be able to do.

I can’t bear the smell of cider, with it I’ve so many memories associated, ones I try hard to bury away. It literally makes me sick. I often cry, when I think about what my father has become, and I think about the way in which things could have been different.

Then I realise that my father only served to make me stronger, I have been through 22 years of pure hell, there is little now that I cannot at least attempt to tackle. I love my father with all of my heart, I know I could never desert him, and I only hope that now he is on the long road to recovery. In this I then hope that I might begin to recover myself, to extract the demons that have raged inside me for so long. And this is the first step on that road for me.

Natalie

+- For all those children out there that have to put up with alcoholics, you love the person you just hate what they are doing and that it is NEVER your fault (Rachel)

My name is Rachel. I am 18 years old and the eldest out of 6.

Up until today I have always known my mum had an alcohol problem, a big one at that which goes all the way back then I can remember.

On my mums 41st birthday she went into hospital, she asked for help that’s when I realised it’s almost over.

Apart from drinking all the time, she was lary, rude and violent. This gave so many mixed messages to all of us children as to how to behave as an adult.

We tried getting social services involved as she was physically and emotionally neglecting us all. I was left to pick up my brothers and sisters as she was asleep drunk and we would end up locked out until she woke up or till the evening when my dad got home.

My mum and dad used to argue all the time. She was so violent for no reason I remember getting a black eye on my 14th birthday just for moaning a little, because she wouldn’t let me put up my balloons. She lied to everyone saying I swore at her. The comments I got from people, the whole thing haunts me so much. The one time I had true evidence of violence I lied and said it was an accident as I was scared of what she may have done to me if I told the truth.

The screams of my brothers and sisters as they would fight, feared that they may kill each other as they went with fists and sharp objects smashed windows. One time I even stood between them I hated it so much.

My mum slept around, brought guys back to the house when my dad was at work and would kiss in front of us. My brother and sister used to spy and follow her.

She left us and moved in with a younger man who she married when her and dad’s divorce went through she has now been married for a year. Since she left my dad he was in a terrible state and he drank to kill and forget the pain so I had to take full care of the children, house and food. It was really hard, I was in college doing exams. The most painful thing is that my dad didn’t remember a thing about it and we got in arguments and I was kicked out for a few months.

It’s been confirmed that my mum has a very bad illness which limits her life down greatly as her liver is greatly damaged. Her sister (my auntie) kidnapped her to live in Kent so she could be looked after.

She went back to her home for more local tests so I went to visit her and knew instantly that she had been drinking by the way she looked and spoke. My little sister caught her pouring the alcohol into a glass. I flipped out and had a huge argument saying that I didn’t want to see her anymore until the day of her funeral.

I feel so strongly about this as everyone tried so hard to help and she has been so selfish as to repay everyone by drinking more. No matter how much you help some people it’s wasted unless the person with the problem wants to help themselves!!

I’m trying to come to turns with the fact my mum won’t be there for me at all when I go into the independent world and that she won’t see the first born from her children or be present at any of our weddings or graduations.

I really value those people who may have had a drink problem and have gone through with the help and are clean. And for all those children out there that have to put up with alcoholics, you love the person you just hate what they are doing and that it is NEVER your fault.

Rachel

+- Alcohol caused me to lose the only things that have ever really mattered to me – my three super girls (D)

I spent ten years as the lonely single parent of three lovely daughters.

I spent the last seven of those ten years with a bottle of wine for company. I was a “functioning alcoholic” – working (to scrape together enough money to keep our home and car, and to feed and clothe us) and doing the necessary domestic things.

But, in the evening wine affected my temperament and fuelled my feelings of loneliness. It made me angry and irrational. I was a bad mother.

Quite rightly, my children hated my drinking. Four months ago, I lost my lovely daughters forever. I was arrested and charged with an offence of battery against one of the girls. I have not had a drink since and I never will again.

Alcohol caused me to lose the only things that have ever really mattered to me – my three super girls. I don’t know if I will ever have contact with them again. I want them to be happy and to have the lives that I didn’t give them.

My love goes to those three, now and forever. Even though I cannot see them, hold them, speak to them, I just wish they could know that I love them, I always have and I always will.

D

+- My teenage years were blighted by alcohol having a higher priority than me (Becci)

I’m moved to write after listening to Woman’s Hour today, and hearing both Tracey and Lauren’s experiences of growing up with alcohol dependant parents.

My own experience was very much more, for want of a better word, ‘middle class’ – successful father, stay at home frustrated and bored mum, but both of them drank excessively, resulting in my mum’s death when I was 16 from liver cancer. My father died when I was 20, after falling and hitting his head while drunk.

My perspective has been changed by the fact that I now work in substance misuse, with mainly heroin and crack users who come from broken homes of generally substance misusing parents.

I was taken in by a friend’s family, who I now regard as my own, but I see the toll from completely inadequate and selfish parenting every day in my job, and am also eternally grateful to the family who gave me hope and stability – recognising that I haven’t yet worked with anyone who had that second chance.

I’m now 30, and have a wonderful fiancée and fantastic friends, but my teenage years were blighted by alcohol having a higher priority than me. I experienced a lot of panic, anxiety and depression in my 20’s (and I’ve spent a lot on therapy!) but it breaks my heart to know that children still live with the inconsistency, lack of protection and harm that comes of having parents that drink.

Thank you for existing – being heard and acknowledged is an amazing thing as a child in that situation and I can’t begin to express what a difference you have made.

With many thanks and the best of wishes

Becci

+- Some people may judge my mother for her illness, and call her an unfit parent. Don’t. (Anon)

Waiting for the kettle to boil, I peeled back the kitchen curtains to be greeted by the birds singing and the first sunshine in weeks. Everything seemed so peaceful and fresh.

Admiring the calmness and tranquillity of the garden, I felt my cat brush past my leg, purring as if to tell me it was time for her breakfast.

As I turned to reach for the cat food cupboard, I noticed in the corner of my eye the overloaded bin of empty wine bottles I had confiscated from my mother last night. Suddenly I was back to reality.

My life was not peaceful.

Nor was it calm or tranquil.

I would compare my life to a ghost train at your local fair. Lonely. Dark. Haunted. Erratic. Full of nasty surprises. I am the child of an alcoholic.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a unique fellowship founded in 1935, boasts more than 2,000,000 members worldwide. My mother is one of them and attends local meetings.

The AA website says the basic purpose of its meetings is to give alcoholics a chance to speak out about their illness and help one another stay sober.

Today is the morning of my mother’s one year anniversary of attending AA. She thought it would be appropriate to celebrate this occasion last night, with her best friend. Alcohol.

CLICK. I reached for the kettle and poured the boiling water into the two mugs I had pre-prepared with instant coffee. Watching the milk swirl and blend into the coffee as it was added to the mug, I thought to myself, just leave the house now and do not look back.

I was tempted, believe me.

However, I put the thought to one side as I clasped a cup in each hand and started to make my way up the stairs, towards my mother’s bedroom.

I felt anxious as to what awaited me on the other side of the door. What mood would she be in? Will she be angry? Or will she simply not remember anything? Thoughts like these always run through my mind, the morning after a drunken drama.

On entering the bedroom, I discovered my mother was fast asleep, blissfully unaware of her actions several hours before. Placing the cup of coffee on her bedside table, I noticed how peaceful she looked.

I stood in silence next to her bed, experiencing a succession of emotions. Disappointment. Anger. Rejection. Frustration. Love. Pain. Loneliness.

The National Association for Children of Alcoholics believes there are almost a million children living with an alcohol dependent parent(s) in the UK today, many of them hiding their problems, living in fear and without support. I guess that makes me a statistic because growing up, I never told anyone about the daily goings on behind our front door.

For as long as I can remember, my mother had always liked a glass of wine, but it was not until my parents divorced that it seemed to become a major issue.

I’m an only child so it was just my mother and me in the house.

Do not get me wrong, I love my mum deeply. She was and still is a good mum. I never went without. There was always food in the cupboards, I had clean clothes and I was given the best of everything material. To all my friends she seemed the perfect mum, and she was, financially. Emotionally, I have to say, she did not have a clue.

Throughout my teenage years, on the walk home from school/college, I would always wonder what mood my mother would be in that evening. Her mood determined the type of things she would say after her compulsory glass of wine when she returned from work.

Television was my escape. I would sit and watch it all night, to avoid witnessing my mother’s transformation from a kind, hard-working, professional person, into a nasty, crazy, mad woman as she sipped her daily poison! I guess she had a case of the Jekyll and Hyde syndrome.

“YOU made me drink.” “This is your fault.” “Your father never wanted you, he wanted me to get an abortion.” “You think you’re so perfect don’t you.” “Get out of my house!” “I don’t want you in my life.” These words are imprinted on my mind.

As is the daily routine: watching my mother stumble around the house, to finally fall asleep in front of the television. Tucking her into bed night after night. Only for her look up at me, like a baby, to tell me she loves me as she falls into a deep sleep. Simply forgetting the painful things she had said just a few hours before.

Special occasions are the worst. I especially hate Christmas. My mother seems to be out of control around this time. It is guaranteed she will get legless and ruin the festive fun.

My last two Christmases, I have been thrown out of the house, for no other reason than standing up to her drunken behaviour.

I ended up spending Christmas and Boxing Day alone at my university home. On my flatmates’ return, they all told happy and funny stories about their Christmases. To be honest I envied them.

I wanted to spend a “normal” Christmas with a “normal” family. When they asked me about my Christmas, I just lied. “O yes, it was fantastic, lovely to be home.”

There was no way I was going to tell them the truth.

I also recall my eighteenth birthday, when we had all the family around. As usual, my mother had had too much to drink before anyone had even arrived. By the time my cake was brought out, my mum was in a mess. She attempted to make a speech, but just started crying and telling me she loved me. I was ashamed and embarrassed. I just wanted to disappear and for the day to end.

The family knew she liked a drink: “Here she goes again, the family drunk,” some would say behind her back.

This was extremely hurtful to hear, even though I knew it was true. No-one had the right to talk about my mother like that. If family members were judging her, then I was certainly not going to receive help from anyone else.

That is why I decided not to tell anyone the full extent my mother’s drinking had reached at this point.

A study, conducted by The Priory in 2006, concluded that problems children of alcoholics experience in early life have a profound impact later on.

I could not agree more. Things just went from bad to worse as the years passed. I witnessed some awful things such as cleaning urine off the kitchen floor, forcing my mother to be sick over the bath as she attempted suicide with an over dose of pills. I have had to drag her from a car while intoxicated at four in the morning. I lost my job the following day, as I slept through my alarm.

My education also started to suffer. All my energy and time went into worrying about and saving my mother from her drunken dramas. It was extremely draining being the responsible one. I was not sleeping or eating properly, and constantly felt ill with headaches through stress.

From the outside, tutors and employers just assumed I was lazy and not motivated to get anywhere in life.

I will never forget when my English Language teacher, Mr Beard, laughed in my face when I told him I had been offered a place at university: “As if you have been offered a place.”

The Priory Study also believes children of an alcoholic are four times more likely to become alcoholics, compared to children living with non-alcoholic parents.

There was a time I did think: if you can’t beat them, join them.

I started drinking from the early age of thirteen.

I am an angry drunk, just like my mother. I started to push friends away as they could not understand my behaviour. How could they?

One day, I looked in the mirror and saw my mother’s reflection staring back at me. I burst into tears.

I was now everything I had been fighting against all my life. I decided there and then, I had to focus on me and my life.

I joined ‘Al-Anon’, a support group, for family and friends of alcoholics. They made me realise I had to go through ‘detachment’ from my mother. Al-Anon said: “Detachment allows us to let go of our obsession with another’s behaviour and begin to lead happier and more manageable lives, with dignity and rights.”

I remembered this phase, as I was looking upon my mother sleeping peacefully in her bed. All the feelings of disappointment, anger, rejection, frustration, love, pain and loneliness that had filled my body, suddenly defused.

Professor Martin Plant, an addictions expert at the University of the West of England, said: “The children of alcoholics can break the cycle.”

“Many end up loathing alcohol and refusing to let it destroy their lives like it may have done to their parents.”

I have now moved out my mother’s house and live at the other end of the country, to start pursuing a career for myself. At the age of twenty-one, I have only just started living MY life.

It has been extremely difficult to adjust to life without the drunken dramas night after night, as they were a “normal” way of life for me.

I do still worry about my mother, especially as last night highlights the fact that she is still drinking. I do not think a part of me will ever rest about her drinking, until the day she dies. I will also walk around with the invisible scars of her drinking until I die.

However, I now realise it is out of my control and the only person who can stop her from this misery, is herself.

I smile to myself and softly say, “One thing that will never change mum, is that I love you.”

I kiss her on the forehead. I silently close the bedroom and leave her in peace.

Some people may judge my mother for her illness, and call her an unfit parent. Don’t. I am the child of an alcoholic. But I still would not trade my mum for any other.

+- It is as if he knows that the second he admits to himself he has a drinking problem, then it becomes real (Darcy)

My dad is an alcoholic. It seems that everyone can see that except for him. To myself, my mum, and my younger brother and sister, it’s the norm for my dad to drink at least two bottles of red wine every night of the week. His friends see him as a ‘Saturday evening drinking buddy’, and his work colleagues see him as some sort of ‘hero’. It’s us 4 at home who get to see the real him.

It is obvious my dad is deeply tormented by something. He suffered from depression about 14 years ago, and it seems to me that his drinking escalated from that experience.

He has never been abusive towards any of my family whilst under the influence of alcohol, although there are a few fist holes in our walls and a couple of cracked banisters at home. I am now 20 years old, and at University, but every night I lie awake at night wondering whether I will get to speak to my dad the next day.

My dad is a family man but it scares me to death to think that he has two daughters and a son who will need him so much in years to come. My sister and I need a father to walk us down the aisle on our wedding days, we need a grandfather for our children and we need a dad everyday until those times come.

These are only roles a father can fill.

My mum is a very strong woman and I will never doubt the fact she has done everything in her power to help my dad. She will get up in the middle of the night when he has passed out on the living room floor and turn all the lights off and get him into bed, and she will make sure that his coffee is on the table in the morning so that he is at least slightly sober to do the 2 hour drive to work every morning. The worst bit is the two hours after my dad leaves for work, as my mum has to sit by the phone dreading a call to tell her he has had a crash or worse, hurt another driver, whilst at the same time pleading for the phone call to inform her my dad has arrived safely. This excruciating period of the day also repeats itself in the evening.

It seems as though he thinks of himself as invincible. The subject is a complete ‘no go’ area with my dad, as he will get completely defensive about his drinking and storm off. It is as if he knows that the second he admits to himself he has a drinking problem, then it becomes real.

Until he does admit it, it is okay to brush it all under the carpet and think you have years ahead of you because you are completely in denial.

I have tried talking to him, I have tried writing to him, I have tried every trick in the book to get my dad to go and get help. But right now, it seems I am at a dead end. There is no way I am going to sit back any longer and watch my dad kill himself and be the selfish human being he is right now.

I just hope that I still have time to get married and have babies before the alcohol wins.

This is one fight that I am not going to lose.

Darcy

+- How can you love the person that made you cry? (Lauren)

From as long as I could remember my mum was a drunk. She had been for years.

I used to dread coming home from school because she would be already drunk. It turned really bad when she started hitting me, my brother, and my dad.

It was horrible, when she used to get up in the morning she acted as if nothing was wrong. My brother moved out and my dad started spending more and more time round his friend’s house leaving me there to cope with her, which I nearly gave up doing.

I used to wait at the bottom of the stairs until my dad returned home at about 12:30am every night. Then I would cry into his arms because I was relieved that finally my mum could take it out on someone else – selfish I know.

Then my dad moved out, because my mum got more ill each day, and the effects were worse on the family.  So there I was with her. I used to pray to god every night that my dad would come and rescue me, or that my mum got better and my dad and brother came back.

After weeks of feeling helpless and like it would never end, my dad came round to see me again and I told him I couldn’t handle it. Those 4 words I was trying to say for years, I finally managed to say.

He took me out of there and I never looked back. I faced many demons in the months that followed and I’m proud to say my mum has been sober for 6 months now, and the scars on the outside have healed but inside they never will.

Ii now need to get my OCD sorted, which I gained from growing up in that sort of environment. I now pray compulsively, as I don’t want anything bad to happen and lots of other obsessions as well. But the main problem has gone.

Lauren 16, Essex

Feeling embarrassed, guilty or ashamed or less important than other people

+- Wow. Where do I begin?

I was probably around 10 years old when mum left my dad, because of his cruel words and attitude towards her. His drink problem spiralled, but when you are so young, you don’t recognise this being because of alcohol addiction.

He only worked 2 days a week, which gave him the freedom to look after me and my older sister, look after the house etc. His body-clock had always been odd, eating late, sleeping late. But before long he was on the computer all night, obsessing over various internet and social networks, drinking all night.

He rarely verbally abused me and Julia, he just took out his anger on other people. His social relationships began to deteriorate and my mum finally started to divorce my dad. His control was over us now. I came home one night and forgot my key so had to knock, ring, shout through the letterbox to later unscrew an open window to climb in and discover my hardly conscious dad in bed.

He started to basically live in bed, bang bottles on the floor to grab my attention to take him some food up. My sister managed to escape before me to start her uni life. I felt so embarrassed, the house was dirty, my clothes weren’t clean, the fridge was empty.

I was ok, I didn’t think about it when I was with my friends. But after seeing him land himself in hospital multiple times and becoming a vegetable in his smelly bedroom, cleaning up wee from where he missed the loo, finding fag ash in the fridge and taking orders such as cleaning up so I could have a friend round, I had to leave. He wasn’t going to like it, in fact on my 18th birthday I left and he stayed in bed, drunk, rude.

Over the past 3 years our relationship has been up and down. But after a new start in his new place, he started his new life. We loved him again. Unfortunately he carried on drinking. It was ‘only shandy’ but his poor liver couldn’t take anymore. He looked old. He was taken ill and now he’s gone.

I just wish he could see how damaging alcohol can be. Half of me has gone forever, and I hope other parents can come to terms with their addiction and be strong enough to give up this poison.  I will live with some awful memories, because of booze. I just hope other young people aren’t scared to break free and live their life the way they want, free from the damage an alcoholic can do, mentally, verbally, emotionally or physically.

Sincerely

Catherine

+- I was aware that my dad was different, and it felt as though our family had a shameful secret that couldn’t be discussed (Heather)

My father has been an alcoholic all my life. I’m 25 now and have more or less come to terms with his illness, even though I still don’t exactly know what has caused his dependency on drink. A little part of me resents spending time writing about him (does he deserve the time or effort?), but more than that feeling, is the hope that I’m doing something worthwhile, that even one other person will read this and be able to relate or find it interesting – I’ve also found it therapeutic to put how I feel into words.

If I try to remember childhood memories of my dad I can only think of negative ones, about his drink problem. To put him into perspective I need to describe him first, because I don’t think he’s like the average old man down the pub. He’s an incredibly intelligent, educated man, who reminds me of a modern-day tragic Charles Dickens character – he can’t live with himself sober and drinks to escape from something (I don’t know what?). I was brought up in a middle class area and went to private school until I was 12, when I had to change to the local comprehensive because my parents couldn’t afford to pay the school fees. As a child at junior school, I was aware that my dad was different, and it felt as though our family had a shameful secret that couldn’t be discussed.

I consider myself fortunate that my dad wasn’t a physical or sexually abusive parent; instead I suppose I suffered abuse through neglect. As a child, my dad never played with me or showed any interest, I don’t think he knew how to hold a conversation with a child and he’s never given me a hug. But I was incredibly lucky to have a loving, caring mother who protected me and did her best to provide stability and normality in our household. She never argued with my dad in front of my brother and me – how she was so calm I don’t know. But she couldn’t hide everything from us, my brother, who was always much more nosy than me, usually had some idea what was going on. He’d read opened letters and then tell me that dad was being taken to court and we were going to lose our house. We both knew that our parents were in serious financial trouble, it’s difficult to understand when you’re a child, I knew that things were wrong but wasn’t able to talk about it to anyone. I could tell when my mum was upset, although she never wanted to worry me and didn’t discuss anything, I could still sense her despair.

There were times when we had no food in the house, and instead of going to the shops to buy something for our evening meal, dad would disappear for hours and we would have to phone around the pubs to find him. My mum didn’t ever go into the pub and didn’t like his drinking friends, she used to say, ‘They’re not his friends, they’re just bar flies.’ She had better standards. It was quite intimidating as a shy young girl, having to walk into the pub to find my dad. Mum was friends with a really kind couple who were quite well off. For a long time they would buy us a box of vegetables and meat every week, so that she didn’t have to worry where the next meal was going to come from – why did my dad accept this charity and not feel ashamed that we were being kept? When my Nan sent mum money, she’d have to hide it from him – he’d bleed anyone dry if he could.

He was lucky that our neighbours didn’t turn him in for drink driving. He used to drive home so drunk that he’d fall asleep in his car in front of the house, with his radio blaring, and one of us would have to go out to wake him up and talk him into coming inside. Sometimes mum just left him out there all night. It was embarrassing. Often he’d fall asleep in his armchair, even in the middle of the afternoon, so we’d pull the curtains across so that people walking by couldn’t see him out of it. At his worse, he was drinking throughout the day and night, it’s so sad to think he’d fallen so low as to go down to the kitchen in the night to swig cider or keep a bottle of scotch by his bed.

Special occasions were usually ruined by his drinking.  At Christmas he could be a good cook if sober, and we did have some good years, but other years he would get so drunk whilst cooking he couldn’t finish making the meal, and would be asleep or verbally abusive and irritating during lunch. When my grandparents visited and we were all going out for a meal, he’d make out he had no money so that they’d pay for it, but somehow he’d always manage to get hammered down the pub beforehand and then ruin our fun with his drunken behaviour.

Then the worst thing that could possibly happen did happen. My mum developed cancer when I was 11 and eventually lost her fight against it when I was 14. Experiencing her suffering was horrendous. It took a long time for me to forgive my dad for the way he treated her, even when she was too ill to get out of bed to make herself something to eat, he would be down the pub. She would still be in bed when I came home from school and dad wouldn’t turn up for hours. He should have been there caring for her; instead he’s only ever cared about himself. I couldn’t talk about my dad’s problem or my mum’s illness to anyone, my school only found out she was ill 3 months before she died, when I ran out of a lesson in tears and had to explain to a teacher. I bottled things up because it didn’t know how people would react and wasn’t able to express myself easily. I thought I was supposed to be strong, I didn’t want special treatment, or people to find out at school. I thought it might even be ammunition for people to bully me with.

One of the only signs of affection I can remember dad showing me, is when he held my hand as we walked down the aisle at her funeral. I hoped losing mum would make him sort himself out and look after me, but his drinking became much worse. Instead of taking responsibility for his children he wallowed in his own self-pity. To this day he has never once asked me how I felt about losing my mum, he’s only ever thought about himself and his own grief.

For some reason dad has never taken any responsibility for me. Whereas my mum had been a protective parent, suddenly I was thrown into a situation where I could do what I wanted and there was no one to stop me. I was forced into growing up too quickly and had to get on with things, doing my washing, making sure I had clean clothes for school or did my homework, getting myself a meal. I rarely invited friends round for fear of not knowing what state he’d be in and never knowing what I was going to come home to. I started sneaking out at night and getting up to things I never would have done had my mum been alive. My dad didn’t seem to care where I was or what I was doing; it’s easy to go off the rails when there’s no one there to stop you.

I’m quite ashamed to admit that when I was young I had a bad habit of stealing things from friends at school or shops, not even things I needed, but things I wanted because I felt like I didn’t have anything – I knew it was wrong. Three months after my mum’s death I was arrested for shop lifting and got away with a caution. At least that brush with the police was enough to scare me and I didn’t do it again. Although at times I had to steal money from my dad when I needed things, but he never noticed – I couldn’t exactly ask him when I needed money for sanitary products!

Christmas and birthdays without mum were really depressing. I think I spent the first Christmas with a friend’s family, dad was nowhere to be found and my brother spent it alone in a filthy house with an oven pizza for his lunch. A few months after she died dad’s drinking had got so bad that he was forced into rehab. We had received a phone call from his local saying that he’d left an envelope there for us, and to come and pick it up. Inside was a note saying ‘Look after yourselves’, and £150. We didn’t know what his intentions were, he had disappeared and we had to call the police. He’d driven to another county and was found drunk and asleep in his car. Whilst dad was in hospital my brother stayed in the house and I moved in with our next door neighbours.

After his first stay in rehab he really made an effort to stay sober and I was very proud of him – he even got out of bed in the mornings to make me sandwiches for school. We thought he had beaten it, but after eight months his pub friends invited him out for a drink on his birthday, and that was it. For someone who is usually very calm and controlled, I shouted at him and stormed out. Why wasn’t he ashamed that his 15-year-old daughter was taken into care? Why couldn’t he look after himself? He’d had a really good job but at some point he lost it and eventually he lost our home as well.

Much of my teenage years are a blur, I don’t know if it’s because part of my brain has blocked out all the distressing things that happened or because I messed myself up with drink and drugs. I desperately wanted someone or something to rescue me from the extreme pain I felt. I wanted people to understand, to know what I was going through, but no one understands unless they’ve experienced it themselves and I was too messed up to let people get close. I couldn’t handle relationships even though I desperately wanted someone to love and look after me. Although suicide crossed my mind often, it was never really an option because I couldn’t put my Nan through losing her grandchild; she’d already lost my granddad and my mum.

When I was about 17, my brother called me at work to say that dad had taken an overdose and was in hospital, we rushed up there and went in to see him after he’d had his stomach pumped. I remember saying “I love you dad, why did you do it? I’ve lost one parent, I don’t want to lose another.” I didn’t get an answer.

At college, my tutor organised counselling for me, I was really against the idea at first and went along determined not to take it seriously. But it really helped to have someone to talk to who wasn’t involved in my life, who could see things from another perspective. Despite having no help whatsoever from Dad, I’ve achieved academically, although I still lack confidence in my abilities and haven’t really settled into a career. Next month I’m starting an evening class in counselling, and if I get on well I might retrain, because I really want to do something worthwhile and I feel the need to help others.

By the time I got to university I felt that I’d lived a lot more than other people, who were living away from home for the first time, and I always felt extremely lonely and misunderstood. I regret many things I’ve done and choices I’ve made along the way, but I don’t think that’s entirely my fault – things would have been different had I had the love and guidance I needed from my dad.

Because of the lack of stability I experienced, I have developed a strong sense of self-preservation. At times it has scared me that I might have inherited dad’s addictive personality, but then I have too much common sense to lose control completely. Although even now I sometimes have a bad relationship with alcohol, I don’t seem to be able to do things in moderation. I enjoy having a few drinks every couple of weeks, but don’t always know when to stop and often spend the next day cursing myself for stupid drunken things I’ve said or done.

I have never lost contact with my Dad because I feel a sense of duty, and I do love him in a twisted sorry for him kind of way. I don’t always answer when he calls my mobile, because 9 times out of 10 he’s paralytic and can’t string a sentence together. He’s a lonely old man who lives alone and goes down his local for some company. He’d love to meet a woman, but no educated intellectual woman would attach herself to an alcoholic with no money. I try not to think about him much, because if I did he would be a constant worry – several times he’s passed out in the street and cut his face, and a passer-by has had to call an ambulance – he’s vulnerable walking home at night.

Having an alcoholic father made me determined never to get myself attached to a man with any kind of habit. I’ve wanted what my mum deserved to have, and am very lucky to have met someone supportive, who loves me despite all my faults, and provides the stability I need. We are planning to get married next year and I don’t know whether to ask my dad to give me away, I certainly don’t feel like I’m his to be given away! Besides, can I trust him not to ruin our day?

Heather

+- When I was younger I always knew there was something not quite right (Karen)

Dad would drink wine every single night but I didn’t think anything of it. Him and mum had a rocky marriage and separated when I was 9 years old. I found it so hard – I was such a daddy’s girl and him leaving was the hardest thing I’d ever been through – until a month ago when he passed away of acute pancreatitis.

I found out dad was an alcoholic when I was about 14 years old. I tried to talk to him about it when I would go to stay with him but he wouldn’t listen. He truly didn’t believe he was an alcoholic – it was his denial which finally killed him. He just drank and drank.

When he lost his job a few months before his death he would just sit at home and drink all day. When he died I didn’t know whether to cry or to be angry. I felt so guilty because in a way I had given up on him. He wasn’t listening to me or anyone else, I’m an adult now, and as far as I saw it I had my own life to lead. I tried so hard with him before but I was just banging my head against a brick wall – he didn’t want to know.

The last time I spoke to him on the phone, I’d been back at Uni for the new term for a few weeks. He’s asked me to call him to let him know how I was so I did. He didn’t even know who I was. That’s what the drink did to him. He wasn’t my dad anymore – he was just a shell.

I remember the day I was told. I was going home for the weekend to see my mum and step dad. When I spoke to mum on the phone to let her know I was setting off home, I could tell there was something bothering her. When I got in, I was ushered into the lounge where mum was – I could tell she had been crying – nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to be told.

It was so uncanny; George Best’s funeral was on the television in the background when mum told me dad had been found dead. He was found by the police at 4.30 on Friday morning. Mum didn’t want to tell me on the phone so waited till I got home. I thought it was all a joke – I didn’t believe it till I went to him in the morgue at the hospital. I know it sounds horrific – but my dad was a joker and I really thought this was another one of his pranks. But he wasn’t – it was him – he was gone forever and I never got to say goodbye. I can’t remember the last time I told him, I loved him. I had got so annoyed with him as I got older that I just gave up on maintaining a relationship with him. I was so angry with him for leaving me and my sister – he was going to miss everything – our graduations, our weddings, his grandchildren.

The point I want to make is that I don’t blame my dad anymore – he was ill – alcoholism is an illness. I strongly believe it needs to be talked about more – it’s too much of a taboo subject in today’s society and that’s half the problem.

I used to be embarrassed about my dad being an alcoholic – I wouldn’t ever tell my friends. But now I know it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Alcoholics need support – not belittlement. I only wish I knew this before – then maybe my dad would still be alive now. However, we can’t blame ourselves – what I intend to do is to ensure that my dad lives on through me – I won’t ever let him be forgotten.

Karen

+- Christmas in our home meant a time when there would be more drunkenness, more fights; more rows and a feeling of being even more different than the rest of our neighbours (Vicky)

My most impressed memory of a Christmas carol, in Primary school, was, ‘In the bleak mid-winter’, and I tried to think why, of all carols, that one should be significant….

I do think we sang it, as little children, in our Church of England primary school, (now demolished), in a truly heartfelt way……..why…..?

That set me off on a whole stream of consciousness, memory lane……

As little children, we were very aware of painful, extreme cold; the kind of cold, that was a real feature of life, in those times. Yes, nature was harsher; we knew well the feeling of the kind of cold, ‘when Dick the shepherd blows his nail’.  Our school building itself, St. James, in New Brighton, would never have passed a Health and Safety check, by today’s standards.

I can remember, as a very small tiny child, being led in to class, in our crocodile, off the tarmac yard, and up into a covered iron staircase; a very hard, cold, steep iron staircase, sort of ‘green’…it is a clear memory.

And then, at the top of it, we entered a warm and safe, pleasant, cosy world.  We loved our primary school teacher, Miss Owens! What a wonderful person she was; an EXCELLENT reading teacher!

She gave us, what we did not have at home, and we loved her for it. My infant classroom, at St. James, was a place of nurturing treasure! I exaggerate not! As cold, poor children, (I was one of nine), we had the joy of a cosy, live real roaring fire in our classroom! Yes, a real, roaring fire – so welcoming! Of course it had a stout fireguard, and I can’t remember anyone ever being told off for going near it, and I can’t even remember any grave warnings about it!

It was part of what made ‘school’ with Miss Owens, a great place to be! That fire, coupled with those beautiful intoxicating hyacinth scents, she grew in those see-through glass jars… and the stack of jig saw puzzles, this was magic and heaven of a real kind!

Oh we loved school, with her, in that magic place! She knew how to teach reading, and must have delighted in bringing to the children of ‘the poor’, that is, those children who would be described as ‘disadvantaged’ today, the pleasure of achievement and success!

I was one of her best readers; she knew how much we needed her, and how much we needed to be affirmed! She knew all about us; we trusted her, and respected her, this kind, caring but firm, grey haired lady.

In spite of a background so totally devoid of any of the things we use today to ‘develop’ children, I believe that the gift of literacy, my infant teacher, the first teacher in my life gave me, and that ‘snug’ feeling of being important (alas not available at home) enabled me to go on to pass the 11+ exam.

This memory lane trip carried me back to what Christmas meant to us; to our family.

I was a bright child, as my elder sister was; we both went to ‘Grammar school’. We were sensitive children. We suffered much.

Our father was an alcoholic, and a very sick and abusive man. Our home was squalid and unhealthy and unsafe, and our mother, permanently pregnant and trapped.

We, as very small children, endured the sounds of the most terrible fights, and witnessed scenes, which degraded us and them.

We lived in fear and shame; we never took any one home, and became ‘responsible adults’, caring for each other, from as soon as we were able. We are all still well; our parents have gone.

CHRISTMAS in our home, meant, like other Christian festivals, a time when there would be more drunkenness, more fights; more rows and a feeling of being even more different than the rest of our neighbours.

We would get more anxious; more edgy; more afraid, and school was closed.

One Christian festival, our mother left home…that was TERRIBLE…I think she was away about a week.

I don’t want to make everyone sad at this time of year, but the sentimentality of Christmas does add insult to injury sometimes, and we need to remember that.

I forgive my parents; my mother was trapped; my father sick. For that reason, after many years of struggle, I found and am a member of Nacoa. Patron Mo Mowlam was a similar survivor, and I’m proud to say, so too is Fergal Keane.

I give thanks to the Miss Owens of this world, and to people in the public eye, like Mo Mowlam and Fergal Keane who talk about their childhoods to raise awareness and contribute to giving hope and strength to children living with alcoholism in their homes today.

Vicky

+- All the love in the world would not have made a difference (Fiona)

I read the ‘personal experiences’ and thought I would write my own, mainly because everyone’s is different and I remember while my dad was alive nobody knew what I meant when I said my dad was an alcoholic.

Some of the alcoholics in ‘personal experiences’ lived double lives and could be sober sometimes. My Dad started drinking when I was 13 and I honestly never saw him sober unless he was in prison, sectioned or in a drying out clinic. Everything in the world was done to save this broken man; all the love in the world would not have made a difference.

My father attended a public school and we were a middle class family. He lost his job and gave up on life. Rather than commit suicide, he drank and drank and just under seven years later he died. A big relief really, the family had done everything, we had suffered and he was finally at peace.

He was never violent or abusive, just drunk and a pest. He had an interdict out on him and he kept turning up drunk at my school or my Mum’s work, she is a teacher so this was really embarrassing for her, although he would turn up anywhere drunk. Lying on door steps half cut was something of a norm.

All this was terrible to experience as a child, when my dad died my life began. I no longer saw a drunk down and out from a distance and dreaded it was him. That’s over, people who know me now don’t understand the severity of how awful it was because it is simply beyond their comprehension.

On the positive side however, I have learnt fantastic life skills. I know it is not that far to hit rock bottom nor for that matter to go the other way and achieve great things. Life during this time was madness, no stability, security or safety. If I survived that, well the sky’s the limit.

My father died eight years ago. My brother and I have done exceptionally well and most probably better than if we had not endured this family tragedy. This has made me a perfectionist and achiever after all I have something to prove – I am not just a daughter of a drunk.

Many successful people have parents who were alcoholics: Ronald Regan, Bill Clinton, Gordon Ramsay, Jackie O, Cherie Blair and many, many more. These people were victims who had something to prove and did!

Fiona

+- My dad won’t stop! (Caitlin)

My mum and dad split up because my dad was drinking. It started when mum started to find beer bottles and wine hidden all around the house.

I was only six years old when they split up. Mum me and my brother left home and moved down the road a bit. We still kept in touch with him though.

As I was getting older he became worse, I remember one time we had to lock ourselves in mums bedroom because he was drunk and angry and my mum thought he was going to take us away. We called my granny, and she came and calmed him down.

He also has been going out with other girls, but about 2 months later they find out about his drinking and dump him. And another time I had one of my friends at his house, and he forced us to wash all his dirty dishes.

He still isn’t getting better, he has made an attemp to stop drinking, but it hasn’t worked. He has now moved in with a girl into her house and she has a 7 year old boy, plus she doesn’t know, so it won’t last long.

But the thing that keeps me strong is help lines and i realise i am not alone.

Caitlin

Feeling frightened or anxious and hearing parents argue or fight

+- …it just scared me, living in a house full of boxes of delivered wine, shouting parents, empty bottles (Aoife)

I read some of the personal experiences here and I decided to try writing down my own, reading them helped me and if it might help someone else then I’d like to give it a go.

My name is Aoife, I’m 14 years old and I live with my Mum, my two younger brothers and my alcoholic father.

I didn’t know that my father was an alcoholic until less than two years ago. I’m not even sure what I thought was wrong with my father up until then. A friend of mine’s father had died of liver cirrhosis. ‘Drunk himself to death’. ‘Alcoholism’. All these things made me think. I’m not even sure why, or even if I made an immediate connection. At some point though and for some reason I made the connection.

Was my Dad an alcoholic?

Yes was the answer. My mum called him a ‘problem drinker’ when I asked. But I had noticed.

And if my Dad was an alcoholic, just like my friend’s father, did that mean he too was drinking himself to death?

At first I was scared for his health. I had never imagined what it would be like if my parent’s died before. I told him of my concerns, and my mother.

He brushed them off quickly “You only die if you drink too much!” he told me.

Over the next year I slowly grew to hate my father more and more. He grew more abusive as time went on, and he shouted. I’ve always been terrified of shouting ever since I was a small child. Because of my father most likely.

Then, by this time I was 13, I made another discovery. I began to notice that my Mum drank too much too. Not massive amounts, and not as much as him. But too much. I don’t think that she’s an alcoholic. But it just scared me, living in a house full of boxes of delivered wine, shouting parents, empty bottles.

I realised that I had kept all my feelings bottled inside me for so many years. So hidden that even I hadn’t really noticed them. All these discoveries came as shocks to me. I was a rather strange child. Quiet at school and loud at home, with my younger brother.

We used to play fighting games in the hallways, running around and jumping. While my father was downstairs drinking. He used to get angry with us and shout, or carry us upstairs by our arms. I remember I used to lie in my bedroom, screaming and screaming and crying and throwing myself against the walls.

Then I’d go to school and cover it all up.

But now, I’ve realised that my Dad is an alcoholic and that my mum drinks too much. And I’ve realised that it’s their problem. Not mine.

Sometimes I get down, sometimes the shouting drives me crazy, and sometimes I just want to scream and get away. But I cope. I have a sense of hopelessness, knowing that there’s nothing I can do. But it also takes away the responsibility I felt I had.

I hope my Dad gets better but if he doesn’t I’ll just be getting on with my life.

Aoife

+- After all these years the one thing I have learnt is that the past doesn’t define who we are, we do in each new moment (Atalina)

There is a darkness that shields the eyes
even from the brightest of skies,
that hides us from the brutal truth
already damaging our precious youth

Don’t be deceived or look for thunder
“What is it then?” you ask with wonder,
A powerful force kept out of sight,
Gathering fuel in the dark of night

A common illness, from which many suffer
most often hidden from each other,
Yet why is that so? why must that be?
Why should we turn from what children see?

So if just for a moment you could hear
the silent whispers filled with fear,
you would know of the sadness that fills each day
when the two headed monster comes out to play

And so as some children survive, others will not,
if only we listened closer to those we forgot.
Those with another’s illness lurking above
Paying dearly for loyalty to those they love

And while some will sleep sound in their beds,
others will suffer abuse and violence instead,
crying out in pain but no one hears
the desperate sadness in their tears

And so it goes on night after night,
until the child grows up and starts a fight.
Teachers bemused at this odd outrage
Say “they shouldn’t behave this way, at this stage’”

Yet no one helps and so it goes on,
until perhaps the little child is finally gone,
and the young adult that now grows, is lost and confused
not knowing which path in life to choose.

Lost in their mind and set in their ways,
they seem okay to others most days,
and when eventually the pain begins to rise
people looked stunned but perhaps not surprised.

So a journey begins deep down in the soul,
to mend the enormous grieving hole,
caused by the loss of her father at eight
and her mother’s ongoing alcoholic fate.

And with each passing day, a little light grows
and she begins to forget the heartache she knows,
instead the little girl surfaces playfully once more,
only different this time, wiser than before.

There is no sense of sadness, bitterness or dismay
And at last it seems she has the confidence to say,
“this really happened, it happened to me”,
and yet through it all, I feel happy and free.

It is with much hindsight she can see
that for a long time, ‘it was not the real me’
Lost in grief, in anger and despair,
looking for love from anyone, anywhere.

And now that she’s a mum
And has broken some ties
She begins to unravel the web of lies.
Consequently there are those who are not impressed
at her apparent selfish ways and disrespect.

For alcoholism is a secret families like to keep,
away from prying eyes, hidden deep.
that way it is easier to avoid any blame
and to keep things running exactly the same,
to pretend and lie in spectacular style,
she calls it insanity, doctors call it denial.

Now she sees things as clear as day
and hopes to show others a brighter way,
because really no one has to suffer alone,
help is now there by email or phone.

And that’s the secret to this tale,
that we can help to free others who are desperate to sail,
into the light that we will shine,
to let them know that they will be fine.

But in order to get to this happy place
there is one difficult task they must all face,
and that is to speak out, to find their voice,
and to learn that saying ‘no’ IS their choice.

For in every moment there is a new way,
to do the things we love each day.
To see the things we want to see
And be the person we want to be.

Atalina

+- I was too scared to tell anyone my friends or school because I was so worried they would take me away (Tuesday)

I am writing with regards to your personal experiences growing up with a parent that is an alcoholic. I unfortunately became the child of an alcoholic at the age of 8 when my mum began heavily drinking. My dad left when I was two, but he stayed a regular stable figure in my life every weekend and half the school holidays.

I have two older sisters who left home early because it became too much for them. Although my house was rarely empty or quiet I became very isolated and lonely and with only me to care for my mother our roles reversed and at aged nine I became the parent.

I was too scared to tell anyone my friends or school because I was so worried they would take me away from her and she needed me, she had already lost two daughters and I couldn’t leave her alone. Things were very up and down by this point. There were good days and bad days but I always knew she loved me very much and whether she was drunk or sober I never felt she didn’t love me just that the drink had taken over her body and in some way stole her.

When I was 15 after numerous times of being in and out of hospital she decided she wanted to get sober but she was too far-gone and her body couldn’t take to her not drinking and after 2 weeks of horrendous withdrawal symptoms she died.

I loved my mother so much and my heart is broken without her. But I felt a sense of relief afterwards, no more worry in case she fell down the stairs, or carrying her to bed, or helping her take her medication, and skipping school to get her to Dr‘s appointments. No more strangers in and out of the house, or cleaning up sick and no more standing outside the shops trying to get her alcohol.

I was forced to grow up too quickly so after she died things for me took a turn for the worse. I quickly moved in with my dad who was a heavy binge drinker and I began doing the same. I would drink a lot to block out the pain and take drugs, which lead to getting into trouble with the police. I felt worthless so abusing my body and torturing myself for things that had happened seemed the only punishment because I had convinced myself it was my own fault.

I managed to stay in my last year at school and around the partying and drug taking I sat my GCSEs. I didn’t do as well as I should of but I pulled through with enough to get me to college. But things didn’t get any better. I left college and got into an even darker place and tried to take my own life.

After a year of ups and downs my dad stopped drinking altogether and provided me with the stability I longed for. I slowly began to piece my life back together. I met a lovely supportive boyfriend and we got our own place together, then last September (2011) I got myself a part-time job and enrolled on a college course. I took driving lessons and got myself a car.

I am now coming up towards the end of my course and have been accepted for university to study BA Honours degree in Psychology which starts this September (2012). I am in a much better place in my life now, I have built a wonderful relationship with my dad and two sisters and although there are still bad days, which can sometimes, be quite a struggle I have managed to turn things around. Instead of not wanting a future I can’t wait to see what it holds for me. I will always miss my mum and wish things could have been different but it has shaped who I am.

I have a project at college to write a report and present my findings and I have based this on ‘The effects of an alcoholic parent has on a child’ and your website has really helped with my research. I also plan to use this as my third year dissertation for university and continue in this Field helping children like me.

I would also like to ask you if there is any voluntary work that I could do. I really want to raise awareness that there is help out there for children of alcoholics and that they are not alone. If I would have known what help was available things may have been different for me. I want to show others that however hard times get there’s always light at the end of the tunnel and if I can turn my life around then so can anyone.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Tuesday (aged 19)

+- I suffered the confusion and unhappiness of not understanding why one minute my dad could be the most amazing man in the world, yet the next he was an ugly, frightening man (Natalie)

I was 18 before I could admit out aloud to myself that my father was actually an alcoholic. Even then it took another 12 months before I was brave enough to tell anyone else what I had always regarded as my deepest secret and something which I was also terribly ashamed of. I’m now 22 and the last four years of my life have been the biggest emotional roller-coaster I’m ever going to take a ride on, more so than an entire childhood of growing up being the child of an alcoholic. It’s taken me a few weeks to begin to write this experience, I wasn’t sure if it would sound right, but now I think that doing this is going to be the most therapeutic thing I’ll have done.

I can’t remember when exactly my father started drinking. On the same hand, I can’t remember a time when I was growing up that he was actually sober. What I do remember is the violence, the smell of whiskey when he kissed me goodnight, and the times spent crying in my room, scared of what he might do next. For many years I watched my father systematically drink his way through several bottles of whiskey and then begin to berate my mother. It would start with him going exceptionally quiet and becoming withdrawn. It would slowly escalate into an argument, and then the violence would begin. My mother suffered broken arms, black eyes and broken ribs, I suffered the confusion and unhappiness of not understanding why one minute my dad could be the most amazing man in the world, yet the next he was an ugly, frightening man.

It wasn’t until I was older that I could understand that my father lost many of his jobs because he was either drinking at work, or going to work in a stupor. One of my earliest memories at school was when I was about 10 years old and a friend had come to my house for dinner the night previous. The next day at school he told all of my friends that my father had been drinking, and they all laughed at me, even though they had no concept of what it meant. Perhaps this was one of the many reasons I couldn’t tell anyone what really happened at home. I know we were portrayed as the perfect family, so much so, that nobody really believed me when I became brave enough to talk about what really happened behind our closed door. Every special event during my childhood, such as gaining my GCSE results, became tarred with a drunken argument at home and my father becoming violent and aggressive.

I never blamed myself for his drinking, but I always wondered how different my life would be if he didn’t drink. I frequently wondered what a ‘normal’ family life would be like, without my father reaching for his first drink of the day at 7am. Progressively my father’s drinking escalated, he went from drinking expensive bottles of whiskey to drinking several litres of cheap white cider. He was once such a proud man, now he cared about nothing, he would not bath for days, would rarely change his clothes and I became incredibly ashamed.

I wouldn’t invite even my best friend round to my house, I couldn’t bear for anyone to see my father. I was worried they would talk about me, worried about what they would think of me. In reality, I know now they would have thought no less of me, because his drinking wasn’t about me and was no reflection on me. But all the same these thoughts would run around my head and every time my father got his glass out my heart would sink.

Of course there were times he would attempt to dry himself out, but these never were successful, perhaps because up until very recently my father was unable to admit that he had a problem with alcohol. Eventually my family split up and my father moved 40 miles away from us.

To everyone’s surprise I was over the moon about this, of course I love my father very much, but him not being there meant the end of arguments and fights and not having to worry anymore about what people might say about me. I was able to admit that he had a problem and able to talk a little about it. Even today there are many things I can’t talk about because the stigma of shame never goes away. I thought that part of my life was over, how wrong I was.

I still visited my father. I know some people would say that I should have given up on him, in fact many people did say exactly that. But he is my dad, I love him, I could never desert him, probably because I am all he has. In August 2004, I visited my father for the first time in ages. It was clear he was still drinking, he’d lost lots of weight and looked terrible. Two weeks later I telephoned him to see how he was and he told me he’d been sectioned. My father had been detained in a psychiatric unit because of his drinking and the way it had destroyed his mind.

This is when I felt my world crumbling around me. I felt immense guilt, perhaps if I’d been to see him more often this would not have happened. Maybe I could have prevented his drinking. Obviously I know now that I couldn’t have done anything to help him as he clearly didn’t want to help himself.

When he was released 4 months later, he was determined to begin afresh. And he did incredibly well. It wasn’t until January of this year (2006) that the drinking began again. This time it did destroy him. I had known for several weeks he was drinking and it broke my heart. But still I could not desert him. Again I felt immense guilt, like I had not helped him enough to remain dry.

In March of this year I fought for an appointment for my father at the local rehab clinic and took him myself. He was admitted and diagnosed with Wernicke’s Syndrome. The brilliant engineer I knew and loved had become both a physical and mental wreck. He is even now unable to remember the day of the week, what he has eaten for dinner, or his date of birth. All this, because of something in a bottle which amazingly is now legal to obtain for 24 hours of the day. My dad now spends his days in a residential home, being cared for by nurses as he is unable to do so for himself.

And what about me? My father’s drinking has had a profound effect upon my life and the person I have become. I struggle to form relationships with people, it is ingrained into me that nobody can be trusted, and that all promises are false.

When I do form relationships with people, I cling to them tightly because I am scared they will leave me and in the end frequently this obsession only serves to push them away. I find it difficult to talk to people, and open up. I think this is something I’ll never be able to do.

I can’t bear the smell of cider, with it I’ve so many memories associated, ones I try hard to bury away. It literally makes me sick. I often cry, when I think about what my father has become, and I think about the way in which things could have been different.

Then I realise that my father only served to make me stronger, I have been through 22 years of pure hell, there is little now that I cannot at least attempt to tackle. I love my father with all of my heart, I know I could never desert him, and I only hope that now he is on the long road to recovery. In this I then hope that I might begin to recover myself, to extract the demons that have raged inside me for so long. And this is the first step on that road for me.

Natalie

+- Scarred for life (Jordan)

I never knew how bad my dad loved alcohol until now. I looked at him in shock as they took the bottle from underneath his jacket. I had my bag checked, they felt my body downwards. After all that, he couldn’t be a man and stand up for himself. He made me cry and wonder why? After that I wasn’t allowed to see him for a long time.

I can remember at just after Christmas my dad had had too many to drink. He came round being really bossy and argumentative with my mum. He grabbed my arm and threatened to take me with him. My mum grabbed my other arm and said I wasn’t going anywhere. I believed my mum she always did the right thing unlike my dad. My mum kicked my dad out; my dad weren’t having none of it so he smashed my mum’s window and then started calling my mum names. My mum rang the police – I couldn’t hold my tears in any longer.

Lately my dad’s been on new tablets to stop him from drinking. I went round a month ago and he was doing fine but my sister found the cats playing with tin foil from under the chair, it was all burnt. We’re not allowed to see him. He’s made my life a misery. I can’t be forced to go through anything like it again.

Jordan

+- I didn’t tell anyone about the bottle, just kept it to myself as with everything else (Amy)

When I was little, I lived in a big house on top of a hill with my mum, dad, big brother and two cats. There were woods and fields nearby where we had lots of fun and a big hill for tobogganing in winter.

There were lots of happy times, parties and family gatherings. We had lots of nice things. My parents argued a lot. I felt scared and would hide in my room. At least I had the cats to talk to.

I loved animals and spent lots of time in the garden collecting snails. At school, my favourite subjects were English, art and drama. I liked writing stories and poems. I didn’t really like sport. I enjoyed school but I remember feeling different from other children there. I often felt embarrassed. Sometimes I hid things or told lies.

When I was 10 my parents separated. This meant we all had to move house. It was difficult to know what you were allowed to tell other people. I remember one day my friend’s mum drove me home and saw the sold sign outside our house. She asked if we were moving. I knew we were but didn’t know what to say, so I just said ‘I don’t know’.

Me, my mum and my brother went to live in a much smaller house. Moving to a new house was like an adventure. My dad went to live in a flat in a different town. I used to go visit at the weekend. He was often late coming to pick me up so I would have to wait around and mum would get cross. His flat stunk of cigarette smoke and he wasn’t very good at cooking. He lived near a big shopping centre, we often went there together and ate at restaurants, which was fun.

I think around this time I was told my dad was an alcoholic. But since I don’t really remember seeing him drunk and everyone else drank too, it didn’t really mean much to me. Besides my mum said lots of horrible things about my dad anyway.

My mum cried a lot. She would drink lots of red wine to feel better, but this just made her cry more. She would talk to me about things I didn’t understand, I just smiled and nodded at the times I felt like I should, and when it seemed required I would give her a hug. My brother would go out a lot. I think he didn’t want to have to listen to mum.

It was some years later when I made the connection between my dad’s ‘glassy eyes’ and funny smell and alcohol. One day I found an empty bottle of vodka in the glovebox of his car. This was confusing, as I had only ever seen him drink wine or beer. Of course I didn’t tell anyone about the bottle, just kept it to myself as with everything else.

My mum continued to cry and shout. We used to argue at lot. Her rules didn’t seem to make any sense. It seemed like I was permanently being grounded.

As I got older, my dad was always happy to collect me and my friends and give us lifts home late at night. This was great, then one day my dad gave me a lift after I had been drinking in the park with my friends. Whilst in the car on the way home, dad and I were chatting away in French (I don’t think I could actually even speak much French) it dawned on me that my dad was drunk too! After this I generally arranged to sleepover at friend’s houses rather than get picked up.

It wasn’t until I was 18 that I realised it was OK to talk to friends about important things. I discovered that some of them had grown up with parents similar to mine. I started to experience feelings and get to know what I liked and didn’t like.

I am incredibly lucky. Both my parents have stopped drinking. It’s not always perfect but we are able to be much more open with each other, and I can talk to them about problems I have. Now I know I am an ok person, I am loved and am able to show love to others. Most of the time I can understand how I am feeling and can communicate with people. Sometimes I slip back into feeling numb or being unable to tell the truth. But most of the time, I like who I am and am proud of my family.

Amy

+- My dad won’t stop! (Caitlin)

My mum and dad split up because my dad was drinking. It started when mum started to find beer bottles and wine hidden all around the house.

I was only six years old when they split up. Mum me and my brother left home and moved down the road a bit. We still kept in touch with him though.

As I was getting older he became worse, I remember one time we had to lock ourselves in mums bedroom because he was drunk and angry and my mum thought he was going to take us away. We called my granny, and she came and calmed him down.

He also has been going out with other girls, but about 2 months later they find out about his drinking and dump him. And another time I had one of my friends at his house, and he forced us to wash all his dirty dishes.

He still isn’t getting better, he has made an attemp to stop drinking, but it hasn’t worked. He has now moved in with a girl into her house and she has a 7 year old boy, plus she doesn’t know, so it won’t last long.

But the thing that keeps me strong is help lines and i realise i am not alone.

Caitlin

+- I still remember sitting in the corridor outside my room, listening to my parents yelling at each other. But even through threats, abuse and shouting I never knew alcohol was the problem (Aoife)

As a small child I didn’t really notice anything was up. I mean, I knew my Dad was bad tempered. Me and my mum used to have jokes about it, imitating him and such. But I never knew it was related to alcohol and it never really affected me.

As I got older I started to worry about my parent’s relationship. I knew they didn’t get along and I was scared that they were going to get a divorce.

I still didn’t really notice that alcohol was a problem. For me the norm was to have a mass of empty bottles on our kitchen counter and on the floor.

My Dad wasn’t ever really abusive to me as a younger child, there were a few incidents and there was shouting. There was always shouting. I’ve always been terrified of shouting and I still am. I think that’s down to my father, shouting at me and my brothers at the slightest thing.

I still remember sitting in the corridor outside my room, listening to my parents yelling at each other. But even through threats, abuse and shouting I never knew alcohol was the problem.

I started to notice when I was 12, almost 13. A new boy came to our school, he moved because his father had just died. His dad had “drunk himself to death” as he said, “he was an alcoholic” my best friend told me. I had heard the word before, surely, but never really pondered on it. I searched the word and read the definition. I asked my mum “yes, your dad’s an alcoholic” she told me.

For about a year I panicked. I was sure my Dad didn’t have long left to live. I told him I was worried about his drinking “if you drink that much you’ll die like ____’s dad” I told him. He told me that was only if you drank too much.

Now I’m 14 and it’s still going on, my parents aren’t going to get a divorce anytime soon, my hallway is full with crates of delivered wine, but I’ve finally realised it’s not my fault.  Why would it be?

I’m getting on with my life, I go out and enjoy myself. I’m not usually the kind of person who wants to talk. A social worker came round once about an incident “would you like to talk about it?” “No”. I deal with things in my own way, I don’t like being too dependent on others. I’ve talked to the boy whose father died a couple of times and my best friend knows but that’s it. I like to take my mind off things and cope.

But I feel that I shouldn’t have to.

Aoife

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