Children of Alcoholics Week (14-20 February 2020) is in its twelfth year in the UK. There will be an increase in presence of people affected by their parent’s drinking across the media and social media. Though it is painful, Kate tells her story in her own words of growing up with a parent who drinks too much to help others know that they are not alone.
My name is Kate and I am the child of an alcoholic (or COA). This is something I can say out loud now. But when I was growing up, it was not as easy: my biggest fear was that I would tell an adult and they would inform social services, and I’d get taken away. Or that I was “making a big deal” of my dad’s drinking and no-one would believe me, and I’d get into trouble. When your parent drinks too much, the first person you tend to blame is yourself: “If I can get them to love me more than the alcohol then they will stop drinking. So you try to be better at school, get good grades, be good at home, help your siblings to be good, do more chores.” But absolutely none of it works. That’s a big thing to carry around with you as a child, it’s incredibly lonely and you are constantly looking for people “like you”.
I didn’t learn about Nacoa until I was 24. My Dad had passed away two years prior. I was channel surfing and came across an interview with Nacoa Patron, Calum Best, someone who I’d always followed in the media. Despite being a few years older than me and with a lot more fame, his and my experiences are very similar. George Best had a well-documented alcohol addiction and I always thought, “If Calum can get through it, living in the spotlight, then I could do it living in a tiny village just outside of Bristol”. A bit of Googling later and I had found Nacoa. There was a whole charity for people just like me. If it wasn’t for my channel surfing, I don’t know if I would have ever found Nacoa. Because having an alcoholic parent isn’t just something you blurt out over a coffee. It comes with a terrible shame attached to it.
It’s often said that children of alcoholics are the forgotten victims of alcohol addiction because we are taught to keep the family secret. Addiction is then a “family illness”, but there is a lack of support and understanding for children: children who need independent support, away from the needs or requirements of their parent. COA Week is important because it makes Children of Alcoholics “visible”. It is people with lived experiences talking about their lives, their own experiences, and their own feelings. It shows the world that if you are a child with an alcohol dependent parent, you are not alone. Much like how Calum reached me by sharing his story.
It is estimated that there are currently 2.6 million children in the UK living with a parent that drinks too much. With the current global pandemic, it seems obvious to me that this number will only rise. There has been a huge increase in calls to charities like Nacoa in the past year; events like COA Week are vital in reaching children all over the world.
“I wish I knew about charities like Nacoa when I was younger”. Every time I hear this it reminds me why awareness weeks like COA Week are so important. If we can reach one child and make them feel less alone, then this week has been a success.
Written by Kate Jones
If you have experienced any of the issues raised in this post and are in need of information or support, you can contact Nacoa for help.
Helpline number: 0800 358 3456
Email address: helpline@Nacoa.org.uk
This blog was published with the permission of the author. The views expressed are solely the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Alcohol Health Alliance or its members.