Breaking The Silence

Posted: February 8, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,


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“Why does Dad prefer alcohol in a bottle to us, Mum?”

Hannah – 10 years old

When my daughter recently asked me that question, I had no idea how to respond. My first impulse was to reply that she should ask her Dad, but then I remembered that she can’t. She can’t because as a functioning, in denial alcoholic, his response, if he chose to answer and not just walk away, would not be honest and would only lead to further confusion and hurt.

Instead, I directed her to an online Alateen Chat Site where she was able to connect with other kids who are struggling with an alcoholic family member. She is not yet a teenager, but because of how fast she has already needed to grow-up in order to understand how and why her life is different from most of her friends, Alateen is a safe place. There, she can express herself amongst other kids in a way that she maybe can’t with me as an adult.

Having worked through online Al-Anon programmes for several years, I know the importance of finding a safe haven. The relief of breaking through the mystifying fog of going it alone to realise that your story is only one of thousands, each as similar, or more heartbreaking than your own.  I am aware that as I type this, there are millions of children who suffer in the stranglehold of silence. The most recent global statistics of severe alcohol abuse and its effect on children are staggering. Even now, in 2015, for thousands of households, alcholism is still the disease “that dare not speak its name”.

Living in secrecy with shame, embarassment and guilt – only a few of the toxic feelings most strongly associated with alcoholism – deprives children of the ability to mature into emotionally strong adults, severely reducing their capacity to deal with the eventual ups and downs of their own future lives.

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Children do not want to be different. They want their lives to be as normal as their pals. They do not want to be taunted in the schoolyard or left out of activities because they have an alcoholic father or mother. They instinctively love their addicted parent, desperately wanting him or her to recover because of their innate need for a strong role model and nurturer.

Children cannot understand that their parent has been so fundamentally changed by their addiction that they are no longer able to function in a healthy manner; that they use blame, denial, lies and manipulation in order to continue their habit and that they are often oblivious to the damage which they inflict.

Children of Alcoholics week gives us all a chance to raise awareness, to reach out and help, to break the silence.

These kids are your nieces and nephews, cousins, children of friends, neighbours or co-workers. They are all around us, many too scared and ashamed to ask for help. They are hurting.

Children are so tech savvy now. Most own, or have access to, computers. If they are suffering, a nudge in the direction of some of the websites linked to in this text could be a lifesaver for them.

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By breaking the silence we can break the cycle.

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Comments
  1. tigerbaps says:

    Love this. Thanks for sharing, Mme G x

  2. Nacoa UK says:

    Thank you for your sensitive and informative blog posted during COA Week. Speaking openly to children and helping them find out about alcohol can help them understand that their parent’s behaviour is not their fault. Your blog will help children know they are not alone and help many parents out there struggling to answer this difficult question. Together we are making a difference.

  3. Kim says:

    As a child of an alcoholic stepfather who was physically abusive to my mother and all four of her children, I wish my Mother had done what you have done for your daughter. We tiptoed in our own home for fear of angering him. I lived in a tent in the backyard for six month, because I was one of the children who became submissive just to protect myself. For me, the emotions made me a bed wetter, my youngest brother too. In an alcoholics mind, I was a bad influence as I was teaching him bed wetting. So, I was removed from the house, I slept in a tent with a dog for protection. It wasn’t until I got my father involved that I was taken away by the state. The damage done though. As an adult, I chose not to have children because it terrified me that I could do the same to my own children. There is a wonderful book that helped me years later called The Family by John Bradshaw. I worked thru the book in therapy & later took one of his workshops. He’s very powerful but but provided a safe haven during his workshops. he has a lot of common sense. He himself a former alcoholic and priest. I think it’s great your proactive with your daughter. It’s a devastating illness and affects everyone in the family one way or another. My mother always claimed she was never aware how abusive he was? Wishing you and your family the best and peace.

    • deegeefee says:

      Thanks so much for your comment, Kim. I am very sorry that you had to go through such awful childhood years, alcoholism is such a cruel disease. Luckily there is a lot more support available now for affected families. Breaking the stigma and talking openly is key. Love and peace to you and yours.

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