Posts Tagged ‘Alcoholism’


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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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“Remember me and smile, for it’s better to forget than to remember me and cry.”
-Dr. Seuss

January 6th, 2015. Today you have 15 stardust years behind you, Jamie.

I have an image in my mind, of your essence scooting around the universe, like some kind of beautifully coloured, blazing comet. It puts a silly smile on my face everytime I look up to the stars; we’re not that far apart really, are we young man?

This New Year, the nature of goodbyes & letting go has been a lot on my mind. The older we get, the more farewells we entertain – consciously or unconsciously: Goodbye to the person we were several years ago, Adieu to longheld expectations, Adios to those who hurt us, Arrrivederci an old way of life, Auf Wiedersehen an old habit; finally letting go of those whose demons & addictions we cannot control or cure. Language is so full of beautiful ways to say goodbye … but also to say hello and begin afresh.

Music being so intrinsically woven into our lives, it came as a jolt to realise that, May, 15 years ago, about a month after you were conceived, your Dad was on stage at the Kennedy Centre in Washington, drumming with Stevie and Emmy-Lou to one of the most honest, beautiful goodbye songs I know. My most favourite thing that your Papa has ever done, I think.

Two years ago, I wrote for your 13th birthday, a turning of age for you, as well as a huge turning point for our family. Tough love goodbyes bring a grief akin to death … but where love is, there is also hope.

In the meantime, your brother and sister are as mad and beautiful as ever  –  2015 is now the year of “Bonjour”  Squeeze are always on the jukebox – le temps passe et on continue.

Happiest of Birthdays, sweet boy. xxxx