The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service

Experiences

Reading the stories of other children who have a mum or dad that drinks too much helps you to know you are not alone.

Finding out about how other people feel may help you to make sense of what is going on. Every family is different but many children living with a parent who drinks too much find they have similar feelings and problems.

Why not try reading one of the stories? 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 or draw about your own life. If you would like to share your story for other children to read, please email Hilary Henriques. You can write as much or as little as you want and we don’t have to use your real name.

Keeping secrets and feeling isolated and alone

+- 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

+- 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

+- 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

+- To anyone who met us, you would have thought we were happy (Nicky)

When I used to go to my friend’s house I noticed how happy her mum and dad were. They didn’t seem to shout at each other. Her mum would make us tea. My friend didn’t have to do things like that. I was confused – why were my mum and dad not like that? Why was it different in my house?

To anyone who met us, you would have thought we were happy. Sometimes, though it was horrible in my house. Sometimes we were happy, but sometimes mum and dad would argue and I would get scared and hide in my room.

The arguments would start after my mum drank wine. She pretended she didn’t but I knew she did. Mum would drink from a mug and pretend it was tea. But I knew what it really was. After shopping I would hear the bottles clinking in her bag and my stomach would sink. I felt sick, knowing what was going to happen next.

After she had drank some wine she would get angry, I would try and be good and make her happy again. Other times she would become sad and cry. When she did, I would give her a hug, hoping she wouldn’t be sad. After drinking wine she maybe would fall asleep. When mum was like this, I had to do things all by myself. My dad would get so angry when he saw mum had been drinking and then the shouting would begin.

My friends never said that their mum and dad could be like mine. I felt so alone and never told anyone how horrible it could be and what happened.

It was only after my gran noticed that something was wrong I spoke about what it was like. She was shocked and upset. Then everyone came to my house and said to mum she had to get help. I didn’t understand what was happening. My gran and dad tried to explain things to me. Mum said that there wasn’t anything wrong. Then the shouting started again and I went and hid in my room.

One night mum went out with friends, I think, and she never came home. The next day I was worried. Dad explained she was ok but staying with gran. I was relieved she was ok but sad she was away. I worried “What was going to happen to me?” I stayed with dad though. He made sure I was OK.

Even though mum was at grans, I saw her nearly every day. It was like before, mum was always happy. She explained that she was trying to stop drinking and that made me feel happy.

She went to stay in a big house with lots of people like her who wanted to stop drinking. I went to see her with dad and sometimes gran. My mum looked much better and told me she was learning new things and wanted to change. For her, that meant no more drinking. I missed not seeing her everyday but everything was going to get better I hoped. I wanted to believe her.

When mum left the big house she didn’t come home. She went to stay with gran again. Then I got to see her nearly every day which I loved. I stayed at grans and we would all watch TV together. I got to choose any food I liked. Mum and I liked having pizza the best.  Dad would come and get me and he didn’t argue with mum. This made us all happy.

Mum hasn’t drank for a long time now. She told me it is very hard. I have just got to believe that she won’t again.

Nicky

Feeling frightened or anxious and hearing parents argue or fight

+- 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

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

+- 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

+- To anyone who met us, you would have thought we were happy (Nicky)

When I used to go to my friend’s house I noticed how happy her mum and dad were. They didn’t seem to shout at each other. Her mum would make us tea. My friend didn’t have to do things like that. I was confused – why were my mum and dad not like that? Why was it different in my house?

To anyone who met us, you would have thought we were happy. Sometimes, though it was horrible in my house. Sometimes we were happy, but sometimes mum and dad would argue and I would get scared and hide in my room.

The arguments would start after my mum drank wine. She pretended she didn’t but I knew she did. Mum would drink from a mug and pretend it was tea. But I knew what it really was. After shopping I would hear the bottles clinking in her bag and my stomach would sink. I felt sick, knowing what was going to happen next.

After she had drank some wine she would get angry, I would try and be good and make her happy again. Other times she would become sad and cry. When she did, I would give her a hug, hoping she wouldn’t be sad. After drinking wine she maybe would fall asleep. When mum was like this, I had to do things all by myself. My dad would get so angry when he saw mum had been drinking and then the shouting would begin.

My friends never said that their mum and dad could be like mine. I felt so alone and never told anyone how horrible it could be and what happened.

It was only after my gran noticed that something was wrong I spoke about what it was like. She was shocked and upset. Then everyone came to my house and said to mum she had to get help. I didn’t understand what was happening. My gran and dad tried to explain things to me. Mum said that there wasn’t anything wrong. Then the shouting started again and I went and hid in my room.

One night mum went out with friends, I think, and she never came home. The next day I was worried. Dad explained she was ok but staying with gran. I was relieved she was ok but sad she was away. I worried “What was going to happen to me?” I stayed with dad though. He made sure I was OK.

Even though mum was at grans, I saw her nearly every day. It was like before, mum was always happy. She explained that she was trying to stop drinking and that made me feel happy.

She went to stay in a big house with lots of people like her who wanted to stop drinking. I went to see her with dad and sometimes gran. My mum looked much better and told me she was learning new things and wanted to change. For her, that meant no more drinking. I missed not seeing her everyday but everything was going to get better I hoped. I wanted to believe her.

When mum left the big house she didn’t come home. She went to stay with gran again. Then I got to see her nearly every day which I loved. I stayed at grans and we would all watch TV together. I got to choose any food I liked. Mum and I liked having pizza the best.  Dad would come and get me and he didn’t argue with mum. This made us all happy.

Mum hasn’t drank for a long time now. She told me it is very hard. I have just got to believe that she won’t again.

Nicky

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

+- 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

Hide this page