Every day of COA Week we will be sharing one of the seven Cs. The seven Cs are a list of things that are important for children affected by their parents’ drinking to remember.
1. I didn’t cause it
You do not deserve it and it isn’t your fault. Alcoholism affects people of all ages and all walks of life. There can be many reasons why people drink. Children can often feel guilty that they have not been able to help their parent to stop drinking, feeling in some way that they have caused it. Please be assured that someone else’s drinking is not your fault; you did not cause it.
2. I can’t cure it
You had no control over the problem starting and you can’t make it stop. Only your parent can take responsibility for their behaviour; but you can look after you. Alcoholism is treatable – people can find help for their drink problems and go on to live healthy lives. For some people this is possible by not drinking alcohol at all. This is often referred to as ‘being in recovery’. Remember – you were never, and are never to blame for a parent’s drinking.
3. I can’t control it
Your parent’s behaviour is not your fault and you can’t control their drinking. When someone has an alcohol problem, they have lost control over their drinking. There is help available, but they have to accept they have a problem and want to stop. Look after yourself and avoid getting into an argument when they are drinking. You can feel better whether your parent continues to drink or not. Talk to someone you trust, like a friend, relative, teacher, colleague or Nacoa. Call the helpline on 0800 358 3456 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
4. I can take care of myself
Look after yourself. Sometimes when a family member has a drink problem, you can spend so much time worrying about them that you forget to look after your own needs. Find someone you can talk to who understands the problem. Talk to someone you trust about how you feel and what you are going through. This could be a family member, friend, counsellor etc. or an organisation like Nacoa. Talking about your feelings is not being disloyal to your family and can help you feel less alone.
5. I can communicate my feelings
Sometimes people feel that they are to blame for their parent’s drinking and feel guilty or ashamed. Understand that your feelings are normal. It’s OK to hate the problems that alcoholism cause, yet love the person who is drinking. Alcohol problems in the family can result in a lot of complicated, confusing and upsetting feelings. It is really important not to bottle things up. Talking and writing about your feelings can help you make sense of them.
Some people like to keep a daily journal, write poems, or draw and paint. Sometimes, people find it helpful to write a letter to their parent(s) explaining how they feel – a way to externalise experiences and emotional pain. Some people write with no intention of sending the letter.
Sharing your thoughts and feelings can help you to realise that it is not your fault and help you cope. Speak to someone you trust who understands the problem. You can contact Nacoa and speak to one of our trained volunteer helpline counsellors, who understand what it can be like when a parent has an alcohol problem. We will listen without judging and help you to find ways to cope.
6. I can make healthy choices
Remember you are important too. Living in a family where alcohol is a problem can be stressful so looking after you is vital. Find time for things that you enjoy. Sometimes worries can take over, and taking a break can help.
Get support: talk to a friend or relative you trust; contact the Nacoa helpline; or go along to a support group for family members affected by their loved one’s alcoholism. This can help you develop healthy coping mechanisms. You cannot change your parent’s behaviour but you can change how you feel about yourself.
Understanding how alcohol affects the person drinking and everyone else in the family can help you make some sense of the chaos that often exists when a parent has a drink problem. This can make it easier for you to cope with what’s going on. It is sometimes useful for the drinker to see the consequences of his/her behaviour so consider not covering up or clearing up for them. This will also be less exhausting for you; remember you are not responsible for how someone else behaves. There are people and places that can help – see Help and advice. There are also suggestions of books that you may find useful. You are not alone.
7. I can celebrate myself
Living with alcohol problems can be tough. The problems can take over and things that matter to you can get pushed aside. Remember that you are important. COA Week is about raising awareness of the problems faced by families to help everyone feel less alone. But it is also a chance to celebrate too. Try to think about what makes you happy and to remember things you’ve done that you feel proud of. You are special and worth celebrating.
You can also take a trip down the memory lane and share your favourite childhood memory on the Active – Sobriety, Friendship and Peace website.
Visit the Children of Alcoholics Week website to find out more about this international campaign celebrated every February.