The Nacoa helpline at Christmas


The festive season is, for many, a time of indulgence and excess, making life even more difficult for families blighted by alcohol problems. To combat this, the Nacoa helpline remains open throughout. Over this Christmas and New Year, 8 amazing volunteers contributed 152 hours responding to 289 calls.

Christmas and New Year is meant to be a time of celebration and togetherness, making it doubly sad for children living under the shadow of parental alcoholism. It can be a distressing time, reinforcing feelings of isolation and a sense of being different. On top of the pressure to have a ‘joyful day’, usual routines, such as school, stop so many feel trapped at home.

One young caller said “Christmas is something I’m meant to look forward to but this year I’ve not even had the slightest bit of excitement, if anything I’ve dreaded it.”

Hilary Henriques, Chief Executive of Nacoa, speaks of the anxiety and disappointment “Even though children hope it will be different, they know they will be cheated out of something good, something that other children will have. The daily drunken stupor, the yelling and fighting, is somehow supposed to be different at Christmas. But it isn’t – it’s worse.

The painful memories don’t just disappear with age. “Today, even as an adult, sadness surfaces when I think of those childhood Christmases – my father drunk on Christmas Eve, my mother quietly seething and the fear-filled dead silence of us children, waiting upstairs until we know if another row is going to wreck yet another Christmas morning.” Heather, Helpline caller.

Nacoa provides a lifeline to children and adults who often have no one else to turn to. “Finding someone who I felt comfortable taking to was the beginning of everything changing for me. Without your help and support, mum could have drunk herself to death and I could have spent the rest of my life watching her. Now I know there is help for mum and for me. Now I can get on with my own life.”