Addiction – A family illness and why I am completing 3 running endurance challenges
Over the course of 3 months in 2024 I will be taking on 3 running endurance challenges, all with the goal of raising as much awareness and funds as possible for a charity that means a huge amount to me.
- Starting on 3rd May 2024 – The 4x4x48 challenge – Running 4 miles, every 4 hours, for 48 hours.
- Starting on 1st June 2024 – The Suffolk Backyard Ultra – Completing a 4.167-mile loop on the hour, every hour, for as long as possible.
- Starting on 13th July 2024 – Race To The Stones – 100km non-stop route starting in Lewknor (Oxfordshire) and finishing in Avebury (Wiltshire).
The question I have been asked the most when discussing these upcoming challenges with friends, family and colleagues is why?
The answer – There are a few reasons. But the most important one is to raise awareness and funds for Nacoa, The National Association for Children of Alcoholics.
My Mum was an alcoholic. In July 2017 she died, aged 47, as a result of her alcohol addiction. But addiction doesn’t just affect the addict. Addiction is a family illness. One person may use, but the whole family suffers.
My Mum lost everything as a result of her alcohol addiction. She lost her job. She lost her career. She lost custody of her children. She lost friends and family. She was sectioned under The Mental Health Act. She attempted suicide. And ultimately she died as a result of alcohol.
I felt helpless
It’s fair to say my Mum and I had a turbulent relationship at times. Growing up with an alcoholic parent, I saw first-hand the pure chaos and destruction that results from alcoholism.
At times I felt helpless. I felt shame, stigma, scared and I felt pressure to hide some terrible experiences from my wider family support unit to protect my Mum. Even today, I really struggle to talk about my experiences and feelings due to fear of judgement.
Because my Mum was a wonderful, kind and amazing person. When she was sober.
The overriding emotion I’ve been reflecting on over the past 7 years since her death has been guilt.
Guilt that if I had called her mental health team earlier to raise my concerns she might still be alive today.
Guilt that I ignored her last few attempts to get back in contact with me, knowing that she was still drinking.
Guilt that I wasn’t enough to make her want to continue fighting to overcome her alcoholism.
Guilt about the sense of inevitability around her death, and even a slight sense of relief when that chapter of life came to a close.
Guilt that by not talking openly about my feelings and hiding these away for the past 7 years, I’ve not only contributed to the stigma that millions of other people face with loved ones with alcohol problems, but that maybe I’m forgetting the 21 years of memories I do have with her, albeit some good and some bad.
Children of alcoholics and the family illness
It is estimated that 1 in 5 people are affected by a parents drinking. Deaths as a result of alcohol have increased 69% in the UK between 2001 and 2021. There is no UK government funding for children affected by a parents drinking. Children of alcoholics are six times as likely to witness domestic violence, five times as likely to develop an eating problem, three times as likely to consider suicide, twice as likely to experience difficulties at school, twice as likely to develop alcoholism or addiction and twice as likely to be in trouble with the police.
Why am I completing these 3 running challenges?
More has to be done. Nacoa is a national charity that provides free, confidential information, advice and support for everyone affected by a parent’s drinking. I wish I had known about their helpline and services when I was growing up, and I want to help spread the word about the amazing work they are doing so as many people can benefit as possible.
So, we get back to the question of why – Why am I completing these 3 running challenges?
- I’m hoping that by opening up about my own experiences, however briefly, it will trigger some wider conversations within my own family and friends about my Mum, my experiences of growing up around an alcoholic parent, and how this could be improved for other people in similar situations. I now feel ready to help break the stigma that surrounds alcoholism.
- Running is amazing. It has always given me a sense of control and helped me build my self-esteem. It makes me a more resilient person. It helps me process emotions, reflect on experiences, problem solve and overcome challenges in my daily life. Running has helped me grow and develop and it feels like an appropriate way to really push myself whilst supporting a very important cause.
- And most importantly, to raise as much awareness and money as possible for Nacoa, a charity that helps support anyone affected by a parents drinking. I would love to help as many young people as possible feel supported through what can feel like helpless and terrifying situations. No one should have to deal with that alone.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story, and thank you in advance for any donations received, I really do appreciate it 🙂.
Find Sarah’s JustGiving page here.
To read more experience stories like this one, go to Support & Advice.