Breaking the silence from childhood into adulthood
The theme for COA week is “Breaking the Silence”. This got me thinking what does this mean to me as the child of an alcoholic? How have I done this?
Alcoholism has been and sadly still seems to be a taboo subject. Over the years, there have been times when I have broken the silence and times when I have stayed silent.
I stayed silent out of fear, embarrassment, and shame. Afraid of the responses from others, which are often judgemental or pitying.
I don’t want my life experiences or my Mum to be met with judgement, and I don’t want to be met with pity. My life experiences have made me who I am, and a big part of who I am is a child of an alcoholic.
I’m not ashamed of the things that have happened despite how awkward and uncomfortable it can make other people feel to hear about and despite how challenging it has been to work through.
Ten years old, exhausted and angry.
I remember first breaking the silence as a child. At ten years old, I made a phone call to my Aunty saying my Mum was drunk again, knowing full well this meant that we would be removed from Mum’s care.
We had been taken home that day with a social worker on the understanding that Mum was not to drink and that if she did, we would no longer be able to live with her.
This still baffles me, and I like to think this wouldn’t happen today with services having a better understanding of what alcoholism is. They were putting my brother and I in an unsafe environment and were setting my Mum up to fail.
However, I was fed up with being disappointed and let down, fed up feeling unsafe and exhausted with having to take care of my own mother and little brother when she should have been taking care of us.
I broke the silence when I confronted my Mum with my anger after we moved in with Dad, not wanting to spend as much time with her. Questioning how she could “choose” drink over her children, not knowing it would kill her only four months later.
I couldn’t find the words to say as I stood at her hospital bedside in her final hours. Unsure of what to say to someone that couldn’t hear me other than “I love you”, which I suppose is all I really needed to say.
I broke the silence the next day when I broke down in the middle of a supermarket, sobbing for the Mum I had and the Mum I never had, heartbroken that she was gone and that she was never really there.
Raising awareness for Nacoa.
Over the years, I have been in therapy to talk and work through those traumatic experiences. I can now talk openly with my family and friends. I am so lucky to have this and know not everyone does.
As an adult child of an alcoholic, I feel it is important for us to talk, to share our experiences and support each other. I share my experiences, although at times it can feel painful, not for attention, but to raise awareness of something that affects 1 in 5 children in the UK. 1 in 5 children that themselves might be too afraid to talk and living in silence. As a COA and as a teacher working with vulnerable children, I feel this is so important.
Since finding Nacoa and starting my volunteering in 2022, I have had countless people reach out to me to say they have had similar experiences and that me sharing mine has helped them to acknowledge it and talk about it.
I remember doing a Nacoa talk in school, explaining about our work and how to get support, while one child was crying clearly knowing this all too well.
I won’t stay silent anymore, knowing I can help others and I will keep banging the drum for Nacoa.
Read more personal experience stories by visiting our Support & Advice pages.