Alcohol Awareness Week blog
Taking Action on Addiction together this Alcohol Awareness Week
In October, we launched the ‘Taking Action on Addiction’ campaign. A national project aimed at tackling the stigma around addiction and showing that recovery is possible for everyone. Only a few weeks on from our inaugural event, the words of HRH Duchess of Cambridge from her keynote speech are still ringing around the country: ‘Addiction is not a choice’
This year’s Alcohol Awareness Week is shining a light on alcohol and our relationships. We know that too many relationships are harmed by alcohol and drugs. That is why we support Alcohol Change in spreading the word that ‘when our own or a loved one’s drinking starts to negatively affect our relationships…it can have a huge impact on our lives’.
Our recent poll showed that 64% of people in the UK know someone with an addiction. Yet 42% of those respondents said that they knew ‘little or nothing about’ addiction. Nacoa say that 1 in 5 children in the UK are affected by their parent’s drinking. One third of those children will have told no one about it.
Addiction can have far reaching consequences on families and friends. The children of parents affected by their parent’s addiction need help and support to recover from the harmful impacts. Too often they are left without anyone to turn to for help. We need to start a conversation and change this. We need to be able to talk about addiction with family, friends and colleagues – not just this Alcohol Awareness Week but every week. For so many people, relationships with loved ones have been suffered the negative impact of addiction.
Jen Payne, a Nacoa volunteer, felt powerless as a child living with her alcohol-dependent mother: ‘My mum hid bottles in draws, wash bins, handbags – anywhere she thought we wouldn’t find it. It felt like no one could see what I was seeing. I was told constantly over and over that I was “the problem”. I didn’t hate her, I resented her and I couldn’t help but confront her and fight with her. I wanted to “fix it”.’
Jen says about addressing her ongoing family situation as an adult, ‘I married the most incredible man, who constantly reassures me. Even now, my mum still has a huge impact on my life, mental health and wellbeing. Nacoa has also shown me that I can’t fix it, but I can start fixing me. I can lead a healthy, happier life and make the right choices. I’m not alone, I never have been – I just wish I had found them sooner.
Finding support with Nacoa changed Jennifer’s life, but help should have been there for her sooner. It is crucial we open our eyes to the problems children face and be prepared to provide help and support. Tragically the cycle of addiction can be repeated through the generations, the stigma around talking about it and lack of access to support damaged children’s futures. With care and support, children can be given the tools to understand the cases of a parent’s addiction and, rebuild relationships that can break this intergenerational cycle.
Leah was supported as a child by the Moving Parents and Children Together (M-PACT) programme, a child-centred programme that brings together whole families affected by addiction to communicate with each other and support building positive relationships that is run by the Forward Trust. She describes the impact of support by saying, ‘If I did not do M-PACT, I would not be how I am right now, to be honest. I would have bottled up all those emotions. I just would not be what I am today. [It] also really helped me with knowing that I was not alone, because there were loads of other kids there who were going through the same thing as me.’