Most of us want to help children, I don’t doubt this, but alcoholism has a way of pulling us in and preventing us from doing that. I’m not just talking about the alcoholic being prevented from helping their children due to alcoholism, I’m talking about all of us. Yep that’s right, us, society. I genuinely think we get this wrong every time, and the more people start to listen and learn from what the Nacoa community is saying the more chance we have of bringing about true change.
Let me try to explain what I’m getting at.
People hear a child of an alcoholics story, and they naturally know they don’t want this to happen. They want it to stop. I believe that. So with over 2.4 million children of alcoholics in the U.K alone, why does nearly every COA I speak to feel like there was no help for them? Why is a charity like Nacoa still, in relative terms, a small charity run souly on donations and by volunteers? Why doesn’t every professional who encounters children at least know that Nacoa exists?
Well, I think I have an idea why.
Let me try to keep this as simple as I can.
I’ve created a simple, made up story to try to show what I think society keeps doing, I’ve tried to make a relatively complex issue as simple as I can so stick with it…
Society turns up to a house to help a boy with the problem of his dads alcoholism. The boy tells society that his dad is an alcoholic and explains some of the things his dad does when he is drinking. Society listens and is moved and appalled by the stories it hears.
The boy continues telling society how it makes him feel, and the effect it has on his day-to-day life, and how he’s different from all the other children, and that his dads drinking is real bad but the ripples it creates in his life is what’s killing him. That his internal world is where the problem really lies because of just how insidious this whole alcoholism thing is. The boy explains that he can see his dad can’t stop, and he doesn’t know if it’s his fault or not.
But Society isn’t listening. Society stopped listening after the boys horrific stories of his dads drinking. Its nodding and pretending to listen, but it’s not. Society has heard enough and already thinks it knows best. Its busy thinking about ways to stop the dad drinking and end this hurt for the little boy.
Once the boy has finished talking, society promises to help the boy, and says it will be back tomorrow. The boy is happy, society says it has listened, so it must be coming back tomorrow so that the boy can do some more talking. Talking away from it all to someone who listened. It would help the boy make sense of it all and maybe have a chance in life!!
The next day society returns. The boy is excited to answer the door, but society wants to see the boys dad. It has a plan to help him quit drinking, which it believes will solve all the boys problems.
Society doesn’t speak to the boy that day, and gets busy helping the dad stop.
After a number of visits, none of which involved the boy, society has managed to stop the father drinking and is very happy with its self. It tells the boy of the success, and says it will be back soon to see how things are. Society leaves, patting itself on the back.
Some time later society visits the boys house to see how happy he is now that his dad has been saved and doesn’t drink.
The boy is struggling. His dad hasn’t drank, but there’s a horrible feeling in the house. People from the town are talking about how great it is his dad has stopped drinking and how lucky the boy is. He doesn’t feel lucky. He feels the same as he did when his dad drank. Maybe worse. He has no one to talk to. Society already proved it won’t listen. The boy will never make that mistake of getting vulnerable again. His world has got worse. Now he has all these terrible feelings and no reason to feel them. He’s suicidal.
Society sits him down, smiles, and asks just how much better the boys world is now society had helped his dad stop drinking. The boy doesn’t look up and tells the same lie he’s always had to tell.
“It’s fine, thank you“
I’ll let your imaginations create the rest of the story, but could you argue if that boy grew up angry, resentful and devoid of trust? All the while, society thinks it’s tried to help, and the boy is left labelled as troubled and as someone who doesn’t want to help himself.
Perhaps you think this sounds ridiculous? It doesn’t to me. OK it’s maybe oversimplified, but can we really say it’s not a true reflection in some way?
Of course the alcoholic needs help, and society should be offering that. But I am sorry to break this to you, alcoholism is here for a long time, and many alcoholics never recover or even stop drinking, and recovery and stopping drinking are 2 completely different things let me tell you.
Let’s start helping children now. We can’t always take the problem away but we can give the children the help they need and deserve to cope with, and manage their situation and have a chance at still thriving IN SPITE of a parents alcoholism.
Its time we listened to children of alcoholics PROPERLY and made the true life saving love and compassion that Nacoa already offers readily available to every child of an alcoholic, whether their parent(s) is still drinking or not.
Maybe then we would see true change, and who knows, maybe even prevent alcoholics of the future!
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And as always, if you have something to say as the child of an alcoholic, coaisathing would love to hear from you!
5 Comments Add yours
You make a bold statement here Josh. We have solutions for addressing external and obvious problems but for most ‘westernized’? cultures we’re lacking an emotional education. We don’t know how to recognize and attend to a-symptomatic trauma or feelings in general…what would you have society offer that little boy now? Great post.
Thanks! I think Nacoa are leading the way in the way we can support COA’s. The anonymous helpline is more important than most realise. People don’t value love and compassion enough and just how life changing it can be!
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You are leading the way with love!
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I relate to this so much in fact when I heard you guys talking about COAs on the radio recently and someone called in to discuss their own drinking and we’re clearly drunk I just thought it’s so typical! It actually made me angry. I thought who ever put the call through just heard alcoholic ( and I get that the caller was probably a COA himself) But what about his kids now – the focus was all on him and how brave he had been. It annoyed me because his kids probably have to be more than brave on a daily basis without any recognition or thanks. I hope they get the help they need. It’s a good piece about society and how still people don’t get why we ( the kids) just always say we ‘re fine.
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