Category Archives: Sober inspiration

Friday Sober Inspiration: Heads Together + Mad World podcast

So this caught my eye over the Easter week-end and struck a cord in so many ways.  The London Marathon is this week-end – Sunday 23rd April and this is the Virgin Money London Marathon chosen charity which is also supported by Prince William & Catherine and Prince Harry.

Here’s what their website says:

ABOUT HEADS TOGETHER

Through our work with young people, emergency response, homeless charities, and with veterans, we have seen time and time again that unresolved mental health problems lie at the heart of some of our greatest social challenges.

Too often, people feel afraid to admit that they are struggling with their mental health. This fear of prejudice and judgement stops people from getting help and can destroy families and end lives. Heads Together wants to help people feel much more comfortable with their everyday mental well-being and have the practical tools to support their friends and family.

The Heads Together campaign will build on the great work being done by our partner charities so that prejudice and fear no longer stand in the way of people getting the help they need.

Being the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon Charity of the Year is the perfect springboard for the Heads Together campaign. We cannot wait to see hundreds of runners hitting the streets of London this April to end the stigma and change the conversation on mental health once and for all.

Bryony Gordon and The Telegraph have supported them by launching a podcast series discussing mental health with high profile UK figures – the first interview being with Prince Harry himself.  Their website features other well known personalities such as Rio Ferdinand and Lady Gaga.

This is The Telegraph’s brief:

Bryony Gordon’s Mad World is a new ten episode podcast brought to you by The Telegraph. Each week, Bryony will talk to a different guest about how their mental health has been affected by events in their own lives and find out why feeling weird is the most normal thing in the world.

You can listen to Bryony’s podcast interviews and the first one with Prince Harry is well worth your time:

Bryony Gordon’s Mad World

And the impact of this was immediate:

Schoolchildren will get access to NHS mental health workers in wake of Prince Harry’s ‘brave’ intervention

Alcohol dependency is a mental health issue and Prince Harry mentions it specifically in his interview so this is an important new charity both for those suffering because of the devastation of alcohol on them directly and the impact on those around them including children.  The destigmatization and normalisation of the conversation around mental health, and particularly the bolstering of mental health support for children and adolescents, is long overdue and I’m so pleased the Royal Family have got behind the cause and changed the direction of effect!

Friday Sober Inspiration: The Four Essential Processes of Grieving

So I’ve spoken about grief and grieving before in this post and this was a great podcast about the subject too.

As I’ve continued to read Pete Walker The Tao of Fully Feeling he has described his four essential processes of grieving .  So I’m going to add to my knowledge from Kubler-Ross and include it here as a reference for you too.

He argues that “grieving is the key process for reconnecting with our repressed emotional intelligence.  Grieving reconnects us with our full complement of feelings.  Criticism of emotional expression is especially damaging when it is expressed towards expressions of emotional pain as it forces our all-important capacity for healthy grief into developmental arrest.”

Pete Walker maintains that grieving is not just crying but for it to be fully effective it must include the processes of “angering”, verbal ventilation, and feeling.  He says the active resolution comes from crying, “angering” and talking about it whereas the passive resolution comes from simply focusing on and feeling what is stored somatically in our bodies.

I’ll cover a short summary of each here but again go read the book if you want to understand fully (although here is a link to a pdf on grief and complex PTSD written by Pete).

  • Crying is the healing release of pain through tears.  Unashamed crying creates deep, bodily-based feelings of peace and relaxation as tears are the body’s most powerful way of releasing emotional tension.  He believes that crying heals ‘catastrophising‘ and ‘drasticizing’ which are forms of toxic shame that taint our thought processes with unfounded perceptions of dread and doom.  What Brene Brown calls ‘foreboding joy‘.  Crying also allows for positive nostalgia or ‘euphoric recall’.
  • Angering is the process of actively expressing anger in a a safe and healthy way and is as essential to effective grieving as crying.  He believes we can break the ‘repression-accumulation-explosion-guilt-repression’ cycle by befriending our anger and refusing to guiltily squash it when it arises.  He says we can use a range of approaches to releasing anger to allow joy such as: thinking to writing to speaking to shouting to shadowboxing to pounding on pillows to finally breaking expendable objects.  He maintains when we finally end our repression of our anger we often feel exuberant relief and that it also builds confidence and self-assertiveness.
  • Verbal ventilation is when language is charged with feeling and is the release of pain through talking or writing about it.  This is where I have found this blog and therapy the most valuable in moving through my own grief.  It is also therapeutic he says to record jokes, anecdotes, and incidents that make you laugh as these can serve as heartening reminders of the joys of life.  Swearing is a powerful form of  verbal ventilating particularly if you chose words judiciously and sparingly.  He also talks about fully emoting which is when we cry, rage and verbally ventilate all at the same time!
  • Feeling is the process of grieving that focuses on pain with the intention of relaxing any resistance to it, so that it may pass through and out of the body.  I often think of funeral wakes when I think of this as this is where I would use alcohol to not feel the pain and sadness that the loss had triggered.  Some of my most spectacular relapses when I was moderating were after funerals where I would hold it together at the event and then drown myself in alcohol on getting home.  Feeling involves the direction of attention to the internal experiences in the body below the realm of thinking.  Feeling experiences are often accompanied by physical sensations in the heart area or “guts”.  No wonder I struggled with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) for so much of my adult life.  Feeling is a kinesthetic rather than a cognitive experience.  It’s why I’ve avoided yoga for so long – as I know that this is where I finally need to release the somatic feeling states that I’ve been resisting facing in recovery.  After all this therapy I know they are there and I’ve been scared to confront them …..

He finishes by saying that a balanced approach to grieving includes an openness to feeling emotions as well as emoting feelings.  He says “if we do not accept and value both processes, we will not become fully feeling human beings”.

Here’s to moving on to the next and final stage of learning to fully feel – connecting totally the mind and body experience where feeling becomes a spiritual experience.  He says “perhaps the greatest freedom attainable is that which is born out of a consistent willingness to stay lovingly and acceptingly present to whatever unfolds inside oneself.”

I saw this film again recently and this clip felt so apt:

Sober Inspiration: The four key dynamics of the emotional nature

So continuing on from last week’s post about the Tao of Fully Feeling I’m going to continue inspiring you with Pete Walker’s insights and knowledge on emotions.  He talks about the four key dynamics of the emotional nature which was all completely new to me but yet made perfect sense!

These are: wholism, polarity, ambivalence, and flow.  I’ll do a brief synopsis of his interpretation but I really recommend you go read the whole book.

  1. Wholism: This refers to the fact that the emotional nature cannot be broken down into individual, separate feelings existing independently from one another.  How the psyche cannot be filled with pleasant emotions only while the negative ones are left behind.  As he so beautifully puts it: “Individuals who only identify with ‘positive’ feelings often become bland, deadened and dissociated in a feeling-less desert, a true no-man’s land.  In the psychic desert of disavowed emotion, the smouldering heat of repressed anger evaporates our feelings of love and affection, leaving us emotionally dehydrated.  Rejecting emotions because they are sometimes unpleasant is like cutting off body parts because they are not pretty
  2. Polarity: This is about emotional polars – opposite but complementary halves.  There are graded bands of emotional intensity that stretch between each pair of emotional opposites.  Our emotional experience shifts from one pole to another along a continuum of feeling, and there are many different degrees of feeling on each particular emotional continuum.  We are all subject to both gradual and sudden oscillations between the emotional extremes of the various feeling continua.  As he says: “When we refuse to feel the full intensity of our emotions, we become depressed and stuck in the ‘safe’ and dreary midland plains of the emotional continua.  Apathy is a common result of throwing out the baby of emotional vitality with the bath water of unaccepted feelings“.  He argues that understanding polarity helps us deal with normal loneliness as a certain amount of loneliness is absolutely intrinsic to the human condition.
  3.  Ambivalence: These ‘mixed feelings’ occurs when we entertain opposing emotional experiences simultaneously and he feels this is possibly the most misunderstood and vilified of all the complex emotional experiences.  Ambivalence is also the state of rapidly vacillating between contradictory feelings.  Ambivalence is a normal and healthy response but because it is culturally incomprehensible most  of us repress the unpreferred half of the ambivalence, and only experience it as anxiety.  He argues that intolerance of ambivalence destroys relationships through a process known as splitting.  Ambivalence and splitting are opposite responses to emotional polarity.  A less extreme form of splitting is ambivalating – a relatively rapid wavering back and forth between opposing emotional experiences.  When we welcome our normal ambivalence we achieve a deeper self-understanding and make better decisions about complex life issues.
  4. Flow: The ever-shifting, unpredictable rise and fall of emotions.  An appreciation of flow, the fluid quality of the emotional nature, allows us to respond to our feelings in healthy ways.  He states: “Avoidance of unwanted emotions also commonly leaves us trapped in chronic, low grade manifestations of them.  Many long-enduring moods are caused by repressed emotions that slowly and biliously leak into consciousness.  When underlying emotions are offered no effective expression and release, the moods they create contaminate and dominate awareness for inordinately long periods of time.  Moodiness is a very slow and inefficient way of processing feelings.

He write so much more detail about each element that I can’t even begin to encapsulate here and closes the chapter with “A wonderful grace of self-renewal comes from immersion in the invigorating waters of fully and flexibly feeling.”

I couldn’t agree more! 🙂

Sober Inspiration: The Tao of Fully Feeling

So I’m reading a new book that I heard talked about recently by Pete Walker called The Tao of Fully Feeling.  I’m only a few pages in but text is already jumping out at me and screaming to be shared!

Here’s the opening:

Feelings and emotions are energetic states that do not magically dissipate when they are ignored.  When we do not attend to our feelings, they accumulate inside us and create a mounting anxiety that we commonly dismiss as stress.

So, like so many of us, I believed that all those years of pouring wine down my neck to manage ‘stress’ was helpful.  In reality I was busy self-medicating away my feelings and emotions.

I felt that emotions were something to be corralled, minimised, denied even.  In my household growing up we ‘didn’t do’ emotions as we were often reminded.  I now understand that we weren’t allowed to do negative emotions.  I learned very early on to keep my head down, my mouth shut and a smile on my face.  Look happy even if you were dying inside.  No wonder I ended up emotionally constipated and believing that drinking allowed me to express my emotions fully because it was only in that dis-inhibited state that I actually heard them as they roared from their cage inside.  “A drunk mind speaks a sober heart” right?  A saying often attributed to French Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jaques Rousseau which we know not to be true.

Pete goes on:

We can learn to be emotional in benign ways.  We can have our emotions without holding onto them.  We can soften and relax into our feelings without exiling or enshrining them.  We can let our feelings pass through us when they have fully served their function.  When we learn to experience our feelings directly, we eventually discover that surrendering to them is by far the most efficient – and, in the long run, least painful – way of responding to them.  We realise first-hand that life does not have to be pain-free to be fully enjoyed.  Life is inordinately more painful than necessary when we hate, shame, and abandon ourselves for not feeling ‘good.’

As we become more emotionally whole, our health and vitality naturally improve.  When we disburden ourselves of old unresolved trauma, energy wasted holding the past at bay becomes available for celebrating daily life.  As we learn to befriend our emotions, we suffer less and less from self-damaging flights from feelings.  We gracefully accept the reality that our emotional nature, like the weather, often changes unpredictably with a variety of pleasant and unpleasant conditions.  We realize that a positive feeling cannot be induced to persist any more than the sun can be forced to continuously shine.

And this reflects my experience over the last 3 1/2 years.  Emotions are no longer something to be scared of but welcomed and embraced, whether happy, sad or mad.  My emotional repertoire has grown incredibly as I have allowed my caged and numbed heart to feel what my head was taught to deny for so long.

Welcome to emotional recovery that forms the biggest part of recovery from addiction.  I think I’m going to really enjoy this book 🙂

 

Sober Inspiration: Tiny Beautiful Things

Oh man.  I watched an interview with Cheryl Strayed recently and it compelled me to seek out her writing.  I’d already seen the film Wild and it had reduced me to tears so I knew what this women had to say would resonate – if you haven’t seen the film I’ve left the trailer below as encouragement 😉 Same age, difficult experiences, truth teller – my kind of woman!   And so I ordered Tiny Beautiful Things from the library and have not been disappointed.  As Amazon writes: ‘This bestselling book from the author of Wild collects the best of The Rumpus’s Dear Sugar advice columns plus never-before-published pieces. Rich with humor, insight, compassion—and absolute honesty—this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.’

Here’s just a few of her gems:

There’s a saying about drug addicts that they stop maturing emotionally at the age they start using, and I’ve known enough addicts to believe this to be true enough.”

The healing power of even the most microscopic exchange with someone who knows in a flash precisely what you’re talking about because she experienced that thing too cannot be overestimated….. Find online communities where you can have conversations with people during which you don’t have to pretend a thing….. This is how you get unstuck.  You reach….. She had to want it more than she’d wanted anything.  She had to grab like a drowning girl for every good thing that came her way and swim like fuck away from every bad thing.  She had to count the years and let them roll by, to grow up and then run as fast as she could in the direction of her best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by her own desire to heal.

Acceptance has everything to do with simplicity, with sitting in the ordinary place, with bearing witness to the plain facts of our life, with not just starting at the essential, but ending up there.  Acceptance asks only that you embrace what’s true.  Allow your acceptance to be a transformative experience.  You do that by simply looking it square in the face and then moving on.  You don’t have to move fast or far.  You can go just an inch.  You can mark your progress breath by breathI have breathed my way through so many people who I felt wronged by; through so many situations I couldn’t change.  Sometimes while doing this I have breathed in acceptance and breathed out love.  Sometimes I’ve breathed in gratitude and out forgiveness.  Sometimes I haven’t been able to muster anything beyond the breath itself, my mind forced blank with nothing but the desire to be free of sorrow and rage.

Self-pity is a dead-end road.  You make the choice to drive down it.  It’s up to you to decide to stay parked there or to turn around and drive out.”

When bad things happen, often the only way back to wholeness is to take it all apart.”

I’ll leave you with this:

What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done? What if I’d actually wanted to fuck every one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn’t have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?
Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Friday Sober Jukebox – Ghosts in the Machine

ghosts-in-the-machineSo this feels like a timeless sober jukebox tune for a timeless post.  I’m actually writing this at the end of October 2016 because I have been struggling with some recurring demons – my ghosts in the machine as it were.

Coming from the family experience that I do I struggle with fear and anxiety pretty regularly and it settles for long periods of time and then flairs up again.  Invariably I think that I have more power than I do and that everything is my fault, everything will fall apart and it will all be my fault.  I listened to a Yoga Church podcast last night called ‘Step Out of Your Past and Into Your Now’ that got me thinking about this again as I struggle to get on top of another bout of raging anxiety and fear.

shadow-dancerMeadow and Laura McKowen were talking about the words that define their past and for me those two words, fear and anxiety, express it pretty succinctly.  They discussed coming up with an image that portrayed this and pretty similarly to Laura the one I landed on was shadow dancer.  I spent my entire life dancing to the tune of others to dodge the shadows of fear and anxiety – either my own or those of others around me.  No wonder I ended up in the bottom of a bottle!

This image and these words must then be honoured and let go in a ritual of some kind of your making.  To me it felt like I had to sit with them and not dance myself away from them and my shadow side.  To be honest the trigger events have prompted a great deal of soul searching and somatic discomfort so I feel like this has been part of the process and hence why it is time to move on from being stuck in these feelings.

explorerHaving created the image and words that defined the past the task was then to create ones to replace these for the future.  My brain was pretty fried by this point (or I was simply disassociating under the stress of it!) but with the help of MrHOF we came up with calm and fearless as the words and the image was explorer.

This image seemed fitting in terms of my internal exploring of more positive feelings and our external plans for travel as a family too 😉

This is an ongoing process and I continue to have waves of emotional upheaval but like the waves of craving to drink they come less often and are less intense and I see them build to crescendo and break now so I’m making progress.  I recommend you give it a try what with the heralding of a new year not that long ago.

And now to one of my favourite albums 🙂

Friday Sober Inspiration: Stop Abandoning Yourself

chris-carr-stop-abandoning-yourselfThis is another excerpt from Sally Brampton’s ‘shoot the damn dog’ because her words are too powerful not to share.  This passage is about self-abandonment where she has a discussion with her therapist who explains that she needs to stop abandoning herself.

“‘Stop abandoning yourself’ a therapist, Elizabeth, once said to me.  ‘What?’ I didn’t understand.  She explained it like this: 

  • Every time you feel sad and swallow down your tears, you abandon yourself.
  • If someone hurts you and you pretend that you are fine, you abandon yourself.
  • Every time you don’t eat, or fail to feed yourself, you abandon yourself.
  • If you are tired, but refuse to rest, you abandon yourself.
  • If you drink too much and poison yourself with alcohol,  you abandon yourself.
  • If you don’t ask for what you need from someone with whom you are intimate, you abandon yourself.
  • If you don’t ask for help when you need it, you abandon yourself.

‘You suffer’ Elizabeth said, ‘from a failure of care’.  From who? ‘From yourself’, she says. And before that, from your parents.  They are the ones who should have taught you how to take care of yourself.

An inability to take care of oneself or soothe oneself is a sign of immaturity.  It is a failure of understanding, or of teaching.  If you are not taught as a child how to take care of yourself, you do not know as an adult.  The pattern becomes ingrained.  You are now an adult inhabited by a child.  The child pleads, the adult overrules.  You deny yourself proper care.

And so, as I understand it, I adjusted to constant loss as well as the inability to articulate any distress on, as one therapist described it, an ‘adapted’ level.  The term, ‘adapted child’ was originally used by Eric Berne, the father of Transactional Analysis in the 1950’s.  Essentially it means the compliant, orderly side of us that hides anger, pleases others and generally acts the good boy or girl.  The more the behaviour is rewarded (and the more that any other behaviour is punished or, more usually, ignored) the more we adapt ourselves to keeping quiet and not making a fuss.  Put in another way, we adopt the position known in therapeutic terms as ‘abandonment or withdrawal’.

It is not, either, only the still, pale, silent child who has withdrawn.  Withdrawal takes place at a far deeper level and may be disguised by a bright, lively and social exterior – the sort of exterior that indicates compliance because compliance brings its own rewards.

A child who feels ignored or misunderstood turns that message against themselves.  It becomes, ‘I have no right to  feel the way that I do’.  And an analyst will, inevitably, take that to yet another level.  A child whose deeper feelings are constantly minimised, challenged or simply ignored, ends up believing, ‘I have no right to be the way that I am.  I reject myself’.”

We unconsciously reject ourselves so don’t even realise when we are then abandoning ourselves.  And booze is a really good salve for self-rejection.  No pain, no feeling right?  It also helps us play up to that bright, lively social exterior that hides our withdrawn inner self.  This could have been describing me.

Now you see why sober self-care is such a big deal out here in the recovery and sober blogging community.  Self care is the opposite of a failure of care.  Self-care is nurturing and restorative.  January is a good month to start non-alcohol focused self-care 🙂

Bonus post: Kindness advent calendar

acts-of-kindness-calendarI’ve had a really tough week and MrHOF very kindly took the HOFlets swimming this morning so I had a bit more extra time for soberverse browsing.  While I was dipping in and out of sober communities I spotted this December kindness advent calendar that someone on Soberistas had shared and I thought ‘how lovely’.

When we’re stuck in the ‘pity party for one’ space it can be all get a bit me me me – well that’s my perception anyway! 😉  Sometimes focusing on something or someone other than ourselves can be really emotionally beneficial and this is the perfect way to do that.  So I’m going to be consulting this every day from now until Xmas too as a way of warding off those potential ‘woe is me’ moments.

I also found this on the wonderful interwebs at 12 kinds of kindness:

A 12 step experiment designed to open our hearts, eyes and minds

So as December 1 asks on the Kindness Advent Calendar I have shared this with you to encourage others to practice kindness this month.  As the calendar says in a final quote from Lao Tzu:

Kindness in words creates confidence

Kindness in thinking creates profoundness

Kindness in giving creates love

Thank you to the kind Soberistas who shared this and therefore allowed me to share it too 🙂

Friday Sober Inspiration: Is there a formula for happiness? (Come As You Are)

TheHappinessEquationI read this article a few weeks ago because of the subject but also because one of the writers is an old friend of ours who we’ve lost contact with.  It was lovely to connect with her again through reading her words.  Plus the first contributor is also in recovery so it felt doubly apt to share it here.  It was in The Telegraph and looking at whether there is a formula for happiness.

A new publication, The Book of Joy, written by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has sparked debate over their theory that joy can be achieved by embracing “eight pillars of joy” – these being perspective, humility, humour, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and generosity.

Here, four writers discuss their own rules for happiness.

‘I found happiness when… I learnt to be unhappy’

Bryony Gordon, 36

A friend of mine in recovery once said to me that to be truly happy you had to hit rock bottom. I didn’t really understand what she meant.

Perhaps that’s because I was drunk or high at the time – it was many years ago, when I would self-medicate my obsessive compulsive disorder through alcohol and cocaine, and everyone wanted to be my friend ‘because you’re so fun!’.

I thought fun equated to being happy. I was wrong. It’s only after five or six breakdowns (I lose count) that I have realised that the real key to happiness is to embrace unhappiness – to allow yourself to go to that rock bottom my friend mentioned without trying to shoo it away.

You don’t take your unhappiness and try to water it down with five pints of strong continental lager. You don’t run away from your unhappiness towards the nearest drug dealer.

You sit with your unhappiness, no matter how much of an arsehole you think it is. You talk to your unhappiness, however creepy it makes you feel. Maybe only for an hour each week, with a therapist there, but you talk to it all the same.

Try to at least make an acquaintance of it. Get to know it. Attempt to work it out, so it doesn’t keep getting the better of you. I did this last year when I wrote a book about my mental health, Mad Girl.

It made me very unhappy. Depressed even. Sitting with your unhappiness day in, day out is difficult, like scratching away at a scab. 

Even when the book came out at the beginning of the summer, I had not learnt properly how to deal with it. How to cope with it. But being able to cope with unhappiness is, I realise, all that happiness really is. It is nothing more complicated than that.

To find yourself in a real bind, wondering how you might get out of it, and to realise that you do not have to. You can just ‘be’ and not beat yourself up for just being.

And one day you catch yourself, maybe when you are having lunch with your family or watching someone you love run free across a park, and you get a pang of a memory of the misery you once used to feel all the time. You don’t freeze. You don’t panic. You say, ‘Hello unhappiness, my old friend. How are you?’

Then you smile, and you get on with your day. 

The other contributors are:

  • Elizabeth Day
  • Kerry Potter 🙂
  • Laura Powell

I particularly liked the last box:

It’s okay to embrace your darker side

Learning to cope with emotional states such as anger, envy and boredom can boost happiness, according to Dr Tim Lomas, psychologist and author of a new book, The Positive Power of Negative Emotions. He argues that allowing yourself to feel darker sensations boosts those feelings of joy and elation and can spark them too.

“Often people will think that if they feel pessimistic then something must be wrong with them and they shouldn’t be feeling like that, but negative feelings can send a useful message,” he says. “For example, if you feel lazy it might be more pleasurable to stay at home, but if you go for a run, in the long-term your wellbeing will be better served.”

Dr Lomas says the same is true for more complex emotions. “Take guilt: it can be unwarranted, but it also tells us important information about ourselves, ways we have gone wrong in the past, and make us be better people in the future.” Accepting negative emotions can make you more appreciative of positive experiences.

And in that spirit only Nirvana fits 😉

 

Making a difference to the child of an alcoholic

nacoa-webWhile the battle about Minimum Unit Pricing rages on this for me is the most important progress being made.  As Liam Byrne promised the Government now wants to “put every child of an alcoholic drinker in contact with help that would make a difference.”

As the Institute of Alcohol Studies reported in September: the National Association for Children Of Alcoholics (NACOA) held their first All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Children of Alcoholics.

Who are NACOA?

Nacoa (The National Association for Children of Alcoholics) is a charity founded in 1990 to address the needs of children growing up in families where one or both parents suffer from alcoholism or a similar addictive problem. We provide a a free and confidential telephone and email helpline that is open to people of all ages, from all walks of life, to offer support and advice to anybody affected. Professionals or concerned others can contact us for information, advice and support. Soon, we will also host an online message board service, where users may record their thoughts and share experiences online. Nacoa aims to promote research into the problems children of alcohol dependent parents face and the prevention of alcoholism developing in this vulnerable group. It is exciting therefore to be connected with the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) as part of the government’s new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Children of Alcoholics, which wants to put every child of an alcoholic drinker in contact with help that would make a difference.

The problem?

As the IAS report Alcohol’s harm to others shows, prevalence of alcohol harm on others in the UK is high, and younger people are more likely to report having experienced a number of harms than older age groups. Research suggests that approximately 1 in 5 children in the UK are living in a household where one or both parents drink hazardously (Manning et al., 2009). Nacoa’s survey of over 4,000 respondents also found that those identifying as children of alcoholics, when compared to a control group, were six times more likely to witness domestic violence, five times more likely to develop an eating problem, three times more likely to consider suicide, and four times more likely to become dependent on alcohol themselves.

How do we help?

Since 1990, staff and volunteers have seen profound changes to the way that children of parents with alcohol problems are discussed in the public domain. As well as providing a national service, Nacoa aims to break down social taboos and afford young people the agency to address their problems rather than hiding away. While alcohol problems are often associated with deprivation, Nacoa also hears from young people suffering in families who, to the outside world, seem functional and successful. These individuals can feel stranded between maintaining the family secret and seeking help for themselves. In these cases, more often than not, young people fall between services and feel totally isolated. Nacoa’s helpline offers the opportunity to discuss problems confidentially with trained helpline counsellors and make plans for a better future. Our nationwide service delivers help to those suffering in silence to all corners of the UK. Through our campaigns with prominent patrons – such as Calum Best, Elle Macpherson and Liam Byrne MP – we aim to share stories, break down stigma, and let people know they are not alone.

NACOA and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Children of Alcoholics

From September 2016, Nacoa is hoping to use its breadth of experience to influence major policy change in the UK through the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Children of Alcoholics. Since the APPG’s inception, Nacoa has worked hard to encourage people in the public eye to take part as well as facilitating case studies for press and media to change how parental alcoholism is addressed at a national level.

The Group’s first meeting took place on the 15th September at the House of Commons, and the committee heard evidence from IAS, Nacoa patrons – Calum Best, Lauren Booth and Nacoa supporter Kim Woodburn – as well as other charities and research specialists. Nacoa’s Chief Executive and co-founder, Hilary Henriques MBE, presented to the committee and argued that government could and should do more to provide vital lifelines direct to children who may feel scared to speak out and compelled to ‘keep the family secret’. While locally provisioned adult treatment services and support are in need of reform and further assistance, services also need to be provided directly to young people in their own right. On the ITV Good Morning sofa, Liam Byrne said that he hopes this parliamentary attention ‘sends a message out to the 1 in 5 children who are children of alcoholics that says this is not your fault, you are not alone, and there is help available to you, like the brilliant Nacoa helpline.’

Call for evidence

To provide evidence to the APPG from your personal or professional experience, visit: liambyrne.co.uk/coa/. Together, we will be able to reach out to the 2.6 million children living in the UK with a parent who drinks too much and let them know that they are not alone and Nacoa is here to help. Our helpline number is 0800 358 3456 and email is helpline@nacoa.org.uk. You can find further information and research on our website nacoa.org.uk. For regular updates please follow @NacoaUK and like us on Facebook.

This was picked up by The Mirror newspaper:

The Mirror reported shock as 2.6m British children with alcoholic parents are left with ‘no hope and no help from authorities’, as MP Liam Byrne seeks to raise the profile of the harm to children from parental alcohol abuse | Alcohol Policy, UK

This truly swells my heart that the Govt is now seeking to make a difference for this silent and truly vulnerable group.  Now we need to extend that support to include offering restorative therapeutic relationships for these young people 😉

Edited to add: a new resource to add to my list is the blog coa is a thing and this is just one of their many brilliant blog posts:

7 myths about alcoholism, through a child of an alcoholic’s eyes.