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I Am A Child Of An Alcoholic

By Neena Tailor

woman drinking

According to National Association for Children of Addiction (NACoA) 1 in 5 children are living with a parent that has a problem with alcohol.

If you are a parent that is concerned about your relationship with alcohol, or you are concerned about your parents’ alcohol use and want to how our programme can help them to stop and stay stopped then call us now on 0208 191 8920 or email us directly here 

Alternatively, you can chat to us via our Live Chat between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday here

Here is Neena's story of what it was like to be a child of parents that drink.

man drinking

Neena's Story

Watching my mother and father drink night after night, month after month and year after year in my childhood and adolescence can only be described as a never-ending nightmare. I just could not understand how a glass of a liquid substance could cause such pain and misery in my life.  I was left constantly confused and lost as to what to do, how to be, when to act and why this was happening. I had so many feelings and thoughts but had no way of expressing them safely.

I was born and raised in an Indian community with traditional values and expectations, the middle child of three.  My paternal grandfather was a businessman making and selling men’s clothing, a respected elder and an active member in the community. He mastered the English language with some authority having had limited education and enjoyed the colonial delights of a pipe, hat, braces and whisky.   My grandmother, in contrast, did not speak English, was unassuming, quiet in nature, creatively talented with her cooking and sewing skills, dedicated to her chosen religion and very hard working. My father was the eldest son but he wasn’t as confident as my grandfather and therefore remained in his shadow.  He did achieve some level of education but joined my grandfather’s business to become one of the best tailors I know. He was quiet in nature, shy, introverted and a very good and honest person.   My father had an arranged marriage with my mother who came from Uganda.  She was a tall, slender and beautiful looking woman.  She radiated confidence, an extrovert and had a delightful sense of humour.  She was highly sensitive, caring and personable. 

My grandparents and parents lived together under one roof.  It was the norm for Indian families in those days and still is.  Alcohol consumption in my father’s household for men was a norm and somehow having a daily tipple was accepted and encouraged.  Any opportunity to get the bottles on the table was taken up.  It wasn’t unusual to see my grandfather and father have a few shots of whisky or brandy daily or have crates of beer stocked for the weekend or guests.  The women sometimes may have had a shot or even a shandy which is mix of beer and lemonade but it was not common place. 

My mother, as far as I understand, did not drink alcohol before she married. Post marriage things changed.  My mother moved from Uganda to Zimbabwe. She was encouraged to have a drink now and again for stress perhaps, I am not sure.  Without going into too much more history, my mother became deeply unhappy in her life and eventually the drink now and again became a drink every night and forever more.  She was visibly addicted and no evening was ever the same.  My father was able to tolerate the drink but over time he started to drink more and more and I guess was also very unhappy.  Their marriage was broken but the alcohol issue, especially for my mum, was very much alive and well.  It wasn’t discussed and as a family we tried our utmost to hide it from everyone.  Shame and guilt was omnipresent.

There was no help available that I knew about.  As a child, I had nowhere to go.  I couldn’t discuss this with my friends or extended family or even my siblings.  I was too ashamed.   Therapy wasn’t even an option.  I didn’t know it was a thing.  The only thing I did know existed was AA and Al Anon meetings because I would see it as a scene in a movie where someone would say out loud, My name is….and I am an alcoholic. 

When I reached my late teens, I decided to try and find an Al Anon meeting. I felt out of my comfort zone even contemplating the idea.   I remember the day clearly, driving through a new suburb where the avenues were lined with jacaranda trees on a warm and sunny late evening in Africa.  Feeling totally anxious and afraid, I walked through the door, saw loads of white people sitting in a circle looking up at me. Almost without hesitation, I made my apologies, turned around and walked straight out and never went back again. I did not belong there.  I did not belong anywhere. 

Moving on and some years later, my mother died of cirrhosis of the liver in 2000 and six years later my father died of chest cancer.  I left Zimbabwe in 1992 for the UK where I married and had two wonderful children. Once I left, I thought my problems were over and I had escaped the toxic cinders of the drink and the bottle but it was short lived.  The trauma I experienced haunted my new life with anxiety and co-dependency.   My marriage and relationships suffered because I never really dealt with my trauma, I failed to parent my children in a healthy way. 

Help Me Stop and its initial idea came into my life when I was asked to do some finance work by Tim Smith, the CEO and founder of Help Me Stop in 2016.  Listening to Tim’s experiences and passion for this project, made me feel safe to share a little of how close to home this project was.  It was Tim who then encouraged me to join a local Al Anon meeting even though my parents were no longer alive.  I went to a meeting on a cold winters evening with some trepidation. It was quite an emotional moment as I remembered the day all those years ago when I felt I did not belong and now I was there and there was no turning back. I started to understand the 12 steps and how they work. I joined the National Association of Children of Alcoholics and I also attended some AA meetings as a guest to hear first-hand from alcoholics how they battle with this illness daily and started to empathise with my own parents.  I started to understand why they struggled.  I started to forgive them.

Addiction to alcohol is an illness but its impact on children and family can be felt for generations.  In my experience getting professional help as an alcoholic or family member as soon as possible is the only way to recover, heal and break the cycle of trauma.  I feel my life has come full circle with Help Me Stop. I was a child who had no idea where to get help.  I am now part of an organisation that gives people an accessible and real choice of recovery.  If this was around all those years ago and it wasn’t so taboo, my parents may still be here today and we could have healed together.

The road to recovery for me is going to be a never ending one.   My children are the ultimate victims of the generational trauma and I am going to do all I can make it right.  They are my heroes. They have taught me what love is, given me purpose, challenged my beliefs and unhealthy behaviour patterns.  If I am blessed with a future generation, then I want to be sure the trauma and pain stop well before they get here.

My name is Neena I am a child of an alcoholic.

If you are a parent that is concerned about your relationship with drugs or alcohol, or you are concerned about your parents’ alcohol or drug use and want to how our programme can help them to stop and stay stopped then call us now on 0208 191 8920 or email us directly here

Alternatively, you can chat to us via our Live Chat between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday here

Help Me Stop’s intensive non-residential outpatient Dayhab drug and alcohol treatment programme is an effective psychological solution that also offers 3 months of free accessible aftercare and family support options. Treatment is delivered face to face either in the mornings or afternoons over 6 weeks.

For those adults can’t get to our centre in West London we offer a 6-week morning or evening online outpatient drug and alcohol treatment programme, run by the same therapists that provide the face-to-face programme.

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