MP Liam Byrne bravely highlighted this week the experience of children of alcoholics in his article, My dad spent 18 years trying to drink himself to death. Interestingly he remembered the periods when his father was sober as worse than when he was drunk because of the fear. He couldn’t relax wondering when his father would change. The unpredictability can make insecurity almost unbearable.
As an adult that fear can pervade when things are going seemingly well; a hangover from that sense of looming disillusionment and painful disappointment. Research shows that children of alcoholics are three times more likely to turn to alcohol themselves. It’s hard to know how much of that is learnt behaviour or a way of coping with the loneliness and insecurity of not having a reliable caregiver. Liam also talks of needing to find a way to understand and love his father despite his failures. Those feelings of love and fear mixed with anger can be difficult to come to terms with.
Bravely tackling the stigma and the shame attached to these issues is the first step to being able to move on and address the past, however subtly it manifests itself in the present.