A creative outlet for children affected by alcohol and drugs

Humankind | October 2019 | 8 minutes

Policy proposal: Develop a funded national programme of advice, guidance and support for those concerned about alcohol, including families, carers, and children affected by parental alcohol use.

The Alcohol Charter, produced jointly by the Drugs, Alcohol & Justice Cross-Party Parliamentary Group and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm, sets out effective and workable policies to reduce the damage to society caused by alcohol misuse. The proposal above is one of 16 evidence-based policy proposals laid out in the Charter.

Humankind is one of more than 30 organisations that endorse the Alcohol Charter. Here, they outline their reasons for supporting this proposal.

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Drinkers themselves are not the only people affected by alcohol use, and we also work with those around them, such as their families. In particular, children affected by parental alcohol use are a vulnerable group which is often overlooked. That’s why we welcome the Alcohol Charter’s call to introduce a funded national programme which would support them.

According to Public Health England, there are 189,119 children living with an alcohol-dependent adult in England, and between 14,390 and 32,887 living with two. In Scotland, 51,000 children live with an alcohol-dependent parent or carer. The consequences of this pattern are well documented, with 61% of care applications in England involving alcohol or substance misuse, and parental alcohol use being among the most common reasons behind calls to Childline.

While family members are heavily affected by an individual’s alcohol use, they can also be a valuable element in the process of treating alcohol dependence. One of the ways Humankind has worked with the family members of dependent drinkers is through our Better Lives Family Service, which seeks to help tackle this issue by offering non-judgemental support to families in Islington with children under 18. We run monthly workshops where children and parents can come together to learn about the effects of alcohol and drug use, play games, and find creative outlets.

While family members are heavily affected by an individual’s alcohol use, they can also be a valuable element in the process of treating alcohol dependence.

One such outlet which our service users have access to is the Family Voices writing competition, run by Adfam, where children are able to write down and share their personal stories. This not only provides the children with some catharsis and creative expression, but once published can also be of great value to others who find themselves in a similar situation. Here you can read one of the moving and inspiring stories produced as part of this competition in previous years: ‘To Whoever This May Touch’.

‘To Whoever This May Touch’, by Josephine*, aged 15:

You are not alone, I know it’s hard to believe sometimes but it’s true. Many other people are going through what you are too, more than you think, although you may not necessarily see them or know them. Even I was. Having a family member that is affected by alcohol use really weighed down on me. When I was younger, I didn’t understand what was going on, it especially hurt as I felt so powerless and small; like I didn’t have a voice. This was because I could tell that she was normally so dismal before the drinking started again each day and I yearned to try and make her happier so they could stop but the glass had more power over her than me.

The drinking continued but my knowledge grew, I started noticing that it was other problems that led to her drinking and that these problems were also the cause of her sadness. The bottle was her crutch even though it made her slowly deteriorate in front of me, in terms of her personality and more. Her health problems started increasing and so did my worries at full speed, meaning I had to grow up extremely fast and take on the things and chores she wasn’t able to do. This resulted in me plastering a permanent smile on my face to mask my real feelings and hide what was going on at home ‘so that I wouldn’t reflect negativity or upset anyone’.

I thought this was it and it could only go bad from here, however, after one of her usual appointments she came home and told me that there was a place we could go that could stop her from drinking as she could tell how much of a negative impact it was having on me. Little did I know that this place could open so many doors for me and are currently getting her on the road to recovery.

There is one thing I have learnt from this experience and it is that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, you are not alone, I know it’s hard to believe sometimes but it’s true…

* Name changed.

Humankind creates services and support to meet people’s complex health and social needs, helping them to build healthier lives that have meaning and value for themselves and their families. One of the services they provide is wrap around alcohol recovery support for adults and young people.

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The policies laid out in the Alcohol Charter represent realistic, powerful ways to reduce the harm caused by alcohol. Help make them happen.

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