Events - Children of Alcoholics Week 12-18 February 2017

  1. Children of Alcoholics manifesto launch at Nacoa lecture

    Event Info

    Nacoa's annual David Stafford Memorial Lecture celebrates COA Week.

    House of Commons, London

    15 February

    The Right Hon. Liam Byrne MP joined us at this historic event to launch the Manifesto for Children of Alcoholics.

    Manifesto for children of alcoholics

    To raise awareness Liam Byrne and volunteer Josh spoke on BBC Breakfast.

    Priority for Nacoa events is given to Nacoa Members and Volunteers. Become a member and help us continue to provide a lifeline for children affected by parental alcohol problems.

     

  2. Sharing stories for COA Week

    Event Info

    Sharing experiences of people affected by their parent's drinking

    Online worldwide!

    12 - 18 February

    Every day of COA Week we will be sharing personal stories. Reading other people’s experiences helps us to remember that we are not alone.

    Join us on Facebook and on Twitter

    Calum BestElle MacphersonLiam_ByrneTony AdamsGeraldine-James

    To read more personal experiences or to share your own story see nacoa.org.uk

  3. Open letter to UN organisations

    Event Info

    When home is the most dangerous place – millions of children are growing up in families with alcohol problems, but society is largely failing them.

    Worldwide

    14 February

    Civil Society Calls On UN System To Step Up Efforts For Children Growing Up In Families With Alcohol Problems

    open_letter_to_un-1

    Open Letter

    To: H.E. Mr. Peter Thomson
    UNGA President,
    UN Headquarters,
    405 East 42nd Street, NY, 10017, USA

    To: H.E. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
    OHCRH
    Palais des Nations
    CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

    To: Hon. Mr. Anthony Lake
    UNICEF House 3 United Nations Plaza

    New York, NY 10017, USA

     To: Hon. Dr. Margaret Chan
    World Health Organization,
    Avenue Appia 20
    CH-1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland

    Dear Excellencies,

    We trust our letter finds you well.

    When the global community adopted the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, governments and the UN system committed themselves to an ambitious and promising agenda. Part of the commitment is a concerted effort to end all forms of violence against children.

    And a concerted effort is urgently needed. Every five minutes, a child dies as a result of violence.

    As the global community gears up to end violence against children, we are concerned with a group of children whose plight has remained invisible and largely ignored: children growing up in families with alcohol problems.

    Making the invisible visible

    For too long, these children have remained invisible, left on their own. As their parents cannot provide shelter and often basic support, also society is failing to protect and promote the rights of these children. Without hyperbole, all available evidence shows that the problem is massive:

    • In the United States, mothers convicted of child abuse are 3 times more likely to be alcoholics and fathers are 10 times more likely to be alcoholics.
    • More than 50% of all confirmed abuse reports and 75% of child deaths involve the use of alcohol or other drugs by a parent.
    • In the European Union, there are at least 9 million children growing up with alcohol-addicted parents.
    • In Australia ca. 1 million children live in households with at least one adult being addicted.
    • There are 2.6 million children of school age living with parental alcohol problems in the UK alone.
    • The number of children living in homes that are ravaged by alcohol problems sky-rockets considering the countries around the world that are currently not even measuring the issue.

    “Seen with the eyes of our children, the world we live in has an alcohol problem.”

    Children growing up in families with alcohol problems are often exposed to physical, and/ or emotional violence and neglect, putting them at great risk:

    1. They are five times more likely to develop an eating disorder.
    2. They are three times more likely to commit suicide.
    3. They are almost four times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder themselves later on in life.

    When home is the most dangerous place, society needs to step in and provide shelter and enabling environments that allow children to be children.

    But so far, society has largely left these children to fend on their own. The problem of children growing up in families with alcohol problems is exacerbated by

    • Authorities’ inability to identify children and offer support, for example in schools.
    • Local and national governments’ failure to provide effective structural prevention programmes and sufficient services to affected children.
    • Governments’ failure to provide treatment services for parents with alcohol problems, especially programs that help the entire family.
    • The lack of enabling and safe environments for children, if home is no place to go to.
    • Governments’ shortcomings in implementing the Best interest principle enshrined in Art. 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    These five aspects are interdependent and need to be integrated into efforts to end all forms of violence against children.

    Change is possible

    Efforts in the UK provide an example of what can be possible of civil society and decision-makers join hands. Only recently, at a parliamentary cross party debate on alcohol harm, the Health Minister, Fiona Blackstock, having heard Liam Byrne and the Shadow Health Secretary, Mr Jonathan Ashworth speak about their own experiences of parental alcoholism, pledged to work to end this social injustice in the UK.

    Nacoa’s Patron, the Right Honourable Liam Byrne, who set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Children of Alcoholics in 2016 will launch the Manifesto for Children of Alcoholics at the House of Commons on February 15, 2017 in honour of COA Week. To our knowledge, this is the first such Manifesto for Children of Alcoholics in the world.

    The fact that hundreds of millions of children grow up exposed to neglect, abuse, and often violence due to their parents’ alcohol problems is a Child Rights issue, a public health issue, a social issue, and sustainable development issue. Sometimes, especially in low- and middle-income countries, it is a matter of life and death.

    “Millions of silently suffering children are the first hurt and the last helped when alcohol problems enter their homes.”

    Achievement of the SDGs, including SDG 16.2 will not be possible if we do not summon our best efforts to alleviate the plight of children growing up in families with alcohol problems.

    When their own homes are the most dangerous places for millions of children worldwide, society has an urgent obligation to provide safer and more enabling environments for the children, to help their parents and to prevent harm.

    When the most vulnerable ones are left fending on their own, we must shift gears collectively.

    In this spirit, we call on the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner to put the situation of children of alcoholics on their agenda. And we urge you to explore ways to make the Best Interest Principle, enshrined in Art. 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child work for children of alcoholics.

    Using the collaborative synergies of the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda2030, we urge the UN system to exercise leadership and seriously explore ways forward to address and improve the situation of millions of children around the world.

    Yours sincerely,

    Kristina Sperkova,
    International President
    IOGT International

     

    Anne Babb,
    General Secretary
    International Blue Cross

     

     

    Hilary Henriques MBE

    Chief Executive

    Nacoa – The National Association for Children of Alcoholics

    United Kingdom

     

     

    Sis Wenger

    CEO/ President

    National Association For Children of Alcoholics

    USA

  4. COA Week launches in India

    Event Info

    Sand art, talks and media interviews for India's inaugural COA Week

    Dr A.V.Baliga Memorial Hospital Udupi, Karnataka, India

    12-18 February

    Dr. A. V. Baliga Memorial Hospital Udupi, India

    Psychiatrist Dr. Virupaksha Devaramane and colleagues at Dr A.V.Baliga Memorial Hospital have a variety of events planned to celebrate COA Week. They kicked off with wonderful sand art on the beach created by a local artist. After after listening to the cause of event there was a heartening moment when the public joined hands symbolically reassuring children of alcoholics “You are not alone”.

    Throughout the week talks are being held for medical staff, schools and the general public as well as scheduled appearances on radio and television. Monthly meetings for children of alcoholics are held at the hospital. Find out more on the COA Baliga Facebook page.

  5. Are you holding an event to celebrate COA Week?

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    If you are holding an event please let us know so we can include details here.

  6. Sharing stories for COA Week

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    Lauren Booth – Journalist and broadcaster

    Lauren boothThe other morning was bright and warm for September, so my eldest daughter and I ditched the car in favour of a long walk into our nearest town, Stockport. On the way home, we passed by the back of pub whose doors were wide open, as staff began the morning cleaning routine.

    A mis-timed breathe, filled my nose and throat with the scent and taste of old beer.

    ‘Oh God, awful..’ I covered my mouth. But it was too late. In an instant I was back in my childhood home.

    ‘Are you there? Are you there? I’m back from school…’

    Through the letterbox bearing, scorch marks from a fire, I could smell the precise amount of beer my parent had drunk that afternoon. My tally wasn’t in pints, it was in the scale of effect the amount of booze would have on the evening ahead.

    Level 1 meant my parent had run out of money and was fairly sober and genuinely couldn’t hear me calling to be let in. Dinner would eventually appear and (unless parent’s alcoholic partner turned up with more beer), there would be money for the meter and the chance I’d be allowed into the living room to watch a TV show before bed.

    Level 2 meant my parent had staggered home, sober enough to have remembered to buy something for dinner. There would be sarcastic and hateful comments and perhaps a brief, violent, outburst, on the plus side, there could also be a Findus packet dinner and the chance I’d be allowed to have the electric heater on while I did my homework in the icy, hallway.

    Level 3 meant, parent was paralytic and had been put into a taxi by the landlord of the Hare and Hounds, at closing time (back then 3pm). My parent had possibly found the bottle of vodka I’d hidden and spent the remainder of the dole money on four Carlsberg Special Brews and the taxi. If woken from their sofa-coma by my pleading, they’d open the door, with the cheery greeting.

    ‘You little s**t’ always moaning and whingeing.’ If I cried, I’d be told to stop or:

    ‘You’ll be given something to cry about’.

    Later in the evening, being caught searching the kitchen for ‘emergency rations’ (as my grandparents called their weekly food drop), risked sneers turning to punches, or kicks. I’d go to bed hungry and cold, in complete darkness. None of which, I suppose, would have been that bad. Except that whilst living in this condition, I was also bullied at school for (ironically) being ‘posh.’

    I had nightmares.

    If the beer-sweat seeping through the letterbox warned me of a Level 3, I’d call a couple more times and then, consider going to my friend’s house where her mother usually cooked dinner. That was, if. She wasn’t too high on cocaine to manage it.

    Sometimes, I would do my homework by the balcony on the stairwell, looking out over the gardens. As darkness fell, I would watch the lights go on brightening the other apartment, seeing other families making their dinner, laughing and joking together. Dad’s arriving home in nice cars. Mum’s serving homemade food from ovens which didn’t suddenly go cold because no one had 10 pence for the electricity meter.

    You see, I was the scruffy kid, belonging to the ‘neighbours from hell.’ People walked over me on the stairs to get home, irritated by my presence. I know what the homeless must feel like to be ignored by those who are better off. What the neighbours didn’t know was how much I wanted to live a quiet life. I was a naturally shy, swotty kind of girl. I longed to be a part of a ‘nice’ family. I was embarrassed by the noises coming from my home night after night. I hated the swearing (even as I picked it up – a lifelong habit I still struggle with).

    I loathed the brutal, alcohol-induced violence between parent and lover broadcast through loose-fitting windows to the same families, who ignored me as I sat with my school bag on the stairs.

    This is where Nacoa comes in. A vital lifeline of support and information for children in this kind of situation. For the innocent victims of a family member’s addiction, who as a result find ourselves temporarily at the bottom of society’s heap. Not only children but adults too, struggle to come to terms and to deal with parental alcoholism and its effects. Nacoa tells us, we are not alone and are not to blame for the situation.

    Their volunteers remind the socially and emotionally wounded, that we don’t have to follow the pattern set by our parents during our childhoods.

    At eight pm, if I heard the telly go on inside our flat, I would dare myself to climb the stairs.

    ‘Don’t be scared. You can do this. You’re strong.’

    Passing by the Cheshire pub, my daughter Alexandra put an arm around me. I looked at her and thanked God that alcohol is no longer a part of our lives.

    I had my last drink in 2010, after almost thirty years thinking binge drinking was the same as ‘social’ drinking. Which, sadly, it is these days.

    I thank God for having the strength to break with the past and for having children who, as a result, don’t live with the fear and uncertainty, I did.

    Don’t worry mum.’ said Alex.

    ‘Everything’s fine now. Let’s go home and have a cup of tea.’

    To any child reading this, I want to say; you can break the chain. The one you feel ties you to the same lifestyle and the same actions as the addicted adult in your home. You are your own person, with your own talents and your life stands before you.

    Always remember that, believe it or not, there are others worse off than you are. The actor and comedian Billy Connolly suffered terrible abuse at the hands of his father. He now has Parkinson’s disease, yet describes himself as the ‘most optimistic man in the world.’ He says his philosophy is:

    ‘If you think you’re having a bad time, the graveyard’s full of people who would love to be doing what you’re doing.”

    Be grateful for your health, your talents, your youth. I would also add, pray. Have hope – and a sense of humour. And remember.

    Things will not always be like they are right now.

  7. Sharing stories for COA Week

    Event Info

    Calum Best – model, reality TV star and fitness entrepreneur

    calum bestBeing the child of an alcoholic dad was not easy. I’d come over from the States to see him at the age of 15 and I’d be thrilled to see him. He’d be at the airport. I’d run ‘dad, how are ya?’ We’d go straight to the pub and I’d spend my next two weeks there.

    Alcohol was always there and over time, drinking took its toll on his health. At the hospital for a liver transplant, I remember telling him ‘It’s going to be different’ and you think to yourself, ah this is where it’s all going to change. I thought this was going to be the beginning of a new chapter… but sadly sobriety didn’t last.

    After his death in 2005, I became depressed and turned to alcohol to cope. I was lost and I was in such a dark place. It was for me the loss of hope and dreams of all my youth. He was my everything. I lost him and I lost all hope.   It’s a hard one to figure out what to do when you have a relative that’s alcohol-dependent. But there is help, there are places to call, there are people to talk to. And talking I think is key.

    I found Nacoa when filming for BBC Children in Need. I opened Upfest – the largest Urban Paint Festival in Europe – and spoke publicly for the first time ever about myself and my dad. Within a short time I found myself surrounded by people who understood. They said ‘me too’ – a sort of shorthand for what it’s like to live with the secrets that surround alcohol and the family.

    I became a Nacoa Patron in 2009 because if I had known there was someone to listen, it would have helped me understand and cope with my dad’s illness. This is still a hidden topic and the more we reach out to children who are suffering, and provide them with help and support, the better their futures can be.

    Calum is son of football legend George Best who is perhaps as famous for his drinking as his prowess on the pitch.

  8. Sharing stories for COA Week

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    Elle Macpherson – Businesswoman, Actress and Model

    elle-macpherson2

    This is not my life but the life of a five year old girl who reminds me why Nacoa’s work is so close to my own heart.

    Orla began the first call to Nacoa asking why her Mum is angry with her, why does Mum drink and how can I stop her drinking. She said that she was worried about her Mum as she had locked herself in the bathroom the previous night and was still there.  Her Mum had said that she wanted to die and would be dead in the morning and told her to use the green button on the phone to call for help (Mum had programmed the Nacoa Helpline number on her mobile).

    Orla said she did not want to call an ambulance as they would bash the door down and her Mum would be cross with her. Our Volunteer Helpline Counsellor, Ann-Marie explained that calling the ambulance would be the best decision at this point and told her we would be here for her if she wanted to ring back. The caller said that she would call the ambulance.
    She called again when the Emergency Services had arrived and the bathroom door was forced open.  Orla said that her Mum’s nose and mouth were blue and that she was not breathing. She had touched her hand and it was cold.  She said ‘Mum’s not breathing and they want to take me away’.

    Orla ran into her Mother’s bedroom and locked the door so the police could not reach her. She wanted to stay in her Mum’s room and did not want to let them in. Anne-Marie said that she would stay on the phone with her. She was crying and repeating that she did not want to go with the police. Anne-Marie was saying: “we are here for you and want you to be safe”. Orla said “I’m going to run when the door opens” and hung up.

    Our Volunteer Helpline Counsellors were able to guide Orla through this devastating time.  Although sadly we could not change the events of that day, we were able to support her to call the Emergency Services. With careful training and working as a team, our volunteers are able to be there for children like Orla; offering ongoing support whenever they need it and wherever their paths take them.

    This story touched my heart, and is just one of many, and why this crucial service is needed – it’s a safe place for some of the most vulnerable and invisible children in the UK today.

  9. Sharing stories for COA Week

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    Liam Byrne MP

    Liam-Byrne

    Just before the election, I was in hospital in Harlow with my brother and my amazing step-mum holding my dad’s hand through the night as he finally slipped away after a battle with drink stretching back decades.

    I made it through the election, just about – but when it was over, and I finally got the chance to mourn, I all but fell to pieces.

    They were the hardest months of my life.

    I got on a train to Bristol and walked into the offices of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics to ask their help.

    It’s an amazing charity that’s helped me and over 200,000 helpline callers see for the first time that they’re not alone, that the way our parents are wasn’t their fault, and there was little they could do to stop their parents drinking.

    Today, backed by Nacoa and a host of campaign groups, I’m launching a major campaign to break the silence around alcoholic parents – so we can break the cycle of alcohol addiction cascading down the generations.

    My dad Dermot was an extraordinary guy.

    The son of Irish immigrants, he battled his way into grammar school and into university – the first in his family ever to go.

    Passionate about social justice, he gave his life to public service.

    At his best he was warm, charismatic, generous and idealistic.

    At work he served the Essex town of Harlow, where I grew up, for years; in retirement he supported African villages I never knew.

    He was the man who inspired me to join the Labour party and try to make the world a better place.

    But for years he was gripped by an addiction to alcohol that scarred me – and when he lost the woman he passionately loved, my mother, to pancreatic cancer at the age of 52, it knocked him over the edge.

    As a child and as an adult I’ve had to handle all the things every child of an
    alcoholic gets to feel – but never really to understand.

    Trying to make yourself invisible, to hide from the shame.

    The chronic insecurity. The co-dependency of supporting others – in my case counselling my mum, from the age of eight. The hospital visits.

    The choking agony of worry: is he OK? Is he safe? Is he on a floor? Is he eating?

    Am I doing enough? Am I a good son? The guilt: why aren’t I there to look after him?

    Not long after I got into the Cabinet, I invited my dad to my new office; it was a magnificent space, next to No10.

    I was the youngest person in the Cabinet – and I’d got there in four years from entering Parliament.

    But he was so worse for wear he found it hard to stand; we had to bundle him out and home as fast as we could.

    I just felt so ashamed. The final straw for me was poor Charles Kennedy’s death.

    It was when I heard people say he fought “demons” that I just snapped. He wasn’t fighting demons, he was fighting an addiction to alcohol.

    But in so many ways I had it easy. Alcohol is a factor in three quarters of child mistreatment cases.

    Children of alcoholics are five times more likely than others to develop eating disorders – and three times more likely to consider suicide.

    Crucially, they are four times more likely to become alcoholics themselves.

    That means hundreds of thousands of today’s children of alcoholics, becoming alcoholics themselves tomorrow.

    Yet alcohol harm already costs Britain £21billion a year.

    The way I dealt with my pain was with a mad drive for perfectionism. But despite doing well, all too often I just felt ashamed.

    I felt that just as I couldn’t save my mum’s life no matter how much I loved her, I couldn’t make my dad proud however hard I worked.

    Calum Best, the son of footballer George Best, described it well in his book; when you’re the child of an alcoholic, you just feel profoundly second best.

    I’ve struggled with the decision to speak up. I’m so worried I’m dishonouring my dad, who meant the world to me.

    But I have to honour the boy who became the man who became my dad.

    Because, like me, he was the child of an alcoholic too. He didn’t have help on hand when he was growing up. That’s got to change.

    Many have talked about their experience of alcoholic parents.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury, actor Nick Frost, comedian Billy Connolly, dancer Kristina Rihanoff, X Factor winner Sam Bailey – all have spoken out.

    What we need now is change.

    I want every single child of an alcoholic to know they’re not alone, to know their parents’ drinking is not their fault; to know there’s help at hand.

    I want a public information campaign aimed at parents so they know the damage their hazardous drinking does to their kids.

    And I want the right investment in treatment, so that when parents reach for help, we know it’s there.

    What every child of an alcoholic learns is we can’t change things for our parents.

    But we sure as hell can change things for our children and every other child of an alcoholic in this country.

    We now just need the Government to join our side.

    Originally published in the Daily Mirror: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/labour-mps-brave-stand-shares-6888189

  10. Sharing stories for COA Week

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    Tony Adams MBE – Founder of Sporting Chance Clinic, former Arsenal and England footballer

    Tony AdamsMy parents weren’t alcoholics but I became one. To tell my story, I have to talk about Mum and Dad. My father was a smoker, died of lung cancer. He kept everything buttoned in, all his feelings. You could have called him a rage-aholic, I suppose. He was scared of the anger inside himself. My mother was obese. She overate constantly, blood pressure off the scale, and eventually died of bone cancer. They weren’t alcoholics but they were both addictive personalities and so my story starts with them. Dad was a big, powerful, dominant man. He used to come home with everything pent up inside him. He’d hit the wall instead of hitting us. Mum was indoors all the time, cooking food. Eating food. I know the charity is about the children of alcoholics but, for me, addictions come in all sorts of flavours: drink, drugs, betting and the rest. My parents had their own issues, obviously, and I inherited an addictive personality from them.

    The effect we have on our children can be mysterious; poignant even. My dad had his first heart attack when I was about ten. I was already playing football but, for six months afterwards, I walked with a limp. I can see it now but didn’t then: I was worried about Dad, scared of what was going to happen. So I limped. Anyway, I had a cousin – Steve MacKenzie – who was a player at Crystal Palace. He fixed us up to go down and see the chief scout, a guy named Arnie Warren who passed on a couple of years ago now. Arnie looked at me and looked at the bump on my leg I was worried about. He got Dad to roll up his trouser leg as well. He told me that Dad had bumps on his legs from playing football and that I had a bump on mine for the same reason. He said that if I ran around the training pitch a few times the limp would disappear. Off I went and, of course, that’s exactly what happened. The limp was all a psychological thing and was gone by the time I’d run four or five laps.

    My parents weren’t bad people. They were good people who were ill and didn’t ever get treatment for that. They never dealt with the issues they had hidden away. But they were good people, well-loved, and they themselves had definitely moved on from the previous generation: my dad’s father really was an alcoholic. He went at my dad once with a knife, used to throw keys at him, would come home every Saturday night and smash the place up. My dad used to describe his dad as ‘a real fruitcake’! What happened between me and my parents was a two-way street, of course. When I was on the booze, I never spoke to them. However much they might have wanted to talk to me about what was going on, they couldn’t. I’d just shut myself down emotionally. It’s a combination of born behaviours and learnt behaviours. As a kid, I was shy and insecure; quite a frightened little boy, really. Mum and Dad had never picked up on their own problems so I can’t be surprised – or resent – that they never picked up on mine as I was growing up. I’ve just had to go back for myself and deal with all that since I became sober.

    I never really learnt to talk about how I was feeling when I was young. It makes me recognise how important that is now, with the next generation. My own children included. A few weekends back, I was trying to have this kind of conversation with my daughter, who’s 20. A good friend of ours was there, too, an older woman, and I recognised that it was probably easier for my daughter to talk to her than to talk to me. Probably easier for our friend to talk to my daughter than to her own daughter, too! But the thing is that young people need to be helped to be honest about their feelings. Someone needs to be there. Someone needs to be able to listen in a way that my own parents weren’t ever able to listen to me. That hurt Mum and Dad, too, of course. When I was drinking, I put them through a lot of pain. I know I did. There I was, in prison at one point, sort of being looked after, sheltered from things in a funny sort of way. My parents were on the outside, though, having to deal with what I’d done and in the public eye. After I was sentenced, I was just numb, really. My parents, though, were in bits. As I say, with what happens between parents and children when addictions are involved: it works both ways across generations. I still remember Dad coming to see me in prison: Son, what’s happened? You’re a drunk.

    I got to the bottom eventually. And then I got well. Nineteen years on, I’m still a recovering alcoholic. Part of the process for me has been my charity, Sporting Chance, working with sportspeople’s addiction issues. And part of the driving force for that – and for everything else, really – has been me trying to make sure I don’t pass my issues on: I’ve got five children now and a step-daughter and two grandchildren. I’ve had some repair work to do with my three eldest although it’s only the oldest, my step-daughter who ever saw me at my worst. My eldest son has a memory of me sticking him behind a bar somewhere with a load of toy cars to play with while I went off drinking but that’s his only real recollection of those times. My step-daughter, Clare, though, saw it all: me passing out drunk, not being able to look after my own children, Clare – just seven — having to look after the little ones, having to phone her Gran to tell her what had happened. Like I say, ours is a relationship that’s needed some repairing since. Clare has said to me: you and Mum were both off the planet, you know. She’s given me some trust back now but what happens between us is a continuous process. She can still call me Dad and we talk all the time. She’s grown through it. I think we’ve grown through it. And still, with my other children, maybe the most important thing in getting myself better – keeping myself better – is making sure I don’t pass the disease, alcoholism, that I suffered from on to them.