Addiction is an illness that affects countless families around the UK. This devastating illness affects not only the person with the illness but also every other family member. Unfortunately, addiction carries a lot of stigma, and many people fail to get the help they need because they are embarrassed or ashamed of admitting that they have a problem.
It is also an illness that is all too often swept under the carpet by families who would rather ignore the problem than tackle it head on. It can be difficult to know what to do if you suspect a family member of having an addiction. Many people are afraid to mention the problem in case they are wrong, and they offend the individual. Others are worried that they will be opening a can of worms if they say anything; and still others hope that if they do not mention it, it will simply go away. Sadly, this is rarely the case. Addiction is a progressive illness that will continue to get worse if left untreated.
How Addiction Affects Children
BBC Newsbeat reporter Hannah Moore spoke to Caitlin Croft about her motherâ€™s struggle with alcoholism and how she confronted her about it. Caitlin said she was just twelve years old when she first tried to talk to her mother Tracey about her alcohol addiction.
Tracey, the alcoholic mum, would come home from work every afternoon and would head to her bedroom with a bottle of vodka. She would lock the door and drink until she passed out. Although Caitlin said it was hard to confront her mum, she is glad that she did because her mother is now in recovery and has been sober for eight months.
Caitlin said, “When you picture an alcoholic you don’t think of an ‘ordinary’ person. You’d think of a homeless person having those problems, not a normal average person with a family and home.”
This view is something shared by the majority of people around the country and one of the main obstacles facing those with the condition. Because most have a particular view of what addiction is, they often fail to realise that they are affected. They are convinced that because they have a job and a family, they just do not fit the profile of what an alcoholic is.
However, according to statistics from the Government, around 1.6 million adults in England alone have some level of alcohol dependence, with around 11 million people drinking harmful amounts of alcohol.
Because Tracey managed to hold on to her job, Caitlin said it appeared as though she did not have a problem to outsiders. But despite Caitlin knowing her mum had a problem, she admits she avoided discussing the topic for many months. She said, “I told myself so many times that if I just ignore it, she’ll get better. But I just saw it getting worse.”
Tackling the Problem
Caitlin learned that it was easier to talk to her mother in the mornings when she was sober and said, “I learned that it’s easier to get everything out in the open, rather than hiding it and pretending it will just go away.”
She explained that it is important to have evidence before confronting a loved one regarding a suspected alcohol problem. Caitlin found empty alcohol bottles under her motherâ€™s bed and used these as evidence when she urged her to get help. She added, “A lot of people don’t understand that it’s an illness, just like anything else you get diagnosed with. So even though it’s hard, you have to see it from their point of view.”
Tracey is now on the road to recovery, but Caitlin added that it is important for family members to get help too.
- What I learnt from confronting my alcoholic mum (BBC)