Inside an anonymous support group for the children of alcoholics



Here we simply post this ineresting insghit into Alateen it was posted on the BBC website

By Declan Harvey

Newsbeat reporter

“Newsbeat has been given rare access to an anonymous support group, Alateen, for children with alcoholic parents.

Self consciousness, feeling alone and feeling different are what’s being discussed and could just be considered being part of being a teenager.

But where as most 16-year-olds will have the support of a parent to get them through, these teenagers don’t.

It’s estimated there a 2.6 million people across the UK dealing with alcoholic parents.

“Other people – they can go home and talk to their parents, who can help them,” some of the group’s members tell Newsbeat.

“But if we have a problem and [our parents] have been drinking they’re not going to be fully there for us.

“They might be aggressive, they might be silent, they might not want to talk to us at all.”

We’re gathered in a small room above a church hall. It’s cold so we’ve all kept our coats on.

QUOTE: I try not to fake smile anymore, it's exhausting

Here people discuss the feelings most of us have learned to hide.

Whoever is holding a Little Miss Chatterbox soft toy gets to talk.

Everyone’s head nods when the topic of fake smiles comes up.

“I try not to fake smile any more,” someone says. “It’s exhausting. It happens because I’m afraid other people won’t understand.”

“It’s been a bad week emotionally for me,” someone else says.

“More things happened with my dad and brother.”

I get the feeling this is an update on something everyone here knows all about.

QUOTE: I'm afraid other people won't understand

As Little Miss Chatterbox continues to be passed around we hear how “my step-mom is still a bitch” and “I feel like I’ve lost my mum”.

But no-one seems shocked.

Although they’ve all had different experiences, they share common emotions.

Sadness is one of the main topics of this week’s meeting – the other is peace of mind.

(We discuss sadness first because it’s good to finish on the more positive topic, someone says.)

One girl explains how she’s still battling depression.

In fact, she’s adamant she “wouldn’t still be here” were it not for Alateen meetings.

Just like Alcoholics Anonymous, which helps alcoholics recover, Alateen thrives on anonymity.

It makes people feel safe.

QUOTE: Everything that is said here must be held in confidence

There’s an echo of chatter coming from another meeting downstairs.

That meeting is an Al-Anon meeting, which helps slightly older relatives of alcoholics.

Alcoholism “is a family disease because it affects all the members emotionally and sometimes physically,” according to a page of instructions read out at the start of each meeting.

The group is also reminded weekly that “everything that is said here must be held in confidence.”

As I watch the group interact it’s clear to me they trust each other totally.

They also seem to genuinely like each other – there are jokes and as someone wells up, she’s given a hug.

Suddenly, Little Miss Chatterbox is placed in front of me.

QUOTE: We cannot change or control our parents

I thought I’d only be watching this evening but I get the feeling if I refuse to take part I’ll somehow ruin the atmosphere.

So I share my thoughts of sadness and I’m surprised by how it feels.

The group listen to me intently. I don’t get the feeling they are faking an interest or just being polite.

For a moment I forget about the job I’m here to do and open up.

It’s a nice feeling – a mixture of nerves, adrenaline and feeling special.

As I talk I spot a card on the table in front of me. It’s the Alcoholics Anonymous “serenity prayer”.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

QUOTE: It's a nice feeling - a mix of nerves and adrenaline

“Although we cannot change or control our parents, we can detach from their problems while continuing to love them,” which is another quote from the group’s instructions.

It’s almost half nine, the meeting has run over a little (mainly because of my questions) and instead of feeling tired, I’m feeling uplifted.

Lynne who organises the group gives me a hug goodbye.

I think it’s a sign of how emotional everyone is.

I take out my phone and call a friend but I struggle to explain how I’m feeling.

Perhaps that’s the power of these groups, you have to go to understand.

Links to advice and help


You can get advice about alcohol on the BBC Advice pages.

Support groups and helplines are offered by a number of organisations in the UK including Al-Anon (linked to the Alcoholics Anonymous organisation) andDrugFam.

The National Association for Children of Alcoholics and Children of Addicted Parents groups can also offer support and advice.”


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