Radio review: Growing up with an alcoholic parent

Woman’s Hour

What’s It Like To Be The Child of an Alcoholic? Radio 4

One in five children in the UK are said to be affected by their parents’ drinking.

Children of Alcoholics, a special series from Woman’s Hour, gave air space to six women who grew up with a parent dependent on alcohol.

One woman said her mother would send her or her sister with a note to the off licence that read: “Please sell my daughter two bottles of Olde English and four cans of Special Brew’.”

She talked about coming home to her mother drinking cider from a cup.

It made for rough listening.

There were stories of another alcoholic mother “like Aunt Sally from Worzel Gummidge” with the make-up not quite drawn on right.

There were jokes about not switching on the oven without checking for the bottle of vodka first.

But it was the hidden nature of the problem that resonated, nobody talked about it.

A woman recalled the time that her mother came to her parent teacher meeting, then slept with the maths teacher.

There was the mother who got benefits on Monday – her daughter said they started the week like kings but all the nice food had gone by Wednesday and by Friday, a bag of potatoes was all the food there was for the weekend.

It was the bleakness that resonated in tales of an alcoholic parent going around the doors in the estate and selling the child’s toys to get money.

There was the desolation of being eight years old and walking out of the house away from a drunken father, only to go to the park, sit there and realise there was nowhere else, you had to go back.

And what hurt most was how the past defines the future – and years later, how these grown ups' lives are stunted by the trauma of their childhood.

The interviews are on the Woman’s Hour website.

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