Sup­port for teens

It’s hard to know the full ex­tent of prob­lem drink­ing in New Zealand, but it is clear that the ef­fects are far reach­ing. Four cen­tral Auck­land girls aged be­tween 11 and 15 spoke to re­porter Emma Whittaker about grow­ing up with al­co­holic par­ents and the he

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE -

SARAH thought it was nor­mal when her mother fin­ished a bot­tle of wine and drove down to the su­per­mar­ket to get an­other.

El­iz­a­beth thought it was nor­mal when her dad didn’t ar­rive home un­til 9.30pm bring­ing chips from the bar he’d been drink­ing at and choco­late bars for din­ner.

Miss­ing out on fam­ily hol­i­days and hav­ing par­ents that con­stantly ar­gue was stan­dard for Louise.

Each of the girls is used to liv­ing with the fi­nan­cial and emo­tional dif­fi­cul­ties that come with hav­ing an al­co­holic par­ent.

‘‘When you’re young you don’t know dif­fer­ent,’’ El­iz­a­beth says.

‘‘It’s not un­til you’re older and you go to other peo­ple’s houses and hang out with your friends you re­alise some­thing isn’t nor­mal.’’ The girls are mem­bers of Ala­teen. The fel­low­ship is a teen fo­cused off­shoot of Al-Anon, an in­ter­na­tional sup­port net­work for friends and fam­i­lies of al­co­holics.

It’s a safe haven for the young women to share thoughts and feel­ings that are of­ten well out of their peers’ realms of un­der­stand­ing.

‘‘It makes us re­alise that there are more peo­ple with slightly chaotic lives.

‘‘You can’t re­ally say to peo­ple ‘ my mum’s an al­co­holic and I can’t cope’, no­body re­ally un­der­stands un­less they have been through it,’’ Sarah says.

El­iz­a­beth’s fam­ily has been ir­repara­bly torn apart by al­co­hol.

It’s the rea­son her par­ents sep­a­rated and she, her mother, and sib­lings had to leave their home when they couldn’t make the mort­gage pay­ments.

Her fa­ther has been to prison twice and still doesn’t know where they live.

‘‘He’s un­re­li­able and it makes it hard to want to see him be­cause he’s tem­per­a­men­tal. You don’t know if he’s go­ing to be grumpy or if he’s go­ing to be all nice, or just not go­ing to be there at all.’’

He once turned up drunk to one of her child­hood birth­days bang­ing on the door and de­mand­ing to see her.

El­iz­a­beth tried to pla­cate her fright­ened guests by telling them it was a neigh­bour who just wanted food.

‘‘You can hardly say ‘that’s my dad and he’s drunk’.’’

The girls rarely saw their al­co­holic par­ents drink­ing and most out­siders were none-the-wiser to what was hap­pen­ing. It has been a rel­a­tively pri­vate prob­lem for them.

‘‘I used to have all of th­ese bot­tled up feel­ings that I just didn’t want to talk about be­cause, where would you talk about it?’’ Louise says.

‘‘It’s good just to get your feel­ings out ev­ery week at Ala­teen. And if some­one is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the same thing we can sup­port each other.’’

They all agree the best part about the group is that it’s anony­mous.

‘‘If you hap­pen to see some­one who goes to your school they won’t talk about you af­ter­wards,’’ Sarah says.

Their ad­vice to oth­ers af­fected by al­co­holism is to come for­ward and get help.

‘‘I only went to Ala­teen to keep my mum happy. Af­ter I spoke at the first meet­ing and they said ‘thanks for shar­ing’ I thought ‘wow they ap­pre­ci­ate me, they want to hear me talk’.’’

Photos: JILL ROBB

Help:

Ala­teen meet­ings pro­vide sup­port for teenagers af­fected by some­body else’s prob­lem drink­ing.

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