I was around 25 on the day I walked into Nacoa (The National Association for Children of Alcoholics). At that point, I had been in recovery from my own alcohol problem for a year and was looking to do some voluntary work, to give back. At that time, I would have told you that I had lived a good childhood. Sure, my dad drank a little and I lost him when I was aged nine, but everyone has their struggles and I was too young to remember what it was like when he drank. I believed my own drinking was a result of some bad genes passed on from dad and I was just unlucky in that sense.
Nacoa run a national helpline that anyone affected by their parents drinking can call. Once they've rang in, they can speak to a trained councillor, and I personally enrolled on the training to become one of those helpline councillors.
Now, heres the thing, within an hour of the first session I began to gain an understanding of everything that I had ever suffered from, and that was the impact of my dad's drinking.
No one had ever made me feel justified in the ways that I felt and in doing that, Nacoa began to create a space for me where I felt empowered and was able to stare my truth in the face. It changed my life. I started to see that I had been lying to myself the whole time to protect myself from the traumas that I faced as a child growing up with an alcoholic father. Memories started to come back and I was able to start to work through them and untangle the web that was my life. It is still a work in progress and likely always will be, but the very fact I am now aware of that has changed my life.
From this, I gained a passionate belief: that I should have been shown this when I was a child going through it all! How had I reached this age and been through all that pain before I was to find this out? It became my mission to change this. I started making vlogs for the Nacoa YouTube channel, the first of which was entitled Being a COA is a thing. This came from the conversation I had with Hilary, the CEO of Nacoa, when I realised my truth and I said the words: "This is actually a thing isn’t it?! Being the child of an alcoholic is a thing."
From this, I then started the blog - coaisathing.com. Originally, it was just me sharing my stories of life as a COA in the hope it might reach people who were like I was: suffering with no clue why. It started getting hits pretty quickly and was reaching more and more people. Then, I started getting messages from people thanking me and saying they wish they could share their story, but that they couldn’t yet put their name to it. It was then the idea was born that people could send me their stories and I could post them for them and it could remain completely anonymous.
That was two years ago, since then I have posted nearly 110 stories from COAs around the world, and we are approaching 90,000 hits. It has become a global community that has spread to Twitter, Instagram and just recently a ‘secret’ Facebook group of people, just offering peer-to-peer support. We have a following in America, Canada, Australia and across Europe reaching thousands of people.
On a personal level, it has helped me to recognise my own value and to see what is possible when you follow something with a passion. Today I work as a life coach - working one to one with people and organisations to help evoke change; a professional speaker - travelling the country sharing my story; and I am also now an ambassador for Nacoa. My passion remains, to use my experience to help as many people as possible and most importantly to bring hope to children that suffer.
Tagged in Alcohol