Children of Alcoholics

[infobox] This is the second part of our article focusing on Children of Alcoholics. Our post is meant to serve as a guide, and not all steps mentioned may be applicable to everyone. If you feel like there is someone at risk at home or in school, please reach out to the clinic or to the relevant departments listed below.[/infobox]

When I moved to Dubai 2 years ago I was pretty surprised. You may have read in my last blog that the World Health Organisation (WHO) published figures in 2014 stating that people in the UAE consume 32.8 litres of alcohol yearly, double that of the global average figure of 17 litres.

Alcohol plays a big role in the social lives of people in the UAE. Brunches, restaurants and bars are plentiful. But what does it mean when drinking habits have tipped into a more harmful pattern? The Royal College of Physicians recommends that men should drink no more than 3-4 units of alcohol daily and 2-3 units for women. The maximum weekly consumption for men should be no more than 21 units for men and 14 for women. Both men and women should aim for two consecutive alcohol-free days per week.

But what is a unit? One unit of alcohol is about equal to:

• Half a pint of ordinary strength (3-4%) beer, lager or cider;
• A small measure (25 ml) of spirits (40%);
• A standard measure (50 ml) or fortified wine such as sherry or port (20%).

There are about 1.5 units of alcohol in:

• A standard glass (125 ml) of wine (12%);
• A standard measure (35 ml) of spirits (40%).

The strength of the drink depends on the strength of the volume (percentage) of alcohol so these figures can vary slightly.There are different risk categories for levels of alcohol consumption relating to health: low risk, increased risk (including binge drinking) and high risk. Low risk to health is drinking within the recommended consumption levels. Increased risk is also known as hazardous drinking and includes binge drinking is between 22-50 units a week for men and 15-35 for women. High risk drinking is consuming 50+ units of alcohol for men and 35+ for women.

Alcohol is an addictive substance and it is possible to become physically and psychologically dependent. This signs for dependency can vary from person to person and severity. Withdrawal symptoms may present as:

• Tremor
• Sweating
• Nausea or vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Heart racing
• Anxiety and/or low mood
• Craving alcohol

More serious alcohol withdrawal indicators are:

• Seizures
• Hallucinations (seeing, hearing or feeling things that are not there)
• Confusion
• Unsteady and uncoordinated gait

It can be difficult to admit to yourself that you may have a problem with alcohol, let alone talking to another person. If you feel able, speak to someone you trust, many loved ones have already noticed that something is wrong so may not be entirely surprised when you open up to them.

Opening up to a trusted person is the first step and a difficult one. But where do you go from here? The legalities and financial implications can often make admitting a problem difficult, people worry about losing their job, being judged by non-drinking friends and family and just how do you go about getting help.

Firstly, talking to your GP is the first to do if you feel comfortable, if you have confided in a friend or family member then having their support at the appointment may be invaluable. A GP can advise you of the next step.
Alcoholics Anonymous in Dubai offer confidential support and advice from those who have experienced alcohol dependency.

You can contact them at www.aauae.net or:
• Dubai/Sharjah – 056 788 1416 (ladies only 056 794 3141)
• Abu Dhabi – 050 414 3042

The statistics at the beginning of this blog show that alcohol is a very real concern in the UAE, and worldwide so you will not be alone.

Children of Alcoholics: A Parent’s Story

[infobox]February 8-15 is Children of Alcoholics week in the United States. This week we are focusing on crowd-sourced stories from young people and adults who have had a parent who drank too much during their childhood. Our posts are meant to serve as a guide to raise awareness about the realities of alcoholism, not just on those who drink, but also on those around them. Not all steps and information mentioned may be applicable to everyone. If you feel like there is someone at risk at home or in school, please reach out to the clinic or to the relevant departments listed below.[/infobox]

Story by Evelyn, a parent.

“When I was growing up I remember being constantly worried.  I would stand by the window every night waiting for my dad to come home from the pub.

I thought if I wished hard enough that I could stop him from drinking. When he was out for too long I wondered if he was in trouble, if had he fallen asleep, if someone would steal his money, or if he would he get caught for driving home drunk.

 

I remember one day in particular: as a very young child my mum had gone out with her friends one evening so my dad took my sister and I out. My dad went to the pub and my sister and I were left in the car in the pub car park, waiting for my dad to come out. As the hours passed I remember begging a man at the bus stop to go into the pub to get my Daddy out.

 

Over the years I learned that I could only sleep when everyone was in bed and safe at home.

 

I was frightened. Many evenings he would be very angry and I would beg with him to stop shouting, and I promised to him that I would be a good girl. I thought his drinking was my fault.

 

My grandparents always remember me sitting under a motorway bridge on the evenings when I was too frightened. It was my safe place. I would sit there and wish that everything would be ok and that we could be a happy family.

 

The years have passed, I am now 40, and to this day I still cannot return to that house without being frightened. The first thing I do is drink wine, to calm myself in the hopes that my fear doesn’t get the best of me again.

 

 

 

Improving the lives of children of alcohol abuse

[infobox]February 8-14 is Children of Alcoholics week in the UK. This week we are focusing on writing to children and talking about some of the issues surrounding young people who have a parent (or parents) who drink too much. Our post is meant to serve as a guide, and not all steps mentioned may be applicable to everyone. If you feel like there is someone at risk at home or in school, please reach out to the clinic to to the relevant departments listed below.[/infobox]

What does it mean when my parent drinks too much?

Many children and young people have a parent that drinks too much. Surprisingly the World Health Organisation (WHO) published facts in 2014 suggesting that drinkers in the UAE consume 32.8 litres of alcohol annually, almost double the world average of 17 litres.

How to identify if my parents are drinking too much

There are a few ways we can tell that a person drinks too much:

  1. Drinking alone and for no reason.
  2. Increased tolerance to alcohol (being able to drink more and more with less effect).
  3. Being secretive and hiding how much you drink from others.
  4. Spending a lot of money on drinking.
  5. Feeling ill when the effects of alcohol have worn off (for example shaking, sweating, feeling or being sick).
  6. Feeling sad and anxious.
  7. Not sleeping properly.

So what does this mean for children like me in the UAE?

We know that children of parents who drink too much can be affected in many ways by their parent/parents’ alcohol intake. A parent’s behavior while drunk or intoxicated can be embarrassing for a young person, who may avoid bringing friends home or going out with the family. It often becomes a secret that they feel they must keep to stop their parents from getting in trouble, considering the laws and regulations revolving around alcohol consumption in the UAE. Keeping it a secret might also be a way to prevent breaking up the family or not wanting to betray the parent. These feelings are normal as there has always been a social stigma attached to alcohol misuse, but perhaps more so in the Middle East as there can be legal and financial implications. You can find out more about the laws on alcohol consumption in the UAE here.

Emotional affects of alcohol misuse on children

Keeping you safe is a concern of grown-ups connected to the family. When a parent is under the influence of alcohol then it can affect their ability to make good decisions and take proper care of a young person. They may even leave the child alone or with someone that is also not able to provide proper care and attention. It is not uncommon to feel unsafe or neglected, and it can be a lonely experience for everyone involved.

Varying degrees of physical and emotional abuse are also common within families where there is a parent who drinks excessively. This can have a longstanding effect, as children and teenagers may become socially isolated and withdraw from daily activities. According to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), children whose parents drink too much often experience depression, anxiety and other mental health problems.

Managing the situation at home

At this point it is important to tell you, the young person, that your parent’s drinking is not your fault. Nor can you control your parent’s drinking habits or make them better. But there are ways you can make positive choices in your life.

  1. If you feel it is ok to do so, talk to your parents. They may not fully realise how their drinking makes you feel.
  2. Talk to a grown-up you can trust. This can be a family friend, school counsellor, nurse or relative. It is ok to tell someone how you feel.
  3. Keeping a diary of how you feel can be another way of putting feelings into words. You never know, things may seem less scary when you put them down on paper.
  4. Stay safe – go to a place that you feel safe if you’re frightened. It could be your bedroom, with your brothers and sisters, or even a neighbour. Keep the phone number of someone you trust handy.
  5. Alcoholics Anonymous in Dubai offers family support. http://www.aauae.net/
  6. You are able make healthy choices for yourself. You are in the best place to see what the effects of harmful drinking habits are and can choose differently for yourself. Eating well and exercising can have a positive benefit as well. Taking part in positive and healthy activities can be a welcome distraction and ease your worries.
  7. Online support is available at http://www.coap.org.uk

Harmful drinking is a worldwide problem, so remember that you are not alone. You can also reach out to us at Camali Clinic for advice and support if you are scared or worried. Speak to our clinicians on the phone if you may need help and don’t know how to go about it. We work in complete anonymity and we do our best to protect and help families who are facing difficulties.