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Byline: Annie Brown

AN MSP whose father was an alcoholic is backing a call to help kids whose parents are hooked on booze.

Kenny Gibson wants Scots to rally behind Children of Alcoholic Parents' Awareness Week, which launches today.

He said: "Thousands of children grow up in Scottish households, like I did, where drink is a big issue.

"It is important those children know where they can find help and that they're not alone."

It is estimated that more than 65,000 children in Scotland have parents who drink too much and we have the eighth-highest booze consumption per head on Earth.

Kenny, 49, knows from personal experience the confusion and isolation suffered by youngsters living in a home with a drunk.

He said: "It is horrendous. You feel so powerless. You just don't know what to do about it. I used to count every day until I was old enough to leave home.

"Without a shadow of a doubt, it marred my childhood."

He recalls his dad playing blaring music in the middle of the night or waking him up to offer him a fish supper after the pub.

Kenny said: "I remember wishing it would stop. My earliest memories are of my father being drunk."

His dad was a functioning alcoholic who could get up for his work as a telephone engineer every morning. But that was just a facade.

Kenny said: "In the last 25 years of his life, I don't think I saw my father sober half a dozen times. And I doubt, over those years, if anyone in our home had a decent, uninterrupted night's sleep."

The SNP MSP for Cunninghame North said his twin sister Janis left home at 16 and he followed at 17.

Kenny said: "I don't suppose you ever get away from it, because it is in your mind and memory, but I was glad to escape.

"It sounds trite but, most of all, I appreciated the peace and just getting a proper sleep."

Kenny shunned drink until the age of 23 and is still only a very moderate drinker.

But children of alcoholics are three times more likely to become dependent on booze and twice as likely to get hooked on drugs.

The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (Nacoa) are behind the awareness week. The charity's helpline gets more than 20,000 calls a year - more of them from Scotland (21 per cent) than any other region in Britain.

Co-founder Hilary Henriques believes it is crucial children seek help to break the cycle of addiction.

Hilary said: "We've seen an increase in the number of young callers who use drink and drugs as a means of surviving difficulties.

"They have often learned from an early age that drink seems to 'numb the pain'.

"We provide the opportunity for callers to explore these patterns of thought and behaviour, supporting them to make informed choices for themselves and break the cycle of addiction."

Hilary said children of alcoholics suffer in many ways. There is often a lack of money as cash is squandered on the parent's addiction. Basics such as food and clothing are sometimes sacrificed.

THERE may be neglect and anxiety caused by living in a home where there is no structure, aggression and explosive moods.

Social services say alcohol is a factor in 40 per cent of domestic violence incidents, 40 per cent of child protection cases and 74 per cent of child mistreatment cases.

Calum Best, Elle Macpherson, Sir Ben Kingsley, Kim Woodburn and Marco Pierre White are among big names pledging their support for the awareness week.

At least a million children live with parents who have a problem with alcohol. The vast majority of the kids try to hide their problems.

Hilary said: "Some children live in terror, sometimes they are simply ignored, deprived of the ordinary things we accept in life as the norm, being loved, cared for, clothed, given food and warmth and feeling wanted and cherished for who they are."

Calum Best, whose dad George was an alcoholic, said: "If I had known I could talk to someone or have someone to listen, it would have helped me to understand and cope with my dad's illness."

Children living with parental alcoholism are twice as likely to have difficulties at school, five times as likely to develop an eating disorder, twice as likely to be in trouble with the police and three times as likely to consider suicide.

They are also six times as likely to witness domestic violence.

Nacoa provide a confidential free helpline and a full list of organisations dedicated to helping those suffering as a result of alcoholism.


VICTIMS: Gibson, left. Boozers' kids can face domestic violence DESPAIR: Alcoholics' children live with the aftermath of binges
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 14, 2011
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