'When alcohol took hold, she could turn nasty:' Doncaster MP tells of mum's booze battle as Children of Alcoholics Week kicks off

Caroline Flint.
Caroline Flint.
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Doncaster MP Caroline Flint has spoken of her late mum's battle with the booze as Children of Alcoholics Week 2018 gets under way.

The week long-event aims to highlight the problems children living with an alcoholic parent face and the Don Valley MP has previously spoken movingly about her own mum Wendy who died at the age of 45 after being hooked on booze.

She has written about growing up with a parent addicted to alcohol and said her mum Wendy's addiction to booze "ruined her" and that she could "love and hate" her mother all in one day.

She said: "My mum, Wendy, made me who I am.

"Born to a 17-year-old lone parent in 1961, it showed strength to keep me.

"I watched this kind and beautiful woman die at 45 from alcoholism.

"For years, I felt guilty that, maybe, keeping me ruined her life.

"Mum married and my sister and brother came along.

"Life wasn’t easy. We never owned a home but I was happy.

"In my teens, alcohol took over as her marriage and another relationship failed. Lacking self-esteem, drink ruined her.

"Twice I lived away from home. First when mum took my sister and brother to live with our grandparents in Lancashire.

"I lodged with mum’s friend during O Levels.

"Later, back together in London, her drinking made me leave. With a charity grant I rented a room to finish A levels. After that university was an escape.

"I volunteered on Nightline, a student helpline. My sister knew when to ring to keep me in touch with home.

"I could love and hate mum all in one day. I’d go to school not knowing what I’d come home to, frightened of people finding out.

"She worked most of her life. People loved her. But, I’d know she was drunk, even if others couldn’t tell.

"When alcohol took hold, Wendy could turn nasty. A different person.

"I’d get angry, emptying bottles down the sink.

"Sometimes, it was easier to just let her drink and pass out on the sofa. Mum went to AA, took medicine to block her drinking, spent time hospitalised. Nothing worked.

"Once, our family met with a social worker at mum’s choice of venue, a pub!

"Not every day was a bad day. The times she stopped drinking I hoped for the best.

"But in 1990, her liver ruined by alcohol, pneumonia killed her.

"Elected in 1997, I pinched myself. Wendy’s daughter - me, an MP!

"I never spoke about her illness. Too embarrassed. Then years later, a journalist asked: “How does it feel to be the age your mother died?”

"My heart stopped. Tears rolled down my cheeks. Not how I would have chosen to speak about life with an alcoholic.

"I hope my story encourages understanding and support for children of alcoholics and for adults to see how alcohol affects families.

"I still never drink alone. You survive. You stay strong. Wendy would have wanted that for me."

According to figures, some 2.5million children live with an alcoholic parent.

Said Caroline: “Growing up with an alcoholic affects children for many years. And the experience today has improved little since my childhood.

"Too many children suffer this in silence. They don’t tell friends, they don’t invite people home from school, and they get on with life despite the horrendous problems.

And more than a third of child injuries and deaths through neglect are linked to parental drinking, a parliamentary report has found.

Commissioned by a group of MPs for International Children of Alcoholics Week which starts today, the findings reveal the "horrific" impact of alcohol misuse by parents on their children.

It comes as figures from a Freedom of Information investigation show that over half of local authorities do not have a plan to help children of alcoholics.

The report, titled Parental Alcohol Misuse and Children, also found that nearly a fifth (18%) of children reported feeling embarrassed by seeing their parent drunk, while 15% said their bedtime routine had been disrupted as a result of their parents drinking.