What a Rubbish Childhood

Lauren Booth - Key note speaker at the David Stafford Memorial Lecture tonight

Please indulge me breaking off the usual line today, but I want to tell you what I’m up to tonight.  And anyway, it certainly connects to my Book of Rubbish Ideas, because for every single copy that’s bought, I’m making a donation to an amazing charity called NACOA.

They are perhaps easier remembered as The National Association for Children of Alcoholics and tonight they are having an annual memorial lecture in London to celebrate the life and work of one of their founding members, David Stafford.

The evening exists to also celebrate NACOA and her many volunteers and achievements. Last year, their help line and website answered just under 18,000 cries for help.  That’s a shocking number, but when you learn there are around 3,500,000 people in the UK with one or two alcohol dependent parents, you’ll see it’s a tiny fragment of who they could help, if more people knew NACOA existed – and hereto lies my post!

My good friend and a fellow child of an alcoholic, Lauren Booth will be bravely delivering the keynote speech.  She’s perhaps better known for her political journalism and more recently, she’ also pioneering humanitarian work for women and families suffering in Palestine, but this evening, as she delivers her speech and I punctuate it with ‘her voice as a child’, we’ll both be visiting parts of our rubbish childhoods that we’d probably rather leave in peace.

But to do that and to ignore it would be wrong.  It would render so many of our negative experiences as even more useless.  By speaking out for the many thousands of CoA’s, we’re hopefully giving them hope for brighter days.

It’s also important to say that we, and many CoA’s have hundreds of amazing and love filled childhood days too – it’s not all horror and hatred.  Both of our homes had much love in them along with all the many ups and downs too.

I am so enormously proud of Lauren, so grateful for our friendship and so glad we both found our way to NACOA and we’ll both continue to shake the tin for a charity that should be known by everyone in this country.

Please read Lauren’s piece in the Mail on Sunday just gone (scroll down to the ‘Child victims of booze’ bit)

If you are interested in attending the lecture tonight then the details are as follows:

David Stafford Memorial Lecture
7:00pm – 9:00pm
Friends Meeting House
173 Euston Road
Places are free of charge (preference to NACOA members) but must be booked in advance so please do so today by calling Jenny on 0117-924 8005 or email.

Rubbishly yours,


PS:  Thank you for anything you can do to talk about the plight of CoA’s.  There’s a great poster on their website that you can lift and put on your website and blogs or in magazine and newspaper stories too.  If anyone wants to know more about them, please drop me a line or get in touch with them on 0117 924 8005 or www.nacoa.org.uk

From the NACOA website:

Thursday 6 November 2008, 7.00 – 9.00 PM

The eighth David Stafford Memorial Lecture, sponsored by The Serve All Trust, will take place at Friends Meeting House in London. The lecture commemorates the work of David Stafford who co-founded NACOA in 1990 and was Chairman at the time of his sudden death in 1997. He devoted the last ten years of his life to highlighting the problems faced by dependent children growing up in homes where there are problems with alcoholism and other similar addictions.

This year’s guest speaker is broadcaster and journalist Lauren Booth, daughter of Tony Booth and sister to Cherie Blair.

Lauren is a pioneering spirit who talks openly about the ‘devastating effect’ her father’s drinking had on her mental wellbeing as a young child through to adulthood. She highlights the importance of stability within the home and the debilitating anxiety caused by parental drinking.

I grew up amid alcoholism, so I know the devastation the illness causes – not only for the sufferers, but also their families”.

Often my dad didn’t come home; when he did, he would be raving drunk…would he and my mum have one of their violent arguments? Or would he turn maudlin and full of self pity?

She also talks about the impact that parental drinking had on the family’s living conditions and the shame she felt through living in poverty.

…We lived in relative squalor, on threadbare second-hand furniture. The electricity often ran out when we did not have cash for the meter.

I still remember the embarrassment I felt when Mum sent us out begging the neighbours for 10 pence pieces to keep the lights and heating on”.

By speaking publicly about her own experiences, Lauren has raised the profile of the problems faced by children of alcohol-dependent parents in the public consciousness. Through her media work she ensures that these children know they are not alone with their fear and shame – she felt them too – and they are not to blame.

Children of alcoholics often feel very alone. More needs to be done in schools to tell children about the help that is out there, and to educate them about how sick, physically and mentally, alcohol can make you”.