“Fixing” Mother’s who Drink: Family Narratives on Secrecy, Shame and Silence

Liezille Jacobs*, 1, Julian Jacobs2
1 University of the Western Cape, School of Public Health, Cape Town, South Africa
2 Research Impact Use and Assessment, Human Sciences Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa

© 2015 Jacobs and Jacobs

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distributin, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the University of the Western Cape,Social Work Department, Private X17, BELLVILLE, Cape Town, South Africa; E-mail:


Background: In South Africa, there is a paucity of qualitative studies giving a voice to mothers who drink, which could inform interventions to assist families to heal from repetitive alcohol use disorders.

Methods: This qualitative study explored the discursive accounts of 10 mothers who are members of Alcoholic Anonymous in the context of their complex state of being-in-the-world with others (like husbands and children). The aims of this study were to explore why mothers drank excessively and to unpack their families’ responses to their drinking.

Results: First-person narratives with mothers’ about their lived experience with alcohol use disorder illustrate the main themes, which emanated from these discussions. The discourses on secrecy, shame and silence related to the mother’s lived-experience with alcohol’s occurrence in the family. This paper recommends that families who always stand over and against an alcohol dependent past should consider attending free support group meetings for loved ones of Alcoholics. A popular family support group for families affected by alcohol dependency is known as Al-anon.

Keywords: Alcohol use disorder, family, mothers, narratives, stigma.