The 50-year-old presenter, who is mother to Holly, 16, Tilly, 14, and Chester, 11, with her former husband Matthew Robertson, decided to be honest with her children because she knew they would eventually find out about her former addiction.
McCall battled alcoholism and heroin addiction in her early twenties, but was spurred to seek help following a friend’s ultimatum. By 25, she was clean.
“I had to be brutally honest [with my kids] quite early on when I thought other kids might talk to them about it,” McCall said on Giovanna Fletcher’s Happy Mum Happy Baby podcast. “They grew up with ‘Mummy’s going to a meeting’ - they just didn’t know it was a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.”
By the time each of her children reached about 10 or 11, she would explain what those meetings were. “I’d say, ‘Mummy had a problem but I stopped a long time ago and these meetings help me stay on the straight and narrow’.”
She said they were all “really very accepting” and has suspected that there was a deeper reason why she didn’t drink. “Kids know stuff,” she added. “I never give them credit for what they know, but they are smart like that.”
The mum-of-three said the honesty she has with her kids works both ways, and she always encourages them to reveal any issues they may have in their lives.
“I want them to know they can come to me at any age and tell me anything and we’ll work it out,” she added.
Parents speaking to their children about drug and alcohol addiction is their own choice. The National Association for Children of Alcoholics recommends children and young people remember the following Cs if they are find themselves in this situation. It may be something parents could pass on to their children: “I didn’t cause it; I can’t control it; I can’t cure it; I can communicate my feelings; I can make healthy choices.”
For information and advice:
NACOA: The National Association for Children of Alcoholics: Information and advice of kids of alcoholics and drug users, no matter your age. Free helpline: 0800 358 3456.
Parent Support Link: An organisation aiming to support and inform the families and friends of people who use drugs and alcohol. Helpline: 023 8039 9764.
Adfam: Information and support for the families of drug and alcohol users. Find advice, guidance and peer support groups online.