A family affair: A painful mix of drive and drink

this week, a mother and son talk about his former drink problem and sense of failure
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The Independent Culture
Jo Hansford, a "celebrity" hair colourist, has a salon in Mayfair. Her clients include Naomi Campbell, Camilla Parker Bowles, Kate Winslet and Raquel Welch. Her 25-year-old son Daniel, a music video producer, recently produced UB40's video. Before Daniel found a job in the film industry, he drank heavily and suffered from depression - an episode that deeply affected his parents.

Jo

When Daniel finished school he desperately wanted to be a professional golfer. We said we'd support him in that, because his father's a keen golfer.

But the training was day and night, and he didn't want to live like that. He tried other jobs but really wanted to get into film - he wrote a film script, and we supported him in that. He wrote to hundreds of production companies, but they sent back rejection letters.

By this time his drinking had got really bad. I had no idea at this point that it was such a serious situation, but he was nearly suicidal. It's quite frightening when you find out that your own flesh and blood so nearly went off the rails.

When he was drinking he could get quite violent. He'd become unrecognisable; smashing the house up after an evening out. Even my husband, who's a big man, found it frightening. But I don't think he realised how bad he was. Daniel didn't remember things, and a lot of the time he'd deny it.

The worst thing was his own sense of failure. He would look at me and his father and we seemed successful - my husband is a businessman and entrepreneur, and I built my business up from nothing. But nobody would give him a break. I said to him: "We didn't make it overnight. We didn't have rich parents. It's all about getting an opportunity."

He didn't realise that we cared. He felt he had to do everything on his own, and there wasn't any support. At the time, I felt rejected. I felt, for all that we'd been through, he wasn't allowing me to help him. He was drawing away from me.

It came to a pitch one day, when he phoned and said he needed to talk. Daniel always comes to me to talk, no matter what. We've always had a good relationship emotionally. When we did talk, I found that he was really on the brink of no return, and in such a state of desperation. He felt there was no point going on any more. I think he wanted to obliterate everything with drink. I did suggest getting some help and sent him to a psychiatrist, but he gave up after a few sessions. I felt I couldn't press the issue.

I think all he really wanted to do was prove himself. Then, he finally got a break; a job in film, and he's got something to really work for. He moved away from home to west London and now he says we did the right thing at the time.

As soon as he started working, he put the drinking behind him. We were so pleased and proud for him. Now I just think: "Thank God he's found himself."

Daniel

When I decided to give up being a professional golfer, at around 16 years old, I felt that my father resented the fact. I thought that I'd let him down, that all their friends would be saying "Daniel's a drop-out". I felt sorry for my parents.

But I knew I wanted to work in films. I did different jobs and began to drink heavily; up to eight pints a night and then brandy or vodka. I'd become immune to the amounts.

Then I went travelling in Australia where the bars were open all night. I didn't see the drinking as a problem, because everyone was doing it.

The problems started when I was 23 and I'd come back to live at my parents after that round-the-world trip. All I wanted to do was get into film. I was begging companies to be a runner for them. I'd send out 150 letters and get three replies back; all rejections. I thought then, "There's no chance", and started drinking masses.

But I was incredibly ambitious. I just wanted to be successful at something and to prove it to my parents. But the doors wouldn't open.

It was weird, but I felt that I couldn't speak to my parents. I felt they were working every day God sent, and the only way they would notice me was if I did something dramatic. I would come back after a night out and trash their house. I'd ask my father to fight me. Looking back, I think it's because I wanted my father to show me some emotion. They'd call the police and we'd sit and talk it out. I'd see my father's eyes welling up, and I'd start crying my eyes out. Then I'd feel really close to him.

I turned out ultra-affectionate but my parents have never really shown as much emotion. I felt I had to push him to that extreme to get a reaction. It totally shocked him. He kept saying, "Why? Why?"

My mother sent me to this psychiatrist. I stuck it for four sessions and he said, "Talk to me about your life." I did, and on the last day he said: "You've really got to stop drinking." I know that, when I drank, I let the demons in, and I associated with the dark side. I would feel a build-up of anger and irritation.

Then everything changed when a friend of mine told me about a job as a tea boy in a production company. I got it and moved up the ladder from there.

I left home, set up my own company for a while and went to live in west London. I love my job, and what I'm doing.

And I'm better about the drinking, too - I'm making a conscious effort to cut down. Now I wouldn't change anything about my parents for the world, and I feel close to both of them.

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