Why you need help when you live with a person using alcohol or drugs

Why you need help when you live with a person using alcohol or drugs

Living with someone who has problems with drugs or alcohol is usually an all-consuming, emotional and relentless journey. You love them so you keep going and before you know it, every waking moment is spent thinking about them, their problems and how you can make it better. You haven’t even time to think about help for yourself. Sound familiar?

 

Your feelings are determined by what your loved one’s behaviour is like that particular day. Have they had a drink? Have they used? How much have they used? How will I find out? I’ll ring so and so. They’ve let me down again. The children are upset. Oh no, will there be another row? Might they get violent? How can I stop it?

 

I get it.

 

Are they really addicted?

 

You may be in a bit of denial or not so sure yourself that your loved one has a problem. Some people spend most of their time together with their loved one and friends using substances themselves so maybe you’re thinking have I really got room to talk? Everybody else does it. Maybe because they are not using every day then they can’t be an “addict?”.

 

Forget that word, “addict”, for now. I prefer the term, “someone who has problems with alcohol or other drugs”. It’s a bit easier to understand that if somebody is having problems in other areas of their life because of drugs or alcohol then they are having problems. These problems aren’t a one-off, and a number of aspects of life such as relationships, work, finances, health and so on may be affected. Something needs to change. Sometimes, this might be a friend or family member having a chat and helping them realise. Sometimes, they may be in denial or need some specialist help. This all depends on the individual, the amount of their substance being used, frequency and how long it has been going on. Unfortunately, nobody can make your loved one access support. You can only influence it. It is their decision to get help.

 

If your instinct is telling you that you loved has a problem and you also have evidence for this, then they probably have. It might also be completely obvious.

 

What is so hard about asking for help?

 

If you know your loved one has a problem, you can influence them to access treatment, but when it comes down to it, it is their choice. There are lots of treatment options for substance misuse which I can talk about another time. It is useful for you to know this, in case an opportunity arises for you to discuss this with them at a time when they are sober.

 

What we are never good at is asking for help or admitting we need this ourselves! Why?

 

There are loads of reasons. You might be so intently focussed on your loved one getting help that you don’t even consider yourself at all! Unsure about what support is out there for you? Perhaps you are worried about people finding out for all different reasons, like wanting others to just think you are living a “normal” life. Lots of powerful emotions like fear, anger, worry, shame, embarrassment, frustration and guilt, as well as not wanting to let our loved one down are barriers to accessing help.

 

These are all common feelings and thoughts of family members affected by a loved one’s substance use. You’re not on your own, have a look at the stats from ADFAM’s evidence pack which was published in 2012! ADFAM are amazing. Have a look here. 

 

Remember that your loved one choosing to drink is not your fault. NACOA have lovely words for children with parents who have problems with alcohol which I think are important for you to remember too:

I…

  • didn’t cause it
  • can’t cure it
  • can’t control it
  • can take care of myself
  • can communicate my feelings
  • can make healthy choices

 

I hope you can take some comfort in the fact that you are definitely not alone in your situation.

 

What next?

If you’re still here, you know that your loved one has a problem, we’ve considered some of the feelings and daily thoughts you might be experiencing and you know you’re not on your own.  So, what have you got to lose? I’m wondering if there is anything else stopping you from getting your own help.

 

I know from working with families affected by substance misuse for many years that there can also be a number of practical reasons why it is difficult to get help (as well as the above):

 

  1. Work may mean you can’t go for sessions during the day.
  2. Childcare- you might not want to leave your children with your loved one.
  3. Evenings may be taken up with other responsibilities, if not work.
  4. You might just be knackered all the time and not have the energy.
  5. What’s out there might not be your thing.
  6. Fear of leaving your loved one alone.

 

There is some help out there to suit everyone. You might think that once your loved one gets into treatment, you will get help too. Unfortunately, this is not always the case as your loved one needs to give consent for you to be involved in their treatment journey. If they don’t, you may not get support yourself. Some services do offer family services as part of their recovery process which is fantastic. Have a look yourself online and see what’s available for you in your area.

 

How the Vesta Approach is different

 

I set up The Vesta Approach because I know how difficult it is for some of you to even get out of the house. I offer my service face to face in Manchester, UK. Don’t worry though, as you don’t even need to go out to access my programme as I offer Skype sessions and soon, an online therapeutic programme. Read more here.

 

This service is for you. I will teach you how to respond differently to your loved one’s substance use in an evidence based programme that supports you to recover from your loved one’s drug or alcohol use, get them into treatment and improve your quality of life.

 

If you want to know more, sign up to my mailing list and receive my “Ten Steps to Family Recovery Guide” to give you a taster of the programme and my top tips to starting your recovery journey.

 

Remember that you are not alone so take that first step and have a look at what help is out there for you.

 

I can help

My service, The Vesta Approach, supports families affected by a loved one’s substance use. You can access confidential support from me wherever you are in the world. I will help you to get your loved one into treatment and lead a better life. I offer face to face sessions in the Manchester (UK) area. You can also get help via Skype  and my online group therapeutic programme which is launching in the next few weeks!

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

Sign up to my mailing list here to keep up to date with Vesta news and get my free Ten Steps to Family Recovery download.

 

See you next week,

 

Victoria.

The hooks to drug and alcohol users getting help

The hooks to drug and alcohol users getting help

The hooks to drug and alcohol users getting help

 

Last week, I wrote about the barriers to drug and alcohol users getting help  so, it is also relevant to talk about the hooks to treatment too.

 

As a family member who wants to influence change in their loved one’s substance use, it is really useful to figure out when a loved one is going to be open to that change. It would be fabulous if I could advise when this is, but, as we are dealing with human beings who are all unique, every person will be motivated at different times and by different things.

 

Motivation is personal

 

I have worked with families where parents have problems with substance use and who have been referred by services for support. Most of these families have been involved with Children’s Services which means they have been on child protection plans or similar. This does not mean that a) they are not good parents or b) that their children will be taken off them. There is, however, a risk that children could be removed if parents do not get support to reduce or abstain from substance use, accept help and improve their parenting capacity.

 

That risk, for me personally, would be the ultimate sacrifice and I would do anything to change so that I could keep my children. For some families I have worked with, children have been removed because they could not change. It is crucial to note here, however, that I have not had problems with alcohol or drug use, I have not had mental health issues and I have not been involved with Children’s Services. This means that my motivation now could be different if I the same problems. This also means that my motivation could change.

 

When I think about what has triggered my motivation for healthy eating for example, in my 20’s and early 30’s, it was because I wanted to look good. As a 40’s newbie, the priority is so that I can feel my absolute best for my family, my work and my life and because I want to teach my children good habits.

Think about this for a moment, what has motivated you in the past? What motivates you now?

 

Finding the hooks

 

With substance users then, we need to think about what is motivating them now. You will see signs of this when they have a break from drug or alcohol use or when they talk about changing or stopping using. Even if they are dissatisfied with their use, something has happened that has made them feel that way. We need to know what this something is.

 

A brilliant exercise is to review the times in the past when a loved one has shown these signs of dissatisfaction as we can then think about what their hooks are. I have spoken about shifting the balance so that the negative consequences of drug use outweigh the positives. When this occurs, this will be the time we have to look out for to discuss getting help. Planning for these times is a really good way of getting ready to step in and offer support.

 

Some typical hooks

 

Hooks then, are events that we can predict are when drug and alcohol use is disturbed. Some typical categories of hooks into treatment are:

  • Health- any health scares or risks to health
  • Relationships- conflict, reactions or violence or having good times
  • Activities- losing friends, work or missing enjoyable activities
  • Self-image- what other people think of us and what we think of ourselves
  • Formal coercion- requirements from courts, police, safeguarding

 

An example

 

A friend of mine was very concerned about his brother’s drinking. I gave him some advice. When I followed the situation up with him, he said that an ambulance had been called because his sister wouldn’t wake up. He had overdosed on alcohol. Since then, despite problematic drinking for many years, He has not touched alcohol for five months. Why? Because he is a professional man and he did not want anyone at work to know he had a problem. He also lived in the area in which he works. This is his hook. His hook was his self-image and possibly also his health.

 

We can then explore what the signs and symptoms of a loved one’s reaction to particular hooks are. Some situations may not create any reaction, because all our hooks are different, some will create a great deal of reaction. If we can get really clear on previous reactions, then this will help families to quickly spot the signs in the future and be ready for discussing what help is out there. The next step is to take action and get support in place.

 

To summarise:

 

  1. Think about the times your loved one has stopped using drugs or alcohol or has spoken about stopping.
  2. Note down what happened before this change occurred.
  3. How long did it last?
  4. What type of hook was this?
  5. You can then summarise your loved one’s hooks.
  6. This will then give you an idea of what area you can focus on to tip the balance of your loved one’s use.

I can help

 

My service, The Vesta Approach, supports families affected by a loved one’s substance use. You can access confidential support from me wherever you are in the world. I will help you to get your loved one into treatment and lead a better life. I offer face to face sessions in the Manchester (UK) area. You can also get help via Skype  and an online group therapeutic programme.

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

Sign up to my mailing list here to keep up to date with Vesta news and get my free 10 Steps to Family Recovery download.

 

 

Take Care.

See you next week,

 

Victoria.

The barriers to drug and alcohol users getting help

The barriers to drug and alcohol users getting help

There are many factors contributing to the reasons why problematic substance users do not get help for their drug or alcohol use. I thought this blog might be useful for anyone living with a loved one’s substance use to gain a bit of understanding around this look out for signs to take any action.

 

Are they ready?

 

Firstly, somebody needs to be at a certain stage of the cycle of change to even consider help. We would be looking for signs that a loved one is thinking about change, has said they will give up off their own back or seems uncomfortable about their use. These are the times to initiate conversations about getting help. On this note, please don’t waste your energy having these discussions when your loved one is heavily under the influence. It is a waste of your energy.

 

Have they hit rock bottom?

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, people do not need to hit ‘rock bottom’ in order to change. As a family member or friend, the Vesta Programme covers many strategies that you can use to adjust the environment that your loved one lives in and to change your responses to them when they use or drink. This will ultimately influence their decisions around their drug or alcohol use.

 

The types of barriers

 

Now we have covered those key points, let’s move onto the barriers:

 

  1. Psychological– these barriers are linked to how your loved one perceives their own substance use. For example, they may simply not see their substance use as being a problem. They may say they don’t need any help and they are in control. They might simply like using or they might just choose to ignore the issue entirely.
  2. Social– Shame, embarrassment, fear of people finding out or what others think about them are a huge barrier to family members AND substance users getting help. There is so much secrecy and stigma attached to getting help for substance use, but this should not be the case. Everyone has problems. Asking for help is a strength and allows people to move on with their lives.
  3. Practical– They might not have even wanted to look for ways they can get help. Maybe there are childcare issues. Working hours are a massive factor for professionals (as well as work finding out). Clinging onto negative stories about treatment in the media or from other people who have attempted recovery influences this also. Having no time or money can also be a preventative factor, despite the fact that substance users spend a fortune on obtaining their substance in the first place.
  4. Assumptions– or jumping to conclusions! These types of barriers can include anything from assuming they aren’t as bad as anyone else, thinking they will be told what to do or that there is only one type of help such as rehab or an equivalent. A big issue here is fear. Fear of what happens in treatment or what the consequences could be for them.
  5. Experiences– if a loved one has had experience of a particular service or professional in the past, this can cloud judgement around what help would be like in the future ANYWHERE. They may be petrified of what they will feel like if they stop using their substance and they may simply be a private person who doesn’t want to associate with other substance users.

All of these types of barriers are relevant in supporting someone into treatment. They are also relevant concerns for anyone who needs to access treatment so we have to work with the, and not dismiss them. One of the aims of the Vesta Programme is for a loved one to enter treatment as a result of working with a concerned family member. I can show you how to do this.

 

How do we address these barriers?

 

  1. Look out for times when a loved one appears to be thinking about change or speaking about it to start having conversations about getting help. I’ll write about ‘hooks’ next week so that you can identify the times when your loved one has become dissatisfied with their use and have relevant discussions about it.
  2. Gather as much information as possible about the help and support you can access locally and online. Ring up or message services, ask how they work so you can gently challenge any negative thoughts when the barriers come up in conversation and offer a range of options.
  3. Familiarise yourself with the barriers that you anticipate or know your loved one has to treatment. If they don’t talk about it at all, you can probably guess what their barriers would be so that you have something to work with from the five barrier types above. You can then get as much information about these potential barriers and address any practical issue as well when sourcing the right help for your loved one. This means you can prepare responses to their objections in advance.

 

There you go, a brief introduction to barriers and some points to deal with them. I just need to say that these conversations may not always be successful straight away, but it is important to act fast when you can see your loved one thinking about change. Preparing yourself now would be a wonderful way of getting one step ahead and preparing for family recovery.

 

I can help

 

My service, The Vesta Approach, supports families affected by a loved one’s substance use. You can access confidential support from me wherever you are in the world. I will help you to get your loved one into treatment and lead a better life. I offer face to face sessions in the Manchester (UK) area. You can also get help via Skype  and an online group therapeutic programme.

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

Sign up to my mailing list here to keep up to date with Vesta news and get my free 10 Steps to Family Recovery download.

 

 

Take Care.

See you next week,

 

Victoria.