#3 things to consider for families during Dry January

#3 things to consider for families during Dry January

Do we stop and think about family members during Dry January?

What if we took a moment to consider more than the individual breaking up from the booze for a month?

 

That’s exactly what I’ll be doing in this blog.

 

What is Dry Jan?

 

Dry January is a fantastic annual campaign led by Alcohol Change who are the leading UK Alcohol Charity. Their focus is not being anti-alcohol but more of a harm-reduction vibe. Their goal, while recognising the devastating impact of alcohol, is to ‘live in a society that is free from the harm caused by alcohol’.

Stopping drinking for a month has enormous benefits for all. I am certainly not doubting any element of it…

“Stopping drinking for a month alters liver fat, cholesterol and blood sugar and helps them lose weight. If someone had a health product that did all that in one month, they would be raking it in.”

Professor Kevin Moore, Consultant in Liver Health Services, University College London Medical Centre (Source: Alcohol Change UK)

But… there are some considerations for the wider family that we need to consider…

 

1. The Individual

 

Many people who are drinking problematically can still stop relatively easily for periods of time. There are many problem drinkers who ‘only drink at weekends’, or even go for weeks without a drop. That doesn’t mean their drinking (or drug use!) is not problematic.

What I mean when I say ‘problematically’ is that their alcohol use causes problems for THEM and their PARTNERS/FRIENDS/FAMILY. These problems could include relationship issues, being drunk in front of the kids, financial problems, impact on mental health or employment, not being present with the family or focusing every activity around alcohol.

Stopping for a month is AMAZING for the individual’s health, but it can also lead to minimising the fact they have a wider issue than just being able to stop temporarily proves.

In an ideal world, it should also be a time when the individual reflects on the impact of their drinking on others around them.

The question is, what happens after Dry January finishes?

To add.. if anyone has experienced any signs of withdrawals, or physical symptoms when stopping drinking, do not take part in this, please speak to a GP. This is clearly stated on the Alcohol Change website.

 

2. The Family

 

Families are impacted by a loved one’s alcohol and drug use EVERY DAY. In fact, 1 in 10 people in Great Britain are affected by a loved one’s substance use (Source: ADFAM #Forgotten5Million Campaign).

It’s sensible then, to think of families at this time.

The impact on families is HUGE and is very well-researched. This is not just about families of ‘addicts’ it’s about families who are living with individuals whose drinking causes them problems. These problems are masked with stigma, shame and a lack of understanding of alcohol use, recovery and of the support available for families living in this situation.

It’s a great time to take some action and talk through their thoughts and feelings with their loved one if possible. Sober times are an ideal opportunity for family members to really remind their loved one of what they’re missing- about how good life can be without alcohol.  It’s also a good time to have some difficult conversations while their loved one has pressed pause on their drinking.

More importantly, families can reach out and get some help for themselves, while having a break. There is some great support out there. Women living with a loved one’s substance use can join my free Facebook Group the #FamilyRecoveryClub

 

3. Children

 

Unless drinking and hangovers are kept away from children full stop (not very likely) they will pick up on what’s going on. Children notice the differences in our behaviours as parents.

There was a piece of research published in 2017, ‘Like Sugar for Adults’ which explored the impact of non-dependent parental drinking on children. 997 parents and children were involved, and it was found that the more parents drank, the more problems children reported, but that the issues raised were very similar.

These problems included unpredictability, interrupted bedtime routines and arguments. The children experienced strong emotional reactions like worry and embarrassment. Please remember this is from low levels of drinking!

The research concluded, ‘it may be wrong to assume that negative impacts of parental drinking are only associated with higher levels of consumption.’

So… it would be great if parents could consider their drinking behaviours around their children. Maybe save it until after bedtime? Start talking to children about alcohol? I don’t have the answers but I urge everyone to have a think about what children are seeing, hearing and feeling.

 

Help for families

 

I offer a range of support to family members living with a loved one’s substance use.

 

If you are a family member and you need help, head over to my free Facebook Group #FamilyRecoveryClub

 

Download Ten Ways to Family Recovery, a PDF download with my top tips, a checklist and a handy list of services.

Victoria

Counselling is not the only option- 3 ways to get help with drug and alcohol use

Counselling is not the only option- 3 ways to get help with drug and alcohol use

Ever feel confused about the support available for you and your loved one?

Look no further

In this blog, I’ll be sharing three major shortcuts to help you choose the best community-based service for you and your family. 

1. Drug and alcohol practitioners

There are excellent, trained drug and alcohol practitioners, who specifically help either you or your loved one. They support people who use drugs and alcohol into their recovery. 

Some services work specifically with families. For example, in your local authority, there are drug and alcohol services, which are free to access. They work in a holistic way, to help deal with all aspects of life. They will get the appropriate services involved to help your loved one achieve their recovery goals. This may be supporting them to stop, or reduce their substance use, or supporting you to cope. 

 

They offer a range of help including recovery groups.

You can contact these services yourself- just have a look on Google.

For you, there are some amazing family services. It depends on your locality.  Some are delivered through drug services. Some are separate. If in doubt, give your drug service a call and ask. 

I am a trained drug and alcohol practitioner. If you want to find quality, private practitioners (like me!) have a look here at FDAP.  We have to register and follow a specific code of conduct to deliver this work. This keeps you safe and ensures you are working with a skilled practitioner.

Always ask about ways of working, as there are LOTS of different models of support.
Testimonials are another good thing to ask for.

 

 2. Alternative Therapies & other support

Other support includes alternative therapies such as hypnotherapy and acupuncture. I would usually recommend these in addition to drug and alcohol treatment.

But… some people recover from substance use, solely with alternative methods of support like this. 

Those offering support are often in recovery themselves, some are not. Both people in recovery and trained professionals can be of equal value, depending on what type of support you want. People in recovery should also be trained in their particular area of work. 

There are well-known recovery methods such as NA & AA. This support is classed as mutual aid, so check them out and see if they are right for you. These groups are not necessarily run by trained and qualified practitioners. HOWEVER, they can be a fantastic support and have helped many into their recovery. AL-ANON is for family members affected by a loved ones drinking.   

SMART Recovery is another option for your loved ones recovery. The facilitators are trained. Some are professionals, some are not. I have known a lot of clients recover by using SMART Recovery methods. 

There are also coaches as an option. Again, check their credentials and experience.

Just because somebody has been through an experience themselves, does not mean they are skilled to help others. Trust me. This work is hard. There is a LOT of skill involved and professionals need to keep themselves and their clients safe. 

 There are many other support services available for families. Check out the ADFAM search to find something in your area.

I have a free, online group for women living with drug and alcohol use. Come and join me at Vesta Confidential.

3. Counselling

A good counsellor is worth their weight in gold, if you find somebody experienced in working with addictions.

One way you can find this out is ask or check them out on FDAP, because they have specific qualifications that counsellors can complete. This means they are trained and qualified to work with people who are affected by or who have experienced addiction or drug and alcohol related issues. You can also check BACP. 

Counsellors usually have no agenda or structure to their sessions. It is about you bringing what you need to sessions and working through that. This is different to the way I work. I often refer to counsellors or psychotherapists and other therapists after we have worked together to explore underlying thoughts and feelings. 

If someone has already been treated for their substance use and want to explore an underlying issue around why they have used, then find someone that works with that specific issue. This may not necessarily be addiction. Lots of people use drugs because of the trauma they have experienced. The substances mask that trauma. 

There are counsellors trained to support families too. Again, you can find them on FDAP.  

Professionals in every single type of support, can try and be all things to all people. So, always check credentials. Always check qualifications. Always check experience. 

BUT… you could also give those just qualified a chance! If everything is transparent and they act with integrity, you might find a diamond who is freshly trained and absolutely fantastic!

I haven’t mentioned medical practitioners here, but remember you can speak to your GP at any point. I would always recommend this for people who use drugs or alcohol. 

In summary…

The way I work is in a solution focused, but person-centred way. So, I help my clients get results within a certain time frame (you have to do the work!) but focus sessions around your needs, your feelings and your goals.
I will take you from being stressed, alone and not really knowing what to do…
To… knowledgeable, confident and with a whole load of effective strategies to cope with a loved one’s drug or alcohol use.

So that…
You can live a life you deserve, regardless of whether your loved one continues to use substances.

So, if you want to work with me, contact me for a free, 20 minute friendly consultation.

But hurry… because my one to one places are limited.

Hope to see you soon because I can help.

Victoria  

P.S- You can join my mailing list here and get tips to cope straight into your inbox!

Caring with someone with a drug or alcohol problem

Caring with someone with a drug or alcohol problem

Have you ever struggled with your loved one’s drug or alcohol use and not known what to do next?

Do you feel stressed, worried or alone?

Do you feel like you’ve tried everything and don’t know where to go for help and support?

 

Firstly, I need to acknowledge that this is National Carer’s Week. Did you know that looking after someone with a drug and alcohol problem makes you a carer? Having caring responsibilities can impact on every aspect of a person’s life. Not knowing how someone is going to ‘be’ on a daily basis can be incredibly stressful. Most people do not ask for help and the cycle of stress continues.

 

My clients are usually professional women living with a loved one’s substance use. They experience a great deal of guilt, shame, secrecy and stress and I work with them to reduce that stress and live a better life.

 

In this blog, I’m going to share with you my three top tips for helping you care for yourself while you’re caring for someone else.

 

1. Look after YOU

 

If you don’t look after yourself, and meet your own needs, it will be really hard to maintain your other responsibilities. This will impact on emotional, mental and physical health.

 

Most of my clients are working women, many with children. If their partners are drunk by 6pm or the dealer is dropping off their next mid-week bag, this usually means additional work after actual work! Hangovers and come downs at the weekend are common, so even more pressure is added for carers to run the home and care for children.

 

Maintaining the responsibility for EVERYTHING, including your loved one and their substance use, while holding down a career or running a business is just too much. Just giving yourself one hour per week to do something that you enjoy will allow you to switch off from your current situation and recharge your batteries.

 

2. Communicate your feelings 

 

Try and speak to your loved one, about your situation, when they are sober. If they are drunk or intoxicated with drugs, the likelihood is, they will not listen to you at all. You will be wasting your energy, having conversations with somebody that is unlikely to remember the vast majority of it.

 

Positive communication is something I highly recommend.

 

If you communicate positively it reduces family/couples conflict. It gives you the opportunity to tell the other person how you feel. The idea is that you talk about your feelings, without being accusatory.

 

Many families do this the other way round. They voice their concerns when a loved one is intoxicated and hope everything will go back to normal, because they have a day (or a week) sober.

 

Save these discussion for when your loved one is sober. These are the times when I advise families to talk about the issues. These are the times their loved one will absorb those feelings, These are the times when change can be influenced.

 

3. Ask for help

 

Asking for help is so very hard. I know this as a recovering perfectionist. When we are proud human beings, fully in control and holding it together on the outside, asking for help can feel like a catastrophic fail. However, look at it in another way. Having ONE slightly uncomfortable conversation can relieve a whole load of stress for you and your loved one.

 

A great way of asking for help is to write out your support network and highlight any friends, family members, neighbours or co-workers that either know about your situation or who you would find helpful if they knew about it. There will always be some people to avoid with a bargepole with asks like this so don’t bother with them for ‘helping’ asks. We all have different people in our lives that bring different qualities, so bear that in mind when asking someone you’ve only known through your clubbing days for help with childcare. Save them for your next night out! We all need people we can simply have fun with.

 

The next step is to ring them and have a conversation about what you are going through and what you need. Avoid texts if you can. Your ask might be for practical or emotional support. I know it can feel like keeping your situation a secret is beneficial, but for who? Openness and transparency are approaches that help family members live a better life. It allows someone using substances to consider change. Secrets and lies do not.

 

If there are children involved, I would always recommend that you speak to them about the situation in an age-appropriate manner. They will know that something is going on. I have worked with children for 20 years and even though many cannot always name ‘addiction’, ‘alcohol’ or ‘drugs’, parental substance use does have an impact on them.

 

So…. in summary Help & Self Care = Recovery.

 

I can help

Did you enjoy my blog? Why not get more of my best tips to reduce your stress and live a better life by signing up to my mailing list AND…

 

Click here to Download my brilliant PDF with my top ten tips, a handy checklist and useful support services who can help you and your family.

 

Click here to message me for a free 30 minute, private and confidential consultation. 

 

Take Care,

Victoria

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What children need when they are living with parental substance use

What children need when they are living with parental substance use

What children need when they are living with parental substance use

My specialism is working with individuals, children and families affected by drug and alcohol use. I have been in this field since 2005 and have directly supported, designed and delivered services to help families to recover from substance use. I thought I would share my thoughts on what children need from grown ups when they are living in this situation.

  1. At least one trusted adult outside the family home that they can speak to – it can be so easy for families to think that closing ranks and keeping problems within the family is the safest way to deal with things. How many times have you spoken to people outside your family about familial issues? Ask yourself, Why? Because our family members are either part of the issues or they are simply too connected. Children need someone to know about the situation at home. School as an absolute minimum. Just so they have somewhere to go where they can talk about how they feel.
  2. For families not to diagnose the level of a problem with drugs or alcohol themselves Here’s my advice- most families are not equipped to make a judgement on what is safe and what is not. Please don;t dwell on how much of a problem someone has. Whether or not they are an ‘addict’ does not matter. It may have crossed your mind as a grown up that something isn’t right, that someone is drinking or taking too many drugs and is incapable of caring properly for themselves, let alone a child. If a child has been left alone whilst a parent or carer has gone out, it’s time to take action. Speak to the adult about your issues. Get advice, ring your local drug and alcohol service, children’s services or NSPCC. It does not matter if someone is an ‘addict’ and I do not believe someone has to hit ‘rock bottom’. If a substance is causing problems for them, they may need some help. They may be a binge drinker or a daily drinker. Every night from 5pm or every day from getting up. This can range from a direct conversation with a friend to drug and alcohol treatment. The child also needs their own help. Don’t leave them out of the process.
  3. Age appropriate explanations of drugs and alcohol and how they affect people – It is very important to understand that children need an explanation of what alcohol and drugs are and how some people can have problems. Calling substances ‘medicine’ is not appropriate. They need to feel like they are not alone in their situation.
  4. For professionals and families to listen, hear and take action on what they share so that they are truly heard – imagine what a relief it is when you share something that has been worrying you? Now imagine you are a child. Imagine that you have told a grown up and it takes a month to hear anything back. Imagine that you never hear anything and your parents find out you have told someone outside the family home. Imagine that a social worker came to see you and then nothing really happened. Imagine that your whole family know what’s going on, but nobody does anything about it. It doesn’t feel very nice does it? We need to take action. Always. And if someone doesn’t get back to you about that action. Follow it up.
  5. For families not to ask them to cover up what is going on in the family home – Just don’t do it. This causes so much more trauma for children than the substance use in itself. Once professionals get involved, families can prime children to say this and not say that. Allowing them to say what they need to means they can deal with their own thoughts and feelings. Plus adults get the help they need too.
  6. For professionals to understand the child’s change cycle- Just because an adult is in recovery, does not mean that things change for them. It brings a whole new (or much repeated) journey into recovery, This journey is often filled with anxiety, worry or a whole new set of parental boundaries or even affection implemented by their parent in recovery. So often, if cases are at Child Protection (have a social worker), once a parent has been in recovery for quite a short amount of time, the case gets closed. This means the family can be on their own again navigating this new path together. It can be a tricky one! Please keep professionals involved with the family to help them in their recovery journey.
  7. Not to be told they are naughty! Yes- behaviour will be impacted upon for many reasons. Please do not label them as being ‘naughty’/ I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this happen, even when we know about the situation they are living in.
  8. For -grown-ups to be trauma aware understand, consider and ask how they feel, what they want and how they wish to be worked with or helped.

To Close

I could write all day about this.

What I want to close with is that parents who use substances are NOT BAD PARENTS. People use substances often because of trauma they have experienced themselves or in times of stress and chaos. Every person within the family needs help and support. Children need protective factors in place when they are living in this situation.

A specialist service delivering work with families on parental substance use may be available in your area. This is the ideal service to support children and families.

If anyone needs any advice or support my inboxes are open this week.

Take care,

 

Victoria

Drinking around children

Drinking around children

I’m a total and utter party pooper when it comes to drinking around children. A bit of an outcast in terms of my opinion on the subject. It’s what our mums and dads always did and it didn’t do us any harm right? Wrong! Before I begin, I don’t want to come across as patronising. Those who know me know I love partying with the best of them. I enjoy drinking to enhance a night out or a Saturday night in. I do not enjoy hangxiety or alcohol-induced-depression one little bit. As a drug and alcohol practitioner, I do not always practise what I preach. But, that’s another story for another day (maybe).  

Who are we talking about?

  I’ve specialised in familial substance misuse for the majority of my career (since 2005). I’ve supported hundreds of families into recovery as well as some who have not managed it. I’ve met people who are desperate to change in order to prevent their children being removed from their care. I’ve met families where I’ve been involved in decision making about the need to remove children from their care. I don’t want to focus on talking about families who are subject to child protection plans or in the ‘safeguarding arena’. I’m talking about professional people who have enough disposable income to pick up the phone and text a dealer or pop out and or give crate man/woman a call (do they still exist?!) to drop off some more booze while their mates are round and the kids are upstairs. When my husband and I had our daughter, we made a decision to have a child focused parenting style. Our lives changed to adapt to her needs. Other parents might have a parent focused style where the baby, still very much loved, slots into the lives of the parents and things carry on as before. There is nothing wrong with either of these approaches. We stopped drinking around our children and have drinking curfews so that we have a few drinks after the children have gone to bed (mostly!) We made this decision because of the work I do and for other reasons.  

My memories

  I remember my parents (sorry dad) going out drinking and friends coming back to the house. I remember them coming in my room stinking of booze and garlic (bleugh), hammered. I remember my mum screaming at my dad because he got drunk the night before a holiday. I remember the times they were drunk and it was totally cringe. I remember being at family parties where all the grown-ups were acting weird. I remember being at friends’ houses where other people’s parents were drunk, with their adult friends around when I was 13. Not great memories. I’m sure they remember when I was drunk too but we aren’t talking about that today either! Am I traumatised by these memories? Not really, but I didn’t particularly like it and I didn’t feel particularly safe. We remember these things because our memories are connected to our emotions. Fear, embarrassment, shame, worry (and feelings of pleasure and happiness too- it’s not all doom and gloom!). Do you remember your parents drinking? Or maybe they’re still at it!  

Like Sugar for Adults

  A report was published in 2017, Like Sugar for Adults. It found that it isn’t just dependent drinkers or alcoholics that have an impact on children. Parents don’t have to be wasted for children to understand that there is a difference in their behaviour. They experience negative feelings but also have an understanding that their parents have less boundaries and control over their children when they have had a drink, so can get away with more. It also found that:

  • 29% of parents reported having been drunk in front of their child.
  • 51% of parents reported having been tipsy in front of their child.
  • 29% of parents thought it was ok to get drunk in front their child as long as it did not happen regularly.
  • If a child had seen their parent tipsy or drunk, they were less likely to consider the way their parent drinks alcohol as providing a positive role model for them – regardless of how much their parent usually drank.

The more parents drank, the more likely children were to experience a range of harms, beginning from relatively low levels of drinking. As a result of their parent’s drinking:

  • 18% of children had felt embarrassed.
  • 11% of children had felt worried.
  • 7% of children said their parents had argued with them more than usual.
  • 8% of children said their parents had been more unpredictable.
  • 12% of children said their parents had paid them less attention.
  • 15% of children said their bedtime routine had been disrupted; either by being put to bed earlier or later than usual.

 

Safeguarding

  Sorry to go on, but, having worked in the safeguarding children arena, there is also a risk of the following when adults drink and take drugs; *Child Sexual Exploitation *Neglect *Sexual abuse *Witnessing violence (domestic or relatives scrapping at the family wedding) *Emotional abuse *Impact on routines and boundaries *Developing an unhealthy attitude to alcohol (normalising or fear)  

Considerations

  Without riddling you with guilt or turning you into a safeguarding professional over-protective freak (if you know, you know), here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re getting ready for some recreational alcohol or drug use tonight:

  1. Are my children safe?
  2. Are they being cared for while we get drink/take drugs?
  3. Have they got access to the alcohol or drugs?
  4. Are we able to care for them if they wake in the night?
  5. Is there a responsible adult around to respond to their needs if the other adults are under the influence?
  6. Are there other adults around who are drinking and using drugs? How much do we know about them?
  7. Is the conversation appropriate for children?
  8. Do we know what the children are doing?
  9. What will our children see of us when sober?
  10. What about when under the influence?
  11. Do we know everyone in the house or where we are?
  12. What about tomorrow when on a hangover or come down?
  13. Are we emotionally available for our children when under the influence?
  14. Will the children still be okay when the babysitter goes home and we are intoxicated?

 

How I handle it

  The approach we have to drinking is:  

  1. We tend to avoid drinking in the day (nothing good ever comes of it!) and if we want a drink, we do so when the children have gone to bed (a time boundary that works well for us)
  2. My children do not witness us drinking as a coping mechanism
  3. We don’t take them late to parties where adults are drinking
  4. We aim for them to understand alcohol can be enjoyed as an occasional recreational thing and not be ‘hidden’ from it
  5. We have told my daughter that some people have problems when they drink too much wine or take drugs and that mummy helps them

 

Final thoughts

  Parental substance use can be a safeguarding issue if children are deemed at risk and we all have a safeguarding responsibility for children, whose needs are deemed as paramount to ours. This doesn’t mean that parents can’t enjoy themselves with a bit of parental substance use and be great parents, but I’ve seen in my practice that there is a fine line between what is acceptable and what is not. I ask for you to put yourself in your children’s shoes before inviting everyone round to party. My advice is- get the kids out of the way and then let your hair down! If you want help with your drinking or drug use or you are affected by someone else’s, please Get in touch for a friendly chat about your situation and to find out more about my services.

Take care,

Victoria.