The Child’s Change Cycle- how children feel during a parent’s recovery

The Child’s Change Cycle- how children feel during a parent’s recovery

The Child’s Change Cycle- how children feel during a parent’s recovery

I came across the Child’s Change Cycle in Fiona Harbin and Michael Murphy book, ‘Secret Lives: Growing with Substance Misuse – Working with children and young people affected by family substance misuse’ in 2006. It’s a fantastic book and in it they developed the Cycle of Change to add further context to it in terms of how children might feel during their parent’s recovery from substance misuse.

I previously wrote about the Cycle of Change- How to use it to support a loved one’s recovery. This was an introduction to the cycle of change and how to understand it to support a loved one’s recovery. In this blog, I’m taking it one step further to consider children on the change cycle. Here’s a reminder of what the Cycle of Change looks like.

Substance Misuse and Parenting

It is no surprise that parenting capacity is affected by a parent who is drinking or taking drugs. I do not like to drink in front of my children and I don’t like other people drinking around them either. Why? I know that after a couple of drinks, my guard is down and my parenting is not as good as it is when I’m not drinking. I also know that my tolerance levels these days are critically low, so I can feel the effects from one drink. I recognise that when adults drink around children, the conversation can change to inappropriate topics, swearing freely and that children can see a difference in adult behaviour when drinking (or have the time of their lives because they have fewer boundaries!). So wherever possible, I keep my own children away from it.

It is important to remember here that SUBSTANCE USE DOES NOT MAKE PARENTS BAD PARENTS! How everyone manages their own use is up to them, I have formed my own view from over fifteen years of working with children, young people and families and helping many of those families recover from parental substance use. Many people use substances and manage and function very well in their daily life, including in their parenting capacity. Many parents still go out at the weekend, ensure their children are safe and cared for and have a great time using recreational drugs or drinking and slip back into their routine when they’re done.

In my work, however, the parents I supported had significant problems with their use and there was not one child who has not known about their parents’ problems with drug or alcohol use in one way or another.

A friend of mine told me a few year’s ago that she had given up drinking when her son told her she drank too much. She described that this was a realisation for her and she decided to have a break months ago. She feels so good from giving up that she has continued. Is she an “alcoholic”? No. Was alcohol causing her some problems? Yes.

Children and the recovery cycle

It would make sense that when a parent stops drinking or using drugs, that everything in family life will be happy and there would be a great deal of positive changes. There will be positive changes, but a parent stopping using is the very start of that change in a family. For a child, having a parent that is more present than they have been in a long time, perhaps actually parenting for the first or a long time can be confusing and needs to be handled with care.

So, Harbin and Murphy, created an additional layer to the Cycle of Change to reflect how children may feel at each stage of the cycle (diagram from Children and Young People affected by Parents’/Carers’ or Siblings’ Drug or Alcohol Misuse Guidance for Professionals)

child's change cycle

When a parent is in active use and has no intention of changing, a young person can experience neglect and emotional abuse. This sounds harsh, but in reality, when a parent’s priority is drugs or alcohol, their child is not. The relationship is affected and the child will not understand why.

In contemplation, a child has hope that things might change.

In preparation/decision, there is further hope but also anxiety about change.

In action/active change, this hope and anxiety increases.

Liane Goryl, who has managed young people’s services and is now managing locally commissioned contracts said, “If the parent is in the maintenance phase and living a substance free life, the young person will have been impacted upon during other stages of the parental cycle of change.  As the adult moves through the cycle of change, so does the child.  They experience their own worries and concerns which can impact on their mental wellbeing.  Even when the parent successfully stays in the maintenance phase, the young person can wonder why all of a sudden their parent is putting in boundaries and rules and interested in where that young person is.  This can contribute to a young person trying to regain control and pushing back and not obeying rules that are now being implemented by parents.  Where there are much younger siblings that have only known the parent to be drug free compared with an older brother or sister; it can be difficult for that teenager to understand why the parent could become substance free to look after that child but not them, causing an emotional response in the form or anger and depression”.

As Liane states, I have seen young people react in this way to their parent’s recovery. The shift easily moves to their behaviour rather than anyone actually considering the change for them and why their behaviour is occurring. I have sat in many child protection meetings which have focussed on the behaviour of a child without a connection being made that that behaviour is due to a parent’s substance use.  Please bear this in mind.

Lapse and Relapse cause disappointment, fear, confusion and sadness.

How can we help?

At each stage of the cycle, we need to consider where a child is at too. What are they thinking? How are they feeling? Families think they hide a loved one’s substance misuse well, but the best thing to do is speak to children in an age appropriate manner. A good starting point is to ask them how they are, what makes them happy and is there anything that makes them sad. I explain more about this in my blog Helping Children with a Drug and Alcohol Using Parent.

The thing to remember is not to feel guilty if you have children. The key with family support is communication. Talk to your children about the problem, create an open forum for them to talk and ask them how they are. Discuss any changes and make sure they have good quality time with you, your loved one and their friends and family. I always advise to let school know about the situation so that they have someone to talk to that they can trust outside the family. Use this model to establish how they might be feeling and work through those feelings. Not all children will feel the same but they need someone to talk to.

I can help you!

We work on this and more in my one to one programmes. This month, I have an offer on for 10 sessions for £997. This is a low investment for the changes that I help my clients make.

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 help my clients reduce stress and live a better life.

Sign up to my mailing list here and get my free 10 Steps to Family Recovery download with my top tips for family recovery.

Take Care.

 

Victoria x

 

www.vestaapproach.co.uk

A message to parents from a child of an alcoholic

A message to parents from a child of an alcoholic

 

 

 

 

I’ll be posting some stories from families who have lived with a loved one’s addiction. I saw this lady post in a group and she gave me permission to share this in a blog.  I knew how much she had to give to others. 

 

Thank you so much for sharing.

 

Please pop your thoughts and feelings in the comments below the post so she can check back and see how she has helped.

 

 

 

So, today is my Dad’s funeral.

 

A sad day for any Daughter that loses her dad but you see, my Dad was a CHRONIC alcohol most of my life.

 

Growing up with him as my father was horrible, not gonna lie.

 

My only memories of him is being drunk out his face, coming round by where I lived, and me being embarrassed and running away with my friends and hiding! That is the ONLY word I can use to express how I felt about him, Embarrassed.

 

Come the age of 17, I’d had enough of him and never saw him again until (fast-forward) 15 years later, when he contacted my mum to let her know that he was sober and asked if I want to see him, along with my sister.

 

To be honest I had lost all kind of respect for him but, me being me, I thought, ‘You know what? I’ll do it.’

 

But… it was only for his sake. After all…why would I need him now after all these years of nothing.

 

So, that was it. I met my sober dad for the first time ever in my life, aged 33ish.

 

It was very strange to begin with. I liked the idea of having a ‘dad’ but the reality was very different.

 

I just couldn’t help but see these memories of him being drunk and doing my head in. It took a long time to trust him as well.

 

He wanted to meet my daughter but, at the time, she was only young and I thought, ‘No.’ This is about ME and YOU. Bringing my daughter into the equation would’ve been far too much for me (emotionally) and she had a very good relationship with her step-grandad anyway from a baby, so why jeopardise that?

 

He did get a bit funny about it, but I stayed strong and just said, ‘Look, when she is older and we have established a relationship then, ok, yes, you can meet her. Right now she is too young to take it all in.’

 

If I’m honest peeps, I think I was a bit embarrassed still if that makes sense?

 

Fast-forward a few years, we stayed in contact. I’d go round and visit him and everything was fine.

 

Then I’m not sure what happened but we had a falling out. I think he got back into his selfish ways and started telling me things (family stuff) that could’ve damaged me but didn’t . (I already had an idea anyway..nothing too serious btw).

 

Then, he started to have a go at me about not letting him meet him daughter and so, for about a year or so, we hardly spoke. Anyway. We became friends again and carried on.

 

But here’s the thing. I would say that even though we were in contact for around 10 years, it’s only been the last 2 that we had become really close.

 

I soon realised where I get my personality from and my ‘wild side’ from LOL and then it would be like,  ‘Wow dad, we really are like 2 peas in a pod’.

 

I can say finally I felt proud of him being my dad! It was brilliant!

 

I used to feel sad looking at him playing his guitar (he was a master on the guitar). I thought, ‘What a shame. He could’ve taught me to play when I was younger’.

 

I thought about how much of a laugh we’d have had if we ever were to have gone to a pub for a pint together (had he not been an alcoholic) and that we would’ve had great times together had he not have drank…

 

So here I am today. Dreading the day ahead as it’s time for me to say goodbye.

 

The fact that he lived this long is a miracle in itself, because when I say he was chronic, I mean chronic. He was very close to death just before he stopped.

 

And so… the main point of me sharing this with you all is please… If you are struggling to come off drink or drugs and you have children and it is affecting your relationship with them, please don’t wait to change until it’s ‘too late’.

 

My dad was lucky in the sense that he, for one, didn’t die sooner before getting the contact with me that he did. 

 

Also, that I didn’t let his alcoholism stand in the way of us both.

 

I let him back into my life.

 

Not all people are like that. Some children might be like, ‘Fuck you!’ and hold a grudge and I would HATE that to happen to any of you!

 

I feel lucky that we were able to finally be able to connect the way that we did, but, I tell you what…I wish that my good memories of us were not just within the last couple of years!

 

My sister asked me about them speaking at the funeral and she said, ‘Are there any good childhood memories of him you can think of that the service director can say?’ Of course my answer was, ‘No …… because there aren’t any!’

 

Let them have some good memories of you!

Oh. Just in case you were wondering, he never did meet his granddaughter. By the time she was older and I was proud of him, it was too late. He died from poor health due to all the years of the drinking.

 

So please .. if you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your children before it’s too late!

 

Hope this all makes sense and I’m sending you all the love and strength in the world.

 

Anon

 

Thank you so much for sharing. If you’re reading this and you need help with a loved one’s addiction…

 

Join my free group here

 

Download Ten Ways to Family Recovery here

 

How to help children living with parental substance use

How to help children living with parental substance use

How to help children living with parental substance use

 

Have you ever thought about the impact of parental substance use on children?

It’s something that many overlook when we think about addiction.

Here’s the thing, NACOA (The National Association for the Children of Alcoholics) say that 1 in 5 children are affected by parental alcohol use. The writing of this blog is timely, as it’s NACOA’s Children of Alcoholics Week starting this Sunday.

Hidden Harm (2003) estimated that between 2-3% of children lived with parents with a serious drug problem. For this research, the focus was on serious or dependent drug use only. Keep in mind that this research is nearly 20 years old. We need to consider that most people don’t even enter treatment!

Many people don’t consider themselves to have a problem when drinking a bottle or two of wine very night or snorting a few grams of cocaine on a weekend either.

BUT.. we do need to consider the children in this. In all types of substance misuse.

What are they seeing, hearing and feeling?

What version of their parent/carer are they getting today?

 

The impact on children

NACOA say…

A research study with 4,000 respondents estimates there are 3 million children in the UK living with parental alcohol problems. They are:

  • Six times as likely to witness domestic violence
  • Five times as likely to develop an eating problem
  • Three times as likely to consider suicide
  • Twice as likely to experience difficulties at school
  • Twice as likely to develop alcoholism or addiction
  • Twice as likely to be in trouble with the police

So, we know that there can be an impact on children through to their adulthood (check out the Adverse Childhood Experiences – ACES- studies to find out more)

 

What have I seen and how can we help?

 

I started working in the substance misuse field in 2005, helping individuals, children and families to recover. Some of the themes I’ve seen are as follows…

 

Secrets and lies

 

Families tend to close rank when someone has a problem. This is usually because they don’t know what to do and because of the stigma and shame of the problem. Sometimes, it’s because they have drank or used drugs with the family member and they feel responsible.

What this leads to is nobody in the family getting the help they need! Children know something is wrong, but nobody is explaining what?

Speak to children about what is going on in an age-appropriate manner. Even if your loved one doesn’t want to change, I recommend you speak to your children and explain that your loved one has a problem and you are helping them.

Get them someone to help outside the family home, ideally a professional. School is ideal so that they can check in with them. There may be specialist services in your area who can help.

 

Families waiting for the person using substances to change without getting help

 

This doesn’t usually work and is mostly down to addiction and  recovery not being understood. Families live their lives based on the mood of their loved one’s substance use and waiting for them to change. This leaves children in the middle, possible for longer than they need to be.

Even if your loved one doesn’t want to change, you can get your own help and can support you and your family to recover. Helping ONE person within a family can have a huge impact on everyone else. In most cases, my clients see a change in their loved one and many cut down or stop their substance or get the help they need.

 

 

Family Conflict

 

Children may experience parental conflict. I have worked with families where their children are used as pawns in arguments by parents. This obviously isn’t a healthy place for a child to be.

Children may react to the situation they are in and then professionals and families can then focus on the children’s behavior, rather than considering their behaviour being a reaction to what is going on around them. This can push children into an even more difficult place and feel responsible for the situation or confused.

People may read this and think this doesn’t apply to them.

I think it’s important to think about this…
What experience are children getting from the person/people using substances when they are sober, when they are intoxicated and when they are coming down/hungover?

Even if children can’t name it. They notice these differences.

One way of avoiding conflict is to walk away from your loved one when they are intoxicated.

When they are sober, speak to them about your feelings and not their behaviour.

Think about the boundaries of what you want your life and your children’s lives to look like. Remember that you can’t put boundaries around someone else! You telling your loved one to stop drinking or using probably hasn’t worked that well so far.

 

Seeing or hearing a parent being intoxicated or being drawn into substance using behaviours

 

Parental Substance use is one of the Adverse Childhood Experiences that have been identified as having an impact on children’s health outcomes moving into adulthood.

Children may experience other adults being intoxicated.

Dealers may be dropping substances off at the family home or children may to taken to dealers houses.

Children may have their own strong feelings about seeing a parent’s substance use such as fear, embarrassment, shame, worry, normalisation of their situation.

Protecting the children from harm is absolutely crucial in terms of safeguarding.
We need to be working towards children being shielded from this type of behaviour and, if possible, not being around the substance use.
An example of this is having an agreement that if a loved one is drinking, they do this away from the family home or in a separate room.
Perhaps you could agree that your loved one can meet their dealers away from the family home, if they are choosing to continue to use their substance.

The children can be shielded BUT remember they need to talk about what’s going on too.

 

 

The instability of a parent moving around the cycle of change

 

People in recovery can move around the Cycle of Change from pre-contemplation to change, however, children and families may not move at the same pace. They have often experienced and remember a great deal of stress and strain which, sadly, are not often taken into consideration in our current recovery treatment models.

While an individual is delighted to be doing well in their recovery, the children and family may not feel the same. I’ve seen parents in recovery suddenly setting boundaries and completely changing their parenting approach, which is a real shock for children and does not actually help to build up he trust and love that they need.

When a parent stops using a substance, it’s just the beginning for the family. Children may be anxious and worry that things will go back to the way they were. It takes time to build a sense of trust and rebuild the relationships. I wish this was taught more in drug and alcohol treatment services.

Keep speaking to the children about how they feel and what their wishes are.

The non-using parent/carer please speak to the children and get your own help.

To the person using substances, please consider the needs of your children in recovery. You are often taught to put yourself first and prioritise recovery over everything, but you also have children and a family waiting for you who love you.

 

 

Next steps

 

I help family members living with a loved one’s drug or alcohol use and I can help you too.

Get my free download Ten Ways to Family Recovery here with a handy checklist and free services who can help, including NACOA.

If you are a women living with a loved one’s addiction, join my Facebook support group The Family Recovery Club. 

If you want to know more about my programmes, click here.

Take Care,

Victoria

#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!