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
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.