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.

Support for family members affected by drugs and alcohol in their own right

Support for family members affected by drugs and alcohol in their own right

I’ve attended training in January to learn the 5-Step Method of supporting families coping with a loved one’s drug or alcohol use.

It is the first time I have come across a model of support that helps family members in their own right. Usually, the person having problems with substance use accesses a service then families are offered help as a result of this.

 

Family support groups

 

The type and quality of the help varies from country to city to town. There is no consistency in this. For example, a family in Ireland will be able to access family support groups which are led by family members who have been supported, trained and developed by the National Family Support Network. They have set up quality assurance so that families can access a quality service whether It’s led by volunteers or led by professionals.

In Manchester, there are a few family-led support groups that I’ve heard of, but I feel ignorant that I haven’t linked up with them more, so the families I help can get further support from people that are in the same, but unique, situation as themselves. This is called peer-led support and allows people at the very least to realise they are not alone in coping with  a loved one’s drug or alcohol use.

Local carers centres also provide advice and support for families caring for people with drug and alcohol problems.

 

Local drug and alcohol services offer

 

Drug and alcohol services are getting better at offering family support services. In Bury, they offer the CRAFT programme (Community Reinforcement and Family Training) and in Salford, they offer 5-Step Method, but again, this usually depends on the person using substances accessing the service then families being supported following this.

There are whole family support services commissioned in some areas like Early Break’s award winning Holding Families which provides a 6-month programme for children and families affected by parental substance use.

 

Why families should stop focussing on the person using drugs/acohol

 

Family members always focus on the needs of their drug or alcohol using relative before themselves. I saw an advert recently on Facebook for a rehab and family members were asking, ‘how much is this?’ and ‘how long do they stay for?’. There was nothing about, ‘what support do you provide for families?’. When a family member made a comment, the rehab posted a link to Famanon which made it pretty clear that they didn’t support families and they were solely focused on the person using substances spending money to go to rehab.

People tend to think that rehab will solve everyone’s problems, but they cost anything from 5-50k. It is possible to get to rehab through the drug and alcohol service but it doesn’t happen overnight because of the cost to services. The person using substances has to show a commitment and often a reduction in their drug or alcohol use before they will be given funding to go to detox or rehab. Drug and Alcohol services often run a pre-detox group and who can blame them with so many funding cuts to services.

 

Why rehabs are not always the answer


Rehabs are great, but, Most people relapse in the first 90 days following a period in rehab. Why? Because they don’t have the skills to face the reality of being back at home in the same situation, with the same triggers and the same life that they were tucked away from in rehab. It is then that people need support and guidance when they are back in reality. I know a family who paid 30k to send a relative to a luxury rehab, she was drinking again within three weeks. No aftercare was provided unless they travelled 200 miles back to the residential rehab their relative had left. Family support was non-existent – a lesson here is that it doesn’t matter what you pay, it’s the aftercare that counts. Lots of services recommend 12-steps for families but this involves going to groups which works for some but not for others. I recommend to give everything a go twice and find something that works for each individual.

The point I’m trying to make is there are lots of services for problematic drug and alcohol users, but there are also many for families too. The more support families get, the more they can focus on themselves, regardless of whether their relative continues to drink or take drugs or not.

 

Focus on the family

 

There are some brilliant programmes out there for family members which I have mentioned above. CRAFT focuses on reducing stress and getting a loved one into treatment. The model I use with families is similar to this, so family members are supported at the same time as figuring out the detail of their loved one’s substance use in order to understand it and influence their loved one’s behaviour (note that I’ve said influence as you cannot change anyone else’s behaviour, it is their choice). Mainly, it builds resilience and coping strategies with family members so they can live a better life.

 

5-Step Method

 

I’ve now been trained in 5 step method (this has nothing to do with 12 steps!) which is a fantastic way of supporting family members in their own right. It doesn’t matter whether they have regular contact with the person using drugs or alcohol, whether they are in treatment themselves and it doesn’t even focus on their loved one at all. This is all about families. What they need, what they want to know and discussing whatever is important to them.

This is a unique and evidence-based model which has been tested out to work all over the world.

I deliver this over 6 sessions with an introductory session included:

1. Introduction, assessment and goal setting

2. Getting to know you and the problem

3. Providing you with relevant information

4. Exploring how you respond and cope

5. Exploring and enhancing social support

6. Identifying further needs and referring on for further help

It is a wonderful programme of support! Find out more on my website here as I’m offering this at my training rate and can deliver online so you can get the help in the comfort of your own home. You just need a set of headphones and a phone/laptop. I also offer my services in the Manchester area (UK).

Get in touch for a friendly chat about your situation and to find out more about my services.

Take care,

Victoria.

Four ways to help yourself with a loved one’s drug or alcohol use

Four ways to help yourself with a loved one’s drug or alcohol use

Are you stuck with trying to help your husband, wife or other family member with their drinking or drug use?  You are probably is a position where you feel you have tried everything and nothing works. They wont stop, they’re lying and you are stressed out with a combination of trying to help them and getting mad/upset with their behaviour. The model I use in my family work was written by Phil Harris. He wrote a guest blog for me last year about the history of the programme and how effective it is. Check it out here. This blog is about four ways you can help yourself with a loved one’s drug or alcohol use.

I want to explore some strategies you can use to help get your loved one not only to accept, but get into treatment for their drug or alcohol use. More importantly, this will reduce your own stress and pressure and improve your quality of life, whether your loved one changes or not!

Did you get that? The focus in my family work is for YOU to get your own help in your own right. I can’t tell you how many calls I get from family members to get their loved one’s into rehab or to work with them, even though they have no intention (currently) of changing! Family members need help too. They are so used to neglecting themselves that they don’t even think about their own needs.

 

The starting point

 

The first thing I always advise is to accept the drug and alcohol use into your life. Stop fighting against it. It just takes away all your energy. I’m not saying you need to accept it forever, or forgive alcohol or drugs, but accept it enough so that you can work with it. This is hard but a necessary step.

Once you’ve done that, if you can put these four strategies into place, and stick to it, you will see a change and tip the balance so that the negative consequences of their substance use outweighs the positives. In other words, by changing the environment your loved one is living in, you will help to make drugs less attractive to them. They will also see the benefits of being sober. Sound easy? It’s not, It’s hard. It is a long process and you will need to be consistent.

 

4 strategies

 

The 4 key strategies for family members affected by a loved one’s drug or alcohol use are:

 

  1. Withdraw from a loved one when intoxicated-ignore ignore ignore when under the influence. Don’t get into it. Get away. Go to bed. Go out. Anything you can but do not take on board what a loved one is saying. EVER! Only listen when they are sober. Send a clear message that you will not offer your company when they are using their substance of choice. They will only get you when they are sober. This will also reduce your stress and anxiety and store your energy for yourself.
  2. Reward when sober- This doesn’t have to be outings, anything from telling a loved you like spending time with them when they are sober, to doing something you like together (a sober activity!) or making their favourite dinner. This is telling them that when they are sober, they get your company and a reminder of how good life is without their substance.
  3. Disable enabling- avoid doing anything that makes your loved one’s drug or alcohol use easier. It’s useful to make a list of how you might make it easier for them. Helping must not involve anything they can do themselves or that rescues them from the consequences of their drug or alcohol use. Examples of this are clearing up their mess, calling in sick to work, giving them money, making excuses for family and so on!
  4. Use positive communication techniques, even when you want to scream! Again, the best way to do this is to walk away when you are filled with emotion, particularly if your loved one is under the influence. Walk away and don’t address anything with them until they are sober (or as sober as they ever get). It can be so tempting to forget everything when a loved one is sober and you are getting on great, just to keep the peace, however, these are the times you need to bring how you feel up. The best way to do this is by using I-Messages. Instead of saying you this, you that. Try this;

I feel…when…because…

I would like it if…

 

Give these strategies a go. It’s not easy to do this on your own but you can join my Facebook Group, Vesta Confidential, for support from others in your situation and for information and advice from me.

 

Take care,

 

Victoria

Counselling is not the only option

Counselling is not the only option

Counselling is not the only option

 

Drug and alcohol use affects not only the person using the substance themselves, but the people around them too. It is estimated that for every problematic substance user, between five and twenty family members are affected by their use (ADFAM).

I wanted to write about why counselling isn’t the only option. Don’t get me wrong, I will never, ever discredit counselling because I’ve had it myself and had a positive experience. I also work with counsellors and fully respect what they do, so they would not be too impressed with me if I said otherwise!

That said, counselling isn’t the only option. Recently, I’ve had a few conversations about this very point.

 

About my service

 

For the type of help someone using substances can access, have a look at my blog, Drug and alcohol help- choices for a friend or family member.

Speaking for myself, I am a qualified and experienced drug and alcohol practitioner, also qualified in teaching, NLP, a safeguarding practitioner and soon-to-be professional coach and I have led and developed services and teams. I have a track record of supporting individuals and families to recover from their own substance use or the effects of it as a family member.

I offer solution focused therapeutic interventions.

What does that mean? It means when a person using substances, or a family member, comes to me and asks me to help them with drugs, alcohol and associated problems, they set the goals and I guide them towards achieving these goals within a specific time-frame, following a specific programme.

The therapy isn’t just the session we have together. The individual I’m working with has to put into practice what we’ve covered in the session. Therapy requires a commitment to change.

I used evidence-based programmes for my family work. Evidence-based means that I use programmes that have been developed by other people that have been tested out to be effective for the people I’m working with. If my client goes off track, that’s fine, I’ll help them get back on their path to reach their goal, or we’ll set new ones together. Things change, so do people.

My clients are in control, I advise and guide them to get to where they want to be, but in planned, semi-structured sessions. We cover different topics in each session, have a check in and review at the start of each session and plan an action for the week at the end of it. I want to move people on.

For me, the session doesn’t end there, there is additional work that takes place behind the scenes such as recording notes, admin tasks, contacting services I have consent to speak with or refer to and so on. If there is more than one family member getting support, then this will increase the time spent on each case. I have an option to travel to my clients, so this time is factored in.

What my clients get as standard is:

  • Weekly one-hour therapeutic session (Skype/face to face with options in family home or at my Manchester base)
  • Solution-focused work so they will see a change in the time they work with me which is evidence by a relaxed assessment at the start and end of our work.
  • Actions to follow up between sessions with support
  • Programmes are evidence based
  • Referrals and communication with existing or new services (with consent)
  • Email/text contact between sessions

 

I also offer options to support people in their own homes or at an appropriate venue or their choice.

My expertise in supporting recovery from drugs and alcohol ensures that the people I support get a specialist service for a special issue.

 

Other types of support

 

I asked some colleagues and friends of mine what they offer in their services, so I could attempt to explain counselling and alternative support…

 

Counselling

 

Louise Wilkinson is not only a qualified drug and alcohol practitioner but is also a counsellor. I asked her what the difference is in drug and alcohol work and counselling. She said,

“A counsellor process is led by the client. The counsellor doesn’t have an agenda. The session is directed and led primarily by the person coming for help. The sessions help them to achieve whatever brought them to counselling in the first place. It doesn’t mean the presenting need ends up being the problem they end up dealing with, but they are autonomous in their decision making and how the session goes.”

Following the session, some counsellors will write up brief therapeutic notes, so unless there are any safeguarding issues, when the session finishes, the therapists work is complete. The client will have a lot to think about. Louise says that in her role as a substance misuse worker, she does use counselling skills, but also offers information and advice, which wouldn’t be the case in her counselling sessions where she would encourage her clients to work through feelings, emotions and behaviours.

Some counsellors specialise in addiction (and many other areas) too, so be sure to ask this because it is really useful to work through the feelings that led to the substance use in the first place. There is usually no time limit to counselling so some people might access it for years and others a much shorter period of time.

 

Hypnotherapy

 

Thomas McGowan is a hypnotherapist and he describes hypnotherapy as,

“Relaxation, like daydreaming, that’s what the feeling is almost. Clients are fully aware of what’s going on, but are focusing on the subconscious mind, where everything is controlled, including feelings and functions. By working directly with the subconscious mind, we are able to get to the root cause of presenting problems. We cannot change memories, but we can sever the emotional ties, are so clients getting the best possible outcomes with the least discomfort.”

Thomas delivers addiction hypnotherapy in which he deals with changing perspective, letting go of the past and building the future. The initial offer is five x 1.5 hour sessions with the option of ongoing support if needed.

In Thomas’s opinion, hypnotherapy clients revisit their pain-points but they are moved on from these in a comfortable way, rather than staying in the moment. He believes counselling works through these painful times by revisiting them and the feelings associated with it.

 

Community Drug and Alcohol Services

 

Each local authority provides funded drug and alcohol services, guided by our drug strategy. They are free for people who want to use the service. Every locality offers a service for adults and also for young people. These services provide support for people experiencing problems with substances. Some also provide support for affected family members too. For example, One Recovery in Bury delivers CRAFT which is an evidence- based model supporting families living with a loved one’s substance use. It is a similar model to the one I use in my practice.

I have previously worked at Early Break and I’m currently delivering a project there for their Holding Families Service. Early Break has a range of services that supports young people and families. I might be biased but they are brilliant!

 

In summary

 

The difference between these service and the others I mentioned is that these are free and the others are private, which means the client pays for them. Some counselling can be offered through GP’s along with other therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which are equally as effective, depending on the needs of the client. They usually require a bit of a wait to access them because of the high need.

It is always advisable to check a practitioner’s experience of supporting drugs, alcohol and/or families before deciding to work with them. In addition, check their credentials and who they are registered or accredited with because this gives an extra layer of protection for the services you opt for. I am registered with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Practitioners, which means I have to follow their code of practice and I’m listed on there in their practitioner directory.

Some people want a private service, others don’t, but everyone listed above works confidentially. Every one of the services above may be qualified in one or more type of support. The important thing is to ask.

Hopefully this has made a bit of sense about the options available to support families and that counselling is not the only option.

 

Other support

 

I obviously don’t have time to mention every type of support here. There are so many options for therapy. Here are some services relevant to my clients:

  • For children affected by parental alcohol use, take a look at NACOA.
  • For families, take a look at ADFAM’s website.

 

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 or via Skype worldwide.

I also have an online therapeutic programme. Take a look at my services here

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.

 

Take care,

Victoria.

 

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How do I know if someone is an addict?- Part two- The diagnosis of substance use

How do I know if someone is an addict?- Part two- The diagnosis of substance use

Hopefully you read part one of my blog last week How do I know if someone is an addict?- Part one- The stages of substance use

This week, I’ll focus on the diagnosis of substance use. To put it simply, I think if someone has a problem with substance use, then they need help. In our culture, we seem to always want some sort of diagnosis.

 

How we diagnose

 

The ICD-10 International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (mental and behavioural disorders) is what medical professional use to diagnose health problems. It is led by the World Health Association and is the main reference guide in the UK.

Interestingly, the ICD-10 does not even refer to ‘addiction’ as a disorder and hasn’t done since 1964.

Instead, it refers to:

Harmful use– A pattern of psychoactive substance use that is causing damage to health. The damage may be physical (as in cases of hepatitis from the self-administration of injected drugs) or mental (e.g. episodes of depressive disorder secondary to heavy consumption of alcohol).

 

The diagnosis requires that actual damage should have been caused to the mental or physical health of the user and not just the social impact on themselves or their family members.

 

OR

 

Dependence syndrome– A cluster of physiological, behavioural, and cognitive phenomena in which the use of a substance or a class of substances takes on a much higher priority for a given individual than other behaviours that once had greater value.

The explanation given is that people have an overwhelming desire to take their particular drug(s) of choice or alcohol and if they do give up temporarily, they are more likely to return to old behaviours quickly, as opposed to someone who does not have a problems with substances but uses them.

 

Criteria

 

ICD10 states, ‘A definite diagnosis of dependence should usually be made only if three or more of the following have been present together at some time during the previous year:

(a) a strong desire or sense of compulsion to take the substance;

(b) difficulties in controlling substance-taking behaviour in terms of its onset, termination, or levels of use;

(c) a physiological withdrawal state (see F1x.3 and F1x.4) when substance use has ceased or been reduced, as evidenced by: the characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance; or use of the same (or a closely related) substance with the intention of relieving or avoiding withdrawal symptoms;

(d) evidence of tolerance, such that increased doses of the psychoactive substances are required in order to achieve effects originally produced by lower doses (clear examples of this are found in alcohol- and opiate-dependent individuals who may take daily doses sufficient to incapacitate or kill nontolerant users);

(e) progressive neglect of alternative pleasures or interests because of psychoactive substance use, increased amount of time necessary to obtain or take the substance or to recover from its effects;

(f) persisting with substance use despite clear evidence of overtly harmful consequences, such as harm to the liver through excessive drinking, depressive mood states consequent to periods of heavy substance use, or drug-related impairment of cognitive functioning; efforts should be made to determine that the user was actually, or could be expected to be, aware of the nature and extent of the harm

 

Screening tools

 

Here are some handy screening tools which can be self-scored. If you can get your loved one to complete it, great! If not, you may know enough about their substance using patterns to be able to give it a go yourself.

AUDIT

The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) is considered the most accurate alcohol screening tool for identifying potential alcohol misuse, including dependence. Here is a self-screening that you could explore with your loved one or have a look yourself on their behalf.

 

DUDIT

The Drug Use Disorder Identification Test is here in PDF form to use if you suspect your loved one is using drugs.

 

A note about language

 

I always refer to ‘people who have problems with substance use’ or something similar. I don’t like labels, but what individuals choose to refer to themselves as is their choice. As long as we are not labelling each other, then I think that’s fair enough. There is lots of choice around the help people get for their drug and alcohol use which means that people tend to label themselves depending on the model they use to get help. This doesn’t mean we should be doing it on behalf of individuals or making assumptions.

 

In summary then, although most of us are not medical professionals and therefore technically shouldn’t diagnose others, we can get a fair idea from the above to figure out whether we are on the right track with our loved one’s substance 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 or via Skype worldwide.

I also have an online therapeutic programme. Take a look at my services here

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.

 

Take care,

Victoria.

 

How do I know if someone is an addict?- Part one- The stages of substance use

How do I know if someone is an addict?- Part one- The stages of substance use

Did I get your attention? Just so you know, I never ever label anyone an ‘addict’. I’ll explain why in part two of this blog. For now, forget the labels and read on…

 

Let’s face it, most of us have overindulged with alcohol and/or drugs in our time. Many people do this either regularly or occasionally and this causes minimal or no problems. It is difficult to recognise in ourselves that we might be going too far because ‘everyone is doing it’. ‘Such-and-such-a-body drinks more than me’. ‘I’ve been round and had nothing before (*reality check* – it was once) many a time and watched everyone get wasted’.

 

What I’m getting at here is that it’s easy for people to deny they have a problem. Sometimes we don’t recognise it in ourselves. Sometimes we don’t recognise it in others. Sometimes, others recognise it in us. We might recognise it in someone else that doesn’t have a clue!

 

Some people use drugs or alcohol and, other than tiredness and feeling a bit rubbish, get on with life as usual (ba****ds!). For others, it causes problems in daily functioning.

 

It is these people who often deny they have a problem and make excuses to deflect from the fact that they need to part ways with their substance(s) of choice. This is often too difficult to face for many and requires a whole lifestyle change and a lot of energy.

 

The starting point

 

The first port of call is to get clued up on the different types and stages of substance use. (Just so you know, I refer to substance use to include both drugs and alcohol)

 

To simplify…

 

I believe that if drugs or alcohol are causing problems in somebody’s life, then they need help. Depending on the stage of substance use they are at, their current lifestyle, their mental and physical health, motivation to change, Adverse Childhood Experiences and other life experiences, the help they need will vary.

Everyone’s recovery journey is unique and not everyone will want to stop.

 

The language of substance use

 

Firstly, there are differences between the language of substance use. Some terms commonly used are ‘problematic substance use’, ‘addiction’ or ‘dependency’, and, as they are used interchangeably, it starts being confusing!

Problematic substance use refers to drug or alcohol use which is affecting one or more areas of a person’s life. This could be work, relationships, health or anything else. People often don’t realise that the reason they are having problems, is due to their drug or alcohol use. They often don’t understand the impact of their particular drug on the way they think, feel and behave.

Dependency– is where an individual requires a drug, in order to function. In my view, this can be either physical or psychological. For example, some people use drugs to mask their feelings and some people use drugs to either mask their physical pain, or have what we refer to, as physical withdrawals when the drug starts to leave their system. Dependency is mostly attributed to drugs that cause physical symptoms in the body when someone tried to stop using them.

Addiction is where a particular behaviour is compulsive or habitual, despite the fact that it is having a negative impact on an individual’s life. The way I describe it is that the drug is in control of the person, rather than the person being in control of the drug.

Someone can be dependent and addicted to certain drugs (such as alcohol and heroin)

Someone can be addicted but not dependent on other drugs (such as cocaine and caffeine)

Someone can be dependent but not addicted (such as someone who is taking medication for pain)

 

Stages of substance use

 

Here’s a handy diagram to help you to start thinking about the above. Notice that ‘addiction’ is not referred to here as ‘addiction’ is not actually a diagnosis used for someone having problems with their substance use…

spectrum of pschoactive substances

Diagram source: http://www.cfdp.ca/bchoc.pdf

 

Beneficial use would generally be medicinal but, as stated, includes other benefits. Many substance users may say their drug use is beneficial for them. This could be true, but it could also be an excuse for continuing use. The minute the substance starts causing problems for them is the minute the negatives outweigh the positives.

 

Non-problematic use would be those people who manage their substance use with limited or no impact- This is sometimes where family members find out and start panicking. Talk to your loved one and get the facts. They might be taking them but managing their use well.

 

Problematic use (harmful use) can range from someone having a few problems or lots of problems- you may know more than your loved one that their substance use is causing them problems.

 

Dependence is where someone can no longer easily choose to stop taking their drug of choice. The individual’s priority is to source and use their drug and activities are centred around it.

 

Where is your loved one on the spectrum?

 

As I bring part one of this blog to a close, where do you think your loved one is on the spectrum of psychoactive substance use?

 

Head over here next week for part two where I will be focusing on the diagnosis of substance 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 or via Skype worldwide.

I also have an online therapeutic programme. Take a look at my services here

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.

 

Take care,

Victoria.

How to help someone that doesn’t want to be helped

How to help someone that doesn’t want to be helped

How frustrating is it when we can see that someone we love has problems, yet they don’t seem to see it themselves? When they do see it, it’s a short-term realisation then, usually, a step back into their own behaviours.

 

For families and friends of that individual, it may seem that it is them that have to put up with the behaviours associated with drug and alcohol use and the consequences of it, while our loved one clearly does not give a flying one!

 

For anyone that knows how addiction works, I have written before about how a substance can change the functioning of the brain. Drugs and alcohol mess around with our dopamine, which is reward and pleasure neurotransmitter in the brain. This regulates our movement and emotional responses. Dopamine also regulates our thoughts, actions and behaviour. If anyone has ever taken a substance, we can probably recognise this association and why sometimes, when we drink or use drugs, we fall over, our inhibitions disappear, and we might do some pretty rubbish or wild things that we just wouldn’t normally do. (I may or may not be speaking from experience!) What this means is that eventually, pleasure-seeking behaviours will only ever include alcohol or drugs. You can spot this when ourselves, our friends or family members centre activities around substance use.

 

So, it’s no wonder then, that if drugs mess around with our brain, that we aren’t always that responsive to meeting other people’s needs because we’re too busy thinking about our own.

 

I believe people use drugs either to get away from something, or to get something out of it. People who use substances problematically are often trying to get away from something or might be trying to avoid any current or previous traumatic experience. There are lots of examples of this and brilliant research into Adverse Childhood Experiences and how these affect our health outcomes as adults.

 

ACE 1

ACE 2

The things we get out of alcohol and drugs obviously depend on the individual. There are always negative and positive consequences to substance use. The trick is, to figure out what they are for your loved one and then make sure that they experience those negatives as much as possible. Sounds harsh, right? It takes practice. We call these natural consequences. Families and friends will try to ‘help’ their loved one’s by clearing up after them, hiding the truth so they don’t feel bad the next day, not wanting to leave them in their own puke and so on. Listen. If someone has serious a problem with substance use, we need to allow them to feel discomfort or they will never change.

 

BUT….

 

As always, we need to get the balance right and don’t just leave them to it. Your loved one needs to know that you are there for them no matter what. You love them. You care for them and you will be there for them.

 

You won’t tolerate abuse, you will have boundaries and you will be in their company more when they are sober than drunk. This is a reward for being sober.

 

You can’t change someone else, you can only change yourself. Get help for you because, by changing your approach to your loved one’s substance use, you can influence their behaviour in the long run.

 

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 or via Skype worldwide.

I also have an online therapeutic programme. Take a look at my services here

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.

 

Take care,

Victoria.