Resilience- how to cope under pressure

Resilience- how to cope under pressure

Resilience- how to cope under pressure

Liggy Webb

I attended Liggy Webb’s Resilience Master Class in Manchester a few years ago and I’ve been a huge fan of her work ever since. I am so excited that she has agreed to guest blog for us. Liggy has worked all over the world supporting individuals and organisations through her amazing knowledge and specialism of this subject. She ignited my passion for the subject which I taught to staff and managers in the NHS at the time. See my blog “How the Circle of Influence can help you lead a better life”.

Resilience is such an important skill/behaviour/attitude to have in order for us to cope with difficult situations thrown our way. That’s not to say that we will always be resilient all of the time and in every situation! Learning how to “be” resilient is crucial when living with a problematic drug or alcohol user. Whether you are in this situation or not, Liggy wrote this guest blog for me last year and it’s just too good not to re-post:


By Liggy Webb

The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.

Japanese Proverb

 

What is resilience?

 

Some people describe resilience as the ability to bend instead of breaking when experiencing pressure or the ability to persevere and adapt when faced with challenges. These abilities help people to be more open and willing to take on new opportunities. In this way resilience is more than just survival, it is also about letting go and learning to grow.

 

Liggy’s work

 

Personally I find the topic of resilience fascinating and have spent the last few years deep in research exploring the habits and behaviors of resilient people.  In the work that I do with the United Nations travelling to some very challenged parts of the world I have had the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life.

For my latest book Resilience – How to cope when everything around you changes I interviewed over 100 people who had experienced varying degrees of set backs. From these interviews and various other research channels I was able to create a competency framework around resilience, developing a deep understanding of the necessary coping strategies for dealing with adversity.

Resilience- how to cope when everything around you changes

 

Personal experience

 

Then I was given a huge opportunity to personally put my knowledge and the strategies that I had designed to the test!

Two years ago, quite out of the blue after feeling very lethargic and out of sorts, I was diagnosed with a very rare tumour actually growing inside my heart. The prognosis was critical and open-heart surgery was the only way to proceed. For someone who is in good health and still in my forties it came as a huge shock. I guess we never really imagine things like this are going to happen to us until they do! The most significant thing that I learnt was that whilst we may not be able to control some of our circumstances, we can absolutely choose the way we respond to them.

I think in many ways I surprised myself, you never really know how you will react in these situations and it’s amazing how resourceful we can be when we need to.

I learnt so many things and I can honestly say it has certainly taught me a few things about recovery and indeed my own resilience. It was without doubt, life changing, with so many defining moments.

 

Top tips for resilience

 

Recently I was interviewed about my own experience with regards to recovery and asked to define the three most important resilience behaviors and this is what I concluded:

 

1. Accept your current situation

Let’s face it we all like to be in control, however, in some situations you have to put your trust in others hands and ask for help. For example, if we think of what we can control and what we can’t, we need to accept we cannot change the choices other people make. We can only change the way we behave. Sometimes acceptance of your situation and taking care of yourself is the best use of your energy.

 Tips for accepting your current situation

  • Remember acceptance is not about resignation, it is the recognition that fighting a situation that you cannot change may be a waste of personal resources
  • Acceptance will put you in state of flow which will help to reduce stress and anxiety
  • Learn that you cannot control other people’s choices

 

2. Take personal responsibility

Life can be very unpredictable and invariably we will all be subjected to various set backs and personal challenges. You can’t always control what happens to you in life.

You do however have total control about how you choose to respond to those situations. By taking personal responsibility for your reactions and attitude you will be far more empowered to cope and manage the ultimate outcome.

Tips for taking personal responsibility

  • Acknowledge that you are in total control of your response to any situation that presents itself to you
  • Be aware of the victim trap and focus on what you can do
  • Avoid the blame game and spend your time seeking solutions – spend your time instead seeking solutions

 

3. Be positive

Thinking positively is not about putting your head in the sand and being unrealistic, as some people may believe. With a positive attitude you can recognise the negative aspects of a situation and then make a conscious decision to focus instead on the hope and opportunity that is available. This releases you from getting locked in a paralysing loop of negative emotion and allows you to bounce back from adversity and challenging experiences.

Tips for seeing the glass half full

  • Try to make a conscious decision to challenge each negative thought and flip it over into a positive thought
  • Understand that every experience in your life whether it is good, or bad will bring a valuable lesson with it which will enable you to cope better in the future.
  • Remember that life is ultimately what you make of it and your attitude can have a huge impact on everything you experience

 

In summary

Being resilient takes effort and practice. It may well feel sometimes as if you are taking one step forwards and two steps back, almost as if you are doing a little dance with life. The key however is to keep moving and to not lose the faith that you can and will pull through if you remain positive and hopeful. The quicker that you can start recovering and bounce back, the better because life can pass so quickly and this is your golden opportunity to make the best and the most of it.


More information about resilience

 

Thanks so much to Liggy for writing a blog for us.

For access to a complimentary life skills library email liggy@liggywebb.com

Click to access The Little Book of Resilience

Check out Liggy’s Website

Please comment about what you do to keep resilient.

 

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.

 

 

Happiness Rules!

Happiness Rules!

Happiness Rules!

 

I hope you’ve all had a positive week.

 

When we are under pressure, even when we think we have a handle on it, that pressure can manifest itself in lots of different ways. Recently, I’ve felt it myself physically and emotionally. Luckily for me, when I feel like I’m running on empty, I can recognise it and resolve it pretty well. If we’re tired, we react differently. When we’re angry, or even ‘hangry’, we might respond a little bit emotionally to things that we’re generally OK with the rest of the time!

It’s up to us to manage our feelings and responses to things.

Let’s be realistic, life is never going to be happy all of the time. It’s how we bounce back from those times that’s important in our happiness. See Liggy Webb’s guest blog on resilience about this.

While we’re on the subject of happiness, here are my best happiness tips and ways to care for ourselves, because happiness rules:

 

Take responsibility- I know, I know. Takes a lot to back down and own our side of the behaviour, but doing this helps you move on from, or even avoid conflict altogether.

Keep building your relationships- making connections is what us humans need to live a long and happy life. Not money, not success but people. Get the people around you that have your back and you can’t go wrong.

Be present with your loved ones- listen to what they’re saying with no distractions. Limit the tech and enjoy yourselves.

Find a sense of purpose- we can be everything to anyone else but ourselves. Finding something we love doing for us is a wonderful feeling.

Be around positive people (boomerangs!) and phase out the negatives (doomerangs!)- I learnt this from the wonderful Liggy Webb. 

Be positive yourself- We can focus on every single negative in our lives or figure out what’s good about it.

Be grateful- think about everything good in your life, every day.

Say what you need to say- holding back what you need to say builds resentment. Remember when you give feedback to someone, take the emotion out of it, say it positively, see things from their point of view and make sure it’s a good time for both of you.

Keep a routine- children thrive from routine and predictability, and so do we. It prevents stress, anxiety and overwhelm. I have routines and plans which I stick to and it means I know when I have free time, when I’m doing too much and when I can let my hair down!

Say no and stick to boundaries- saying no is one of the hardest things we have to do in life because we feel responsible and feel guilty. If we can’t master this, we are pleasing everyone else but ourselves and it is stressful. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Say ‘no thank you. I can’t make it.’ No excuses, no drawn-out reason. There are only so many hours in the day! Do what you love. Say no to spending time with your loved one when they’re drinking

Say yes! Ok. It may seem like I’m contradicting myself a bit, but I’m not. Say yes to new experiences or things you haven’t tried. Say yes to your children when they ask you to play with them. Say yes to your partner to try something they love doing- within reason-ha! Say yes to your friends for a day out with no guilt. Go dancing. Sing your heart out (my favourites).

Stretch yourself. As above, get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Whether it’s a course, a job, a hobby. Give it a go but don’t push yourself too far into the pressure zone. 

 

Got it? Let me know how you get on in the comments.

 

*please seek medical advice if you are frequently feeling unhappy or low as you may need some support or extra help*

 

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

I have a closed Facebook Group called Vesta Confidential. If you are affected by a loved one’s substance use, come and join me.

 

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.

Drugs, alcohol and lies

Drugs, alcohol and lies

It’s tough for family or friends of substance users to understand why their loved one lies to them about their drug or alcohol use (I’ll refer to drug use from this point on, to include alcohol). It’s also incredibly frustrating because when we know someone is lying to us, it’s always really hard to call someone out about their lies because it’s all a bit embarrassing. Either that, or when we do challenge someone about catching them out, they are likely to react with anger or denial which can provide a great excuse to go and have a drink.

 

Why do they lie?

 

We know that when people are addicted to a particular substance, they struggle to find interest in anything other than their alcohol or drug of choice. This means that they are likely to do anything to get their drug, which inevitably includes lying through their teeth!

Here’s the reasons why your loved one is lying to you:

  1. Avoiding help- even if someone is aware that their drug use is causing problems, it is a HUGE hurdle to admit it to themselves, let alone anyone else. This means that in order to stay comfortable, it is easier to lie. Admitting it, getting help, being challenged, is not a nice place to be.
  2. Denial- it’s so much easier to deny drugs are a problem. It feels much safer and denial means that a loved one can continue using their drug of choice, which is their priority. It’s easier to blame every man and his dog for the problems that go on than the drug. It is important that the drug is protected, as, for whatever reason, your loved one is benefiting from their substance. It is helping them to get away from something, or it is giving them something they need.
  3. Fear- It is far too scary to admit drugs are a problem or to think about making the changes your loved one needs to make for themselves. It is easier to lie to others and ourselves when we feel frightened about facing up to something.
  4. Loving the drug- Substance users cannot imagine their life without their drug so they truly believe it is a part of their life and that they need it and want to continue using it.
  5. Shame- Drug users go through periods of wanting to change. During these times, they will experience shame about using their drugs, how they have treated their own family and friends, their desperation. Then, it can becomes clear that burying their head in the sand and lying to themselves about the situation is much more manageable than face up to their lives and the hurt they have caused other people. They even start to believe their own lies!

 

How to handle lying

 

  1. Call them out- This is cringeworthy, but you’ll get used to it. Use positive communication such as I-messages to feed their lies back to them. This is done in a way that is non-confrontational and gentle which focuses on YOUR feelings, not their behaviour.
  2. Remember it’s not you it’s them- try not to take it personally as your loved one is avoiding reality and thinking they are making it easier for you if you don’t know the whole truth.
  3. Enabling- if you want to help your loved one do something that they are not capable themselves of doing as an adult, then feel free. Do not protect them from the negative consequences of their substance use. Don’t lie to friends and family, don’t cover for them and don’t clean up after they’ve puked all over themselves. This is hard, but, if they don’t see the damage their substance use is doing, and you start lying too, then this gives a message to your loved one that lying is acceptable.
  4. Create open communication- I have supported many people that use the strategies I suggest, but this does not mean ignoring your loved one! It is absolutely crucial that positive communication methods are used. What we are aiming for is to reduce the covering up and lying, and create a secure environment where your loved one feels they can come to you and speak to you without judgement.
  5. Acceptance- accepting your loved one’s substance use, instead of fighting against it will save your energy and allow you more time to use effective strategies to reduce or stop their substance use and to learn how to put your self first and lead a better life. This will tip the balance so that your loved one learn that being sober is better than being smashed.

 

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

I have a closed Facebook Group called Vesta Confidential. If you are affected by a loved one’s substance use, come and join me.

 

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.

Why waiting for someone to hit ‘rock bottom’ is wrong

Why waiting for someone to hit ‘rock bottom’ is wrong

One thing I often get asked or I often hear people say is that a loved one has to hit ‘rock bottom’ before they will start to think about changing their substance use.

 

I personally believe THIS IS NOT TRUE!

Here are ten reasons why…

  1. The message that a lot of services give is that nothing can be done unless the person using substances wants to change- this is not entirely true. No, we cannot force somebody to go into treatment for substance use. The individual has to be willing themselves. A very good practitioner and/or a family member to influence change in somebody. Waiting for someone to hit ‘rock bottom’ implies that NOTHING can be done when, in fact, it can. We can work with families to teach them the skills to support their love one and reduce pressure on the family. Or, get somebody through the door with a good practitioner and they might just stay.
  2. As it’s implied that ‘rock-bottom’ has to be reached, this leaves families with a painful wait until their loved one loses everything, and creating more stress and worry waiting for this journey to end, leaving them completely powerless.
  3. This often leaves a question around whether they should cut ties with their loved one or practise ‘tough love’. I do not agree with this either. Yes, people can unknowingly enable a loved one’s substance use and make it a little easier, but the suggestion that throwing them out on the street will help them to change is not going to be effective. People who have problems surrounding substance use need to know you love them and that you care.
  4. Harm reduction is always an option! If a loved one is not even entertaining the fact they have a problem, that’s fine. Another approach can be tried. It’s called harm-reduction. It’s easy to assume that abstinence is the only way forward, which means that people have to stop using and there is no other way to live. The reality is that if someone wants to continue to drink or use drugs, then we can support them to do it in the safest way possible. You never know, this type of support may even convince your loved one to change like in this article
  5. These opinions ignore the fact that you are the people living with your loved one’s substance use. You are the people that can be instrumental in supporting someone to change. You can help your loved one see that it is more attractive being sober than it is to be intoxicated.
  6. This does not help your mental and physical health. The Drug Strategy, 2017, states that “Evidence-based psychological interventions which involve family members should be available locally and local areas should ensure that the support needs of families and carers affected by drug misuse are appropriately met.” What we should be doing when families ring up for help is to be offering you a service for you, regardless of whether your loved one wants to change.
  7. Problematic substance use can be influenced by environmental changes. Families and friends are in a position to initiate this influence. They can change the environment and their responses when their loved one’s drinks or uses drugs. Families can be supported to help tip the balance so that the negative consequences of substance use outweigh the positives. Family members can show them that being sober is more attractive than being intoxicated.
  8. Family members have also been labelled as ‘co-dependent’, ‘controlling’, ‘victims’ and enablers (Landau et al) this adds further weight to families not wanting to get support for themselves. I believe families are POWERFUL, not powerless.
  9. A study took place in 2001 by Marlowe et al and concluded that ‘virtually all participants reported a combination of both negative and positive pressures’ 35% of these pressures was family pressure. So, this suggests that along with other pressures, this is a pretty high percentage that responded to their family. Therefore, ‘rock bottom’ was not necessary for them to change.
  10. ‘Intervention’ is often advertised as an alternative way of getting a loved one into treatment. It assumes addiction is a disease and therefore they have no control over their choices. Each member of the family takes it in turns to read out a prepared speech to the person having problems with substance use and then they are whisked off to rehab or alternative for forced treatment. How long do you think this success lasts for long term? I’m sure this method works for some people but I work using a person centred approach so it’s not for me (and rehab is not the only option- but that’s another blog for another day).

 

As you can see, there are lots of myths, beliefs and varying methods to support substance users. I challenge some of these. What is important is that you research them and find out what is best for you and your loved one at the time you are seeking help.

 

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

I have a closed Facebook Group called Vesta Confidential. If you are affected by a loved one’s substance use, come and join me.

 

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.

The seven stages of family recovery

The seven stages of family recovery

I’ve made some connections this week with The National Family Support Network in Ireland. They provide information, support and advice to family members living with substance misuse.  If you live in the UK, ADFAM do similar work here.

A study was undertaken in Ireland in 2007 by Dr Carmel Duggen, for the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD). She looked at the ways people coped with a family member’s heroin use. She identified seven stages that family members go through, regardless of their economic or social background. It was found that going through these stages helped affected family members to move on from a role of a victim into a role of support and recovery. This applies to their own recovery, regardless of whether their loved one chooses to continue using substances or not.

This study identified seven different stages of how family members eventually come to manage heroin use within the family. This way of thinking is now applied to family members in a wider context who are living with a loved one’s drug or alcohol use.

There are lots of models to explain recovery and, as you probably know, the cycle of change is a fabulous one. I wrote a blog about it here. It really is a good idea for people living in this difficult situation to familiarise themselves with tools to use that can help.

The stages

 

Here is my interpretation of the stages in line with the Vesta Approach’s method of supporting family recovery.

 

Stage One: Unknowing

This is when families are not aware that a family has a problem with drugs or alcohol. Either that, or they don’t know the signs. As this period goes on, the substance use will usually worsen prior to the realisation that something is wrong.

 

Stage Two: Coping Alone

Once a family member finds out about the problem, They will often try and cope with the situation alone, trying all sorts of methods to help them to change. This is so hard to do when you are not a trained professional and when you worry about what people think or try to hide the problem. The best thing to do is to ask for help.

 

Stage Three: Desperately Seeking Help

Families at this point reach out for help from services as a reaction to their loved one’s substance use. This is difficult because they do not know where to go for help. In my experience, many families think rehab is the only answer and focus on help for the person using substances rather than themselves. Getting help for yourself is the best course of action because you cannot force your loved one to get help. Trust me, it doesn’t work.

 

Stage Four: Supported Learning

Family members begin to research addiction, substance use or the drug their loved one is taking. They may be starting to get some structured help and support for themselves. Families will start to learn about how to respond and not to react when their loved one uses their substance and learn new and effective strategies to cope. Strategies will always be unique to your situation.

 

Stage Five: Reclaiming the Family

At this stage, affected family members have engaged in support for themselves and begin to understand that they cannot change their loved one, they can only change themselves. NFSN say, ‘Part of this is separating the needs of the family and their own needs from those of the drug user. Families begin to separate the family dynamic from the drug dynamic and start to address the wider family needs.’ So, this is a case of practising the new strategies over a period of time, setting clear boundaries and giving own needs priority attention.

 

Stage Six: Supporting Recovery

Families have found the strategies that work for them and have learnt the skills to change the environment in which they live so that they can influence change and tip the balance so that drug or alcohol use becomes less attractive than sobriety. Strategies such as ‘rewarding your loved one when sober’ or ‘withdrawing when your loved one uses’, while, at the same time, providing love, support and encouraging their loved one to make better choices.

Stage Seven: Contributing

Once a family member is in a recovery process from their loved one’s substance use, they will be able to support others who are going through the similar experiences. I set up a mentoring programme in a previous project. The families can contribute by telling their own story and guiding others through the recovery process which is invaluable to those who are struggling to cope themselves.

 

Tell me in the comments what stage you think you’re at.

 

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

I have a closed Facebook Group called Vesta Confidential. If you are affected by a loved one’s substance use, come and join me.

 

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.

Dealing with aggression

Dealing with aggression

Recently, I’ve been thinking about aggression. I shared last year that I had been in a violent relationship in my twenties. It was a very difficult time, but, I learnt an awful lot from it. The main thing I learnt was that it is not acceptable for anyone to shout, hit, control or forcefully put themselves into a position of power, whether alone or in front of others.

In my professional life, I have completed a lot of training around domestic violence and also worked in organisational development where my team trained people in assertiveness and resilience. Knowing how to ‘do it’ and putting the skills into action around are emotions is a tricky challenge.

I’ll hold my hands up, when I was younger, I did not used to be as emotionally intelligent as I am now. I used to react to whatever feeling was going on inside me. If someone was annoying me I’d snap at them, if a situation annoyed me I would vent to anyone that would listen, if someone challenged my values, I would be absolutely raging!

Through my learning and self-development. I have worked on this and mantra is ‘respond, don’t react’. This applies to reacting to my own feelings as well as being on the receiving end of someone else’s. Trying to remember this mantra works well. Trust me!

 

Fight, flight or freeze

 

Our responses to experiencing stress, aggression or danger are fight, flight or freeze. I have examples of all three. Have you ever been in relationships with people that push your buttons and your values clash so much that when they argue with you, you can’t help but fight back? Does this get you anywhere? Maybe, in some circumstances where there is absolutely no other option and it’s a choice between life or death. Probably not in any other situation. This goes for arguing back too.

 

A man at Christmas chased me and my daughter in our car in a fit of road rage as I turned into a road and made him jump! It was one of those roads that appears to be wide, but when you turn into it, it’s really narrow- so it makes you jump when people turn in. As I turned into my street, I saw him behind me flashing his lights and beeping. As my daughter is four years old, I knew I had to protect her. After a on the spot risk assessment, I thought, there is no chance I’m going to pull into my drive. I carried on driving and called my husband. I drove for about a mile and a half hoping he would go, but he didn’t. Guess what? I ended up at a traffic light! It turned red. He got out and started yelling for me to wind window down. I knew I had to bring him down from his rage. With the window firmly closed and the car locked, I simply said, ‘I have my daughter in the car. My husband is on the phone. Please go away.’ Something in that sentence brought him down and he walked away.

 

We sometimes freeze when someone does or says something hurtful or embarrassing about us. I personally think that when this happens to me, it is about not being able to process what’s been said in the moment. We may not want to react inappropriately. ‘Freezing’ is how we would describe a deer in headlights. Animals freeze to try and prevent danger, such as an attacker from seeing them move. It is part of our instinct to do the same.

 

What is aggression?

 

Aggression is an inappropriate response to feelings of stress or someone or something perceived as a threat. It is where an individual believes they are standing up for themselves, but in a hostile way. This behaviour stems from not being able to see another person’s point of view, and often, not caring whether they have a view or not. An aggressive person’s views are right, ours are wrong. Life is black and white, there are no grey areas and quite frankly, they are not interested in hearing the our point of view.

 

Aggressive Behaviours

 

Aggressive behaviour is acted out in many forms, from anger, threats, bullying, shouting, punishing, coercion, control, verbal or physical violence, and conversion strategies to try and wear someone down.  People who regularly display aggressive behaviours can be authoritarian and genuinely believe it’s their way or the highway. They may have wider emotional or mental health issues going on, or be using substance problematically.

Friendships with aggressors are usually based around their perceived influence, fear and protection as opposed to friendships being formed because of commonalities and the enjoyment of someone else’s company. This is how cults and gangs are formed-by fear not fun.

 

Dealing with aggression

 

In the moment of an aggressive act, we will naturally have a fight, flight or freeze response. It’s instinctive. We are likely to complete a mini-risk assessment of the situation we are in.

Personal safety is paramount above any strategy whatsoever. If there is any threat of violence, get out of there. Walk away, run. Whatever you need to do.

Another mantra of mine is that ‘you can’t rationalise with someone who isn’t rational’. My advice is do not even try to engage in a conversation with someone who is not rational at that point. If they are drunk, angry or intoxicated in any way, do not bother to try any techniques. Leave them to it and speak to them when sober or calmer.

 

  1. Stay calm- have you ever had a good result from arguing back or retaliating? Probably not. So it’s best to avoid it!

 

  1. Empathy- are they having a bad day? Is the behaviour unusual? What’s actually going on for that person on that day?

 

  1. Take ownership- are you responsible for anything? Have you behaved aggressively yourself? Name it. I’m sorry I was talking during your presentation, but… (see point 5) We all make mistakes!

 

  1. Say something!- Only you can decide whether you say something in the moment or following an event. If someone just is not listening, forget it. Withdraw from the scene, but don’t forget about it. We often just let things go but in the long run, this passive behaviour will not get you anywhere. In the moment reponses are great, but not always appropriate or realistic.

 

  1. Respond, don’t react- Tell the other person how you feel. My favourite tool for this is I-messages. Frame it like this:
  • I feel… (state how you feel)
  • When you.. (state the behaviour)
  • I would like… (what you would like to happen instead)

For example,  “I feel upset when you shout at me. I would like it if you could wait until you feel calm to have a discussion about things in the future.”

It is a fact that NOBODY can argue with your feelings. They are yours and they belong to you.  This way will have more of an impact that yelling back at them.

 

  1. Establish triggers- if it is a loved one or someone you see regularly, working out what triggers them to aggressive behaviour is useful, so that you can plan ahead for future outbursts and how you will manage it. Look out for the red flags that are typical when their undesirable behaviours are triggered.

 

  1. Consider your values- what do you believe in? What will you or wont you accept? How would you feel if someone behaved this way towards your grandma, your best friend or your son?

 

  1. Consider the future of your relationship- violence is not acceptable in any forms. Aggression can be worked with, providing the individual is accountable and takes responsibility for their behaviour. If they do not, you do not have to accept it. Think about your options as you could reduce contact, cut ties, move out, only see in certain situations and so on.

 

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.

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

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

I have a closed Facebook Group called Vesta Confidential. If you are affected by a loved one’s substance use, come and join me.

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 stop ‘enabling’ someone’s substance use

How to stop ‘enabling’ someone’s substance use

When I first heard the term “enabling”, I felt really sorry for the people who were classed as the “enablers”. It felt to me like a negative label attributed to someone that’s trying their best, day in, day out, to help someone they love with a substance misuse problem. “How mean”, I thought!

Now, I’ve realised that my attitude to this was all wrong. Enabling actually means unknowingly “making something possible or easier”. The family and friends of people who use drugs and alcohol go through a wide range of emotions themselves and are not trained therapists, so end up trying anything and everything to help their loved one change. This is a perfectly natural thing to do!

When a loved one shows signs of recovery or a glimmer of their old self and behaviours, a relaxed and sympathetic approach ensues. As they move back into their ‘selfish’ drinking or drug using behaviours, angry reactions are to be expected. If they put themselves in danger, panic, or worry, desperate measures are called upon. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions every single day and if you’re in this situation, you’re just doing your best. See my blog on the cycle of change for more detail of the road to recovery.

 

What is enabling?

 

Disabling enabling is one of the four Vesta Programme principles. In my programme, we will tune you in to any ways in which you and others have perhaps been (unknowingly) making it a bit too easy for your loved one to drink or use drugs. Don’t worry! Everyone does this out of the love and care for their family.

In order for your loved one to change, we make a plan for this to stop these behaviours and replace them with better ones. Why? Because until you and others around your loved one stop “helping”, the chances of them stopping misusing drugs or alcohol are slim to none.

There is no judgement here. Enabling, helping or whatever you want to label it is a lovely, kind thing to do. It’s just not going to change anything.

 

Why does enabling matter?

 

If we want to influence substance misusing behaviour, there are a few things to consider. What does your loved one get out of their substance use? What do they like about it and what does it allow them to avoid? It’s important to think about these points as the benefits of their use. Secondly, what problems do drug and alcohol use cause them? What good things do they miss out on when they use or drink? These are the costs of their substance use.

If we focus on the problems that drugs and alcohol cause them, these are “punishing consequences” and include anything that makes them feel bad as a result of their substance use. Hangovers, missing work, shame, depression, aggression or health concerns. Each person will have different reactions to different consequences.

The important thing to remember is that in order to create change, the balance of the costs and the benefits of substance use needs to be shifted so that your loved one experiences ALL the natural consequences of their substance use. Your loved one needs to experience the full costs of their substance use.

If enabling takes place by anyone close to your loved one, they will continue to experience the more positive effects of their substance use. We need them to experience the negatives. It’s tough, but I can help you do this on the Vesta Programme.

 

Enabling behaviours

 

We’ve established what enabling is and why we need to stop doing it, but it’s important to understand what types of behaviour are enabling. It can be anything that reduces the painful consequences of their use, protecting them from other people’s judgements or reactions. Some examples of enabling behaviours are as follows:

  • Concealing a loved one’s substance use from family or friends
  • Paying off debts
  • Reparing damage to home or other posesisons
  • Defending them from criticism
  • Being around your loved one when they drink or use (regardless of your mood!)
  • Making excuses for them with work absence
  • Avoiding having your own life on order to help them

Can you recognise any? What might be the consequences of these behaviours for you and your loved one?

Remember that nobody is judging you here!

 

The benefits of disabling enabling

 

When we enable, we reduce the negative consequences of someone’s undesirable behaviour at a cost to ourselves. This means that instead of your loved one experiencing the cost of their own behaviour, you are! These costs manifest themselves physically, emotionally, financially and socially.

If you think about what has worked before while you have been helping your loved one in this way, what has changed? Not much?

Perhaps it’s time to try a new approach.

Instead of living like this, imagine what it would be like to free up some of your headspace and concentrate on you?

In the Vesta Programme, I will help you to assess each enabling behaviour and we will work on stopping these. We will assess how comfortable and safe you feel stopping these behaviours and alongside the other programme principles I will help you to recover from your loved one’s substance use, live a better life and get your loved one into treatment.

 

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.

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.

Quality time with family.

Quality time with family.

Quality time with family

 

With the daily schedules, timed out to a tee and with little room for manoeuvre, how can we fit in quality time with the family?

 

Last weekend I had a brilliant day out with my family. I have recently reshuffled the way I have been doing things so I can fit family, work and other responsibilities in much better. I have been trying to spend as much quality and uninterrupted time in with my children and my husband as possible and it really does feel good! Sometimes, when we are busy with work, busy worrying about one particular person in our lives and busy worrying about things we can’t even change, we forget about the other people we have got in front of us. We forget the people that are always there for us and who we exist for. We are busy with the business of social media and scrolling through what everyone else is up to without living the life with people that want to live it with us!

 

Sometimes, one person or one aspect of our life can take up nearly all of our energy. I’ve started working on a project which I love incredibly, but I need to be careful that I reserve some space and time for the rest of my loved one’s and my other projects.

 

How to get quality time with a loved one with problematic drug or alcohol use

 

If you have a family member that uses drugs and alcohol, you can get some quality time in with them too. It’s important that you set boundaries and stick to them though. This is how to do it:

  1. If it’s quality time one to one, think of something you both like doing that will be of particular high value for them. This could be cooking their favourite dinner, watching a movie or going out somewhere that is not drug or alcohol related.
  2. There is no point going out clubbing with a drug user or going to a pub quiz with someone who has problems with alcohol! Stay away from the drugs. Don’t plan anything in involving substances, even if you will enjoy it or it brings back good memories from ‘before’.
  3. Agree your plan at a convenient time and day for both of you.
  4. Make it clear to your loved one that they need to be sober.
  5. Have a contingency plan for yourself if they are under the influence.
  6. Remember that them choosing to use substances is their choice. You have no control over it, you only have control over how you respond. Don’t react if they do, Always respond.
  7. Tell your loved one that it is up to them if they choose to use substances, but you choose not to be around it. If they use, then they do not get your company. Either carry on without them or leave them to enjoy the activity and you make alternative arrangements with no conflict. Try again next time.
  8. Don’t take it personally. I know, This is tough. Addiction, dependency or whatever you or they want to label it as means that the substance is often the priority. Keep trying without conflict and love and you will be able to influence
  9. If your loved one is sober, enjoy! Talk about how you love spending time with them sober. How you miss these times. The more your loved one recognises they are missing out on good things, the more likely they are to start thinking about changing. This is their decision though, not yours.
  10. Remember that we need to tip the balance so that drug or alcohol users experience the negative consequences of their substance use. One of these negative consequences is losing your company when under the influence and reminding them of what they are missing out on when they are sober!

 

How to get quality time with others

 

Going back to what I said earlier about one person taking up your energy, don’t forget that you can spend time with the other people without them. A major issue with families affected by a loved one’s substance use is that the rest of the family and social life is affected too.

Remember the circle of influence and how we spend a lot of our time worrying about things we have absolutely no influence over whatsoever!

 

So, take your baby to the cinema.

Take your partner out for a meal.

Take your dad for afternoon tea.

Go and see an old friend.

Go on an adventure with the family.

Spend some time alone!

 

Whetever you enjoy doing, do it!

 

Let me know what you’re planning to do, when, where and with who in the comments : )

 

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.

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.

Coping with grief

Coping with grief

Coping with grief

 

Last Friday, we lost our dog, Evie Wonder.

 

We think she was almost twelve but we aren’t too sure as we rescued her from Manchester Dogs Home (who do a fantastic job by the way!). She was like our first baby and we had her seven years.

 

We loved her. We used to take her on long walks whatever the weather and when we couldn’t do that, we found the best people we could to look after her. I remember being incredibly upset when we went away for a month to Eastern Europe because we had to leave her!

 

As time went on, we had our daughter and poor Evie moved down the pecking order a bit, but then we all did, so I don’t think she minded too much! Post-natally, She helped me get fit again because having a dog just makes you get out of the house. Getting out of the house makes you feel good, even if you wake up at 6am and could think of nothing worse. Once me and my little Evie were out it set us up both  for the day!

 

When we had our son, there was even more change for her and I feel bad that I didn’t have as much time to give Evie. She was always so polite and waited. She benefited hugely from having children around though. The extra fuss and a LOT of extra food came her way with two new humans sitting in the high chair.

 

She had separation anxiety which drove me up the wall, if I’m being honest, but was lovely in the same way. We just don’t know what happened to her in her first five years or so. She was picked up on the streets in Stockport and then taken to the Dogs’ Home. Who knows what she had been through.

 

We had some great laughs with her. I felt guilty that times had changed and her quality of life might not have been so great towards the end, because we had to prioritise our children. I’m not going to lie, having the extra responsibility of the dog to look after felt like a burden sometimes.

 

On a positive note, we gave her a great life! She was so well looked after. She had the best food, grooming and walks every day without fail. On the rare occasion we couldn’t walk her, she played out in the garden with my husband and the children and had lots of love.

Evie and Georgia

Evie waiting for the food machine to drop something! 

Loss

 

This week has been awful. The house without her is just not the same. We love being at home and we miss her so much. I’ve never been a major animal lover but Evie changed that. I never quite ‘got it’ when people talked about the grief of their dog dying. ‘They’re just animals’, I thought, ‘Humans are more important!’ Maybe they are, but there’s something about my dog being around that was different. Her death has affected us just as much as the people we have lost in our lives.

 

We were fortunate in a way that it was a Friday when she went, because we had the weekend to come to terms with our loss. I was seriously thinking the other day, how would work react if I said I couldn’t go in because my dog has died! Can you imagine? But these feelings are real, so I just wanted to acknowledge them today. I also wanted to acknowledge that we are forced to balance those feelings with the need to just get on with it! We have two young children and they showed no mercy last weekend when we could have really done with taking it easy! Ha. That’s life.

 

It made me think about grief generally and how we can help ourselves to manage it. Remember that grief doesn’t have to be about someone’s death. It can be about losing someone we love who is still with us, but perhaps not the same person as before.

 

Coping

 

I was introduced to a fabulous tool that I’ve been able to use this week when I’ve been thinking about coping with my own grief. This tool is called the change curve and was originally developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book, ‘Death and Dying’, which was published in 1969. This model has been adapted to use in any sort of change and I used to teach it to others. This is the first time I have gone back to it to help with a personal issue and it has worked.

 

The Change Curve

Change curve

 

The left hand axis shows our emotional response and the horizontal axis represents time. People go through the stages at their own pace and it is really crucial we remember this when we think ‘get over it’ or ‘move on’. Some people are more resilient than others. The 5 stages of grief are:

  1. Denial- we might be in shock and cannot accept what has happened. As we have not accepted the change has happened, our emotional response is not affected.
  2. Anger- we could look for someone to blame or blame ourselves or others, or even experience guilt, as I described above.
  3. Bargaining- where we try and put off the inevitable- we could have done this by bringing our Evie home from the vet, or asking for a second opinion, or leaving her for the weekend to try and recover, but when we both went back to see her, we knew it was her time to go.
  4. Depression- we start accepting our loss and this is where our emotions are mostly affected, bringing feelings of overwhelming sadness or depression.
  5. Acceptance- when we move through to acceptance we experience a period where we try and get used to living in a different way and dealing with the change. We start experimenting with the new change and this helps us to move through it. This is where we are at today, a week after Evie passed away.

I am naturally task focused so I like to make sense of things and try and find a way to move on. I am also an extremely emotional person so remembering this helpful tool has helped me feel more comfortable with the emotion we have felt this week.

It is important to remember that people move through this cycle at different paces. Nobody is the same. Some people get stuck and this is where we can become depressed, anxious or bitter, so it’s useful to understand that these feelings are a natural part of change, but in order to move on, we must be able to work through these feelings.

Some advice i got over on my Facebook page to do just that is:

“Let yourself feel sad. Remember your loved one with joy and happiness. I call it my pit of sadness, once you hit the bottom of the pit the only way is back up. Grief is real and you can’t avoid it. Be good to yourself and don’t fight the grief, just allow it to happen.”

“A bit of wallowing and wailing followed by a good walk and fresh air to kick start the endorphins.
And sleep.”

And my top tip is to remember the good times!

Happy Evie

On our way for a walk 🙂

 

Applying the change curve to your own life

 

Think about a change, grief or loss that you have been through and how you can apply it to the change curve.

Remember that the feelings we experience during any sort of change are NORMAL. Go with them and refer back to this because it certainly has helped me this week.

 

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.

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.

Drugs, alcohol and mental health

Drugs, alcohol and mental health

Drugs, alcohol and mental health

 

I’ve worked with people who have problems with drugs and alcohol (I’ll refer to both as drugs for this blog) for over a decade. I had some brilliant training years ago around dual diagnosis. This term refers to people who have been diagnosed as having mental health problems at the same time as problems with alcohol or drugs.

 

Which problem was there first?

 

I believe that people use substances because of the consequences from using them, whether they are positive or negative, resulting in positive or negative consequences. Interestingly, a positive consequence includes the following:

  • What somebody likes about using drugs and alcohol (these are called positive reinforcers)
  • Things that drugs and alcohol helps them to avoid (these are called negative reinforcers)

This is where we can start thinking about mental health. If someone has mental health issues that are possibly undiagnosed or diagnosed, then substance use might help them to alleviate some of the negative ways they are feeling. We call this self-medication. So, the drugs are beneficial to them. In these cases, the mental heath issues may have been the problem that was either undiagnosed or not treated properly in the first place and then the drugs came along after.

We then move onto the negative consequences of drug use. These are:

  • The problems caused by taking drugs
  • The things that people miss out on because of drugs

When we think about the negative consequences of drug use and mental health, some typical problems that may be caused from drug use is that it can exacerbate mental health problems, so even if someone gets short term relief, their problems overall can increase through their drug use. Drugs can also cause mental health problems for people who have possible had no mental health problems prior to taking drugs. This can be due to many factors like sleep deprivation, hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia, stress and in some cases, drug induced psychosis, accidents, physical health problem- the list goes on.

How do we help people with a dual diagnosis?

 

When I’ve supported people who have problems with both mental health and drugs, it has been challenging trying to get them the help they need. This is because services in mental health often find it hard to treat people who are intoxicated with drugs. This makes sense, because it is tricky to assess someone who perhaps isn’t able to communicate all that well.

Drug and alcohol services can also have difficulty because if a person is self-medicating with drugs, once they are removed as a coping mechanism, we need to get the right support in place, the right medication if needed and the right therapies. The recovery journey needs very careful planning in partnership with all the required services involved.

We often think that once people stop using drugs, then life will be immediately better. Recovery doesn’t work like that. Stopping using drugs is just the start of that journey. Each recovery journey is individual to that person and they need to lead it themselves. This is why professionals and family members must understand the goals that a person with dual diagnosis wants to achieve themselves, rather than imposing this upon them. If everyone works together to meet these goals, then the individual is more likely to want to change. Read more here on recovery.

 

Support

 

There is a lot of support out there for anyone who is feeling unwell. There is also lots of work being done around breaking the stigma of accessing help for mental health and substance use. Asking for help is the best thing anyone can do if they need it.

Click here for some services who can help.

 

I can help

 

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

You can also get help via Skype  and my online group therapeutic programme which I’ve launched this week! Take a look 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.