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.

 

How to help children living with a drug or alcohol using parent.

How to help children living with a drug or alcohol using parent.

I have been fortunate enough to have worked in a job I love. I’ve have been able to help families affected by a loved one’s drug or alcohol use. I have learned so much from my clients and I have been astounded by the recovery that families are able to make.

This is from working with children like my first client who was a fifteen-year-old heroin user in prison, to families with a parent who was knocking back a couple bottles of vino every evening. Every family is unique and has their own needs. Many parents are capable of caring for their children while using substances and some aren’t as much. Some children have fantastic support and some don’t.

Over the years, I have seen patterns emerge from supporting children living in homes where one or both parents has problematic drug or alcohol use. I wanted to share them with you…

 

What have I learnt about children living with a drug or alcohol using parent?

 

1. They know what’s going on. No matter how much families may try to hide it. The best thing to do is to speak to them about it.

Most parents I worked with believed that their children did not know that one (or sometimes both) of the parents were drinking or using drugs. Every child I worked with, with one exception, knew. A four-year-old girl told me, “When my mummy drinks, she gets silly and falls off her bike”. A teenage boy said he hated his mum because of the embarrassment she caused him when she was drunk in his neighbourhood.  A mum who was an amphetamine user slept off her drugs while the oldest child cared for her younger two siblings while her mummy was “poorly”. She was six. They all knew that their parents were different when they were under the influence of substances.

The best way to approach this is to explain to a child about drugs and alcohol so that they know it is not their fault and they know they don’t have to keep anything a secret. Pretending it isn’t happening is not helpful for anyone.

2. They usually wanted to stay with their parents.

All the children I worked with loved their mums and dads. They didn’t want to leave them. Often, Children’s Social Care was involved so we asked these questions. The fifteen-year-old boy loved his mum but he couldn’t bear to see her the way she was. Talking to children and reminding them about good times with their mum or dad will help them to remember positive times when their parent wasn’t under the influence.

3. They may see and hear things at home that scare or worry them.

Try not to argue with your loved one, even when your children are in bed and definitely don’t involve them to make a point. Put yourself in their shoes and save your own energy. They absorb everything.

Ask children how they are feeling in a quiet space, at a good time, on a regular basis. This builds up their trust. Teaching them about feelings words helps them to learn how to describe them and prevents them bottling their emotions up.

4. They can grow up with drug and alcohol problems themselves.

Children with substance misusing parents are three more times likely to have problematic substance issues themselves. In my experience, this can also go completely the opposite way where children don’t want to touch substances at all.  It’s been evidenced that around half of addiction is due to environmental factors and half is genetic, so influencing the environmental factors at home can really help.

5. They need somebody they can trust and to talk to that isn’t in the family home.

You are doing an amazing job of caring for your child (ren) and partner. However, children need someone else to talk to. Letting somebody know what is going on outside the family that they know they can talk to in confidence helps enormously. I have seen families try and keep everything secret and it doesn’t help.  I supported children in one to one sessions so they could talk about their wishes and feelings with someone they could trust who was not in their family which allowed them to say whatever they wanted. This was with their parents’ permission, without it being shared or worrying that they will upset you.

6. They need to do fun things in and outside the family home.

I created a groupwork programmes for children in my work. The feedback was fantastic. They all got some quality time doing a variety of activities and meeting other young people in the same situation as themselves. They realised they were not alone. Supporting them with hobbies obviously helps them to thrive and prioritising these over whether a loved one has caused chaos that particular day is even better!

7. They need quality time with the substance using parent if possible

Speaking to your loved one about a good time for them to do something fun with their children may seem like an impossible task. We cover the “hows” in the Vesta Programme. Selecting a time when you know they are sober, for example, straight after work, and remind them on the day that they have plans with their children.

8. They need their basic needs meeting, no matter what’s going on

Providing love and attention, routine, enough sleep and sticking to boundaries will help them continue to be children. When we feel guilty, we often let these things go thinking they may help but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t.

9. Their whole family needs support to recover from drug or alcohol use.

There are many options for drug and alcohol users but not so many for family members. I can’t emphasise the importance of everyone in the family receiving help to recover.

10. Criminalising people for substance use does not work.

I always wonder how well my clients in prison would have done if they had been supported in their own communities to recover. Instead, they were stamped with a criminal record which will affect them forever. To do so well in prison and then be released to the same problems just seems a bit ridiculous to me.

 

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.

How can I stop my loved one’s drug or alcohol use?

How can I stop my loved one’s drug or alcohol use?

I know you are feeling tired frustrated and at the end of your tether and that is why you are here, looking for answers. While this might not be the answer you want, I have to tell you that you can’t stop your loved one drinking or taking drugs. Why not? Because it is their decision to make. What can you do? You can influence their behaviour and I can show you how.

 

Why wont they stop?

 

When somebody starts using drugs or alcohol, they have a choice when they start using and probably believe that they are fully in control of whatever they are taking. There are many factors involved as to why someone becomes an “addict” or, as I prefer to say, has problems with alcohol or drugs. This can include having a genetic disposition if there is a history of addiction in the family. Environmental factors, such as where somebody was brought up, friendships and attitudes to alcohol within the family. This means that your partner may be more likely to develop problems with drinking than others. The other factor is that they continue to take drugs or drink because they are getting something out if doing so.

The other thing that happens when we drink or use drugs is that it affects the dopamine in our brain which regulates how we feel and think and respond to pleasure. Taking substances can increase to a point where an individual’s tolerance is increased, so they need more of the substance to produce the same effect. They then begin to experience withdrawals and may pick up a substance to ease the discomfort of this and this pattern of behaviour over a period of time, actually changes the way our brain works.

 

It’s all they want to do!

 

Dopamine affects decision making and impulsivity and eventually, it is difficult for a drinker to enjoy anything except their substance. Their brain adapts to the dopamine experienced from their substance so much that they struggle to get pleasure from anything else. Life becomes an obsession with drinking or drug taking, planning activities around it, withdrawing from it and then using again.

This means that the person you love is still that person, but they have lost an element of control over their substance of choice. This substance is contributing to the decision making for them. The promises your loved one makes and doesn’t keep have been overtaken by the need to have their drug or drink.

An important note is that a problematic drinker or opiate user should never stop using their substsnace without medical support. This is because if they are dependent, it is very dangerous to stop without supervision if they are physically dependent. Please always ask your loved one to seek advice from their GP or drug and alcohol service.

 

What can I do?

 

So, you can’t stop them using, as I have said it is their choice, but, what you can do, is focus on your quality of life and that of the rest of your family while learning strategies to influence your loved one’s substance use. You can live a better life without substances deciding how your day is going to go. You can also encourage your loved one to access treatment at the right time. You can make your loved one realise that they are missing out on brilliant things with you, your family and friends.

 

Take action…

 

Here is something you can put in place right now. Think about 3 ways that you tried to stop your loved one drinking. Write them down. Then, think about how effective each strategy was is stopping or reducing their drinking.

 

Did your strategies work?

 

Now, think about how much effort you put into each strategy. Was it easy/hard? Write this down.

So, what has worked? What hasn’t?

If there is anything that has worked well, keep doing it. If they haven’t, stop doing them. Right now! Give yourself a break because in order to change things, we need the energy to be able to make those changes.

Doing the same thing over and over again with no effect is not working and is draining your precious energy.

Don’t worry if none of your strategies work as this is often the case.

Want to know how to get your loved one into treatment and live a better life?

 

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.

 

Why you need help when you live with a person using alcohol or drugs

Why you need help when you live with a person using alcohol or drugs

Living with someone who has problems with drugs or alcohol is usually an all-consuming, emotional and relentless journey. You love them so you keep going and before you know it, every waking moment is spent thinking about them, their problems and how you can make it better. You haven’t even time to think about help for yourself. Sound familiar?

 

Your feelings are determined by what your loved one’s behaviour is like that particular day. Have they had a drink? Have they used? How much have they used? How will I find out? I’ll ring so and so. They’ve let me down again. The children are upset. Oh no, will there be another row? Might they get violent? How can I stop it?

 

I get it.

 

Are they really addicted?

 

You may be in a bit of denial or not so sure yourself that your loved one has a problem. Some people spend most of their time together with their loved one and friends using substances themselves so maybe you’re thinking have I really got room to talk? Everybody else does it. Maybe because they are not using every day then they can’t be an “addict?”.

 

Forget that word, “addict”, for now. I prefer the term, “someone who has problems with alcohol or other drugs”. It’s a bit easier to understand that if somebody is having problems in other areas of their life because of drugs or alcohol then they are having problems. These problems aren’t a one-off, and a number of aspects of life such as relationships, work, finances, health and so on may be affected. Something needs to change. Sometimes, this might be a friend or family member having a chat and helping them realise. Sometimes, they may be in denial or need some specialist help. This all depends on the individual, the amount of their substance being used, frequency and how long it has been going on. Unfortunately, nobody can make your loved one access support. You can only influence it. It is their decision to get help.

 

If your instinct is telling you that you loved has a problem and you also have evidence for this, then they probably have. It might also be completely obvious.

 

What is so hard about asking for help?

 

If you know your loved one has a problem, you can influence them to access treatment, but when it comes down to it, it is their choice. There are lots of treatment options for substance misuse which I can talk about another time. It is useful for you to know this, in case an opportunity arises for you to discuss this with them at a time when they are sober.

 

What we are never good at is asking for help or admitting we need this ourselves! Why?

 

There are loads of reasons. You might be so intently focussed on your loved one getting help that you don’t even consider yourself at all! Unsure about what support is out there for you? Perhaps you are worried about people finding out for all different reasons, like wanting others to just think you are living a “normal” life. Lots of powerful emotions like fear, anger, worry, shame, embarrassment, frustration and guilt, as well as not wanting to let our loved one down are barriers to accessing help.

 

These are all common feelings and thoughts of family members affected by a loved one’s substance use. You’re not on your own, have a look at the stats from ADFAM’s evidence pack which was published in 2012! ADFAM are amazing. Have a look here. 

 

Remember that your loved one choosing to drink is not your fault. NACOA have lovely words for children with parents who have problems with alcohol which I think are important for you to remember too:

I…

  • didn’t cause it
  • can’t cure it
  • can’t control it
  • can take care of myself
  • can communicate my feelings
  • can make healthy choices

 

I hope you can take some comfort in the fact that you are definitely not alone in your situation.

 

What next?

If you’re still here, you know that your loved one has a problem, we’ve considered some of the feelings and daily thoughts you might be experiencing and you know you’re not on your own.  So, what have you got to lose? I’m wondering if there is anything else stopping you from getting your own help.

 

I know from working with families affected by substance misuse for many years that there can also be a number of practical reasons why it is difficult to get help (as well as the above):

 

  1. Work may mean you can’t go for sessions during the day.
  2. Childcare- you might not want to leave your children with your loved one.
  3. Evenings may be taken up with other responsibilities, if not work.
  4. You might just be knackered all the time and not have the energy.
  5. What’s out there might not be your thing.
  6. Fear of leaving your loved one alone.

 

There is some help out there to suit everyone. You might think that once your loved one gets into treatment, you will get help too. Unfortunately, this is not always the case as your loved one needs to give consent for you to be involved in their treatment journey. If they don’t, you may not get support yourself. Some services do offer family services as part of their recovery process which is fantastic. Have a look yourself online and see what’s available for you in your area.

 

How the Vesta Approach is different

 

I set up The Vesta Approach because I know how difficult it is for some of you to even get out of the house. I offer my service face to face in Manchester, UK. Don’t worry though, as you don’t even need to go out to access my programme as I offer Skype sessions and soon, an online therapeutic programme. Read more here.

 

This service is for you. I will teach you how to respond differently to your loved one’s substance use in an evidence based programme that supports you to recover from your loved one’s drug or alcohol use, get them into treatment and improve your quality of life.

 

If you want to know more, sign up to my mailing list and receive my “Ten Steps to Family Recovery Guide” to give you a taster of the programme and my top tips to starting your recovery journey.

 

Remember that you are not alone so take that first step and have a look at what help is out there for you.

 

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 is launching in the next few weeks!

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.

 

See you next week,

 

Victoria.

The hooks to drug and alcohol users getting help

The hooks to drug and alcohol users getting help

The hooks to drug and alcohol users getting help

 

Last week, I wrote about the barriers to drug and alcohol users getting help  so, it is also relevant to talk about the hooks to treatment too.

 

As a family member who wants to influence change in their loved one’s substance use, it is really useful to figure out when a loved one is going to be open to that change. It would be fabulous if I could advise when this is, but, as we are dealing with human beings who are all unique, every person will be motivated at different times and by different things.

 

Motivation is personal

 

I have worked with families where parents have problems with substance use and who have been referred by services for support. Most of these families have been involved with Children’s Services which means they have been on child protection plans or similar. This does not mean that a) they are not good parents or b) that their children will be taken off them. There is, however, a risk that children could be removed if parents do not get support to reduce or abstain from substance use, accept help and improve their parenting capacity.

 

That risk, for me personally, would be the ultimate sacrifice and I would do anything to change so that I could keep my children. For some families I have worked with, children have been removed because they could not change. It is crucial to note here, however, that I have not had problems with alcohol or drug use, I have not had mental health issues and I have not been involved with Children’s Services. This means that my motivation now could be different if I the same problems. This also means that my motivation could change.

 

When I think about what has triggered my motivation for healthy eating for example, in my 20’s and early 30’s, it was because I wanted to look good. As a 40’s newbie, the priority is so that I can feel my absolute best for my family, my work and my life and because I want to teach my children good habits.

Think about this for a moment, what has motivated you in the past? What motivates you now?

 

Finding the hooks

 

With substance users then, we need to think about what is motivating them now. You will see signs of this when they have a break from drug or alcohol use or when they talk about changing or stopping using. Even if they are dissatisfied with their use, something has happened that has made them feel that way. We need to know what this something is.

 

A brilliant exercise is to review the times in the past when a loved one has shown these signs of dissatisfaction as we can then think about what their hooks are. I have spoken about shifting the balance so that the negative consequences of drug use outweigh the positives. When this occurs, this will be the time we have to look out for to discuss getting help. Planning for these times is a really good way of getting ready to step in and offer support.

 

Some typical hooks

 

Hooks then, are events that we can predict are when drug and alcohol use is disturbed. Some typical categories of hooks into treatment are:

  • Health- any health scares or risks to health
  • Relationships- conflict, reactions or violence or having good times
  • Activities- losing friends, work or missing enjoyable activities
  • Self-image- what other people think of us and what we think of ourselves
  • Formal coercion- requirements from courts, police, safeguarding

 

An example

 

A friend of mine was very concerned about his brother’s drinking. I gave him some advice. When I followed the situation up with him, he said that an ambulance had been called because his sister wouldn’t wake up. He had overdosed on alcohol. Since then, despite problematic drinking for many years, He has not touched alcohol for five months. Why? Because he is a professional man and he did not want anyone at work to know he had a problem. He also lived in the area in which he works. This is his hook. His hook was his self-image and possibly also his health.

 

We can then explore what the signs and symptoms of a loved one’s reaction to particular hooks are. Some situations may not create any reaction, because all our hooks are different, some will create a great deal of reaction. If we can get really clear on previous reactions, then this will help families to quickly spot the signs in the future and be ready for discussing what help is out there. The next step is to take action and get support in place.

 

To summarise:

 

  1. Think about the times your loved one has stopped using drugs or alcohol or has spoken about stopping.
  2. Note down what happened before this change occurred.
  3. How long did it last?
  4. What type of hook was this?
  5. You can then summarise your loved one’s hooks.
  6. This will then give you an idea of what area you can focus on to tip the balance of your loved one’s 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. You can also get help via Skype  and an online group therapeutic programme.

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 10 Steps to Family Recovery download.

 

 

Take Care.

See you next week,

 

Victoria.