Counselling is not the only option- 3 ways to get help with drug and alcohol use

Counselling is not the only option- 3 ways to get help with drug and alcohol use

Ever feel confused about the support available for you and your loved one?

Look no further

In this blog, I’ll be sharing three major shortcuts to help you choose the best community-based service for you and your family. 

1. Drug and alcohol practitioners

There are excellent, trained drug and alcohol practitioners, who specifically help either you or your loved one. They support people who use drugs and alcohol into their recovery. 

Some services work specifically with families. For example, in your local authority, there are drug and alcohol services, which are free to access. They work in a holistic way, to help deal with all aspects of life. They will get the appropriate services involved to help your loved one achieve their recovery goals. This may be supporting them to stop, or reduce their substance use, or supporting you to cope. 


They offer a range of help including recovery groups.

You can contact these services yourself- just have a look on Google.

For you, there are some amazing family services. It depends on your locality.  Some are delivered through drug services. Some are separate. If in doubt, give your drug service a call and ask. 

I am a trained drug and alcohol practitioner. If you want to find quality, private practitioners (like me!) have a look here at FDAP.  We have to register and follow a specific code of conduct to deliver this work. This keeps you safe and ensures you are working with a skilled practitioner.

Always ask about ways of working, as there are LOTS of different models of support.
Testimonials are another good thing to ask for.


 2. Alternative Therapies & other support

Other support includes alternative therapies such as hypnotherapy and acupuncture. I would usually recommend these in addition to drug and alcohol treatment.

But… some people recover from substance use, solely with alternative methods of support like this. 

Those offering support are often in recovery themselves, some are not. Both people in recovery and trained professionals can be of equal value, depending on what type of support you want. People in recovery should also be trained in their particular area of work. 

There are well-known recovery methods such as NA & AA. This support is classed as mutual aid, so check them out and see if they are right for you. These groups are not necessarily run by trained and qualified practitioners. HOWEVER, they can be a fantastic support and have helped many into their recovery. AL-ANON is for family members affected by a loved ones drinking.   

SMART Recovery is another option for your loved ones recovery. The facilitators are trained. Some are professionals, some are not. I have known a lot of clients recover by using SMART Recovery methods. 

There are also coaches as an option. Again, check their credentials and experience.

Just because somebody has been through an experience themselves, does not mean they are skilled to help others. Trust me. This work is hard. There is a LOT of skill involved and professionals need to keep themselves and their clients safe. 

 There are many other support services available for families. Check out the ADFAM search to find something in your area.

I have a free, online group for women living with drug and alcohol use. Come and join me at Vesta Confidential.

3. Counselling

A good counsellor is worth their weight in gold, if you find somebody experienced in working with addictions.

One way you can find this out is ask or check them out on FDAP, because they have specific qualifications that counsellors can complete. This means they are trained and qualified to work with people who are affected by or who have experienced addiction or drug and alcohol related issues. You can also check BACP. 

Counsellors usually have no agenda or structure to their sessions. It is about you bringing what you need to sessions and working through that. This is different to the way I work. I often refer to counsellors or psychotherapists and other therapists after we have worked together to explore underlying thoughts and feelings. 

If someone has already been treated for their substance use and want to explore an underlying issue around why they have used, then find someone that works with that specific issue. This may not necessarily be addiction. Lots of people use drugs because of the trauma they have experienced. The substances mask that trauma. 

There are counsellors trained to support families too. Again, you can find them on FDAP.  

Professionals in every single type of support, can try and be all things to all people. So, always check credentials. Always check qualifications. Always check experience. 

BUT… you could also give those just qualified a chance! If everything is transparent and they act with integrity, you might find a diamond who is freshly trained and absolutely fantastic!

I haven’t mentioned medical practitioners here, but remember you can speak to your GP at any point. I would always recommend this for people who use drugs or alcohol. 

In summary…

The way I work is in a solution focused, but person-centred way. So, I help my clients get results within a certain time frame (you have to do the work!) but focus sessions around your needs, your feelings and your goals.
I will take you from being stressed, alone and not really knowing what to do…
To… knowledgeable, confident and with a whole load of effective strategies to cope with a loved one’s drug or alcohol use.

So that…
You can live a life you deserve, regardless of whether your loved one continues to use substances.

So, if you want to work with me, contact me for a free, 20 minute friendly consultation.

But hurry… because my one to one places are limited.

Hope to see you soon because I can help.


P.S- You can join my mailing list here and get tips to cope straight into your inbox!

Drinking around children

Drinking around children

I’m a total and utter party pooper when it comes to drinking around children. A bit of an outcast in terms of my opinion on the subject. It’s what our mums and dads always did and it didn’t do us any harm right? Wrong! Before I begin, I don’t want to come across as patronising. Those who know me know I love partying with the best of them. I enjoy drinking to enhance a night out or a Saturday night in. I do not enjoy hangxiety or alcohol-induced-depression one little bit. As a drug and alcohol practitioner, I do not always practise what I preach. But, that’s another story for another day (maybe).  

Who are we talking about?

  I’ve specialised in familial substance misuse for the majority of my career (since 2005). I’ve supported hundreds of families into recovery as well as some who have not managed it. I’ve met people who are desperate to change in order to prevent their children being removed from their care. I’ve met families where I’ve been involved in decision making about the need to remove children from their care. I don’t want to focus on talking about families who are subject to child protection plans or in the ‘safeguarding arena’. I’m talking about professional people who have enough disposable income to pick up the phone and text a dealer or pop out and or give crate man/woman a call (do they still exist?!) to drop off some more booze while their mates are round and the kids are upstairs. When my husband and I had our daughter, we made a decision to have a child focused parenting style. Our lives changed to adapt to her needs. Other parents might have a parent focused style where the baby, still very much loved, slots into the lives of the parents and things carry on as before. There is nothing wrong with either of these approaches. We stopped drinking around our children and have drinking curfews so that we have a few drinks after the children have gone to bed (mostly!) We made this decision because of the work I do and for other reasons.  

My memories

  I remember my parents (sorry dad) going out drinking and friends coming back to the house. I remember them coming in my room stinking of booze and garlic (bleugh), hammered. I remember my mum screaming at my dad because he got drunk the night before a holiday. I remember the times they were drunk and it was totally cringe. I remember being at family parties where all the grown-ups were acting weird. I remember being at friends’ houses where other people’s parents were drunk, with their adult friends around when I was 13. Not great memories. I’m sure they remember when I was drunk too but we aren’t talking about that today either! Am I traumatised by these memories? Not really, but I didn’t particularly like it and I didn’t feel particularly safe. We remember these things because our memories are connected to our emotions. Fear, embarrassment, shame, worry (and feelings of pleasure and happiness too- it’s not all doom and gloom!). Do you remember your parents drinking? Or maybe they’re still at it!  

Like Sugar for Adults

  A report was published in 2017, Like Sugar for Adults. It found that it isn’t just dependent drinkers or alcoholics that have an impact on children. Parents don’t have to be wasted for children to understand that there is a difference in their behaviour. They experience negative feelings but also have an understanding that their parents have less boundaries and control over their children when they have had a drink, so can get away with more. It also found that:

  • 29% of parents reported having been drunk in front of their child.
  • 51% of parents reported having been tipsy in front of their child.
  • 29% of parents thought it was ok to get drunk in front their child as long as it did not happen regularly.
  • If a child had seen their parent tipsy or drunk, they were less likely to consider the way their parent drinks alcohol as providing a positive role model for them – regardless of how much their parent usually drank.

The more parents drank, the more likely children were to experience a range of harms, beginning from relatively low levels of drinking. As a result of their parent’s drinking:

  • 18% of children had felt embarrassed.
  • 11% of children had felt worried.
  • 7% of children said their parents had argued with them more than usual.
  • 8% of children said their parents had been more unpredictable.
  • 12% of children said their parents had paid them less attention.
  • 15% of children said their bedtime routine had been disrupted; either by being put to bed earlier or later than usual.



  Sorry to go on, but, having worked in the safeguarding children arena, there is also a risk of the following when adults drink and take drugs; *Child Sexual Exploitation *Neglect *Sexual abuse *Witnessing violence (domestic or relatives scrapping at the family wedding) *Emotional abuse *Impact on routines and boundaries *Developing an unhealthy attitude to alcohol (normalising or fear)  


  Without riddling you with guilt or turning you into a safeguarding professional over-protective freak (if you know, you know), here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re getting ready for some recreational alcohol or drug use tonight:

  1. Are my children safe?
  2. Are they being cared for while we get drink/take drugs?
  3. Have they got access to the alcohol or drugs?
  4. Are we able to care for them if they wake in the night?
  5. Is there a responsible adult around to respond to their needs if the other adults are under the influence?
  6. Are there other adults around who are drinking and using drugs? How much do we know about them?
  7. Is the conversation appropriate for children?
  8. Do we know what the children are doing?
  9. What will our children see of us when sober?
  10. What about when under the influence?
  11. Do we know everyone in the house or where we are?
  12. What about tomorrow when on a hangover or come down?
  13. Are we emotionally available for our children when under the influence?
  14. Will the children still be okay when the babysitter goes home and we are intoxicated?


How I handle it

  The approach we have to drinking is:  

  1. We tend to avoid drinking in the day (nothing good ever comes of it!) and if we want a drink, we do so when the children have gone to bed (a time boundary that works well for us)
  2. My children do not witness us drinking as a coping mechanism
  3. We don’t take them late to parties where adults are drinking
  4. We aim for them to understand alcohol can be enjoyed as an occasional recreational thing and not be ‘hidden’ from it
  5. We have told my daughter that some people have problems when they drink too much wine or take drugs and that mummy helps them


Final thoughts

  Parental substance use can be a safeguarding issue if children are deemed at risk and we all have a safeguarding responsibility for children, whose needs are deemed as paramount to ours. This doesn’t mean that parents can’t enjoy themselves with a bit of parental substance use and be great parents, but I’ve seen in my practice that there is a fine line between what is acceptable and what is not. I ask for you to put yourself in your children’s shoes before inviting everyone round to party. My advice is- get the kids out of the way and then let your hair down! If you want help with your drinking or drug use or you are affected by someone else’s, please Get in touch for a friendly chat about your situation and to find out more about my services.

Take care,


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

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

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

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


Family support groups


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

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

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


Local drug and alcohol services offer


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

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


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


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

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


Why rehabs are not always the answer

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

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


Focus on the family


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


5-Step Method


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

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

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

1. Introduction, assessment and goal setting

2. Getting to know you and the problem

3. Providing you with relevant information

4. Exploring how you respond and cope

5. Exploring and enhancing social support

6. Identifying further needs and referring on for further help

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

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

Take care,


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

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

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


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


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


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


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




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




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


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


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


I can help


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

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

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

Sign up to my mailing list here to keep up to date with Vesta news and get my free Ten Steps to Family Recovery download.


Take care,


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,


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,