See you next week,
In this blog, I’ll be sharing three major shortcuts to help you choose the best community-based service for you and your family.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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.
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!
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:
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:
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:
The approach we have to drinking is:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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 hope you can take some comfort in the fact that you are definitely not alone in your situation.
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):
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.
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.
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!
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,
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.
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?
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.
Hooks then, are events that we can predict are when drug and alcohol use is disturbed. Some typical categories of hooks into treatment are:
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.
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.
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.
See you next week,