Thinking about going to drugs and/or alcohol counselling
The use of drugs (prescription and illegal drugs) and alcohol is widespread in our society. But, issues can arise when your use of alcohol and/or drugs has a negative impact on your life, and the lives of those close to you.
What action you take concerning your use of drugs and/or alcohol will depend on your own view of the impact that your use has on you, and through you, those close to you. When assessing your consumption, break it down into small steps to gain an insightful overview of your usage.
Stage 1 - Do I have a problem?
If you don’t believe that your use of alcohol /drugs is causing a problem then you’ll not take any action on this matter regardless of what your friends, partner or family think. Approach this issue by asking yourself, “why is it that other people say I have a problem? Do they have a point?”.
Stage 2 - I have a problem but am not sure what to do about it.
Acknowledging to yourself that your use of drugs/alcohol is causing you a problem is a really big step. In fact, it’s the first step to your recovery! The questions surfaces about what you want to do about this issue.
- Think about the advantages and disadvantages of your usage.
- Get a piece of paper, divide it into two columns, and write down all the advantages and disadvantages from your own perspective.
An example of this technique from someone who binge drinks:
- I enjoy drinking
- It is a social activity with my mates
- It gets me out of my head and away from my problems
- I am more social when I am drunk
- I feel bolder when I am drunk
- My health is suffering from liver damage etc
- Drinking costs loads of money
- I would have to get a new set of mates if I gave up drinking
- My issues are not going away, they seem to be getting worse
- I can’t those social relationships when I’m sober
- The financial strain is leading me deeper into debt and I can’t afford presents for the kids
It is highly unlikely that you’ll be able to give up your alcohol/drug usage just like that. In fact, it may be dangerous just to stop completely.
The next step is therefore to explore ways of reducing or minimising the harm that your alcohol and/or drug usage is doing to yourself and others. If you are binge drinking, try to limit your drinking to every other day rather than every day. Write down on a piece of paper (seen below) what you do now, the risk, and what steps you can take to reduce the risk.
What I do now: I drive when I am going to binge drink
The risk: Loose licence/accident/death or injury
Reducing the risk: Use public transport/taxi
What I do now: I drink 12 pints or more
The risk: Liver/brain damage/impotence/other
Reducing the risk: Drink water to fill up my stomach, and reduce consumption. Alternate between alcohol and water.
What I do now: I drink extra strong lager/have a large glass of wine
The risk: Liver/brain damage/impotence/other
Reducing the risk: Switch to a less strong larger/drink smaller glasses of wine.
Stage 3 - Taking further action.
The action you take will depend on what your drink /drugs usage is and what combination of drugs you are taking.
Here are a number of suggestions that may be of use.
- Record a drink/drugs diary, so that you can really get a handle on what your usage is.
- Consult your GP on your drink /drugs usage. Your GP may be able to refer you for free alcohol/drugs services at the surgery, or at a local drugs centre, including specialist detox treatment on the NHS.
- If you don’t want to go via the NHS, or the waiting list is too long, then private counsellors and detox centres can also offer drugs and alcohol treatment.
- Work with your counsellor on harm minimisation and reducing your drug/alcohol usage.
- Work on underlying emotional issues that fuel your use of drink or drugs addiction.
- Work to develop strategies for coping with times when you’re tempted to relapse.
- Join an organisation for additional support. For example Alcoholics Anonymous, or Narcotics Anonymous.
Stage 4 - Sustaining the gains.
Once you’re working on your drugs/alcohol usage, and the underlying issues, it’s important to develop relapse prevention strategies - to ensure you don’t revert back to your old patterns of drug/alcohol usage - and a recovery strategy if you do relapse.
- Continuing to work on the deeper issues that fuel your addictive patterns.
- Developing a network of friends who can support you when you’re struggling with the temptation to relapse.
- Relaxations and mindfulness techniques that can help you learn to say no.
- Regular AA or other support meetings.
- Developing a range of alternative interests that do not involve alcohol or drugs can also be very important.
Relapse recovery is also very important. The road to changing your drug-alcohol use can involve times when you do relapse. How you react to that relapse is crucial. For example:
- Beating yourself up or being hypercritical of yourself is unlikely to help you refrain from relapsing. The more you beat yourself up, the more likely you are to relapse again.
- Treating the relapse with curiosity, and honestly exploring the factors leading to your relapse can be very valuable in helping you towards recovery. Try exploring the circumstances or triggers to that relapse, what happened just before you relapsed, how you were feeling before this happened, and what action you can take to reduce the risk of this happening again.
For more information about drugs/ alcohol counselling you can contact the following:
- Your local GP should have information about drugs and alcohol services that may be available on the NHS
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Narcotics Anonymous
- The NHS
- Local Counsellor
Latest research shows that the use of Mindfulness-based techniques, such as body awareness exercise, and also Focusing, can help people on the road to recovery. I hope this article helps you on your road to recovery!
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.
About John Threadgold
Hi. I have been helping people to heal for over 18 years now. I have helped people with issues such as depression, anxiety anger management, unresolved trauma/PTSD and a host of other issues.
I aim to offer you a safe space to explore your issues as well as practical strategies for helping you to feel better and make constructive changes to you life. My training includes Focusing and Experi… Read more
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