Alcohol Awareness Week: an interview with Fay - Family Worker at Explore Family
What is the Explore Family service?
We support family members impacted by somebody’s alcohol and/or drug use. This can be anyone in the family including children, parents of teenage children and older adults who are supporting an adult son or daughter. We base a lot of our work on the 5 step approach.
At every point of contact we’re aiming to get the whole family involved in the service and help that family to move forward in the way they want.
What kind of support will I receive?
First of all, you will receive an engagement visit, where we tell you about the service and get some basic information from you around what the family is finding difficult and what your worries are. After that, the support is structured around your family’s needs.
It tends to be about helping people feel more informed about substances, signposting, looking after their wellbeing, and building communication and trust within the family. This can be on a one to one basis, in a group or using a whole family approach.
We offer Behavioural Family Therapy which supports whole families in moving forward. We also have a peer support group called ‘Impact’ based on the 5 step approach, in which we talk about ways of responding to a loved one’s substance use, alternative approaches and how the family member can feel more supported. We provide a gardening group and a monthly peer support group which encourages people to get out into the community.
If you're based outside of Nottingham, find your nearest CGL service here
What prevents family members from accessing help and support?
Quite often they don’t feel like they’re entitled to support. We ask service users - what is the impact on you, how is it affecting you, how’s it impacting on your daily life? If you’re beaten down and emotionally drained then supporting someone else to make changes is really difficult.
The biggest thing people get out of their first few weeks with us is hope – having somebody to talk to who understands and can empathise with their situation without judgement.
The theme of this year’s Alcohol Awareness Week is ‘Alcohol and families’ – why is this such an important issue?
Any substance use issue has an impact on the family in one way or another. Although people might think that substance use can be quite hidden away, it can create real anxiety for family members. Often there are issues that aren’t talked about, and when they are there can often be conflict which increases the anxiety and frustration. Family members can feel like they don’t have a voice.
It's especially important to talk about because of the acceptance or ‘norms’ around our drinking culture. It seems that often families who are supporting someone using alcohol feel less entitled to support because alcohol is a legal substance and such an embedded part of our culture. These families can face such an array of difficulties with their loved one, often linked to associated health problems which can make a person very unwell and need, in some cases, significant care. Support for these families is vital as recovery can be a long road.
Providing family support is vital in terms of helping families to keep communicating and work together to achieve change. Family networks are shown to be a crucial success factor for a person’s recovery and they should therefore be able to access support to enable themselves to keep going.