Guest Blogger Adam Cook started AddictionHub.org after losing a friend to substance abuse and suicide. Mr. Cook’s mission is to provide people struggling with substance abuse with resources to help them recover. He founded Addiction Hub, which locates and catalogs addiction resources.
Guest blogger views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of CharityLogic and iCarol
Recovering from addiction is a long-term process. In fact, it’s a lifelong struggle. To help recovering addicts remain sober, treatment professionals often encourage them to spend time with friends and family. Loved ones can be an important source of emotional and moral support at a time when help is most needed. But there are times when even the most dedicated family member can be a distraction without realizing it. As fun and reassuring as get-togethers can be, addiction may assert itself at any time. One well-meaning but forgetful relative hanging around an open bar can easily lead to a relapse that undoes months of progress.
People with substance abuse problems can enjoy the fun and fellowship of family gatherings just as they always have, even in the early stages of sobriety. But it’s important to observe a few rules and to understand the challenges and stresses that are likely to arise, especially during the holidays.
Think it through
As we all know, family parties and social events tend to generate their own unique kinds of stress, so be certain that you’re doing everything you can to help your guest handle it from a sobriety standpoint. One good strategy is to rate the situation based on risk level. If you know it’s likely to be a high-risk scenario for a recovering addict, consider limiting the amount of alcohol that’ll be served. Or you can plan to shorten the evening a bit and reduce the likelihood that your guest might give in to temptation. If it’s feasible, consider throwing a non-alcoholic party.
If you’re throwing a holiday shindig, make sure there are plenty of non-alcoholic options on your drink list. Include drinks like sparkling water and an array of soft drinks, and plenty of finger foods. Remember that people in the early stages of sobriety need to watch out for things that might trigger a relapse. Try to put yourself in their shoes and make it easy as possible for them to avoid exposure to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.
The buddy system
Do you know someone who doesn’t smoke, drink or do drugs? If so, invite them to your party so your newly recovered family member won’t feel so alone and uncomfortable. It’s a positive distraction, and provides a ready-made excuse to steer clear of the action around the bar and people who are just there to tie one on. Remember, peer support is essential for someone going through the early stages of sobriety.
If you have limited space or you’re expecting a lot of guests, remember that a recovering addict is very vulnerable to peer pressure and needs an easy means of escaping the crowd. Provide ready access to open areas such as a patio or lawn or a quieter space in the house; they’re great refuges when things get a little too claustrophobic.
Learn your lines
Take a few minutes to think through how you’ll respond if a boozy great uncle shoves a scotch and soda at a relative who’s newly sober. Knowing how you’ll respond can help smooth over a potentially awkward situation. It’s not necessary to concoct a world-class fable, just have something in mind that’ll help your guest steer clear of embarrassment.
Keep it kid-friendly
You can also help young people avoid exposure to alcohol and drugs by establishing secure, “adults-only” areas if you’re having a party. This way, you’ll avoid creating opportunities for any kids and teens who might be hanging around to experiment with alcohol and, possibly, develop substance abuse issues later in life.
There’s no reason that people who live with substance abuse problems can’t enjoy a good time when friends and family get together. Making sure they do just takes a little extra consideration and effort.
Helplines Partnership (HLP) is an important membership body for organizations that provide helpline services in the UK and around the world. They facilitate high quality service delivery to callers by providing training, a Helplines Quality Standard, and tailored support. HLP also raises the profile of the helpline sector by representing their members’ interests and influencing the social policy agenda. For over 25 years, Helplines Partnership has supported its members to deliver a quality service to vulnerable people when they need help the most.
HLP held their Annual Conference on November 30, 2017. The Conference this year was themed around “Life’s Journey” and held in London. It provided an opportunity for helpline professionals to network with one another, find inspiration and rejuvenate purpose and energy from the speakers and seminars presented. The conference also served as the place setting for Helpline Partnership’s Annual General Meeting, and Awards Ceremony recognizing achievements of member helplines in several categories. More than 120 people attended the conference this year, representing 40-50 helplines from HLP’s membership.
Following a welcome by Chair Sophie Andrews, the day began with its first ever International Member Showcase featuring Wida Yalaqi, founder of Afghanistan Capacity Development and Educational Organization (ACDEO). ACDEO is a helpline in Afghanistan, which works to improve the well-being of all Afghans by developing social welfare and promoting a better quality of life. Despite the great work done for women’s empowerment in Afghanistan, the vast majority of the Afghan population remain unaware of the rights afforded to women within the Afghan constitution. This prompted Wida, (an Afghan native who received her higher education in the UK before moving back to Afghanistan in 2005), to found the organization. They offer counseling, mental health support, advice on self-protection, consultation with a religious scholar if desired, and referrals to ground-based service providers. In the few years since its 2013 inception, ACDEO has helped more than 56,000 families with legal advice and counseling, and connected more than 2,000 callers with legal, protection and health services. Among their key accomplishments is the improvement of community perceptions of women’s rights.
For many attendees, the international showcase proved to be one of the most fascinating and awe-inspiring parts of the day. Hearing about the unique challenges faced by this helpline’s staff, and the high quality of services delivered by them in the face of some seemingly insurmountable odds was admirable. In addition to the typical challenges all helplines face, ACDEO must overcome obstacles like making connections with people, particularly women, who live in extremely remote and rural provinces. They are often illiterate and completely cut off from resources the rest of us take for granted, such as Internet access. Because their work is considered controversial within the framework of local culture, the staff face threats to their safety and must take many precautions just to carry out their work each day, navigating bomb threats and evacuations. Taking all this into account, it’s clear to see just how courageous and committed these helpline staff are in carrying out their work to improve the lives of Afghans.
With the conclusion of the international showcase, it was time to move to the seminars. Debbie Sadler spoke on behalf of Unlock, a national charity that provides a voice and support for people with convictions who are facing stigma and obstacles because of their criminal record, often long after they have served their sentence. Debbie spoke about the evolving ways in which clients wish to reach them, often dependent upon demographics. This discussion gave a chance for members to reflect on how much they are also seeing demands for alternative channels, which helps to inform Helplines Partnership of the training needs of their members as well.
The second seminar was presented by Emily Hodge of Coaching Emily. Emily is an ex-NHS and charity professional health psychology specialist and coach, and cancer survivor. She supports people moving forward from cancer and places a focus on gentle living and well-being. Emily’s seminar was particularly suited to the “Life’s Journey” theme of the conference. It was very helpful to attendees as far as the discussion of resilience and self-care needed to be effective helpline workers, given some of the vicarious trauma and personal toll that helping others can have on helpers and carers. Group exercises and discussion were a key part of Emily’s presentation.
Speaker Elizabeth Burton-Phillips MBE, who doubled as awards presenter, is the founder of DrugFam, an organization providing support to families of those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Elizabeth shared her personal journey as the parent of twin sons addicted to heroin, and the painful loss of one of her sons to the addiction, while the other is now in recovery. Elizabeth told her story, which many who have loved someone struggling with addiction, particularly parents, could identify with. As a secondary school teacher working in a nice community whose sons went to a private school, she never imagined drugs or addiction would be an issue. She spoke about the fact that addiction can touch any family, regardless of income, class, race, or other factors. As her sons’ substance use progressed, Elizabeth found herself making decisions out of love and wanting to provide her sons with comfort, but realized that in the end her actions were not what was truly best for her sons and actually enabled them instead. Her book Mum, Can You Lend Me Twenty Quid? What drugs did to my family explores the impact that drugs have had on her family, and serves as a reminder to families battling addiction that they are not alone. She founded DrugFam in order to help families going through similar experiences, and her charity work earned her the award of Member Of The Most Excellent Order Of The British Empire.
Elizabeth also hosted the Helpline Awards ceremony where six charities received honors in six different categories. iCarol sponsored the award for Best Innovative Use of Technology. You can read more about that here!
Chrissy B aka Christoulla Boodram, television personality and mental health advocate, participated in the conference by speaking alongside several of the guests including Dr. Audrey Tang, resident Psychologist on her program. Chrissy B’s show is dedicated entirely to mental health and wellbeing and is the UK’s only TV show with this as its sole focus. Chrissy B and her guests lead the conference participants in her signature Mental Health Dance Challenge providing all conference goers with the chance to have a little fun while being reminded of the importance of good mental health. The show was recorded and aired on Sky 203 on Monday 23 January 2018. You can watch the show featuring the HLP conference below, or visit Chrissy B’s YouTube channel.
The day ended with a keynote by Claire Lomas MBE. Claire was working as a chiropractor and had reached the highest level in the equestrian sport of eventing when a tragic accident left her paralyzed from the chest down. The adjustment after this drastic and life-alerting event was obviously an immense challenge for Claire, and it was hard not to dwell on all she had lost. While there were many dark days, she managed to dig deep to find the strength and courage to completely rebuild her life with renewed goals and focus.
Claire became headline news worldwide in 2012 when she walked the London Marathon in a pioneering robotic suit, which took a grueling 17 days and raised £210k for Spinal Research. She became the first owner of a robotic suit and used it when she had the honor of lighting the Paralympic cauldron in Trafalgar Square. In 2013 Claire completed a 400-mile hand-cycle around parts of England, visiting schools on the way to inspire students, and raising another £85k supporting the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation.
Claire is a woman who never stops reaching for the next achievement. Believing that there will soon be a cure for spinal paralysis, in 2014 and 2015 she organized a series of events that took the fundraising total to over £500k, securing her place as one of Britain’s most inspirational women. She completed the Great North Run in 2016, and last summer she became the first paralyzed female with a motorcycle racing license.
Though a split second altered the course of Claire’s life forever, she emerged from the darkness to find new and immeasurable ways to contribute to the world. Claire’s keynote address left the audience emotional and inspired.
As you can hopefully see from this recap, the day was considered a resounding success by organizers and attendees alike. Feedback included praise such as:
“Very relevant and inspiring” “This is the best Conference I have attended” “Fantastic, funny and moving”
To learn more about Helplines Partnership membership and other information, you can visit them online, and follow them on social media:
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently release information on new funding opportunities for addressing the opioid crisis and suicide prevention. Below is information provided by SAMHSA:
First Responders: Up to $41.7 million over 4 years to approximately 30 grantees to train and provide resources for first responders and members of other key community sectors on carrying and administering an FDA-approved product for emergency treatment of known or suspected opioid overdose. Learn more…
Improving Access to Overdose Treatment: Up to $1 million over 5 years to one grantee to expand availability to overdose reversal medications in health care settings and to establish protocols to connect patients who have experienced a drug overdose with appropriate treatment. Learn more…
From April 2nd – 5th, iCarol Co-founders Jackie and Neil McKechnie will attend the National Council for Behavioral Health Conference in Seattle, Washington. Many of our friends and clients have encouraged us to attend and have spoken highly of the conference, the people and organizations it attracts and the fantastic learning opportunities it presents, so we’re looking forward to experiencing this first hand.
In case you are not yet familiar with this organization, the National Council for Behavioral Health with its 2,800 member organizations, is dedicating to serving millions of adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions. The cornerstone of their mission is to advocate for Americans’ access to comprehensive, high-quality care so that everyone has the tools needed for recovery. Many of you may also be familiar with their Mental Health First Aid program, a course that many of our users have not only taken, but their agencies often provide this training to their community. This highly impactful program has trained nearly 1 million people to play a role in helping someone experiencing a mental health or addictions emergency by providing immediate intervention and empathy while encouraging professional support. This program empowers all people, regardless of their personal field of expertise, to care for others and not ignore situations or feel powerless to help when they see mental health emergencies play out in front of them. It also highlights the importance of everyone having basic knowledge of mental health and addictions issues, which ultimately saves lives and reduces stigma.
We’re looking forward to learning more about this organization, attending some amazing sessions, and connecting with those in attendance to see how we might be able to work together. If you’re an iCarol user and you’re going to be there, we’d really love to connect so we can say “hi” and catch up with you, and perhaps grab a bite to eat or cup of coffee in between sessions. With this being such a large conference and knowing how much there is going on, it’d be great to plan ahead and schedule a time to connect and make sure we don’t miss one another. Please reach out to so we can find a time to meet up at what is sure to be a great event. See you in Seattle!
The start of a new school year is upon us, and with it comes with feelings of excitement and anticipation, along with some fear and anxiety. As kids prepare to head back to class, they’re exposed to issues that may not have played a prominent role in their lives over the summer. Back-to-school time is a great time for parents to get a refresher course on the best ways to approach topics like body image, mental health, sex, drug and alcohol use, and LGBTQ issues when talking with their kids. And kids and teens can benefit from information about health, self-esteem, self-image, and disorders that may affect the way they see or treat themselves.
Mental Health America just released its 2016 Back to School Toolkit, which includes key messages, articles, social media messages and graphics, infographics, and other materials to help both parents and kids have a happy and healthy school year.
NCPG encourages everyone to Have the Conversation about Problem Gambling. Most adults gamble or know someone who gambles, and therefore could benefit from programs to prevent gambling addiction. We believe many who suffer in silence do so because they don’t know why they developed a problem, what gambling addiction is or where to get help.
Statistics suggest that 5 million Americans and more than 1 million Canadians meet the criteria for gambling addictions. Of those who struggle with a gambling problem, 75% will also have issues with alcohol and an estimated 38% with other drugs. A staggering 1 in 5 people with a gambling problem will either attempt suicide or die by suicide. This is the highest rate of suicide among all addictions. Advocates are working hard to ensure that problem gambling is addressed as the public health issue it is, but unfortunately many still incorrectly view it as a moral failing or issue of “weak will” much like the stigma that alcohol and drug use has faced in the past.
Problem gamblers achieve the same effect from gambling as someone else might get from taking a drug or from drinking. The act of gambling alters their mood. A problem gambler who once achieved a “high” from winning or the rush of playing will continue chasing that same feeling. And just as individuals build up a tolerance to the affects of drugs or alcohol, the same can happen with a problem gambler. As they engage in the gambling activity of their choice, it takes more and more of the experience to achieve the same emotional effect they desire.
It’s important to discuss the topic of problem gambling with the help-seekers who reach your helpline who may be at risk or are showing signs of problem gambling. There are specific resources to point them to that can help them confront these issues, discuss them with non-judgmental listeners, and receive referrals for assistance. Visit NCPG’s website for information and resources. You’ll also find the number where you can call/text for help (1-800-522-4700) and a link to their live chat.
Like so many others, we’re deeply saddened by the death of famous actor and comedian Robin Williams. His death, preliminarily declared a suicide by local authorities, comes as a shock to many who knew him as a comedic genius who brought laughter and joy to millions. While he openly discussed his drug and alcohol addictions and commitment to sobriety, he never publicly acknowledged any diagnosis of depression or other mental illness. His publicist and friends, however, have shared that he was “battling severe depression” and in Tuesday’s press conference authorities said he was seeking treatment for depression.
This tragic and untimely death of someone known and loved by millions has started a dialogue about mental illness and suicide. Since the announcement of Robin Williams’ death and the way he died, there has been an outpouring of support, discussion about mental illness and addictions, words of encouragement, and sharing of important suicide prevention resources and numbers to call for help, the most common being the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
To aid in this important discussion and opportunity for education, we’d like to share with you this blog by Hollis Easter, Hotline Coordinator for Reachout of St. Lawrence County, Inc. and suicide prevention educator.
And while we’re educating others about how to positively contribute to these discussions, let’s talk about that common saying: “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” People who say this surely mean well and are only trying to help. Perhaps they think they’ve found that magic phrase that will speak to the person who they want to help and get that person to “snap out of it.” The truth is that most people who attempt suicide were not doing so as a permanent solution to a temporary problem; they wanted a permanent end to weeks, months, or years of personal torment and agony, often due to a medical condition. To say that it’s a temporary issue greatly minimalizes the deep pain and very real suffering they are going through, and likely have been going through for some time.
For more thoughts on why this turn of phrase should be avoided, check out another recent blog by Hollis titled
It is our hope that out of this loss, more people will be educated on the topics of suicide and mental illness. And while a flurry of media attention was placed on Mr. Williams’ death it’s important to note that on Monday an estimated 10 Canadians and 107 more Americans (108 including Mr. Williams) also died by suicide. Each of these deaths is tragic and leaves in its wake at least six people deeply devastated by their loss.
If you work in the suicide prevention industry: Thank you. Your patience, empathy, and compassion is a true gift and you’ve surely touched more lives than you may realize. Whether you speak directly with those contemplating suicide on a hotline, educate others on warning signs and intervention methods, or play one of the numerous other roles in the industry, the work you do saves lives.