Thinking about going into Drugs and/or Alcohol Counselling?

Some issues to explore

The use of Drugs (prescription and illegal drugs) and Alcohol is widespread in our society. Issues arise when your  use of alcohol and/or drug 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.

Read the next part and see if you can identify your own attitudes to your alcohol and/or drugs usage.

Stage 1

Do I have a problem?

If you do not believe that your usage of alcohol /drugs is causing you a problem then you will not take any action on this matter regardless of what your friends, partner or family think.  You might like to 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 is the first step to your recovery! The questions surfaces about what you want to do about this issue.

Small steps could include the following !

–          Really thinking about the advantages and the disadvantages of your usage. Get a piece of paper, divide it in to two columns, and write down all the advantages and disadvantages from your own perspective.

–          Here is an example for someone who Binge drinks.

Advantages                                                     Disadvantages /issue

I enjoy my binge drinking My health is suffering , liver damage etc and it costs loads of money !
It is a social activity with my mates I would have to get a new set of mates if I gave up binge drinking !
It gets  me out of my head and away from my problems My issues are not going away ! they seem to be getting worse
I am more social when I am drunk But i cannot sustain those social relationships when I am sober !
I feel bolder when I am drunk But the financial strain is leading me deeper into debt and I cant afford presents for the Kids !

It is highly unlikely that you will be able to give up your alcohol –drug usage just like that. In fact it may be dangerous just to stop!

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.

For example, if you are on Heroin, then you may wish to talk to your doctor about methadone substitute and/or needle exchange/and or smoking heroin rather than injecting it. If you are buying heroin on the streets then this can be spiked with other chemicals, (even rat poison) that can cause serious illness and even death.

If you are binge drinking, then you may wish to take steps to reduce the risks to yourself and others.

Write down on a piece of paper what you do now, the risk, and what steps you can take to reduce the risk. Here is an example  for someone who binge drinks.

What I do now                          The Risk                                 Reducing the risk

I drive when I am going to Binge drink Loose licence /accident/death or injury Use public transport/taxi
I drink 12 pints  or more Liver/brain damage /impotence/ other Drink  water to fill up my stomach, and reduce   consumption . Alternate between alcohol and a soft drink / water.
I drink extra strong larger/have large glass of wine As above! Switch to a less strong larger / drink smaller glasses of wine / etc .

Stage 3 Taking further Action

The action that you take, will depend on the what your drink /drugs usage is, what combination of drugs you are taking. Here are a number of suggestions that may be of use.

–          Do 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 do not 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 are tempted to relapse

–          Join an organisation for additional support. For example alcoholics anonymous, or narcotics anonymous. Social support to come off drugs is really important and should not be overlooked

Stage 4 sustaining the gains

Once you are working on your drugs-alcohol usage, and the underlying issues, it is important to develop relapse prevention strategies, and a recovery strategy if you do relapse.

Relapse prevention, means developing ways of ensuring that you do not revert back to your old patterns of drug-alcohol usage. You need to find out what works for you.

Examples could include

–          Continuing to work on the deeper issues, that fuel your addictive  patterns

–          developing a network of friends, who can support you, when you are struggling with the temptation to relapse,

–          relaxations and mindfulness techniques, that can help you say NO !,

–          regular AA or other 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 hyper critical of yourself, is unlikely to help you not to relapse again –  in fact 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 not to relapse again.

–         Examples of this exploration, could be 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

–          NHS direct.

–          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! Best wishes

John Threadgold

John Threadgold is  recognised as a Focusing oriented Psychotherapist by the Focusing Institute, and private counselling practise called New Focus Therapy. He is also a drugs counsellor at the Merton Adult Crack Service ( MACS) . For more information visist his web site at