Sunday, 18 December 2016

Jo Huey Update

Hi everyone, 

Just to let you know I've now moved my blog to my new website so if you'd like to pop along there to keep up with all my blog posts, news and events then just visit

See you soon

Jo x

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Alcohol - Children need your help

Do you work with children, have your own or have some connection with them? If so, then you may want to know more about the impact of alcohol on children and what you can do to help them. You maybe a social worker, teacher, support worker, nursery school staff member, parent or something else. 

Below are some key things that will help identify those affected by a parent/carer's drinking:
  • ·  A child fails to get excited about an anticipated event (because promises are so often broken at home)
  • ·  A child acts differently when talking about alcohol or drugs from the way he or she usually acts (for example, a talkative child becomes quiet, or a quiet child becomes animated). They may seem to have heightened knowledge compared to others of the same age
  • ·   A child gets upset around his or her birthday and /or holidays (because special days are often filled with disappointment for the child)
  • ·   A child wants time alone with adults, teachers, youth workers, leaders etc. and may be overly clingy (this may represent an effort to secure the nurturing they are not getting from a parent)
  • ·   A child has unrealistic expectations of other children and may often be disappointed in others (children of alcohol-dependent parents may look to friends to provide the nurturing they are not getting at home)
  • ·  A child may act out one or more of the adaptive roles (i.e. the hero, the scapegoat, the lost child or the mascot) as described in Alcoholism – The Family Illness information sheet
  • ·  A child is fearful of others having contact with their parents (because he or she fears that the parent will be drunk and others will find out, or that the parent will behave inappropriately towards them or abuse the child)
  • ·  A child talks back to adults or fights with other children (because he or she is angry with his or her parents, but can’t express the anger and can become like a “time bomb”)
  • ·  A usually responsible child may be inexplicably absent or perform poorly in their schoolwork or other activities (for example, may offer no excuse or a far-fetched excuse for not having done homework or for doing poorly on a test, either of which may be covering up the real reason related to a parent’s alcohol or drug use)
Issues with alcohol and young people are two-fold, they can be the drinkers or affected by someone else's drinking. The more we know and educate ourselves, the better able we are to help where possible. 

Almost half of young people excluded from school in the UK are regular drinkers. Source: NI Direct Government Services, 2014, Young People and Alcohol: What Are The Risks?

Getting a young person that is affected by someone else's drinking to open up is very hard, you need to build trust in the first instance and start building a relationship as soon as possible. They are more likely to open up if they know, like and trust you. 

As a child of an alcoholic myself I believe this is the best advice I can share, I wasn't going to speak to social services and people I didn't know for fear of what might happen. Obviously children are loyal to their parent, no matter what they are doing in the home. If the young person doesn't connect with the person or feels they are patronising they aren't likely to open up, this is all dependant on their age.

The young person is taught to not trust, not speak and not feel so anything outside of that will be difficult for them to overcome. It will take time and the right amount of effort and reliability of the person working with the child.

Having different people trying to build relationships (for example on a helpline) maybe more challenging as that feeds into abandonment and unpredictability issues already present.

I hope you found this post helpful, feel free to read my other posts and comment or email with your thoughts. 

Taken with permission from NACOA 

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Alcohol - friend or foe?

So many of us drink socially and at home and enjoy the flavour of an alcoholic drink and we enjoy the social aspect.

Some people have other reasons to drink, some drink for confidence, to feel better because life is difficult for them, to numb feelings they would rather not have and more. 

If you are regularly drinking for a reason other than you like the taste and aren't able to apply a level of self-control then you are at risk of developing a more serious alcohol issue. 

Things can so easily get out of control, it is difficult for people to appreciate that alcohol can go from a social enjoyment to something that is used to get through each day. Anyone can be affected and most people that think it won't be them. 

Don't get me wrong, a lot of people have a healthy relationship with alcohol and manage it well and know their boundaries. That is not the case for over 9 million people in England that drink more than the recommended daily limits. (NHS 2012 'social drinking' The Hidden Risks).

Alcohol is socially acceptable but we know that the impact of it's misuse is huge, not only financially on the drinker, family and wider social community but our relationships and health are affected.

The NHS categorises alchol misuse into 3 areas:

  • Hazardous - drinking more than 14 units per week or 6 units in one day
  • Harmful - drinking more than 14 units and experience health problems related to alcohol
  • Dependant - Unable to function without alcohol and it is the most important factor in their life

Alcohol is a natural depressant so if you drink to feel better or numb feelings it will help initially but then you will become low and then need to drink again to feel better and so the vicious circle can begin.

It would be great if society would take the use of alcohol more seriously and respect it, instead of joking about it and using it as an escape.

Research by E. Morton Jellinek explains the 4 stages of alcoholism:
  • Pre-alcoholic stage: drinking is socially motivated
  • Initial stage: Relief drinking (to medicate emotions and problems) with a need to increase to maintain the relief
  • Crucial stage: Inability to control the intake or stop drinking, isolation from family and other coping mechanisms, physical and mental health problems, anti-social behaviour and alcohol taking priority in life
  • Chronic stage: Withdrawal symptoms are only relieved by drinking more, leading to a focus on alcohol. Fear of not being able to access alcohol increases the need to drink. Obsessive drinking continues causing permanent physical damage

I think it is fairly obvious when someone is abusing alcohol but that is because I have lived with it, I am confident most people would be able to identify if someone they knew was drinking too much, but often not soon enough. You can view a great questionnaire to help you know if you are affected by someone's drinking on the NACOA site here.

The difficult stage is raising awareness and changing how people look at alcohol at the initial stage. After that things get more complicated and the need for alcohol is greater with a lot more implications (as explained above).

So what can tip us over the edge, move someone from the initial to crucial stage? The loss of someone close, stress at work or home, a traumatic event, general day to day things that over time increase and we become less able to deal with them and it is a lot more gradual?

There are so many permatations and everyone is different, what may affect one person could have a different impact on someone else. 

How can we work on taking alcohol seriously? I believe speaking more about it and the impact it has are a good start and my work as a speaker, coach and trainer aims to do this as much as possible. I also work with NACOA to help raise awareness and offer help to those affected by someone else's drinking.

There are a lot of resources available now, if you want to learn more or know someone that may appreciate some help please take a look at the sites below.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Turn Loneliness into Learning

For those that have experienced loneliness you will know how upsetting it can be. I have had periods of loneliness throughout my life and thankfully now I experience this very rarely.

My home was often full of people, if it wasn't the family it was foreign students or friends of my mums so generally a busy household. Even though there were a lot of people at times I felt deep loneliness, the sort of hurt that gets you right in the chest where you can't breathe or think straight. 

Quote about loneliness from Robin Williams

What was making me lonely? usually we feel lonely for 2 reasons, one is because we aren't mixing very much with others and the other is that we aren't feeling understood or cared for. I definitely fitted into the second category.

I felt totally mis-understood by my parents, my father was an alcoholic and my mum was very busy running the house and working. I felt very disconnected and it wasn't until I attend an Al-Anon meeting (for those affected by someone else's drinking) that I finally felt connection. I was hearing people say the things I did and share feelings that I could relate to. The relief was immense, it was like receiving a cure to an illness that I had suffered for many years. 

Because living in an alcoholic home is very unpredictable and scary at times, I decided the safest option was to isolate myself. I often went into my bedroom and listened to music, played on my computer or just found something to do that kept me out of the chaos.  I felt deep sadness, I didn't really want to be alone but it was better than the alternative. I wanted someone to understand how I felt, really get me but unfortunately that wasn't available to me at the time. 

Having a huge longing for something you can't have is extremely frustrating, I started to feel sorry for myself and blame myself for why I didn't connect with people. I couldn't understand why my mum and dad didn't take the time to understand me. I had no control over the situation as I was young and didn't really understand fully what was going on. 

It wasn't until my adult life that I was able to improve my relationships with others and understand more about what I needed and how to express my feelings. Opening up wasn't something I did as a child but it was something I had to learn as I grew up if I wanted the connection I so longed for.

Whenever we feel anything it is our bodies way of telling us something isn't right and we need to pay attention. 

Once you know the reason for your loneliness, consider:

  • What is it that is making you feel lonely - take your time and persevere until you get there
  • Talk to others - interact - connect (online and offline)
  • Think of those you have a great connection with and open up to them
  • Compare yourself to others only for information not punishment - other may share their experiences on blogs which you may relate to
  • You need to get enough sleep, eat healthy and exercise, also you may realise your self-esteem is affected, you may feel stressful due to feeling lonely or something else and it can affect your mental health or if you have a mental health illness this can make you feel lonely
  • Get professional help if you need to
I have spent over 15 years transforming myself and dealing with personal challenges and I invested in therapy and believe this is a massive help, not everyone likes seeking professional help but there are lots of alternatives. I also use Emotional Freedom Technique which is amazing and can shift negative emotions on the spot, check out a quick breathing demo here.

Over the years I have joined online Facebook groups that have allowed me to feel connected and chat to like minded people who get me and my situation. That could be business related or personal. I have also volunteered for charities that I care about like The Salvation Army, I help feed the homeless which is something close to my heart. I also now volunteer for NACOA as a way of helping others feel they aren't alone and to know there is help out there if they are affected by someone else's drinking. 

Those things help me feel connected and understood which is important to me for my well being. That may sound overwhelming but start small and grow into it, maybe online is easier and more convenient. Listen to yourself and do what feels right.

Not long ago I realised I was comparing myself to others in business, seeing what they had achieved and how I wanted what they had. It was doing me no good and I realised that actually we are all at different points in our life and just because they are where I want to be, doesn't mean I won't get there. I've no idea what they have been through to get there, so now I've come up with a saying I share often with people which is "compare for information not punishment".

Some people are able to compare and use it as a motivation and inspiration but not everyone is able to do that, I think just be mindful if you are expecting more of yourself that you can realistically achieve right now. Don't forget just because you don't have something now, certainly doesn't mean you won't get it at some stage. Nothing is forever. 

Making sure we look after ourselves in a holistic way is vital, what I mean is to ensure we get a good balance of healthy food, do some exercise (even if it is parking further away than usual and walking), getting enough shut eye in although I appreciate that can be hard if you have things on your mind. The best way I found to help with an overactive mind is to write it all down, I remember my mum telling me this years ago and she said "once it's out of your head you don't have to worry about it anymore". I hate to admit it but she's 100% on the money. 
Facing Loneliness

I also found having positive things written down that I could refer to when I felt low was helpful, it made me feel better. I started a gratitude journal too which made me feel more positive, our mental health is affected when these sort of things are absent so looking after ourselves in that way will improve low self-esteem.

One step at a time. One step forward today is one step more than yesterday.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

What everyone should know about alcohol

Lately I have been thinking about how I can best explain about alcohol, the abuse on the drinker and the family. I thought I need to take a step back and act as if I don't know what it is like so I can explain it in a way that others will be able to understand that haven't experienced the life I have.

This post is about the different types of drinker and some information about units of alcohol and how much is advised by the NHS.

So what is an alcoholic? A harmful drinker? A social drinker?

To be honest I haven't yet found one definition and there seem to be varying factors. This is how Drinkaware explain "Alcoholism" on their website 
"A strong, often uncontrollable, desire to drink. Sufferers of alcoholism will often place drinking above all other obligations, including work and family, and may build up a physical tolerance or experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop"
I can confirm this is the case, my father didn't show he cared about anything other than the alcohol, he rarely took any responsibility in the house when he was in a phase of drinking and as the years went on he drank more and more.

It seems more common now that the NHS and other alcohol based charities use the term "Alcohol Dependence" as well as or instead of alcoholism. 

A less severe issue with alcohol is defined as "Harmful drinking". This is how Drinkaware describes it on their website.
"An occasional pattern of drinking which can cause damage your health"
An example of this is when you drink too much at a party and risking a fall or argument. This can develop into alcoholism if it becomes a habit and happens regularly. Drinkaware don't define what regularly is, I suspect it is a few days a week.

These are useful pointers to identify if someone you know is showing signs of being alcohol dependant.
  • A lack of interest in previously normal activities 
  • Appearing intoxicated more regularly
  • Needing to drink more in order to achieve the same effects 
  • Appearing tired, unwell or irritable
  • An inability to say no to alcohol
  • Anxiety, depression or other mental health problems
  • Becoming secretive or dishonest
What I would say is that it isn't always easy to spot the signs because the very nature of an alcohol dependant person means they are very secretive, there is a lot of shame about their habit so it may be hard to know to someone outside unless they see them on a regular basis and a big part of their lives. 

You may well be able to smell alcohol on their breath, depending on what they drink, vodka is less obvious.  Alcohol and depression often come hand in hand and whilst the drinker has alcohol because they feel down, the alcohol is a natural depressant so only makes it worse.

People that drink heavily are very good at coming across convincing and putting their point to you that seems valid that they don't have a problem. At times they may well get irritable and angry about the topic when pushed.

What does 1 unit of alcohol look like

What about more social drinking?

The NHS advises that men and women should stick to less than 14 units per week. Check here for what 14 units looks like.

The long and short of it is this, if you decide to save up your units and drink a lot in one session this is known as "Binge Drinking" or drink with the intention to get drunk.

There is no hard and fast rules because people drink at different paces and someone smaller is likely to get drunk quicker than someone larger, also if you haven't eaten that is another contributing factor. It is just a guideline, the Office of National Statistics say anything over 8 units for men and 6 for women in one session is considered as binge drinking.

What is Drunkorexia?

Drinkaware define this as "Skipping meals in order to save calories to drink alcohol." This is getting more common in women because they are conscious about putting on weight. The problem comes when women start obsessing over food and it starts to control them. 

Drinking at home

Drinking at home

Lots of people enjoy a glass of wine with dinner on a regular basis e.g. every night. As you know you don't really use measures at home, so a glass of wine could be anything from 1 to 3 units. I know people that will have a bottle or two between two of an evening. If you want to be more aware then just get a measuring cap to help you. 

A standard bottle of wine contains 6 glasses of 175ml wine. That is 3 glasses each. If the wine is 13% then 2 bottles shared in an evening is your weeks allowance! 

Alternatively 6 pints of beer at 4% or 14 glasses of 25ml spirits at 40% is also equal to 14 units which is your weekly allowance. 
Size and strength of drink determines units

Warning Signs

If you are a regular drinker at whatever level you may well be building up a tolerance to the alcohol, just because you can drink a lot and not have any drunk signs doesn't mean you are not affected. Your health is affected and the fact you are more tolerant is a sign there is an issue. 

It is a good idea to have a few days a week where you don't drink at all, there are so many statistics about alcohol and how it impacts the NHS, crime, lost days in work productivity and time off. 

We just need to drink responsibly, it is easy to go from one level to the next without realising it. Once you get deeper into using alcohol and using it to cope the harder it gets to get out of it.