How To Help Yourself and Others
For many people struggling with a drink problem, social isolation is familiar territory. It’s not unusual for close relationships to become distant and estranged, as the ripple effect of addiction scours through the lives of those it touches. Many drinkers self-isolate for years as a way to hide the scale of their drinking, and to block out the judgment they experience from a society which loves alcohol but scorns those who struggle in its grip.
When people begin a journey towards recovery, they realise that the pathway to sustained behaviour change lies not only in their own actions and choices, but also in the connections and support networks that underpin their change process; the voices of encouragement and reassurance, the shoulder to cry on, the extended hand of friendship and solidarity.
Organisations like Dumbarton Area Council on Alcohol (DACA) become a lifeline for those in recovery, providing companionship, understanding and safe, sober spaces where people rediscover who they are and start creating a new identity for themselves.
The one-to-one counselling is usually just the start of the process, which leads on to peer support groups, creative and outdoor activities, complementary therapies, even day trips and overnight retreats.
This holistic package of support helps people re-learn that social interactions don’t need to revolve around the consumption of alcohol. They come to realise that reflecting and sharing their thoughts and feelings with another human being who is compassionate and caring can be a far more productive way to cope with stresses than getting lost in a bottle. As they build new coping mechanisms, their resilience increases, and this enhances the likelihood of long-term recovery.
And the common thread throughout DACA services is this : human connections and people helping people.
So in a time of unprecedented crisis, when the majority of the population is being advised to self isolate now or expect to start social distancing in the not too distant future, people who need regular social interaction will struggle more than most.
Many of the people who access support at DACA have underlying health problems, are on low incomes and rely on public transport to get around. In other words, they are the people who are being advised to isolate themselves from the outside world, and who don’t have access to low-risk means of travel.
And while they might be experienced in the practice of social isolation, it is not a good place to be for someone in recovery — literally or figuratively.
So if you have a family member, friend or neighbour who may need some extra emotional support or friendship during this time, now might be a good time to get in touch – even if your relationship may have become a bit distant.
A text, a call, even an old-fashioned letter will mean a lot right now — and it might help you too.
At DACA we are adapting our services and providing our existing clients with more telephone-based support and counselling, and contact via social media and digital platforms. Our therapists will be providing information and advice on techniques to cope with stress in times of crisis.
We will continue to provide a service to our community, it will just be a bit different from normal and it’ll evolve as circumstances change in the weeks and months ahead. We will still see those people who are in real need, although we’ll be exercising physical distancing and prioritising the hygiene practices that are recommended by Government. This is a big culture shift for the team here at DACA, for whom demonstrating warmth and closeness through touch and body language are ingrained qualities. It will be a learning curve for all of us.
We know there are many more people out there in the community who are not in contact with a support service or who perhaps haven’t needed one before now. If that’s you or someone you know please don’t hesitate to get in touch — we’ve been here since 1976 and we’re still here for our community.
Coping With Social Isolation
If you are struggling emotionally right now here are some tips that might help.
- Acceptance — losing control of life as we know it is really tough for all of us. Coming to terms with the fact that none of us know what tomorrow will bring can help reduce the panic.
- Routine — our daily routines are all up in the air and don’t look like settling any time soon. If structure and routine are important to you try and put some small new routines in place. Or alternatively do things when they feel right for you.
- Positivity — life is seriously tough for so many people right now but even on the darkest days most of us can find something to bring a smile to our face. If you’re feeling low go in search of some good news. Try www.clydesider.org for some local good news stories or www.positive.news for a dose of the good stuff from around the world and www.actionforhappiness.org for top tips on staying happy.
- Awareness — being aware of what causes our emotions can give us some control over them. Hunger, lack of sleep, overload of negative news can all impact on our moods, if you can control these it helps control your emotions.
- It’s Okay To Not Be Okay — there’s no doubt this is one hell of a rollercoaster ride we’re all on right now — it’s okay to feel down so long as you have means of getting back up again. Think about what lightens your mood — this may need to be something new so why not try one of these activities below.
- Get Creative — creativity is a great way to pass the time and with extra hours to fill you never know what talent you might discover. Knitting, baking, gardening, arts and crafts all help focus attention and have therapeutic qualities.
- Pamper Yourself — a bubble bath with a scented candle or a few drops of lavender oil can work wonders for low moods.
- Limit Your News Intake — whether it’s the telly, radio, social media or the papers an overload of news at a time like this isn’t good for anyone’s mental wellbeing.
- Get Fresh Air — unless you’re unwell there’s no need to be a prisoner in your own home. Try putting a chair at your back door or in the garden or if you are not isolating yourself take a stroll in one of our many beautiful open spaces and listen to the birds singing.
- Meditate — there are some great free meditation apps that you can put on your phone and do in your own time and space. Try Insight Timer it has the largest free library of guided meditations.
If you need help or advice, you can reach the team at DACA by phone on 01389 731456 (Dumbarton) or 0141 952 0881 (Clydebank). You can follow us on Twitter @DACA_WL or on Facebook – https://fb.me/DACA.WD