When it comes to drinking, friends and family are often the first to show concern, but sometimes we don’t know how to start a productive conversation. With support from VicHealth, we spoke to the locals of Western Victoria to discuss a time when someone reached out to them in a productive way about their drinking.
We talked with people to find out how they were approached by family or friends about their drinking, and to learn how that affected their drinking behaviour.
The following stories have been recorded with the support of VicHealth. We thank the families and the people from Western Victoria who participated in these videos.
“When talking to someone about their drinking, the most important thing is listening.”
Paul is from Geelong and has not had a drink in 17 years. He found support through a mate who helped to explain the risks of what would happen if he kept on drinking.
“When she spoke about drinking she didn’t try to “fix me”, she gave me the space to talk.”
Leonie is from Ballarat with two children. For Leonie it was a message a friend had put on facebook last year that helped form such a strong support for her in her journey.
“A girlfriend of mine mentioned at coffee that she had stopped drinking, and that prompted me to start thinking about my own drinking”
Kylie is from Geelong with two children. It was her husband who reached out to her about her drinking and despite her initial reaction not being so positive, his gentle and soft nature helped her change.
Provide support by checking in and seeing how they are doing and listening to what they have to say. If they are not ready to talk then listen to them without making the push to discuss alcohol.
Not drinking at an event where everyone else is drinking can feel isolating. Either join in with them in not drinking or take them to other events and activities that don’t involve drinking. e.g going for a walk.
The cycle of change is a visual representation of a person’s journey towards reducing or cutting out their drinking. It is important to understand that relapse can be a natural part of this journey before a person is able to change their relationship with alcohol for the better.
Source: Prochaska, J. O., & DiClemente, C. C. (1983). Stages and processes of self? change of smoking: Toward an integrative model of change. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51, 390–395.
Have a think about how your alcohol use has impacted you – is there any reason to change? What might be the consequences? Make sure you are open about this, and see if you can look at it from a few different perspectives.
Ask someone close to you about their views on your drinking behaviour – what they have noticed about your relationship with alcohol, and whether they see it as a problem. Talk with them about what a problematic relationship with alcohol might look like.
Reflect the conflict ‘It is hard because it sounds like you feel you need to have a drink after work to relax, but it also means that you don’t sleep well and so are tired the next day’.
Start to make a list of how things might change if you were to change your relationship with alcohol.
Reflect on past experiences and consider the role that alcohol has played in them, and in your experiences so far.
Ask yourself – what are the pros and cons of changing, or staying the same? Make a cost-benefit analysis of how things might change for you if you were to adjust your drinking – taking into account the positives and potential negatives, and the anticipated results.
Reflect on times in the past when you have been able to make some good changes, and consider what helped you during this time. Was it supportive friends, or setting goals?
Enlist the support of some friends or a supportive community such as Daybreak, to help you to set some goals and make some plans around the changes that are necessary.
Talk with others who have been through similar experiences and reflect on how your experience compares to theirs.
Engage with Daybreak and with Health Coaching, and ensure that you check in every day to share how you are going with the community, as well as speak to a Health Coach about making a relapse prevention plan.
Take time out to reflect to yourself, what kinds of changes are occurring? What are some things that you have learned about your drinking behaviour?
Continue to reflect positive changes you have noticed, in order to keep motivation high.
Encourage goal setting and reinforcement of positive gains.
Stay alert to the possibility of slipping or relapse, and ensure you have a supportive community around you.
Access support, either through your networks or the Daybreak program, and speak to someone about what is happening, and what kinds of learning experiences you have from this.
Reflect back on what has happened and see if you can isolate what specifically triggered the relapse and what might be a good plan to prevent it from happening again in the future.
Find a quiet and safe opportunity to talk.
Make sure it is just the two of you and you have the time and privacy to raise the issue with them. Raising the topic in a group setting can create confrontation. This generally doesn’t work and doesn’t contribute to behaviour change.
Giving a bit of a heads up can be helpful. Letting the person know that you are wanting to talk to them about something important the day before so they are mentally prepared and don’t feel ambushed.
Writing down what you might like to say to the person can help in getting your thoughts in order and prioritising what you would like to convey.
Remember, the point is not to criticise, e.g. you’re boring, you’re lazy, you’re selfish. What we want to raise is awareness of their behaviour = when we talk about behaviour, this is something they can change and do differently.
Concentrate on their behaviour rather than the person’s character.
In 2015, the National Drug Strategy Household Survey found more than 30 percent of people over 60 were drinking at risky levels.
Low Risk Drinking is defined as:
Consuming four or less standard drinks in one session can help reduce the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.
Drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day can also help to reduce your risk of harm from alcohol related diseases or injury over a lifetime such as certain cancers.
Low-risk drinking is about balancing your enjoyment of alcohol and drinking within the recommended guidelines of alcohol consumption. More details on what a standard drink looks like can be found here.
Did you know?
Why people drink alcohol is very complex and depends on a number of factors. If a person has experienced stressful events growing up, or is currently experiencing chronic stress, they will have a different response to alcohol, and find it harder to stop at one or two drinks. They may also become reliant on alcohol as a way to deal with stress and the associated issues that accompany it (such as anxiety, exhaustion, fatigue, depression or isolation).
Each person has their own individual relationship with alcohol and motivations for drinking or not drinking – but often if a person is drinking to risky levels, it is possible to identify some of the factors causing, and maintaining, this behaviour.
A person’s relationship with alcohol is often a combination of genetic and environmental factors – so if someone in your family has had an issue with alcohol, you may be more likely to struggle with it too. Often what we are exposed to growing up can also affect our alcohol use, in particular, if the heavy use was normalised. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that “genes are responsible for about half of the risk for Alcohol Use Disorders. Therefore, genes alone do not determine whether someone will develop AUD. Environmental factors, as well as gene and environment interactions, account for the remainder of the risk. “ (NIAAA, 2008).
Habits of drinking developed over a lifetime either with friends or family. As we age more opportunities for drinking and socialising, such as more free time or changes in living circumstances or finances can also influence how often/much we drink
Coping with loneliness, isolation, bereavement, relationship problems, anxiety, depression, insomnia, regrets or change.
Sometimes people may drink for the relief of trauma or pain they may have experienced.
There is no single drinking culture in Australia, but lots of different drinking cultures across different groups in our society. When we talk about drinking cultures we are referring to the way a group of people drink together, including the traditions, practices, social norms and expectations or pressures that often influence where, why, what and with whom people drink. Drinking is not always about personal choice, sometimes we try to conform to social expectations regardless of whether it is harmful to our health or not. It is important to be aware of these social norms and pressures around drinking, and to ensure that we support a culture that encourages low-risk drinking practices and which reduces harm to individuals, families and the community.
If you have tried to talk to your partner/loved one and they have not been receptive, it can be helpful to get some support for yourself . Some options for services that can provide advice and support for family and friends are:
If you are experiencing family violence as a result of your partner’s alcohol use, it is important to ensure you access immediate support. The National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Counselling Line (1800RESPECT) offers confidential support and referrals for those who are experiencing or feeling at risk of family violence. If you believe you are at current risk of harm, contact Triple Zero (000) immediately.
Talking to someone who is currently experiencing or who has experienced the same things as us can make conversations easier to have. Daybreak is a program by Hello Sunday Morning designed to support people looking to change their relationship with alcohol.
The program offers:
Peer support from a like-minded community.
Tailored experiments to help replace old habits with healthier alternatives.
Access to trained Health Coaches.
No cost for Australians – Paid for by the Commonwealth Government.
If you or someone you are worried about has decided to change their relationship with alcohol, Daybreak could be an option for support.