Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Recovering emotionally and physically

Scars and wound marks are just a few of the physical issues that recovering addicts must contend with.

It is common for those embarking on a new life of recovery to look at surgery to repair or hide old wounds.

Intravenous use and self harm are just a few causes. Now there are a variety of surgeries and treatments that can help recover some of the consequences of the past.

Surgeons like Guy Sterne provide scar revision treatment that can significantly improve scarring and support a life of long term recovery.

Visit his website for further information.

Here are some examples of his work:

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Do the 12 steps work?

Working the 12 step programme


Do the 12 steps actually work?
A question that can provoke a plethora of responses depending on the opinion of the individual asked. It’s not always as straightforward as a simple yes or no.


the 12 step programme of Alcoholics Anonymous


My early experience with a 12 Step programme was with Alcoholics Anonymous way back in the early 1980’s. Did I want to stop drinking or taking drugs? No. So why did I go? I remember one particular evening when I was filled with despair, more than what I usually felt. My life was spiralling out of control, my then husband threatened to kick me out of our home and take our two-year-old daughter away from me permanently; I got scared, so scared that I contacted Alcoholics Anonymous who agreed to send someone round to talk to me. These kind people took me to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and I hated it, I believed it to be a cult, I left notes around the house informing whoever found them that in the case of my disappearance “they had got me”. Bottom line was I didn’t want abstinence; I wanted to get the family off my back and wanted to learn how to control my drinking and drug use. I also recoiled at the word God, furthermore, I latched onto it to justify why AA and the 12 Steps were not for me.


I only actually heard the “God” word about twice but it gave me the excuse I was looking for.


Fast forward 17-18 years and I’m sat in a 12 Step Drug and Alcohol treatment facility, forty years old, homeless, divorced and my two children no longer in my care. I had heard my story told by other men and women when I first went to Alcoholics Anonymous all those years ago but in my arrogance, I believed that would never happen to me.  I had been in the system for multiple years and was desperate

On July 18, 2018, I will celebrate 18 years of recovery from alcohol and drugs. I have no doubt that without meetings and a programme I would not be where I am physically and emotionally. The Steps are a guide to living, about doing the right thing, about being considerate of others, to learn to love yourself and to become a productive member of society and so much more. If I am asked to name just one thing that the 12 Steps have given me, then my reply would be the gift of freedom and anyone who is or has been trapped in the cycle of addiction will know exactly what I am talking about.

So do the 12 Steps work? Yes, they do if you want them to.

Amanda Thomas

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Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Why am i an addict?

Why am I an addict, when my friends use drugs too?

Understanding drug addiction.


Drug use in the UK is extremely common, almost considered a rite of passage for our youth.

With drug use evident on our streets, and drug-related deaths in the UK higher than anywhere else in Europe, it’s interesting to note that according to government statistics drug use is on the wane.  Or am I cynical? Is it just the stats saying what everyone wants them to say?

Use of legal highs is huge, cocaine use is growing amongst young adults and cannabis is no longer considered a drug by our young people. Government data, however, concentrates on Problematic Drug Use (PDU’s) and that is heroin and crack cocaine.

Not everyone who uses drugs and alcohol will have issues or become addicted to those substances. For many, they are a relaxant, part of a social scene.


understanding if you are addicted to drugs or alcohol


There is a very definite line between recreational/social us and addiction.

There is little doubt about what drug use and addiction can do to an individual, from the physical health risks and psychological toll it takes on the addict and their family to the dangers of overdose and death. However, most people who use drugs and alcohol will either remain unscathed through a short period of experimentation or learn to accommodate their use into their lifestyle, adjusting their patterns of use so it doesn’t interfere with daily obligations with work, family or education.

We, therefore, have to ask…how can some people avoid the hazards of addiction and “use responsibly” and function normally?


Why is it that some people become addicts and others don’t?

The main reason why some people get trapped in a cycle of substance dependence and abuse is due to the fact they have pre-existing vulnerabilities or risk factors that increase their risk.

For example, people that don’t have a family history or multi-generational history of drug and alcohol use will have a low risk of developing addictive behaviours.

People that have excellent social support–from family, relatives, peers and other important people in their lives–are also less likely to develop drug and alcohol problems.

Age of first use can also play a role. Teens who start using drugs before the age of 14 are at much higher risk of addiction than those who wait until their late teens or twenties.

Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) or trauma can lead to a self-medicating cycle, as can underlying untreated mental and emotional health issues; this, in turn, can lead to an addictive cycle of drug and/or alcohol use leading to dependency.

Addiction isn’t limited to class, economic status, environment or culture, however, there is a prevalence in the poorest communities linked to poor housing, education and employment opportunities.


Paul Hayes -IFL Science website: Most drug users are intelligent resourceful people with good life skills, supportive networks and loving families. These assets enable them to manage the risks associated with their drug use, avoiding the most dangerous drugs and managing their frequency and scale of use to reduce harm and maximise pleasure. Crucially they will have access to support from family and friends should they begin to develop problems, and a realistic prospect of a job, a house and a stake in society to focus and sustain their motivation to get back on track.

In contrast, the most vulnerable individuals in our poorest communities lack life skills and have networks that entrench their problems rather than offering solutions. Their decision making will tend to prioritise immediate benefit rather than long-term consequences. The multiplicity of overlapping challenges they face gives them little incentive to avoid high-risk behaviours.


In reality we have no clear determinant of addiction, however if we all take a step back and look at our own behaviours with honesty, many of us will see how we use substances (maybe food, carbohydrates, sugar), shopping – retail therapy is often considered a joke, however, be clear, it isn’t if you have an addictive personality – people, relationships, sex and love to feel better, to “fix our feelings”, many of us will realise that we have the markers for an addictive personality and will on occasion (some maybe  frequently?) behave compulsively.


Some people are able to manage their addictive behaviours, however many will find themselves sliding into negative patterns of use. Some individuals will notice the downwards progression and take remedial action, others will find themselves in need of a detoxification programme and period of rehabilitation to review, address and heal their issues that have caused or arisen as a result of their drug and/or alcohol use.


Whilst it may be said that some people are “born to be addicts”, the truth is that addiction can affect ANYONE, no matter their age, race, sex, or socioeconomic background.

Get information on why you cannot stop drinking.

Amanda Thomas,
Western Counselling

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Monday, 19 March 2018

Why Can’t I Stop Drinking?

Western Counselling

Why Can’t I Stop Drinking?

Overcoming alcohol addiction

How to stop drinking and start a recovery life

This is such a common lament we hear from people trying to quit and feeling more and more hopeless and miserable with each attempt.  “I make daily decisions to stop drinking, but never do” and “I obsess about alcohol when I don’t have it” also “Alcohol helps me control the way I feel – without it I can’t cope”

Alcohol detox can be unpleasant, with some clients experiencing hallucinations, shakes and insomnia. Others seem to sail through the process of withdrawal with no feelings of discomfort.  Whichever you prove to be, it’s the maintaining and sustaining sobriety that proves to be the most difficult.

There are various thoughts and explanations of why it can be difficult to stop, there’s both a science perspective and the emotional wellbeing point.

Western Counselling was founded in 1982 and has always supported alcoholics to achieve and maintain longterm sobriety

Text RECOVER and your FIRST NAME to 82223 and we will call you back
Apply for our residential treatment by completing our online form

I will briefly explain them and you can make your own decisions, take what you like and leave the rest as is said at the start of every Al-Anon meeting

Scientific analysis

Scientists discovered that due to differing brain structures, alcoholics manufacture a chemical – Tetrahydroisoquinoline THIQ – that is very similar to heroin: when heroin is used and broken down in the body, a by-product is THIQ, a scientist in Houston, Texas discovered alcoholics produced this chemical too.  When alcohol is consumed by a “normal drinker” the body converts alcohol into acetaldehyde, this toxic substance is changed into acetic acid, then to carbon dioxide and water which is dispelled through the kidneys and lungs.  For an alcoholic this happens too, however, THIQ is also produced and stored in the brain.  THIQ quantities that rigger escalation to alcoholic drinking is believed to differ from person to person, however when it happens they will behave just as compulsively as someone craving heroin.

There are studies that demonstrate this abnormality in body chemistry is genetic and by exploring family genographs, a disposition can be traced to the production of THIQ.

There is an evidenced link between addictive behaviours and trauma.  This can be an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE), emotional, sexual or physical abuse or traumatic experience including divorce, bereavement etc.  Trauma will be personal to the individual and what may be traumatic to one may not be considered as serious to another.  What can then happen is individuals will self-medicate the pain of the trauma using what ever substance – including alcohol – or process (gambling, exercise, eating, purging, gaming, sex & love etc) whatever they feel works best for them.

This self medicating fills a “hole”. They “use” to feel better and stuff that hole to feel whole again, a cyclic pattern that is destructive and a self fulfilling downward spiral.

When we try to stop drinking alcohol we find the compulsion too strong, we use the alcohol to feel better, to forget, to drown the pain or fill the void.  Only by acknowledging the trauma and pain, acknowledging its existence and coming to terms with the damage, can we start the process of moving on and Letting Go – a term we use a lot in addiction recovery.

We can all have our own thoughts on why we cant stop drinking, however, we all can find recovery, it’s a decision we take to change our lives and then a further decision we make every day to not return to that self-destructive pattern of behaviour. Recovery and treatment is available and it works, if you work it.  It’s your choice.

It’s not the third or fourth drink that’s the problem it’s the first, and this is true of all addictive disorders.  Every day we make a decision that just for today we won’t consume alcohol, or whatever our substance/behaviour of choice may be.

Some people may feel they need to be removed from society to get some sober time and this is often when they will consider a treatment centre, residential rehab perhaps like Western Counselling.

Removing oneself without a treatment element can be considered “doing a geographical” – thinking the grass is greener, or by going somewhere whilst the usual triggers will not occur.  This is highly unlikely because treatment gives you opportunities to explore your experiences, trauma, drinking patterns and find new ways to deal with triggers, pain and difficult feelings.  Treatment is an opportunity for you and those who love you to heal.  Treatment is an opportunity to remove yourself form your reality, learn new, healthy patterns for your life in sobriety.

Western Counselling was founded in 1982 and has always supported alcoholics to achieve and maintain longterm sobriety

Text RECOVER and your FIRST NAME to 82223 and we will call you back
Apply for our residential treatment by completing our online form

from Western Counselling
via Alcohol

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Horrors of Alcohol

Alcohol is no laughing matter

Alcohol, legal, sociable and currently the third leading cause of preventable death.

Quite a shocking statistic isn’t it?  Alcohol will kill 1 in 10 Americans aged 20-64 this year and someone somewhere will die every 10 seconds because of it.

Stop! Think! Process those statistics for a moment.

Time for another shocker? High-risk drinking amongst women has increased by 60% in the last 10yrs and alcohol use disorder has nearly doubled.
alcohol is a toxic drug that happens to be legal
And yet we continue to use women as part of alcohol marketing, we make light of yummy mummy’s little tipple at night, we encourage wine and nibbles at Book Clubs – I’ll have a rant about the nibbles and obesity on another occasion! – we are encouraged to laugh at the sight of young women toppling about on high heels, drunk on a night out.

Alcohol advertising specifically targets younger women, slim neat bottles of beer, pink bubbly wines, sexy women swaying on the beach as they mix a rum cocktail, phallically shaped bottles for glugging after a workout.

Now, come on, time to face the truth.  We are normalising risky drinking behaviours. We are normalising daily drinking when we are bombarded with health advice that more than one drink a day for a woman, is risky due to the difference in how we metabolise alcohol. We get conflicting messages telling us that red wine is good for us, wine in pregnancy is good for the foetus, blah blah blah.  The internet is increasingly being used to promote humour and alcohol use to women through social media, deliberating targeting us and giving an image of liberation and spontaneity; and have you tried to buy a birthday or greetings card for a friend/relative that doesn’t drink?  Jokes are being made at our expense, jokes about something that is killing us and normalizing addiction.

We would be horrified to view active drug use on our tv’s, PC’s and tablets and yet we consider the legal excessive use of alcohol, which is proving to be so much more dangerous than opiates into our homes daily and viewed by our children.

Really? Really are we so stupid, so naïve that we can be manipulated so easily?

We need to role model to our young women healthy behaviour around alcohol, we are being watched and increasingly we are seeing larger numbers of women being admitted to rehab – national statistics state twice as likely.. twice!!! This is scary

Check out the NACOA (National Assoc for Children of Alcoholics) work recently highlighting the children’s views of their lives with alcohol.  Its gut-wrenchingly painful reading and I know as I have personal experience.

We need to stand up and say Enough, no more, time for action; 3 million deaths worldwide annually, no more.

Amanda Thomas.

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