In this week's question and answer session with a member of our frontline services, we shine the spotlight on Gloria Shaw, Team Manager of the Community Alcohol and Drug Service in the Tyrone and Fermanagh area.
How worried are you about the current situation?
I am very worried about the current situation just like everyone else. This is such an unexpected situation we all find ourselves in and which none of us have over experienced in our lifetime. However, as time passes I am starting to accept the situation and trying to normalise some of the worries around it. I am learning about my strengths that I didn’t know I had, and dealing with fears I didn’t know existed.
I am a very practical and generally positive person so it helps me to focus on the practical steps I can take for myself personally and for the benefit of my team and for our service users. We are all in this together although our experiences may be different depending on our own personal circumstances. It is natural for anyone to worry and this current situation is no exception. These are uncertain times and we have to accept there are things we have no control over which increases our worry but on the other hand there are lots of things that we have control over which increases our sense of well-being and hope.
What are the main challenges in the current situation?
This is a very challenging time for our clients who have addiction issues. Face to face services/support groups have stopped or are reduced. People are becoming socially isolated and experiencing loneliness and boredom. Some are living alone with limited social contact while others are in lockdown with family members where relationships are very strained and unhealthy.
There is also an increase in domestic violence within some homes. Families may be experiencing financial pressures due to loss of work and parents have the added pressure of home schooling their children. Some of our clients relied heavily on attending regular local AA and NA meetings to maintain abstinence, however these have now ceased and moved to online meetings. Places of worship and graveyards have closed which some people find very difficult. Normal patterns and routines have been broken which can be difficult for people in recovery from addiction. Off licences remain open and therefore the temptation for relapse remains.
It must be an emotional time for you and your family?
Yes it is a very emotional time for me and my family as I am the only one going out of the house on a daily basis to go to work and my husband stays at home to home school my 11-year-old daughter. I am very conscious about maintaining social distancing when away from my home and adhering to all the infection prevention and control guidance when at work. I do not want to bringing the virus home to my family. I do try to work from home when I can to reduce the risk to myself and my family. Although it is an emotional time I also find I am more grateful for what I have and we spend more quality time together and appreciate each other’s company. I am also more conscious of maintaining my own health and wellbeing and that of my family.
What advice would you have for members of the public regarding staying safe and helping support the local health service at this time?
Follow government advice and ‘stay at home’ unless you are an essential worker and practice social distancing and good hand washing practices.
Alcohol or other substances should not be used as a means of dealing with stress or anxiety. The WHO specifically highlights the impact of isolation and suicidal thoughts and the importance of contacting a helpline.
If you do drink adhere to the UK Chief Medical Officers’ weekly drinking guidelines for both men and women i.e. no more than 14 units per week for men and women and plan two to three drink free day per week, avoid stockpiling alcohol and select low or no alcohol drinks where possible.
If you are pregnant or think you could become pregnant, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all, to keep risk to your unborn baby to a minimum.
Those who drink are encouraged not to do so until as late as possible or until children are in bed. In addition, Public Health Agency state that families should ensure there is one non-drinking adult in the house at all times..
Alcohol and other medication should be kept out of sight and reach of children.
Making changes can be hard. You can find local help and support by visiting www.drugsandalcoholni.info and clicking on “services near you”
Keep a balanced routine and get out for your daily exercise in your local area.
Utilise technological support if you have them available to you and avail of the numerous online yoga, meditation, mindfulness and exercise classes and services.
Count your blessings: a way to look at positive things in your life. Choose what was positive for you each day. They are there if we have our eyes open to them.