Healthy Living in the North

Super Bowl Sunday: If you bring it, they will eat

Cupcakes topped with chocolate footballs

The Super Bowl tends to be all about excess so this Sunday, try something new! Instead of football-themed cupcakes and chicken wings, try a football-themed fruit tray and chicken skewers! And remember to plan ahead for a safe ride home!

I have to admit that when it comes to the Super Bowl, I can’t help but watch with mixed emotions. The thing is that as someone who listens to off-season podcasts and follows the draft; someone who reads pre-season reports and monitors every game, every Sunday; and someone who is as serious about his fantasy team as Jerry Jones is about his Cowboys, I can’t help but have respect for the Super Bowl’s history within the game while, at the same time, hating the spectacle that revolves around the big game.

Unlike a regular season game, or even a pre-Super Bowl playoff game, Super Bowl Sunday is an exaggeration of the NFL experience – it is to a regular game what Vegas is to a regular city. There are more viewers – last year’s Broncos/Seahawks matchup garnered 111.5 million viewers in 185 countries in 30 different languages; there’s more media coverage – basically two weeks leading up to the game; and, of course, there’s the star-studded halftime show (this year featuring Katy Perry… roar). Unfortunately, the theme of exaggeration isn’t limited to the game itself, extending to our food and alcohol consumption.

In fact, viewers who watched last year’s Super Bowl consumed more calories during the Super Bowl weekend than they did during “any other time of the year, including Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.” Let’s stop to think about that for a sec. Consider what you ate this holiday season – the treats that started pouring into your office in early December, the baking at friends’ houses when you were out visiting, the mountain of food you called your turkey dinner. Now pack that into one weekend! Ron Burgundy might say he “isn’t even mad, that’s amazing”, but your arteries are definitely singing a different tune! If you’re thinking that can’t add up, chew on this: it’s estimated that Americans ate 1.23 billion wings, 11.2 million pounds of potato chips, and ordered over four million pizzas from Dominos, Pizza Hut, and Papa John’s during the 2013 game!

Because the Super Bowl is a social event, there’s also a party aspect to it and that comes with increased alcohol consumption for many viewers. In America, 51.7 million cases of beer will be consumed this Sunday, which means even more calories and an increase in drunk drivers on the road. Make sure you aren’t one of them and plan for safe ride if you are having some drinks.

Yes, most of these stats are based on American viewers and they’d be significantly lower for Canadians, but the point remains: if you are going to a Super Bowl party, you’re probably eating poorly and your chances of drinking are higher, resulting in a ton of calories over the course of one football game. So, what can you do to make Super Bowl Sunday a healthier one? All you have to do is replace one thing that you love with a different thing that you love that happens to be healthier. For instance, instead of chicken wings, make chicken skewers; instead of nachos and cheese, make taco chips and hummus; and instead of bringing a meat and cheese tray to your friend’s place, bring a veggie tray.

If you’re worried about being that person who doesn’t bring something delicious, consider the Field of Dreams theory of food thought: if you bring it, they will eat it! Plus, making something is almost always cheaper, healthier, and far more appreciated. With all of that in mind, I’ll leave you with two predictions for the game:

  1. You’ll have a healthier Super Bowl if you try to, and
  2. The Seahawks repeat with a 24-20 victory over the stinkin’ Patriots.

Have a healthy game-day recipe you want to share? What about your own scoreboard prediction? Let me know in the comments below!

Have a safe and healthy Super Bowl!

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.

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Snowmobiling and alcohol don’t mix!

Person with goggles and helmet riding a snowmobile

Snowmobiling is a popular activity during northern B.C. winters. Ride sober to make sure that it stays a safe activity, too!

Growing up in a small northern community, one of my family’s favourite winter activities was snowmobiling. We would load up the truck with our sleds and a big lunch and head up to the local mountain. Halfway up the mountain was a little snowmobile shack where we would sit, roast our hotdogs, and visit. My brother and I would play around in the snow, making snowmen and tobogganing before heading back inside to warm our toes by the fire and drink hot chocolate. Great fun and great memories!

Snowmobiling is a popular winter activity for many up here in the north. It is a great way to get out and enjoy the amazing scenery, mountains, and forests that we are so lucky to have. What many sometimes forget is that snowmobiling can be a dangerous activity, too, and one which requires your full attention at all times. Many of us choose to enjoy this activity as a family, which requires that we remain alert and responsible to ensure our children’s safety as well as our own. It is important to remember that snowmobiles are motorized vehicles that come with the responsibility to ride with our full attention and to ride sober, just like driving a car.

Too often, outdoor activities are combined with alcohol use, increasing the risk factor associated with those activities. Some people try to reason that drinking alcohol is all right in the winter because it warms you up and prevents you from freezing. In reality, alcohol actually increases your risk of hypothermia by dilating your blood vessels, which causes you to cool off faster. In addition, alcohol slows down your reaction time and affects your co-ordination due to its depressing effects on the brain.

This can be disastrous for snowmobilers who enjoy hill climbing and going into the back country as it is very easy to lose track of where you are if you don’t pay attention to your surroundings. When snowmobiling, you need to be able to react to the changing terrain and hazards that come your way, watch out for other sleds, and keep an eye on little ones – and alcohol will inhibit your ability to do these things.

Two children on a snowmobile

Snowmobiling can be a great way to get outside and be active with your family, but alcohol can inhibit your ability to ensure your own safety and your children’s safety while sledding. When you sled this winter, sled sober!

Snowmobiles are heavy machines that can get up to speeds over 120 km/h! Combine that with slower reaction times and decreased co-ordination and the results aren’t pretty. According to the BC Injury and Research Prevention Unit, there are more than 200 snowmobile-related deaths in North America each year! How many of these could have been prevented by riding safely and riding sober? Snowmobiling is a fabulous way to stay active and to spend quality time with family and friends during our beautiful (but long) winters! Just remember to ride safe!

Check out the BC Snowmobile Federation to find out more about how to sled safely.

Snowmobiler in front of a mountain, giving two thumbs up to the camera.

By following a few safety tips, your winter snowmobiling adventures can be fun, healthy, and safe for everyone!

Erin Doyle

About Erin Doyle

Erin is a fourth year nursing student at UNBC. She is a wife and mom to two girls aged ten and eight. Erin enjoys spending her weekends with her family at Powder King - skiing in the winter and boating in the summer. Erin is looking forward to graduation and beginning her career as a nurse.

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“How much, how often, and when?” A drinker asks some questions

Bottle of wine, wine glass, calendar, and clock on a counter

How much, how often, and when are all important questions to ask when considering alcohol use.

The holiday season is fast approaching. In November and December, many people tend to drink alcohol more often, culminating in what is possibly the biggest potential drinking event of all for many people: New Year’s Eve. Often, at some point during this season, people ask themselves, “Do I drink too much?” It’s a good question and it is one that all people who drink should ask from time to time. There are problems with this question, though: How much is too much? Is it only the amount we drink that matters? Let’s consider three questions that I think might be good to ask ourselves:

  • How much?
  • How often?
  • When?

These three questions can help us to recognize the issues and problems related to drinking. Asking them can also help us to gain insight into ourselves and into the culture of our communities. They may lead to other important questions as well.

How much?

How much alcohol a person uses is important. People are different and what may be safe or low-risk use for one person may not be safe or low-risk for another. There is no fixed amount that is safe for everyone so it’s good to know how much you drink. It is also useful to reflect on changes in how much you have had to drink over time. Are you drinking more than you used to? What accounts for that change?

How often?

How often a person drinks is important as well. A person may not drink a lot but if they drink often, then the effects of their use may become a problem. Do you drink more often than you used to? What effect is that having on you? What effect is that having on your relationships and on those around you?

When?

When a person drinks is another important consideration. Asking this question can give some insight into the role that alcohol has in a person’s life. Asking “when?” can highlight what drives a person to drink and can be an indicator of potential problems. Do you drink in social situations? Do you drink when you are stressed? Do you drink to cope?

Canada has endorsed a set of Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. These guidelines are a good start when considering your answers to the questions I asked above. Getting to know yourself and understanding your relationship with alcohol are further steps toward building a better, healthier life.

For more information about low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines, I suggest the following resources:

Andrew Burton

About Andrew Burton

Andrew is a Community Integration Systems Navigator for Northern Health’s HIV and Hepatitis C Care team and works to support healthy living practices in communities across northern B.C. Andrew is developing positive activity and diet practices for two reasons: to deal with his own health concerns, and to “walk the talk” of promoting healthy living. Building on his training and experience in creative arts therapy, Andrew founded and runs the Street Spirits Theatre program promoting social responsibility among young people. This work has been recognized nationally and internationally as a leading method of social change.

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Alcohol: Dollars and sense

alcohol, costs, social, economic

Let’s change the conversation we have about alcohol. Let’s find a better story.

Is there someone you know who drinks more than they should? Sometimes we think it’s none of our business. Maybe we say to ourselves, “I drink once in a while, but I don’t have a problem. If other people drink too much that’s their business. Right?” Let’s rethink that for a minute.

We all know about motor vehicle crashes caused by drinking and driving because it’s in the news a lot. What gets less attention is the 44% of boating fatalities and 27% of hospitalizations because of falls that are alcohol-related. Then, there’s the violence. Alcohol plays a part in a lot of assaults. Self-harm and suicides often involve alcohol, as well. About 35% of reported family violence cases identify alcohol as a factor. And that’s just what’s reported. How many don’t mention it? How many times does violence or alcohol involvement go unreported?

Right now, though, let’s consider this number: 1,267. The problems caused by alcohol cost us about $1,267 per person every year. That’s the cost of policing, health care, loss of productivity and many other costs. $1,267 might not sound like much but that is per person. When you consider the whole population, it amounts to $14.7 billion – and that’s just the dollar cost. That’s what alcohol adds to our taxes every year.

There’s a human cost as well. What about the thousands of people left with partial or permanent disabilities? What about the families and communities left to pick up the pieces? What about the children growing up in homes where alcohol use is the norm? What about the lives filled with heartache?

If you believe this cost is too high, you could do something about it. You could talk to people about safe use of alcohol. What do you hear people say about drinking? Do they talk about the problems or just about the good times? Do they talk about safety?

Let’s change the conversations we have about alcohol. Let’s find a better story.

If you know someone who drinks too much, have you talked to them about it? Have you let them know you care? It’s a conversation worth having. You could save a life and maybe make your community a healthier and safer place to call home.

If you think alcohol-related injuries are other peoples’ problem, you might consider having a word with yourself. Change the conversation. You could help save some of that money that alcohol problems cost all of us every year. You could make life better for everyone, and maybe play a part in saving some lives and make your contribution to building a better community.

Have you had a conversation with someone about their alcohol use? What tips would you share? Tell us in the comments section below.

Andrew Burton

About Andrew Burton

Andrew is a Community Integration Systems Navigator for Northern Health’s HIV and Hepatitis C Care team and works to support healthy living practices in communities across northern B.C. Andrew is developing positive activity and diet practices for two reasons: to deal with his own health concerns, and to “walk the talk” of promoting healthy living. Building on his training and experience in creative arts therapy, Andrew founded and runs the Street Spirits Theatre program promoting social responsibility among young people. This work has been recognized nationally and internationally as a leading method of social change.

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FASD Awareness Day: September 9th

pregnant woman, health. dad, mom

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the safest choice is to drink no alcohol at all.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the term used to describe the range of harms that can result from alcohol use during pregnancy. At Northern Health, we are committed to supporting International FASD Awareness Day. This day was chosen so that on the ninth day of the ninth month of the year, the world will remember that during the nine months of pregnancy a woman should abstain from alcohol. FASD can be prevented!

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the safest choice is to drink no alcohol at all.

Drinking alcohol at any point during a pregnancy can harm the baby because baby’s brain and nervous system are developing throughout the entire pregnancy. Alcohol’s effect on the developing brain can mean that children may have lifelong learning difficulties and problems with memory, reasoning and judgment.

What if I was drinking before I knew I was pregnant?

Having a small amount of alcohol before you knew you were pregnant is not likely to harm your baby. Quitting alcohol now and looking after your own health are the best ways to ensure that your baby is healthy. Pregnant women benefit from:

  • Lots of rest
  • Regular medical care
  • Healthy food
  • Supportive friends and family
  • Healthy recreation and physical activities
  • It is best to avoid cigarettes and other drugs during pregnancy, including alcohol

Tips for partners and friends of pregnant women

  • Have a non-alcohol drink option at parties or gatherings
  • Bring non-alcoholic drinks for outings
  • Hang out with people who don’t drink
  • Encourage women who are pregnant not to drink
  • Respect the decision made by pregnant women not to drink
  • Participate in recreational and physical activities with your pregnant friend or partner
  • For yourself, be aware of Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines (ccsa.ca)

Where can I get more information and help?

If you need help to cut down or stop drinking, be sure to talk to someone. Friends, family or a doctor, midwife, nurse or counsellor can help. In addition, these are some great resources:

What are some ways you support families not to drink alcohol when mom is pregnant?

Sarah Brown

About Sarah Brown

Sarah Brown was born in Zambia, Africa and has lived and worked in many small rural communities across Canada. Prince George has been home for the past 20 years with her husband, two children, cat and dog. Sarah is a graduate of UNBC and a Public Health Nurse Practice Development Leader. She has many interests in the field of preventive public health. Sarah love’s being outdoors (even in the snow!) and is often out hiking, appreciating the beautiful trees, birds and blue skies of the north. Sarah is passionate about learning, reading, gardening & watercolor painting!

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Practising Safe Boating

Canoe fishing on a lakeOkay I’ll admit it. I like to have a beer now and again. Drinking is a part of a lot of our lives, but sometimes it’s just not a good idea.

Awhile back, my wife and I went canoeing on a popular lake north of town. It was a good day, clear and sunny. During our paddle around the lake we were almost capsized by a couple of guys in a power boat. We made it back to the beach safely but it was a close call.

When we got back on land we encountered the guys from the power boat. They were not “bad people.” They apologized for almost overturning us and offered us each a beer from a cooler between the seats. There were empties rattling around in the bottom of the boat and both looked to be a little bit drunk. Now these guys would probably not drive a car after drinking but they thought of going out in a boat as something different. It didn’t occur to them that impaired is impaired or that a boat is a motor vehicle.

Because of the work I do, I know that according to the Canadian Red Cross, about 200 people will die in boating accidents in Canada this year and that 25% of those will have alcohol in their blood. About 40% of all boating mishaps involve alcohol. Operating a vessel while under the influence is a Criminal Code offence. Drinking on a boat that does not have onboard living accommodations is an offence as well.

We all want to have a good time. Part of having a good time is getting home safe.

How are you and your family staying safe on the water this summer?

Resources:

Andrew Burton

About Andrew Burton

Andrew is a Community Integration Systems Navigator for Northern Health’s HIV and Hepatitis C Care team and works to support healthy living practices in communities across northern B.C. Andrew is developing positive activity and diet practices for two reasons: to deal with his own health concerns, and to “walk the talk” of promoting healthy living. Building on his training and experience in creative arts therapy, Andrew founded and runs the Street Spirits Theatre program promoting social responsibility among young people. This work has been recognized nationally and internationally as a leading method of social change.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Heart Advice for Men’s Health Week

A healthy heart is essential to be a healthy man.

A healthy heart is essential to be a healthy man.

In honour of Men’s Health Week, I want to talk about things men (and everyone, really) can do to help reduce the risk of heart disease. To do the subject justice would require a book but for today I will mention only the briefest of actions that can be carried out.

Here is my list of factors you may be able to change which will help the health of your heart:

  1.  Smoking. Just quit. This is beyond doubt the number one thing you can (and should) do. It is the number one modifiable factor under your control which can help you have a longer life. About 30% of all deaths from heart disease in the U.S. are directly related to cigarette smoking.
  2. High blood pressure. Cigarette smoking injures the lining of the blood vessels and increases the risk of developing blood clots, which contributes to hardening of the arteries. Even inhaling others’ cigarette smoke has been shown to lower good cholesterol. Studies have shown that HDL levels often go up soon after a person quits smoking.
  3. High blood cholesterol. Fatty foods are a contribution to poor heart health. Check out Canada’s Food Guide for advice on eating well.
  4. Diabetes. I’m talking about type 2 diabetes which can come under your control somewhat by monitoring what you eat and engaging in physical activity.
  5. Physical inactivity. Plan to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity a week. If you work in an office make a plan to stand up many times during your working day. Remember our mantra “every move counts.” Decrease screen time and get outside as much as possible. Walk the dog or just walk.
  6. Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines

    From Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines

    Excessive alcohol consumption. Drinking too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure and contribute to the development of heart disease and stroke, among other things. Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines can help you.

  7. Stress. The direct relationship between stress and heart disease perhaps lies in all of the above. If people have stressful lives, suffer anxiety and depressed mood, these can contribute to all of the other negative behaviours and at the same time make changing behaviour much more difficult. Increased alcohol consumption, comfort eating and watching more movies on TV, may provide short-term stress relief through self-medication, but in the long run will not work well for you. It’s better to go for short walks in nature and learn some relaxation strategy such as meditation. Decrease alcohol consumption and increase physical activity to release those feel good hormones and engage with the family and community. In addition to this guys need to talk about their stressors.

No one can guarantee the health of your heart in the future but by following some simple steps you can decrease your risk and feel less stressed.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas

The welcome to Las Vegas sign is an invitation for many people to release their inhibitions.

For many, this sign is an invitation to release their inhibitions.

I went to Vegas with some friends last year and it was actually pretty good (which is a Scot’s way of saying awesome!). We took in many great shows and even saw the Chieftains, who are still going strong after almost 40 years! Our trip wasn’t quite like the movie The Hangover, but we had our moments. It was a brilliant time.

Vegas is glitz to the extreme. But underneath that shine is a dark side that can’t be ignored. It’s called “Sin City” for a reason – actually several reasons: gambling, drugs and alcohol, and sex – which Vegas is riddled with. Whether you’re going to Vegas or any other exciting destination, it’s often easy for people to slip into some bad habits while on vacation. After my Vegas vacation, I started thinking about the dangers of the “darker sides” of vacations, like slipping back into tobacco addictions, or bringing a new addiction home. So, here are some helpful tips for avoiding some of the things that give Vegas its rather scandalous reputation, but these tips are really relevant to any vacation. No matter where you go, keep in mind that you’ll be going home soon. Each topic is linked to helpful resources for your reference.

Gambling – The slot machines and other games are unavoidable. From the time you check into your room they’re everywhere. Remember, gambling is an addiction. Don’t go overboard. Consider setting a budget ahead of time and stick to it. I managed to stick to about $30.

Drugs and alcohol – Both addictive items are plentiful on many vacations and will drain your bank account, as well as that of your family and friends in a hurry if either becomes a problem. This includes tobacco use; a vacation from the snow doesn’t have to mean a vacation from quitting.

Sex – Some people often think being on vacation is the perfect time to loosen their inhibitions. But sexually transmitted infections don’t take vacations. Do yourself a favour and get educated on the dangers of unsafe sex.

There are many great events that happen in Vegas; I found the fountains at Bellagio to be magical, and luckily I avoided all of the dangers above. Some of these events should, no doubt, stay in Vegas. You don’t want to bring home a whopping credit card bill, a reemergence of an old addiction, or something more novel, like a STI. Don’t forget, these tips extend beyond Vegas to whatever sunny destination you might be visiting during the snowy season.

Happy winter vacation.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Low-risk drinking and a healthy body

Aspiring to be perfectly healthy is a great idea, but as we age, there may be many reasons to visit a doctor, even if good health is our “typical” natural state.

Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines

An excerpt of Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. See the whole guidelines document here: http://www.ccsa.ca/eng/priorities/alcohol/canada-low-risk-alcohol-drinking-guidelines/Pages/default.aspx.

We live in a fast-paced world with a fast food and “quick to throw away” economy. When something is broken we simply replace it as it’s usually cheaper to do so. Unfortunately, the body we inhabit is not so easily replaced. To keep going, we are required to maintain it as best as we can. Through my years, I’ve noticed that when we’re young, we tend to take this beautiful body for granted and seldom consider it until something goes wrong.

So how can we give our body the attention it needs without unnecessarily becoming a hypochondriac?

I would like to suggest three areas that we can improve upon at any age: heart care, nutrition care and psychological care. And for my topic of discussion today, all three are involved in substance use and abuse.

It always surprises me when I look at recommended alcohol consumption levels, such as Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. Men should not drink more than 15 drinks a week, with no more than three drinks a day. So, more than three drinks is considered binge drinking.

What about occasionally having four drinks and singing at the top of your lungs with a bunch of terrific friends? Or better still, what about that same session with three low alcohol drinks alternated with large glasses of water?

Does the singing and social gathering part mitigate the binge session?  Well I suspect not! Certainly the singing part can help with psychological health and community spirit but having too many drinks… well, I’m afraid that negates the healthy heart and healthy nutrition part. (And of course I must add a reminder about all the other regular safety features such as ensuring you have a designated driver.)

Even in the absence of a problem, empty calories from alcohol, will put inches on that waist which can make you a candidate for obesity or type two diabetes, which can lead to heart disease, if done too often. At the same time, small amounts of alcohol may be beneficial – but stick to the recommended limits most of the time – and keep in mind the risks and suggestions from health professionals.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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Helping with change, one stage at a time

Stages of change

Stages of change

In my twenties, I worked in a bar. It was an upscale place near the Winnipeg Stock Exchange. A broker who worked there – we’ll call him “W” – was a regular customer at the bar. He would come in at 10:30 in the morning for a double Manhattan and called it his breakfast. At lunch he would be back for another. At around four he would have two or three more to “round out the day.”

One afternoon W’s wife came into the bar. She told us he was suffering from a serious illness and his doctor had told him to quit drinking, but she was afraid he wouldn’t. Later in the day, I spoke to him when he came in. He said he had never thought his drinking was a problem until the doctor told him he was in danger, and even then, he wasn’t so sure. He thought it was only an issue because of his illness. He convinced himself that if he drank a little bit less he would be okay, so he cut down to singles instead of doubles and limited himself to three drinks a day. This became his new routine. Some months later his health took a turn for the worse and he was away for awhile. When he came back to the bar weeks later he switched to coffee, no booze.

I often thought of W years later when I began working with people with problems related to substance use. Looking back, I can see the stages of change in what he was going through. When I met him, he was precontemplative, sure he was okay and didn’t really have a problem. The illness was a crisis that moved him to consider that there was a problem. Still, he was so tied to his drinking that he didn’t want to think it was as serious as it was. His relationship with alcohol skewed his contemplative stage to justify staying with his routine. He developed a plan, put it into action and came to believe he had dealt with the problem. His life went on as before with a reduction in the amount that he drank, and he returned to a precontemplative state until there was another crisis that he could not ignore.

When we try to help people, we need to get a clear idea of where the person is, because for each stage, we can help in a different way. The precontemplative person can be helped by a reality check to shed some light on what’s really going on. The contemplative person needs some help to make sure they are seeing things accurately and realistically, not colored through the lens of their fears and desires. The planning stage needs some problem solving support and some detail work to make sure the plan is doable and complete. The action stage needs support to help with adjusting to new ways of being. The maintenance stage is a time to reflect and see the positives so that the person does not relapse and go back to old ways. People often go through the cycle many times before really getting to the heart of their problems and making significant and successful changes. With “W” it was alcohol but the pattern holds for tobacco, drugs and for other behaviors as well.

People change when they see a need to do so, when the change is a move to something better and when they can see it as such. The more you can help people work through their beliefs about what change is necessary, what that change will be like, how to make the change, how to adjust to the change, to maintain new ways of being and to celebrate success, the more likely the changes are to take hold and survive.

Have you ever helped someone through the stages of changes as they coped with a difficult issue or addiction?

Andrew Burton

About Andrew Burton

Andrew is a Community Integration Systems Navigator for Northern Health’s HIV and Hepatitis C Care team and works to support healthy living practices in communities across northern B.C. Andrew is developing positive activity and diet practices for two reasons: to deal with his own health concerns, and to “walk the talk” of promoting healthy living. Building on his training and experience in creative arts therapy, Andrew founded and runs the Street Spirits Theatre program promoting social responsibility among young people. This work has been recognized nationally and internationally as a leading method of social change.

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