What it’s like to be an alcohol and wellbeing advisor

Olivia Heffer, 28, lives in Worthing, West Sussex. She is an Alcohol and Wellbeing Advisor at Arun District Council and the role is funded by West Sussex Public Health. 

Alcohol and wellbeing advisor

I have been alcohol and wellbeing advisor since June 2020. My role is to raise awareness around risky drinking and alcohol-related harm in Arun. I do this by supporting individuals one-to-one to reduce their alcohol intake, stop drinking if they wish to and signpost on to other support services should they need it.

The job involves delivering online sessions to workplaces to help staff recognise what risky drinking looks like and where they can seek support. I promote campaigns such as Go Sober for October, Dry January and Alcohol Awareness Week as well as working closely with partnerships agencies in Arun and GP surgeries to ensure the people that need support are getting it.

I chose to be an alcohol advisor because I enjoy helping people and doing something that can have a positive impact on peoples lives.

A focus on wellbeing

Arun Wellbeing supports residents to improve their health and wellbeing by offering support such as help to stop smoking, weight management and getting active, pre-diabetes and wellbeing at work. All the services we offer are free and are currently being provided either over the phone as one-to-one support or online group sessions while we are still under Covid restrictions.

I applied for this role because since leaving college I have always been in similar jobs, I have supported people with learning disabilities, mental health and drug and alcohol misuse for eight years and I have always enjoyed this line of work.

That said, directly before my current job I trained as a beauty therapist and worked in a beauty salon for a couple of years as I needed a break from this line of work as it can be quite stressful – I think it’s really important to look after your own mental health and wellbeing especially when you are supporting others!

But I felt ready to come back into this kind of job and I know Arun District Council is a good employer so didn’t want to miss the opportunity when I saw the role advertised. Prior to this, I was hub manager for a local homeless charity.

The job day-to-day

Every day is very different, I usually speak with clients to over the phone as well as virtual meetings internally with my team and externally with partnership organisations and the other Alcohol Advisors in Sussex.

I am doing a lot of promotion at the moment so am creating content to use on our social media platforms and websites as well as designing posters and making contact with local supporting organisations to find new ways to partnership work. As my role is new to West Sussex I am still working on getting the word out there!

I enjoy the fact that every day is different and you never know who you’re going to speak to.

Misconceptions

Clients will often look to me as an ‘expert’ and want me to give them all the answers. I tell my clients they are the experts in their lives and I am here to support them, to build their motivation to want to change and give them the tools to be able to do so.

Ultimately it’s up to them and they have to be willing and motivated to make changes. I think people also think I am against alcohol and drinking which is not the case, I’m here to educate people and raise awareness around what drinking at high levels can do to your body and your mind – not wag the finger and tell you not to drink ever again.

My advice to my younger self

I would tell myself, say yes to any training that is offered, even if you think it might not be relevant to exactly what you are doing now. Wherever you think your knowledge is at in a particular area, you are probably only at the tip of the iceberg.

Also, don’t be afraid to try something new! You can restart your career in as many different areas as many times as you want to. This is something I was so afraid of doing thinking I was throwing everything away if I made a sideways step instead of always going upwards on the ladder.

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