A Quick Way To Gain Control When Crisis Hits with Brenda Zane

Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
A Quick Way To Gain Control When Crisis Hits with Brenda Zane

You’ve probably been there – that moment when something unexpected or horrible happens and you feel yourself reacting in a highly emotional way. It might be finding the stash of weed or empty vodka bottles, or you get the call from the police about your daughter’s shoplifting escapade – whatever it is, it sets you into panic mode and you’re not sure what to do.

This episode is a short but practical one to help you in those exact moments when the “thing” has happened and you need to handle it, but don’t know how. I share a simple 5-step process you can follow to go from freak-out to in-control, taking as much time as you need or have.


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Speaker: Brenda Zane
I have a solo episode for you today that I’m sharing because in The Stream, in our community for moms, we’ve had a lot of conversations in the last few weeks about these circumstances where something happens. You could call it a crisis, maybe you’re beyond calling things crisis at this point is just another one of those things. And I’m going to give some examples. And it’s really hard to know how to respond. And I’m talking about things where you’re not expecting it, this might be the first time that something like this has happened. And you’re really upset, you might be freaking out, you’re scared, you’re angry, and you just don’t know what to do. 
And one of the worst things that can happen is that we actually just react instead of thoughtfully respond. And so today, I’m just going to talk a little bit about a thought process that you can go through, it’s actually thoughts and actions, that you can go through in the moment when that thing happens to just give you a little bit more control and to and to put you in the driver’s seat versus a reactive mode that might not be super healthy, or productive. 
So here’s a couple of typical scenarios that happen that you might be familiar with. The first one is you decide to look through your child’s things. And when I say child, I’m talking adolescent young adult, somebody who obviously is living with you. So they’re in your home. And you find drugs, paraphernalia, alcohol, it’s usually hidden. Sometimes they’re good about it, sometimes they’re not. But you find these things and immediately your stomach sort of constricts and your body goes into all kinds of negative reactions. And that’s a really, really difficult position to be in. Another scenario is you get a call from the police or from let’s say, a store manager that your son or daughter has been caught shoplifting alcohol, and they want you to come pick them up. That’s a typical one. Another one is your son or daughter gets home there are a couple of hours late after their curfew. There might have been a lot of texting and negotiating going on during that time. And they come home and they are clearly either high or drunk or both. 
Another scenario you find out that your son or daughter was under the influence at a party or at a friend’s house and event at school, you know, somehow you got word that they were clearly under the influence of something at a public event or at school. Another common one is you see posts on social media of your son or daughter clearly under the influence. And with drugs or paraphernalia alcohol, clearly visible. Often it’s in their own hands. I have been there. Another one is that your child hasn’t been home for a couple of nights. So you’re not really sure is this a runaway thing, they may be texting you saying, I’m at a friend’s house, I’m here, I’m there. But you have that gut feeling that things aren’t? Well, so they’ve been gone for a couple of nights, you don’t know where they’ve been. And they’ve just come home. And another common one is you are doing random drug tests on your son or daughter, you’ve just done a test and it comes back positive. 
So all of these scenarios, first of all, I just want to tell you that if this is happening in your home, it’s okay. You’re not alone. This is not just you, this is not just your family. This is happening in droves across the country. Okay, so I talk about this stuff all day. And so it can sort of just roll off my tongue and sound very, non-emotional. So I just want to acknowledge that if this is happening, if any of these scenarios have happened in your home recently, I know how emotionally impactful that is, I know how terrifying it is. But I also want to let you know you are not alone. I have so many conversations every week with moms in particular, who are going through this. And they are professionals, they are highly educated, they live in beautiful communities, they live in public housing, they are employed, they are unemployed, doesn’t matter. You’re all dealing with it. And I just want to acknowledge that it’s so hard. And that’s why I really want to talk today about some tools that you can use to manage through that. I also know that so many of you are doing this as single moms and single dads as well that I’ve talked to. And that’s just an extra layer of stress and burden on you because you don’t have that partner to kind of grip hands with and go through this with so there’s my acknowledgment of you, I could have a quiet moment for you all because I know how difficult this is.
So let’s talk about some ways that when these kinds of things happen. And trust me, I know that I have not listed all of them, our kids have these amazing ways of getting themselves into very sticky situations, I could do a whole episode on just all of the crazy phone calls and text messages I got when my son was going through this. But let’s figure out some ways that you can respond and not just emotionally react when these things happen. Because if you let yourself just react, you’re probably going to yell at them, threaten various punishments, and start taking things away. And your heart’s going to be racing, your hands are shaking, your blood is boiling, you might feel like there’s a vein in your forehead, that’s gonna pop. And that’s just natural. It’s so natural for that to happen when you find yourself in one of these horrible situations. And so if that’s how you’ve reacted, or if that’s kind of been your mode of operation, don’t feel bad, it’s normal, it’s 100% normal, I just want to give some tips and tricks that you can put into your toolbox when you’re adding to your parenting kind of toolbox, going through this, that you can actually use in these situations. 
And these can be opportunities for conversations sometimes if they’re handled right. And so I think it’s helpful to have a kind of a path to follow a process to follow to get you out of that emotional reaction. So I’ll take you through some steps that you can use when that crisis hits, and you can shift into more of a thoughtful and controlled response. And hopefully, this is going to help yield better results with your son or daughter. It certainly isn’t going to hurt. So I’m not saying that if you do this, you’re going to have this Kumbaya moment and everything is going to be great. I know that’s not reality. However, I do know that if you are in more control and in a better place yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, it’s not going to hurt this situation. So I think it’s worth trying either way. 
So the first thing, and there’s going to be five, and don’t worry in the show notes, there’s a little download that you can grab for this. You can take notes if you want, but you can also just grab that download in the show notes, the first thing you’re going to do is just acknowledge this is happening, and hit the pause button. So the first thing is just to acknowledge, okay, I just found this, or this just happened. And no matter how shocking or disappointing this moment is, acknowledge it. You don’t have to love it. You don’t have to like it, you’re not going to. But don’t go into immediate denial mode, oh, my son or daughter couldn’t have done that, oh, there’s no way there must be something wrong. If this is happening, there’s that scene where there’s smoke, there’s fire. If there’s been smoke, there is likely fire. And there are so many guests that I’ve had on who have said, I wish I would have paid better attention to the smoke signals. I just wrote it off as oh, somebody lit a match. I think this was Paula Becker in episode five, who said instead of rolling over and saying, I think somebody lit a match, she would have called the fire department. So please do acknowledge, and I’m not saying instantly, you know, assume that your son or daughter has done something wrong if they’re being accused of that. But don’t put your head in the sand. 
And as far as hitting the pause button, this is the most important part of this first step is you probably don’t need to deal with this. And with your child at that exact moment. There’s an exception here, and that is if they’re in danger, or like in the case of the shoplifting scenario, you might need to go pick them up from somewhere. But otherwise, if you have found something, or if they’ve just come home, and there’s an issue or if you’ve just learned some information, that’s not good. There is no rule that says you must do something right then and there. As a matter of fact, I would recommend you don’t, I learned this trick by force when my son was living in his extremely risky lifestyle, and taking drugs, when I would be at work in a meeting with a client or even in another state on a business trip. And I would get the text or the phone call from whoever. And there was actually very little that I could do at that time because I couldn’t get out of what I was doing, or I was physically not there. So I learned how to swallow, do some deep breathing exercises, and go back to my meeting, or back to whatever it was that I had to be doing at that time.
Which leads me to step number two, which is, get control. Once you have absorbed and acknowledge the information, however shocking, scary, confusing it is, you really need to get control of your own mind and body. If there is any danger present, of course, you’re going to resolve that first so that your child is safe and secure. So if you need to pick them up from somewhere, if you need to bring them somewhere to get them safe, do that. But resist the urge to lay into them, you know, start this conversation in the car, just pick them up, make sure that they’re okay, and be quiet.
That will shock them by the way. And then you’re also going to shock them when you tell them that you’re going to be back in X amount of time. And the amount of time that you are going to take will depend on your own situation and your personal needs. And then step away. This is really important. If you’re in the same space with your child, when this event happens. You actually want to get some physical space between you and them. And getting this space isn’t just for you. It’s also for them. So they have a lot of emotion and I’m guessing potentially some substances coursing through their body. And when there’s a confrontation or when they know that you know something, get in that space is going to be really healthy for them to the last thing you want to do is to have one of these conversations, discussions, whatever you want to call it when they’re in the heat of the moment, you’re in the heat of the moment, and there are substances involved and that goes for both of you. 
So I know that people often these phone calls come at the worst time – you might be out to dinner with friends, you’ve had some wine, really bad time to deal with it. So just think about that as you’re going through this period. So while you’re taking this time, it’s important that you aren’t taking the time to ruminate and see and make things bigger and worse in your mind. So this is not the time to cook up and dial up the intensity of what’s happened. This is the time to cool your mind and your body down. And also to get some perspective on the situation. 
So I came up with some phrases that I would just sort of repeat in my head, or I would scribble them in a notebook of I was in a meeting, just to sort of calm myself down. And I would say things like, he’s okay right now. And that’s the most important thing. Or, I am not the only one who’s going through this, I bet there’s another mom, somewhere in the country who just had the same experience just helped me feel like I wasn’t in this vast universe doing this alone, I would write or say things like, this is so scary, or this is so disappointing, but I can manage through it. Even if I didn’t totally believe it, I just, I knew that I needed to put that out there. I always said, but I can manage through it. Or I would say, try to remember that this, whatever was occurring was really a symptom of a deeper problem and that my son was hurting. Even if he was showing me anger, even if he was showing me hostility, I had to remember that. That was the presenting symptom, not the problem, and that he was hurting. And that helped as well. 
So in your get control step just do some breathing, you can shake your arms, your legs, kind of like you’re doing the Hokey Pokey, it looks really weird. But it helps literally shake out your arms and legs, do some jumping jacks, walk around, even if that means you’re just walking circles in your bedroom, or circles in your garage. Motion is really good. If you have that special friend or mentor or partner who gets it, call them. But I’ll I’ll put a caveat there that only do that if that’s a call mean steady person, not somebody who’s gonna freak out about this situation. And also somebody who you don’t want to be calling somebody who’s going to give you advice. 
Drinking water is awesome, eating a little bit. So if you haven’t eaten, your blood sugar is going to be low, which definitely impacts your ability to process and cope. So just do the things that you know about yourself that can help calm you down. Maybe you drive around the block 20 times and play some music that’s really helpful to you, or you stand in the shower, do whatever it is for however long you need, or you’re able to, until you get that feeling of control back into your mind and back into your body, you’re still going to be a bit shaken at this point. But you’ve pulled yourself together enough so that your son or daughter sees a mom or a dad, who is in control of their emotions and their body. And that can also make a big difference in how they’re going to respond to the situation as well. So when you come at it with control, they are going to have a completely different perspective on how this is going to go down.
Then the third thing is once you’re in control, just spend two to three, maybe five minutes to process your emotions and your feelings. The easiest thing might be just to take some notes in your phone. Or if you do if you’re like me, and you can’t even figure that out, because you’re driving or whatever, just do a voice memo on your phone and jot down or talk through the emotions that your experience that you’re experiencing. Starting with, “this makes me feel blank, because blank.” And I want you to do that and to fill in those blanks as many times as you need to. But don’t write down or start out and say “I am blank.” So don’t come at it as I am angry, I am disappointed because you are you, you’re not the emotion. So you’re feeling the emotion, which means you can also let that emotion pass. 
And this doesn’t have to be a long or complex process. I know it kind of sounds weird. But this can be really really fast. I know the reality of these situations. And this is not the time that you’re gonna sit down to write a novel unless you’re the kind of person who loves to write and that helps you gain control which could very easily be I know a lot of people like that. So by all means, then write as much as you want. 
But some examples of what you might kind of process through in this third step is something like this makes me feel betrayed because I didn’t believe my daughter will outright lie to me. Or this makes me feel scared because I know these pills might have fentanyl in them, and I don’t want my son to overdose. Or this makes me feel lost and confused because my daughter knows right from wrong, and she isn’t the type to steal. So ideally, you’re going to use this information when you have a conversation with your son or daughter. And we’ll talk about that in a minute. But that’s why it’s really important to write it down or record it. Because as we know, these things get emotional. It’s really easy to kind of forget, and just start blurting things out. So if you’ve got it written down or recorded somewhere, it’s super, super helpful. 
Then the fourth thing is, think about what is the right response to this particular situation? Have you been here before? Have you done this before? Has this happened in the past? Is this a brand new thing? Is this something you’ve never dealt with before all of those are going to come into play? What are the right consequences? And sometimes the right consequences are the ones that the world is going to give your child. If they were caught shoplifting, they may face legal charges. If they had weed at school, they might get expelled. If they had drugs and alcohol in their room, they are going to live with your rules and consequences. So, this topic right here could be its own episode. And if you want to go deeper on setting boundaries, and coming up with consequences, I would really recommend going back and listening to Episode 41 with Dr. Julie Jarvis and Episode 22, with Krissy Pozatek. Both of those have really, really good information on this topic of how to, to sort of navigate around consequences. 
Just know that it’s okay if it takes you a day or so to determine what these consequences are going to be, if you’re the one who’s in charge of the consequences. So just be sure to communicate this to your child so that they know there’s a conversation coming up, and that you haven’t just gone and stuck your head in the sand. And that’s super important. And you can just say to them, hey, this was pretty upsetting. And I need to figure out how I feel about it and what I’m going to do about it, and we’re going to talk tomorrow at three o’clock, whatever it is, just let them know that this is coming and give them some context around it. This also gives you time to consult with maybe you have a code or a mentor or you have a community like in The Stream or you’ve got an Al-Anon sponsor, if you need some guidance and input on where to go, this gives you the time to do that and just get some sometimes it can be really helpful just to have some third party perspective, you’ve got a therapist, or you need to wait and talk to your partner about it, that this gives you that time to do that.
Then, the fifth thing is to find the right time and circumstances to have the follow up conversation about this event and talk about consequences. Again, you might not even be in charge of the consequences, which is actually very empowering. Sometimes you get to look at your son or daughter and say, well, it’s out of my hands. I’ll be here alongside you during this process. But this is now in somebody else’s court, maybe that’s the school’s court, maybe that’s the city, the police, the state, who knows. But sometimes it is very, very empowering, when you are not the one in charge of the consequences. 
And when you have the discussion with your son or daughter, think about choosing a time when you know that they and you aren’t going to be under the influence of anything, when you aren’t going to be rushed, tired, hungry. And this might sound kind of silly but if either of you is any of those things, if you’re rushed, if you know, okay, I’ve got 10 minutes, I’ve got to get on a call, or I’ve got to get in the car and go pick up my other son or whatever it is, or if you’re tired, you just you can’t cope with it, or under the influence of anything. Again, these things happen at weird times. And you really need to be in full control of yourself. So if any of those things are in place, it’s just not going to go well. 
And also know this is the reality sandwich here, know that you might be prepared to have a very civil conversation, and they just aren’t. You’re only in control of you, so set yourself up for the best possible outcome. And know that you can’t fully control how things are actually going to turn out. And this is the point where it can be really helpful to start out by sharing what you wrote down or what you recorded about how this event made you feel and why – and the why is super important. If you start out with, “I can’t believe you lied to me” or “what were you thinking” or “we’re taking your car away” just think about what option your son or daughter has as a response to that, they kind of immediately have to go into confession mode, or they have to apologize. Or they have to react to losing something, a privilege or an item, you know, a car phone computer, that’s very important to them. And that isn’t likely going to happen that they’re just going to switch into this confession, apology mode. 
It’s really, really rare to encounter that situation. Somebody who’s going to say, Oh, Mom, you’re right, I definitely should I lose my car privileges for a month, or I know I shouldn’t have lied to you, dad. So I guess if this has happened in your home, please contact me, I would love to talk to you. I have just found that it rarely goes that way. The emotional maturity is just not there for them to be able to do that. 
So if you take a defensive and confrontational stance, they’re really only left with one option, which is to be defensive, and confrontational back. So opening with control, and calm with something like, “I just want to let you know, it made me feel terrified when I found those pills in your room because I know street drugs are most often cut with fentanyl, and you could overdose.”
Now, you might get the “you’re just overreacting” reply from them. But at least you have started the conversation with an honest foot forward, and that can’t hurt. And then you can have the conversation from there. Again, this could be its own episode. So if you want some tips, and actual words and phrases and ways that you can open a conversation with your son or daughter, the episodes about marijuana, but it could be about any substance, go back to Episode 46. With Dr. Nzinga. Harrison, she literally shares how to have the conversation in a way that’s productive and civilized. And it’s amazing. It’s awesome. So go back and listen to that one. 
Well, I know these moments can be really, really shocking and debilitating when you’re just trying to get through your normal day. And they can really stop you in your tracks. So I’m hoping that this gives you a process to think through and to follow. And that will give you back some control over the situation so that you feel a little bit more empowered to deal with it. So to quickly summarize, 
number one, acknowledge this is happening and hit the pause button. These things usually don’t have to be dealt with in the exact moment, and sometimes better off if they’re not. 
second, get control. So tell your son or daughter if you’re with them, that you are taking some time to process and think and let them know when you’re planning to talk next. 
third, process your emotions and feelings, write them down, record it, just write down how this makes you feel, and why. 
fourth, think about what the right response is – take the time to think and process. And if you need to get input from others. 
fifth, have that controlled discussion. Or at least set yourself up for a controlled discussion to the best of your ability. 
In the show notes I’m including a card that you can request that has these five steps on it, it fits exactly on the size of a phone. So you can, it’s just an image so you can download it. You could print it too if you wanted but I find it helpful to have pictures on my phone of stuff that I want to remember. So you can just download that and then you can keep it on your phone as an image and it will just take you through those five steps. So if you encounter it, a situation where you need this, you’re not going to have to try and remember because I know your brain will be all over the place and that’s usually not a good time to try and have to remember what you’re supposed to do. 
Alright folks, that is it for this week. I would love to hear from you. Make sure and go to the show notes, they’re at BrendaZane.com/podcast. You will see there all the episodes listed so you can just click into this episode, find the show notes and list out those previous podcast episodes that will be helpful as well as the download image that you can have on your phone. I hope you have a great rest of your week and I look forward to meeting you back here next week. 
If you’re a mom listening to this and thinking hmm, there must be other moms out there listening to I can tell you that there are thousands of other moms that are searching for this same information. And for a more personal connection. You can find me and a bunch of these moms by going to my website Brenda Zane calm and there you will get lots of information about a really special online community of moms called The Stream. We have regular calls and chat sessions. We do a monthly yoga class for stress and anxiety. And it’s all positively focused. It is not on Facebook and it’s completely confidential. Membership is on a pay-what-you-can model. So if you want to join this community and you need the support, you’re in. 
You might also want to download my free ebook called “HINDSIGHT, Three Things I Wish I Knew When My Son Was Addicted To Drugs.” It is packed with information that I truly wish I had known back in the darker years with my son. And so I share it now in case it might be helpful to you in your journey. You can get that at Brendazane.com/hindsight, and I will put a link to both of these resources in the show notes as well. 

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