Finding Ways To Reduce Your Suffering When Parenting A Child Misusing or Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol, with Brenda Zane

Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Finding Ways To Reduce Your Suffering When Parenting A Child Misusing or Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol, with Brenda Zane

The emotional distress a parent feels when their child is struggling with or addicted to drugs or alcohol is incomprehensible to the average person. It can begin to debilitate you in ways that impact your day-to-day ability to cope, your health, career, friendships, and family relationships.

Through the lens of the second arrow principal, I share ways that parents can minimize their suffering, anxiety, emotional anguish and isolation while their child is actively engaged in misusing substances, or in the early and sometimes fragile days of recovery. 

I share a recent experience where I used some emotional self-regulation tools to dodge the second arrow coming my way and give you 10+ simple and practical ideas for reducing your suffering.


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Brenda Zane 
Welcome friends. You’re listening to Hopestream. I’m Brenda Zane. And this is the podcast for parents of kids who are misusing drugs or alcohol. So if you are here, no, you’re in good company with a lot of other great parents. 
I’m a fellow mom to a son who struggled with substance use and a high-risk lifestyle. Style. And I created this podcast because I wanted to bring hope and information to parents as they go through this incredibly. Scary time. If you’d like to learn more about how i serve parents like you just go to Brenda’s and you. you can find it all there
 Today. I am diving a little deeper into a concept I shared in my weekly email, which is that of the second arrow. It’s actually a Buddhist parable that says basically, if you get hit by an arrow, it hurts and often it’s through no fault of your own. You just got hit by an arrow and being struck by a second arrow is even more painful in life. We can’t always control that first arrow, but the second arrow is our reaction to the first one. Meaning the second arrow is optional. 
I’ll share how this whole thing just happened to me this week. And then talk about some ways that you can avoid the second arrow, which often shows up as suffering, anxiety isolation, anger, distress, doubt, fear. I’m sure you know, all of these very well. 
And let me just say this before diving in, I know you might be in a place where you’re suffering your pain and your level of discomfort is so off the charts. It doesn’t feel like anything is going to. Other than if your son or daughter was to make an immediate change for the better. And I get that. I remember days when I just mentally and physically imploded from the stress and the worry. And if someone had told me that I could think of my way into a better place, I’m thinking I may have just punched them in the face.
I know that place. I know the agony of watching your child disappear before your eyes. And the anger that can spew out of them when all you’re trying to do is be kind and empathetic and use all of your tools and all blows back in your face. I have been there and my heart is with you if that’s where you are right now.
And if it is, please just listen with a grain of salt, knowing that. The idea is I’m going to share today may not be for you today, but they may be helpful in a week or a month, or sometime in the future. Or you may be at the end of your rope. And you’re like, well, I have tried everything else. I’ll give this a try either way.
I just want you to know that I don’t glibly. I’m not sure if that’s a word, but I don’t lightly present ideas or options to you in a vacuum. I do consider the variety of situations that you may be in today, which could be drastically different from where you were yesterday. And it could be drastically different from where you’re going to be tomorrow. That’s how this journey goes. So I try to use all of those factors as filters for the work that I share with you. 
So given that this example was actually born in an infrared sauna. The other day of all places, I was having a little self-care afternoon, which I’m trying to get better at doing. And there’s a great place here in Seattle, where you go and they have. Infrared saunas. They do massage and facials and lymphatic drainage and all of that. And it’s just a beautiful, peaceful atmosphere. 
I used to go more often, but of course, with COVID, it’s been a few years. And so my body is definitely not used to the 165-degree temperature in the infrared sauna, especially since you’re in there for about 50. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in one of these things, but they are pretty amazing.
There are different colored lights you can cycle through. It’s called chromotherapy. It’s very therapeutic and it’s really great. And you sweat out all the toxins in your body and it can also be really uncomfortable, but it’s not really uncomfortable all at once. When you first go into the sauna, it’s hot and dry. But in a manageable way, and you’re kind of distracted by the different things, setting up your towel, getting comfortable. And then after about 10 or 15 minutes, you start to realize it’s getting really hot in here and you begin to sweat and then you sweat like crazy and it gradually gets more into. 
For me, my heart starts beating harder and after about 20 minutes or so I start thinking about how much longer am I going to be sitting in this really hot box? That’s when I would normally start saying to myself, you can do it. Stay in just power through it. It’s good for you. Other people are doing it. Don’t be weak. Don’t give up, keep going.
I would go back and forth in my head with these two voices. Debating what I should do, because what I really want to do is step out of the sauna to cool off for a few minutes, because the intensity of the heat is just too much. In this case. The other day, I even used all the tools in my coping toolbox. I used the nice, cool towel they provided. I distracted myself with calming music. I distracted myself by thinking about a fun upcoming. I did some deep breathing. So I was really present and I was in tune with all the options for managing how I was feeling. But even with all that, I still really wanted to step out of the sauna because it was just feeling too hot.
And then I realized I was doing. As an act of self-care for myself in the first place. So if I wanted to take a break, I could, and I needed to do what was right for me. I’m not sure if I’m the only one who has these odd conversations with myself about things like whether or not I should stay in a hot sauna, but anyway, this is what happened.
 And this is when I decided to avoid the second arrow of pressuring myself. Feeling guilty, feeling like I had failed. So I changed the conversation in my head to sound like what would feel better for me right now.
And I also changed my language from saying, “I have to quit. I have to step out. I have to give up to.” to, “I’m going to invite myself to be in a different lesson tense environment for a few minutes.” And just that shift in language in my head made it feel so much better when I made that decision. 
So I stepped out of the 165 degrees. I had some water and I used the nice cold washcloth that had essential oils and fuse to it. It was amazing. I waited a couple of minutes and then I got back. And when I got back in, it was still ridiculously hot, but I knew what I was stepping into. And I felt that I was more in control of the whole situation.
 I also knew there was a reward on the other side of this experience because once you’re done with your 50-minute intense sweat session, there is an amazing room that you go to in this. With a sand floor. So it’s kind of like you’re at the beach and you sit in your own chair with this fabric curtain that surrounds you.
There’s beautiful music playing and those pink Himalayan salt lamps glowing, and you get your very own little personal setting with some cool tea and a cold orange. It’s a little hard to describe, but basically, it is the most beautiful soothing. And you get to just sit and relax after this very intense session that you’ve just been through.
Why am I telling you all of this? Well, if you have been orbiting in my world for very long, you know, I’m a fan of metaphors and analogies and this situation was one that just felt so clear to me in a. 
First obviously is the metaphor of the infrared sauna and chromotherapy lights being your life, where it can get slowly or quickly so intense that you need to step out. You need a break from the heat, but at the same time, you might be beating yourself up for not being able to withstand the heat. You might tell yourself that you just need to work harder, find more options, be more. Stick with it. You’ll cool off later, or a million other conversations that you have with those two opposing voices in your head. 
You might look around and see other people doing it well. They’re just sitting there in the 165-degree heat, and you don’t know why it is so uncomfortable for you. 
The other is the second arrow analogy of recognizing and accepting that you’re in the 165 degree sweatbox, and that you have the ability to do something about it in order to avoid the second arrow of intense suffering. I know the pain and the discomfort of where you might be today. And I also know that there are some things that you can do that won’t necessarily fix them, meaning your child, but there are some ways to ease your suffering because having a child who is struggling with drugs or alcohol, or is it dictated, or they even may be wobbling around in those early stages of recovery.
That is definitely an arrow and it’s definitely more uncomfortable than the 165 degrees on an analogy that I’m giving you. So you are in it, you are sweating and you think that you can’t stand the heat for one more minute. And wondering how are you going to get out? I also just want to say right here that you can temporarily find relief from the. But the reality is you’re not going to be able to just step out and walk away. So if you have a mindset of finding ways to step out knowing it’s temporary, but that each time you get back in the 165-degree box, you’re going to have some new tools for how to manage the heat, you’ll be better off.
 So, how do you step out even temporarily? I’m going to give you a bunch of ideas. And I know as I go through these, you’ll think of others. Sometimes it just takes thinking these things through, with someone else. How am I going to do this? Where can I turn so that I can dodge that second arrow? 
So here are my thoughts on how to step out of the heat when you can’t stand it anymore.
The first is, and it almost sounds too simple, do something for yourself, something only for you. It might be an old passion that you’ve left behind. It might be a new venture that you want to start and you’ve been putting it off. It could be a sport that you quit when life got crazy, but make time for something you love, even though it feels very counterintuitive.
Another thing that you can do is to reconnect with people who genuinely want to help. And those who will be supportive, there are always those people who offer to help you and you might have smiled and said something like, oh no, I’m okay. Thanks. And this is when you reverse that and you say, oh, that’s so nice of you to ask, thank you. And then you let them know how they could. 
You can also plug into your faith and your faith community. If there’s one thing that will test and also reinforce your faith, it is having an at-risk child who is actively engaged in their own life-threatening disease. Your faith may have fallen by the wayside at some point in your life. And this experience is a really good time to get plugged back in and explore what your faith or your spirituality means.
The next idea is to treat your body well, but don’t push it over its limit. This is the time to have some really good balance with your body. It’s probably not a great time to decide that you want to try some crazy diet that requires you to change everything about how you and your family, or to start an exercise program that feels too exhausting. Just keep moving, watch what you put into yourself and don’t go too extreme either way. 
The next idea is to have a healthy dose of self-compassion. What would you say to a friend who’s going through this exact thing? The cognitive load that you are carrying right now is massive, it’s overwhelming, and it’s impacting all areas of your life. Yet you might not be telling yourself that or allowing yourself to believe it when someone like me tells you that. So if you struggle with self-compassion make an active effort to work on it. And I would also recommend going to episode 77, it’ll give you some really great information and ideas in that area. 
The next idea is to find and document some of the silver linings that you have found along this journey. I say to document them, because this is usually a lengthy journey. And at some point when you look back, the years are going to blur together and you’re going to have some mental calluses, and you’re going to be really glad to look back and see when those little moments of appreciation came into your realization and they become very, very beautiful.
The next is to speak or write or draw. Your pain, your anger, your frustration, whatever it is that you’re feeling, get that out into the world, get it out of your body, share it somewhere safe, whatever feels right, but put it somewhere outside of your body. One of our members in the stream community is an artist and she created a piece of art every day that her son was away in wilderness therapy and therapeutic boarding school. So this was over 130 something days I want to say. And it was her own therapeutic process for dealing with the heat that she was sitting in. 
Then try to physically remove yourself from the situation to the best of your ability. This is when you call in the troops to allow you 24, or if you can grab them, take 40 hours off, which I know sounds indulgent. It sounds decadent, but it is not, this is basic survival. You might just end up at a friend’s house or if you can afford it in a hotel somewhere and you might literally just lay in bed the whole time. And that’s fine that getting yourself physically away from the drama and the negative energy that might be in your space, especially if your child’s living with you.
Is truly an act of healing that you can give yourself. It’s kind of the equivalent of me stepping out of the sauna and cooling off with the towel, with the beautiful, essential oils. It is really, really important. 
Also, I’m going to give you a resource for where you can find several freeways to step out and get personal support. These are all from, and this is not an ad or anything. I just volunteer for them. And it’s an incredible organization that I feel is kind of the best-kept secret in this area. So I always try to point people to their options and those include free parent code. 
So this is free one-on-one coaching with a seasoned parent who has been trained in CRAFT, the CRAFT approach, who has also been in the 165 degrees sweatbox. And so they can relate to you and they will help you with so many things. 
You can also attend free parent support meetings via zoom. There are four a week, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. And each meeting is facilitated and has a topic. There is some structure. So this is not just a session where everybody sits around and complains. And I can tell you, because I facilitate the Tuesday night meeting that I have seen people change dramatically from attending these sessions and starting to use these craft skills and tools with their family. 
You can also call the Partnership to End Addiction helpline. And they will work with you to listen and brainstorm and provide you with information and ideas and resources.
It’s not a crisis lane. So, so they’re not the ones to call if you’re in an immediate crisis, but if you call and set up an appointment with them, you will get a lot out of talking with them about what’s going on with your current situation. 
There’s also so much content at drug-free dot org. So instead of spending hours and hours Googling questions that we all ask, you can go and learn so much at the website and, you know, it’s legit information. They don’t have anything to sell you. So it is not biased and everything from the partnership to end addiction is based on the craft approach, which is an evidence-based approach to helping motivate and encourage your son or daughter to change in a positive direct. 
Oh, and did I mention the book Beyond Addiction? I think I may have mentioned it before on other episodes. And this is where it’d be really helpful if we had a video because I’m winking at you. But if you haven’t read Beyond Addiction, the full title of the book is beyond addiction. How science and kindness, help people change, hit pause or. And then resume this episode because I am telling you, it will provide you with so much understanding and so much guidance for what you’re going through.
Again, not an ad. It’s just the book that I know is incredibly helpful for parents.
Then finally, there’s the community I started called The Stream because I wished something had existed at the time when I was going through. A place that had a focus on positive psychology. I didn’t want drama. I didn’t want complaining. I wanted a place to focus on me and my physical and emotional wellness.
I wanted to tap into my spirituality and self-care, but I also wanted it to be real where I could share what was going on with people who got it. And that didn’t exist. So I built it. It’s basically like the beautiful room I told you about what the Himalayan salt lamps and the cool tea and the oranges and the calming music.
So that is where I spend a lot of time with our members. They’re all there because they wanted the same thing and they want it in a safe and private. To step out of the heat, so to speak. So you can learn more about that special 
There you go. That is what I wanted to share today. So for a quick review, if you’re listening, there’s a good chance that you’ve been hit by an arrow called substance use or addiction, or it may be a different arrow like cancer or a debilitating disease or divorce, a career crisis. The loss of a child, there are endless, endless first arrows. 
And what we’ve talked about today is how to avoid the second arrow. That’s your response to the first arrow and in my case, The 165 degrees. Sauna was the analogy for life, with a child who is struggling that arrow it’s intense, it’s hot, there’s a lot of discomfort. And so you really have to work hard to avoid the second arrow of suffering and anger and anxiety and worry all of those emotions and feelings that I know you feel. 
So just know there are a lot of ways that you can step out of the heat, find the cold washcloth, or you may be at a place where you need a cold plunge pool, but know that you are not stepping out of the heat alone. There are so many hundreds of thousands of parents who are doing this to. And I hope you’ll keep coming back here each week to find a little bit of space to cool down and to continue to find resources, to continue to find hope. 
One resource that I haven’t mentioned is an ebook that I wrote called hindsight three things I wish I knew when my son was misusing drugs. It’s full of information that I so wish I had had during my experience. And it’ll give you some insight into why your son or daughter might be doing the things that they’re doing right now and how you can have a better and more healthy response to that. It’s a hundred percent free.
You can download it from
 Thank you for listening, for sharing these episodes with people. I truly appreciate it. And I look forward to meeting you right back here next week.

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