My Experience & Relationship With Stress, Trauma, Food, Pain and Healing; An Interview on The Work IN Podcast

Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
My Experience & Relationship With Stress, Trauma, Food, Pain and Healing; An Interview on The Work IN Podcast
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ABOUT THE EPISODE:
I'm excited to share this episode of The Work IN podcast where I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with Ericka Thomas, founder of Elemental Kinetics and talk about my experiences and relationship with stress, trauma, food, pain, Al-Anon, family, triggers, exercise and more!

Ericka's podcast, The Work IN explores natural ways out of stress, trauma and tension and of all the podcasts I've been interviewed on, I felt that this one covered some of the information parents most need to hear when you have a child struggling with substance use and mental health issues.

We often find ourselves in physical pain, mentally exhausted, and generally unhealthy. At one point I wondered if I was just getting old or if there was really something medically wrong with me. It's confusing and you need to know it's normal – which is why taking care of yourself is one of the most important things you can do to help your child.

So for this week, I'm on the other side of the mic and give you a glimpse inside the ways I did and didn't cope while my son was in the dark years.

Listen in to this episode if you're struggling with too much stress, tension anxiety and have experienced trauma as a result of your son or daughter's lifestyle and substance use.

EPISODE RESOURCES:

This podcast is part of a nonprofit called Hopestream Community
Learn about The Stream, our private online community for moms
Learn about The Woods, our private online community for dads
Find us on Instagram: @hopestreamcommunity
Download a free e-book, Worried Sick: A Compassionate Guide For Parents When Your Teen or Young Adult Child Misuses Drugs and Alcohol

Hopestream Community is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and an Amazon Associate. We may make a small commission if you purchase from our links.

SPEAKERS: Ericka Thomas, Brenda Zane
[00:00:00] Brenda: Welcome to HopeStream, the podcast for parents of kids who are misusing drugs or alcohol, or who are in active addiction, treatment, or early recovery. I’m your host, Brenda Zane, fellow parent to a child who struggled. So I’m right there with you. If you’re enjoying the podcast and want to hang out with me and a bunch of other great moms after the episodes, you can check out the stream. 


It’s a positive online space where you can get support and take a breather from the stresses of dealing with your son or daughter. Just go to the stream community. com to learn more. Now let’s get into today’s episode. Hello friends. While I’m taking a few weeks off, I am sharing this podcast episode that I was on called The Work In with Erika Thomas. 


Erika is the founder of Elemental Kinetics. She’s a certified trauma release exercise provider, health coach, and yoga instructor. She’s an advisor member. In the stream community, and while we’ve never actually met in person, I do consider her a true friend of all the podcasts that I’ve been interviewed on, I felt like this conversation covered some really important ground about the impact of stress and trauma on our bodies. 


So while it feels a little weird being on the other side of the mic on my own podcast, I thought it would be some really valuable information and insight for you to hear. So I reached out to Erica. She agreed to loan me her podcast episode. It’s so weird how this all works out. And now it’s on my podcast. 


We talked about a lot of things. We talked about my experiences with stress and trauma during my son’s really challenging years, how living with ongoing stress impacts our bodies, why it is so hard to take care of ourselves. We talked about the go to tools that work for me to manage my stress. We talked about my experience and thoughts on Al Anon, what triggers me today. 


why I created the stream and how I’m doing now emotionally with food, with exercises, all the things, it’s all the things. And in the show notes, I will include some links to resources, including Erica’s online studio, where you can work with her live either for yoga or trauma release exercise. So now I will let you listen in to this great conversation with my friend, Erica Thomas. 


[00:02:45] Ericka: In today’s episode, we’re going to pull back the curtain a little bit on this family disease of addiction. And I do want to warn you that parts of the story might be hard to hear. I know they were for me. Brenda shares the story of her son’s struggle with substance abuse from years that led up to the fentanyl overdose. 


That should have taken his life to the hope that comes from their recovery. I will share some of my own family history with substance abuse and we talk about how years of stress can become trauma and what those health effects Can start to look like how the accumulation of those little tea traumas can lead to big tea triggers. 


How long it can take to relearn healthy resilience patterns and more. I know it’s a cliche, but I truly believe that the universe never gives you any more than you can handle and it puts you exactly where you need to be when you need to be there. And nowhere does it say that you will know how to automatically handle it well, or that it won’t be painful and overwhelming. 


But maybe, just maybe, in that experience, there’s a seed of purpose. And I think Brenda’s story is a perfect example of that. Please enjoy my interview. Welcome to the work in Brenda. I’m so happy to have you here. I just want to give you the opportunity to introduce yourself to our, our listeners. But before I do that, I just wanted to let you know that in preparation for this, Interview, but I went back to your first episode of hope stream and listen to your story again. 


I’d heard it before, but I listened to it again. And I was. Really just taken right back into my own past experience this early put back in those in those moments. It was really surreal for me just listening to your story and all of the situations that you shared in that first podcast that are just heart wrenching. 


It was. A flashback that I didn’t realize that I could still have an experience. And, and so I want to give you an experience to maybe share a little bit about that story today, just to get us started for those who are not familiar with HopeStream and with your community, the stream, and, just give them a An overview of what that, what that world looks like for you. 


[00:05:46] Brenda: Yes. thank you. First of all, for having me and, giving me some, some space to share our story and hopefully some, some hope and some information with people that need it and, yeah, after listening, you probably needed your, your TRE. I,  


[00:06:05] Ericka: okay, I’m not going to lie. I went upstairs and I just shook like I shook it off. 


It’s good though. It’s good to let that out. you don’t want to sit with it for too long for sure. It  


[00:06:17] Brenda: is. It is. Yes. my story is sadly, I think not It’s unique in, in the way I think that it has evolved, but it’s not unique at all to what’s going on in our country, which is, finding myself with a teenager addicted to drugs and, A very high risk lifestyle. 


My son was 16 when we had been through a couple of years of really challenging times with him being just a risk taker, experimenting with drugs. and then. At the age of 16, finally having to make a decision to have him, transported to a wilderness therapy program because his lifestyle had gotten to the point where it was just too dangerous to leave him, where he was. 


And we had exhausted all of our local resources. So all of the therapists and the counselors and the truancy system and the school, and, once you’ve gone through all of those resources and you have a kiddo who is in putting themselves in danger every single day, you have to go to that next level. 


And so we did that and, went through four or five years of just really, really difficult decisions, experiences with him and He wasn’t just addicted to chemicals. So his sort of drug of choice was Xanax, which people are surprised by. but if, if you, if you have a child, a teenager right now, or a young adult child who is addicted to Xanax, you will know what I’m talking about. 


It is brutal and it is. And incredibly difficult to get off of when they’re taking it at the volumes that they are. And he also used marijuana and alcohol and opioids and you name it, but if he could, if he had his choice, it would have been Xanax. but he was also addicted to a very high risk lifestyle. 


So he is that typical, teenage boy who just couldn’t get enough of danger and risk. And, I had. The police in my living room on multiple occasions at three o’clock in the morning saying, your son is going to be dead or in jail if you don’t do something. And, that’s a very scary place to be as a parent when you don’t know what to do because you can’t find resources. 


You, nobody talks about this. we lived in a very nice middle class neighborhood and outside of Seattle. And everything is fine, right? It’s all the kids are doing amazing things in sports and in academics and in arts and they’re all going off to amazing colleges and then your kid is missing for a week, right? 


So it’s it’s a very kind of surreal world to live in as a parent when you Look around at everybody, all the other kids, it looks and I will qualify that to say with a big asterisk on the outside, it looks like everybody else’s kids are doing great and yours isn’t, it’s really, really challenging. 


So cliff notes version of our story, he, went to multiple different treatment programs, wilderness therapy, residential treatment, the detoxes, the 30 day program, sober living. we did it all and. He eventually, ended up still in, in active use and ended up overdosing twice in 2017 on fentanyl, which we could have a whole episode about fentanyl, but it almost took his life. 


So he was on life support for three days while the doctors told us to get our family together and to come to the hospital because, they, they always lose them at that point. I, it’s still. I think almost the further away we get from that, so that was 2017, the more shocking it is to me, and the more real it becomes to me of how close we were to losing him. 


He was found in the backseat of a car, no pulse, foaming at the mouth. He had been there for three hours. Nobody knows how long he’d been in, in what state of consciousness. And then the paramedics did CPR for 30 minutes, which people have told me that’s really unusual. Usually they’ll go for about 15 minutes, and then they. 


They call it. God bless the paramedics that kept going for those additional 15 minutes. They still didn’t get a pulse, but they intubated him and put him in an ambulance and got him to the hospital. And, he is one of the few people that made it through that. And he made it through with a functioning brain, which none of the doctors can figure out how that happened. 


The neurologist, just kept coming into his room saying, this can’t be possible that he’s alive and that he’s. Functioning and his EEGs are coming back normal. So I consider myself the luckiest mom in the world. So I, I just feel like I need to use that experience to help other parents who are going through that, whether you’ve just found. 


A little bit of marijuana in your kid’s backpack or a bottle, an empty bottle of vodka in their room to, I’ve got a kid on the streets who’s doing heroin. So that is, that is our story in a nutshell. And so I just now work to, to help other families.  


[00:11:58] Ericka: There is so much stigma and isolation surrounds drug use and addiction in general. 


But especially for young people,  


for  


exactly the reasons you talked about, like everyone wants to have the perfect family and, and especially with social media. people only post things that are happy on social media, happy, perfect, great things, all the shiny, happy people on social media. And it really is misleading. 


For the world to think, Oh, if all of if everybody else looks like this, how come my family doesn’t look like this? What was your support system like when you were going through all of this? And what was it that felt like it was? Or if there was anything that you felt was missing to that support system that you were wishing for in that time. 


[00:12:59] Brenda: I would say there was basically not a support system. I had a fabulous family and they were very supportive. So they weren’t the family that was, Oh, you should kick him out of the house. so my family was very supportive. And we eventually ended up getting connected with a educational, a therapeutic educational consultant, but that was further down the road. 


That was when we were in absolute crisis mode and had to get him removed from our home. But in the earlier days when he was just experimenting and getting into trouble at school and, doing a little bit of running away and shoplifting, I didn’t have anybody. I just thought I was the only one who had a kid that was doing this along with some of the quote unquote friends that he was doing that with. 


But I didn’t know their families. It was a new friend group to him. He switched from a very close knit group of friends in our neighborhood to a group of guys that I didn’t know that he had met through the high school. And so I was just going it alone. I didn’t know another mom in our community who was going through this and you feel like the black sheep neighborhood, when the police are in front of your house. 


Several times a month, and everybody is looking like, why is, why are the police at their house again? Why hasn’t he been in school for the last week? all those things. So I didn’t really have a support system of outside of my family who’s trying to support me, but had no clue what was going on or how to. 


They’d never had that experience. And finally getting connected with the educational consultant was great. she really helped us process what was going on. And then eventually I went to, Al Anon for a couple of months, maybe wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but it was better than nothing. 


And, and at least there were other people there who had kids in similar, situations or worse, which was also interesting to see. Cause I thought mine was the worst. But it was, it was not a lot and it was incredibly isolating and yeah, you do, you look at all of the, I think a lot of parents in this high school age have that where people start posting the college logos of, where their kids are going to be going to college and they post the picture with the sweatshirt when they, make their announcement and you’re happy for them. 


But you’re also just dying inside because you’re like, why is this not happening for us? And what did I do wrong? Where did I go wrong as a parent to see my kid, going the complete opposite direction? Like your kid’s going to Yale and my kid’s going to jail. It’s just what, what did I do wrong? 


And so there’s a huge amount of. blame, self blame, guilt, regret, and questioning about why, why is this happening?  


[00:16:06] Ericka: And I think, from the minute a child is conceived, there’s already an escalated or elevated level of Alertness for a parent, for a mom, dads too, but moms especially, and as they grow older, as they grow up and they start to separate from us, it’s really hard to untangle our identity from that. 


And so then instead of calming us down, because here this child is becoming more independent, it goes the opposite way.  


[00:16:42] Brenda: Yeah. Yes. It’s so hard.  


[00:16:45] Ericka: Yeah. Yeah. So tell me a little bit more about your family during this time and how they were handling what was happening with your son, because, as we know, like when one person is struggling with an addiction, of course that affects that person, but it creates this ripple effect out in the family. 


And when we talk about intergenerational. Trauma or kind of the contagiousness of addiction and, and, post traumatic stress. That is where that may come from because, everyone is affected in some way. So how did this affect you personally, physically, mentally, emotionally, and then for your other kids because I know you have another son and stepchildren as well. 


Yes. talk a little bit about that, about that, kind of ripple effect throughout the household.  


[00:17:48] Brenda: It definitely is a family affair. It definitely is a family disease. And I never understood that when people would say that, Oh, addiction, it’s a family disease. It really, I truly didn’t understand what that meant until it happened to us. 


And. Everybody finds their own way to cope. And so that my son who was having the struggles, the oldest, he has a brother who’s two years younger. And then I have two other step step sons who are considerably younger, seven, eight years younger. We, I was also going through this with my sons. Dad, my ex husband and I was remarried. 


So there’s a lot of family dynamics going on there. I did have a really good relationship with my ex, which is probably one of the things that I credit for our eventual ability to work through things, because we, we weren’t always on the same page. He initially thought that this was a phase that our son was going through. 


So as I’m trying to hold down a full time job. Also manage another, child in the home, very active in sports and all the school and all that, my health just was deteriorating, pretty quickly. So I’m a stress non eater. So when you don’t eat, that’s very challenging on your body, very hard to function. 


Your brain doesn’t really work well. So you’re have that brain fog all the time. So just from a physical standpoint, I was starting to really experience a lot of aches and pains getting sick a lot. Towards the end, I had just massive pain in my legs to the point where I could not even walk around a block. 


I remember my husband saying, let’s, let’s just get out of the house and just walk around just the block. Let’s just walk around the block. And I couldn’t, I could get. Like down one street and then I would be in so much pain. I had to, to stop. And so it just really, and, and I thought I was, I thought maybe I had MS or ALS or something. 


Like I couldn’t imagine what was going on with me. And doctor after doctor just kept saying, Oh, you’re, you’re super healthy. You’re like good to go. Wow. Thinking, I’m pretty sure I’m not healthy because I can’t walk. And I’ve lost 10, 15, 20 pounds and, my hair’s falling. Not very,  


[00:20:11] Ericka: you are not a very big person to begin with Brenda. 


So for, for the listeners out there, she’s like a tiny, tiny person.  


[00:20:19] Brenda: It doesn’t, it just doesn’t work when you don’t eat. And so that’s when I really started to learn about the mind gut connection about what trauma does to the body. Cause In my mind, trauma was something that happened to soldiers and, and, sexual assault victims and things like that. 


And so it wasn’t until I finally saw a neurologist who was very kind and said, you’re perfectly healthy, only you’re not. And so you need to do some work for emotionally. This is, all this pain is real. It’s not imagined pain. It’s real pain, but it is not caused by a disease or any sort of, thing that you’ve got. 


It’s, it’s stuff that you need to work through. And so that was where I started really down this journey of learning about how your mind really can so critically impact your body physically. And yeah, that’s, That, that was what was going on with me. I think the rest of the family was finding their own ways to cope as far as what was going on. 


But that was my, my body’s response.  


[00:21:28] Ericka: so when you look back at that time, can you find a moment in time where, where your body started to hold onto that? Or when did you start to really notice those, that kind of physical reaction to this escalating level of stress that was there? coming at you.  


[00:21:50] Brenda: I think the first for me, the first thing I really noticed was the weight loss. 


And I, I just literally couldn’t eat. I didn’t have, I had zero appetite. I would just sit and look at food and it just wouldn’t, There was just a zero connection. Like I couldn’t eat. And then from there, when you don’t have much food in your body, things start to fall apart. But then it was really the physical pain in my legs. 


And I, I am normally a very active person. I grew up doing gymnastics. I’ve been into, doing bar method and all kinds of, state really staying active. and I couldn’t do anything. And I thought, Gosh, that’s really weird. I wonder if I’m just getting old because, it’s okay, you’re getting towards your 50s. 


And maybe, maybe this is just what happens. Like you can’t do these things anymore. But then I would look around and see other people my age doing very active things. And so that for me was like, kind of the, the alarm started going off that my body was saying, We’re not doing this. This is not working. 


And I’m going to shut you down basically until you figure this out. And it took a long time to figure out. it actually wasn’t until my son was out of the hospital after his overdoses and in more and he was starting to get into a better place that I finally said, okay, now I got to do something about me. 


Because you just, as a mom, you put everybody else first. And so even though I was physically falling apart, like literally falling apart, I just kept saying, I’ll deal with that later. I’ll deal with that later. I’ve got to get my, I’ve got to save my son. And which is part of why I do what I do now is to say that is not a good strategy. 


I would not recommend zero stars for that, for that strategy. I, I really do want people to learn from my experience and that I could have been better for him and I could have been more, more of a resource for him if I had been healthier. But, but that was really, I think for me, and I don’t know why it showed up in my legs. 


I have no idea why that was. You probably do. We could talk about that, but I don’t know why it showed up there for me. but that’s where it was. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t stand. I, I was working a corporate job where I was in meetings all day, or I’d be sitting on an airplane flying six hours to go to meetings. 


And I would have to sit there in the airplane. I remember so many flights just, trying to shake my legs, trying to stretch my legs, rubbing lotion on them. I bought every CBD cream known to man, trying to just get through a six hour flight so that I could, do my job. it was, it was horrible. 


[00:24:41] Ericka: It sounds excruciating and, and more and more so because. There wasn’t anything that you could put a name to it for. I was  


[00:24:50] Brenda: perfectly healthy. That’s what every doctor was telling me. Yes. You don’t have anything wrong with you. yeah, it’s very confusing.  


[00:25:01] Ericka: let’s, let’s talk a little bit about that idea of trauma, right? 


and we’ve discussed this before. About the difference between a big T Trauma and little T Trauma, and I picture this in my head, and it’s going to sound ridiculous, I think it was Sesame Street or something. They used to have this, big capital T cartoon, like you can leap the capital T in a single, that’s what I think of when I think of the big T Trauma, like the one big event that you can attach. 


Shit. A lot of symptoms to like this one thing started it, but when we, when we are working with families who are in the thick of it, of addiction, that isn’t a big T trauma. Although one might say your, your son’s overdose might be like that one event might be, but there was a lot of history that led up to that point. 


For you and your family, right? Those little t’s that add up, right? Those tiny little t’s and then all of a sudden we have this. Mountain of little tees that is equal to or beyond the big T trauma in the body’s explanation in the in the way the body sees it. So it’s just our body is going to react to whatever challenge comes at us. 


Sweet. We rise to the challenge and we either come back to our normal baseline, our calm, or we, we come down but not all the way. So now we have this new baseline that’s higher and now the next thing happens and we get kicked up even higher and then we don’t quite come down even to that. We stay escalated beyond that and, and so on and so on until all of a sudden we are just sitting on top of all of those big T kind of traumas. 


So Can you talk a little bit about what some of those little tea traumas were for you and your family and maybe some that you have heard from your community in the stream, things that pop up for them.  


[00:27:14] Brenda: Yeah. I like how you described that the sort of the mountain of little teas, because it is, for a family like ours and so many that are going through this, this usually doesn’t just hit you all in one day. 


It’s just this accumulation of. At first, it’s like weird things like, Oh, I found this, or I heard that, or I saw this picture. So there’s just this kind of growing steady flow of, of little incidences that aren’t sitting right with you. And I think that’s what starts that chain of, of stress in your body is, something’s not right, but you don’t know what’s not right, which is. 


actually more stressful than if you did know what, what was wrong. So you don’t know what’s wrong, something’s wrong. And I think for, for me personally, the, all the little t’s were the nights when I had no idea where my son was. I knew he was not home, and when you have a 16 year old who isn’t coming home and you know that they’re hanging out with People who are selling drugs and carrying guns and that’s incredibly stressful. 


The phone calls from the police, the phone calls from the hospital, all of those little things, like you said, they just kind of build and build and build. And I did not have any tools to help me regulate. And try to like, bring that back down. I didn’t meditate. I didn’t do yoga. I didn’t do anything other than just sit and worry and just make myself more sick and more sick. 


So when you’re talking about five years of these experiences, and even when they’re in treatment, you have these little periods where they’ll maybe, if we did, we had these little like brief spurts where he would get into a treatment program. And you would think that your body would just let down. 


But at that time, then you’re thinking about, what’s going to happen when they get out and where are they going to go? And what if he relapses? And and unless you have a very intentional practice or guide to help you bring that stress down, it just keeps building. It’s like the, the death by a thousand paper cuts. 


It’s just, it just keeps going and going. And so I think it’s all of those. Little incidences where you’re having these crazy situations happen in your home, where you’re the kid that you’ve known your whole life. That’s fun and cuddly and happy is all of a sudden throwing things and hiding things and not coming home for a week at a time. 


You’re just so shocked. Like, how could this be happening? That your stress level is just. I see, moms and their shoulders are just up around their ears and, they’re either, they’ve gained a hundred pounds or they’ve lost a hundred pounds. Like there’s, there’s all of this stuff that just manifests in your body. 


And it’s, it’s so toxic.  


[00:30:21] Ericka: Yeah. And, and there isn’t really a straightforward explanation for why an individual reacts the way they do. There’s, there’s no straight line diagnosis to treatment when it comes to the nervous system and the stress response because everyone is so different and a lot of it Depends on our own past, like how we were raised to handle challenges and threats that came at us as young people. 


And if that was less than perfect, which most of us are, all of us are less than perfect, right? Less than perfect. then, really all the body’s trying to do is adapt to your environment. And when the environment is so unstable. If for whatever reason doesn’t yeah, you know that they’re there. It doesn’t have a chance. 


It’s it’s just doesn’t have a chance You’re just holding on by the skin of your teeth by your fingernails Just to make it through the day The thing that stood out for me what you just said was when you were talking about the phone calls for me The phone calls of phone was where I actually noticed There’s the change like the physical change that happened in In my body. 


And then I realized why, like I, because it becomes a normal, it becomes your new normal. Your, your baseline is different than, than anybody else that someone who’s not in that situation. Okay. So for you, it’s normal to feel like this. for, for moms to feel like their shoulders are up. They think that’s like where they live, but this is where we live. 


And this is just where I am. but actually, no, we don’t need shoulders for earrings. We can drop them a little bit and relax. But, but for me, the phone, like I would hear, and it wasn’t even a phone ring. It was like the buzz of a text. And that was it. That was all it took. And I actually was, I found myself holding my breath and then I, I was like, I thought about it. 


I’m like, how many times a day do I hold my breath and for how long? And it was a long time. Like you have to breathe. Yes. So every time you hold your breath, you’re actually like jacking up your heart rate and everything. Yeah, it doesn’t matter how physically fit you are. You can’t take that for very long. 


[00:32:48] Brenda: And right. Yes. I hear you on the phone thing. My son still, he’s in a good place now, but when I see a text from him that says, Hey, can you talk, I just, my body goes into this stress response. Or the other day I walked. I was somewhere and a guy walked by me with the cologne on that my son wore during those years and I just froze because that smell just brought me instantly back to. 


All of the horrific things that happened during those years. And, and the same thing will happen when I see these kids walking around with the super, they’re super skinny and they have their jeans down around their butt and the belt and the baggy t shirt. And there, there is at least here in Seattle, I don’t know what it is like anywhere else, but there is a look like you can tell. 


I know when I see that kid, I know exactly what’s going on with him. Cause I saw it for years and years. And so when I see that, or I smell that cologne or yeah, the phone you do your body just immediately like flares up and it’s protect, protect, protect,  


[00:34:00] Ericka: protect you. Yeah. There is no in between. 


It’s not like a little bit. If there’s just, you just see some, it doesn’t matter. It’s all or nothing. And, and. at some point in our history, that was probably a good thing, but it’s interesting to as we, as you come out of a period of time when you were on that high alert for that many years later, you said five years living in this. 


And then there’s a slow, slow recovery period. So even if you wake up one day and your, your kid is in recovery by magic, instantaneously recovered, that doesn’t mean that you, your body stops living in that, in that high alert. It takes, I don’t know how long it takes. everybody’s going to be different for, for me. 


It took as many years. To come out of that state as it did to get into that state. That’s a long time. That can be a long time because you have to replace all of those things. Because for every phone call that I got, that was bad, I need to replace it with something that is not bad.  


so that’s going to take a long time and I still, to this day, I, I still brace for whatever, okay, just,  


[00:35:23] Brenda: yeah,  


[00:35:23] Ericka: it’s okay. 


That’s the first reaction now, even though like my daughter is in a much better place now and that’s wonderful, but I still feel that residual, those ripples that are still Echoing in my body. 


Welcome back to The Work In, everyone. I’m your host, Erica Thomas, and this is part two of our interview with Brenda Zane. And make no mistake, this story is not unique. Addiction can come in so many different forms. Legal, illegal, socially acceptable, or not socially acceptable. All substance use. is a form of external regulation. 


In fact, everything that we do, everything that we eat, everything that we drink, everything that we take, it all affects the nervous system. And that’s part of what makes Brenda’s story so interesting because you can really see the progression from just a little bit of stress in someone’s life To really toxic levels and what that can do to the body as we continue our discussion today, you are going to hear about some of the tools that were helpful in Brenda’s recovery from that highly escalated, very toxic level of stress that she was living in. 


We discuss. Therapy, Al Anon, The Craft System, and then, of course, her community, The Stream, and how that community is helping moms of teens in and out of active substance abuse in amazing and powerful ways. So let’s get started. with our work in today. In your story, you talk about finding a therapist. I’m wondering, when in your process were you able to do that? 


And was that the first thing that you, that started you back taking care of yourself? How did that come about? And what kinds of things did you pull out of that experience?  


[00:37:50] Brenda: so I did not start seeing a therapist until my son went to wilderness, which baffles me at this. Like now I look back on that and I think, wow, that, that was a mistake. 


I should have started seeing the therapist when we first started, seeing things go off the rails, but I didn’t. But when he was, when he went to wilderness therapy, the, The program that he was at had recommended that, all of us, as many of us that could in, in the aftermath get a therapist. 


And so I started seeing somebody here locally, and she was connected with his, with my son’s therapist out in the field in his wilderness program, which was fantastic. Fabulous. Because then at least we had this little unit that we were all connected. she did talk to me about self care. It’s still at that point. 


I didn’t really understand what that was. I just thought it was like therapist talk. I was like, yeah, yeah, yeah. I didn’t, I don’t know. I, I honestly did not understand what she was talking about. And so I think you just, you’re so focused on saving your child that. Anything else becomes secondary to that. 


So what I learned from seeing a therapist at that point was my role in not that I caused this by any means, but the role that I played in. Helping him get out of it because there were things that I could do that would really keep him in his state of mind and in that lifestyle, or there are things that I could do that could help encourage him to change. 


So that was a lot of the work that I did and just, to have somebody to talk to who wasn’t trying to fix anything necessarily, but just listen to me. And I just remember sitting on her couch and just. bawling most of the time. I was paying somebody 150 an hour just to cry. I would leave my job in the middle of the day. 


I would get in an Uber, go to my therapist who was like 10 minutes away, cry for an hour. And I always had to bring makeup on the days when I would see her because then I’d have to go in the bathroom, redo my makeup, go back to work, pretend like nothing It was insanity. It was complete insanity, but But she did just let me cry. 


And then at a point where my son had left, he was not in treatment. He was living back here in Seattle and active addiction. We were not seeing each other. We would go weeks without hearing from him. So there talk about the little teas, the, the thousands of little teas is every day that you don’t hear from your child. 


And you see these pictures on social media that he’s selling his shoes to To try and get money to buy drugs. And, you’re just like, is he alive today? And the only way I would know that he was alive is if I would see something on social media, or, at one point we did have him on our phone plan. 


So I would see okay, his phone was on today. So that’s a good sign. So that’s the stress that you’re living under for weeks and weeks at a time. And, and finally she said, my therapist said to me, Brenda, you can’t keep living like this. You have to have a plan. Like you can’t just live with your son, just out there roaming around and not knowing. 


And at this time he was 17. So this wasn’t, it’s not like he was 25 years old. He was 17 years old, almost 18. And so she helped me formulate a plan to reconnect with him, to keep our relationship, not enable him and do all of that, but just to keep a relationship with him for. If for nothing else, my own sanity, she’s I don’t know if it’s going to do anything for him, but you need to be able to live and you need to have some sanity. 


So I, I really, as, as much as people can, I say, yes, get a coach, get as much help as you can for your kid, but get a therapist for yourself because you’ve got to have somebody like that anchor. You could go back to somebody who’s sane, somebody who’s not emotionally attached to your child. That can keep your head above water during, during all of this. 


[00:42:01] Ericka: Yeah, that is so important to, to be able to talk to somebody who’s a little bit separated from the situation with you. The hardest part, I think, for parents of teenagers who are going through this substance abuse and addiction is that there’s a lot of messaging in In things like Al Anon and at least in my experience where they want you to let go of hope for your child and because we’re talking here today about teens, that is not possible. 


You have a teenager that you are legally responsible for and have expectations for. And when, when I was. Doing Alan on through the program. My daughter was involved with. I was actually appalled by the things that they were that they were telling us that basically we shouldn’t hold on to hope at all. 


And I understand objectively looking back. I think their purpose there was to establish some boundaries. For exactly what you were talking about, Brenda, about being able to function as a human being yourself without being, dragged into this, this codependent relationship, right? very toxic relationship with your child. 


I get that, but They’re still a child. They’re still, they’re still a dependent, even though they don’t want to be dependent on you, and you still carry that responsibility, and there’s always that guilt and that second guessing, what should I have noticed? When should I have seen this happening? What could I possibly have done different to make this happen? 


A different outcome and that kind of thinking can be so self destructive.  


[00:43:58] Brenda: Yes.  
 
[00:43:59] Ericka: That’s the kind of thing that a therapist can pull you out of. I’m not so sure that the Alan on an AA world pulls people out of that circular thinking. I think they, they, it’s possible. They just reinforce it because it’s about let’s tell the story, the same story over and over and over again. 


In my personal opinion, totally uneducated and not a professional therapist. That is less than helpful when you’re trying to downregulate a stress response. Staying there doesn’t do much. What, what was your experience and opinion in that? I asked you about what kind of support system there was. 


outside of your family, if the, the only support system is AA and Al Anon and those kinds of things, was that helpful for you? And would you recommend that for parents? It was  


[00:44:47] Brenda: helpful in some ways. So I’ll clarify how it was and wasn’t helpful. What was helpful was for me to sit in a room and this obviously was pretty, 2015. 


So not COVID. So I had the, I had the ability to walk into a room with 30 other parents who understood what it was like to have a child like this, and that was. was invaluable at the time because I didn’t have that anywhere else. And so just for that, just to be able to sit in a room and look at other faces that looked like mine and say, okay, I’m not the only one that was hugely valuable. 


And I spent a lot of time in those meetings just absorbing that. I don’t even know that I heard the words that were being said in the meetings sometimes. I, I remember going to a meeting one time and it was the day that I had to tell my son he couldn’t live with us anymore and he was, I think, a week away from turning 18, and at that point I was like, okay, he basically is 18 and I can do that. 


You can’t do that when they’re 15 or 16. And I, I remember saying that to somebody and she just said, okay, have a seat. she didn’t freak out. She didn’t react. So for that, it was extremely helpful. Then as I started observing, absorbing the words, I was getting a feeling of you just have to protect yourself. 


And I think there’s a, Distinction between detach and protect yourself and take care of yourself and at the same time, here’s how you can keep a relationship with your child while staying healthy because there is a way to do that. And I think that’s the big difference is I didn’t necessarily hear that. 


from the, the Al Anon group that I was in, and I think it does help a lot of people. And there’s people that have been there 20 years and God bless them for running those meetings and holding that space for people that need it. And if that, if that works for you and your family, then I am a hundred percent for it. 


It wasn’t a message that sat right with me. And again, I wasn’t processing everything really well. So I don’t want to say that I went, you that I could do a deep dive analysis on Al Anon because It was fairly surface level level for me. I was really there for just the support of knowing that there were other people, but I was getting twinges of that, and that didn’t sit well with me. 


And so I do remember that’s when my therapist was like, listen, you can still have a relationship with him. you don’t have to like this detach and let him go and let him hit She’s you don’t have to do that. That’s The approach of the 50s and 60s. We’re now in the, 2000s. There’s, there’s new stuff. 


There’s new stuff out there. And so that’s what I learned was, in more of the craft, which is a community reinforcement and family. training is how to keep yourself healthy. So you’re not just at the whim of your child who’s struggling with addiction. You keep yourself healthy and detached emotionally in the way that his problems didn’t have to be my problems. 


And I had to learn that big distinction, but to do it in a healthy way and keep a relationship with him, and then that way I could live and have peace with my own. body. It was still stressful. Like it’s still stressful when you know, your kids out there living on the streets and doing drugs, but it’s a step up from the complete, let it go and just let whatever is going to happen. 


It’s going to happen. I couldn’t, I just couldn’t live with that.  


[00:48:40] Ericka: Yeah. That’s brilliant. So can you talk a little bit more about the craft process and is that something that you have applied in the stream? Because it feels a lot like that  


[00:48:53] Brenda: when we’re in the community. Yeah. So craft is, community reinforcement and family training. 


And it’s basically an approach that’s to dealing with somebody who’s struggling with substance use and addiction to say, this is part of them. It’s not all of them. There’s still more to them than the addiction. That’s one piece of them. And it’s approach that helps families. Yeah. And parents learn how to change themselves and their approach to their child and to their situation that is loving and empathetic and keeps the relationship and helps. 


motivate that person to change their behavior instead of forcing them or threatening them or bribing them or trying to manipulate them into changing their behavior, which we all know doesn’t work because if that worked, there would be no addicts in the world. So it’s, it’s an approach that. Was unfortunately we didn’t, I didn’t find it while my son was younger. 


I really found it through my therapist and when he was toward the end, closer towards, his overdoses. And then we’ve definitely applied it. I’ve definitely applied it since then, but I do really advocate for that approach within the stream community, which is a community for moms who are struggling with kids with substance use issues, because otherwise. 


Everything is just so negative. Everything is about, I got to let them go. I got to let them hit rock bottom. And it’s just been scientifically proven that you don’t have to do that. So this isn’t just like fluffy feel good. Oh, let’s just all like Kumbaya. It is scientifically proven method to move people towards. 


Making changes. And that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to change and go into treatment or change and stop using. It could just be a couple of steps towards a healthier lifestyle. And, and it seems to be an approach that, that the moms in the community in particular are, are liking because. It lets you keep a relationship with your child. 


And we all want that. Some, some have to have it at a far further distance than others. We have some moms in our community that have kids that have been in addiction for 10 or more years and they, might be living on the streets or they may just be completely out of basically out of touch. But we also have moms who are, they have the 15 year old at home who’s smoking weed all day and they don’t know what to do. 


And so I don’t think there’s a mom in the world that says, Oh, I’d rather not have a relationship with my kid. Your relationship might look different than mine, but it can still be. a positive, healthy approach. I won’t say healthy relationship because it doesn’t, it cannot feel healthy. And that’s just the reality. 


I don’t want to make it sound like it’s all like rainbows and unicorns, but it’s a mentality and an approach that you can take that will let yourself stay sane and, and keep, keep a door open with your, with your child.  


[00:52:16] Ericka: In your journey with your son and with your, relationship with your own nervous system and your body, Brenda, how are you doing now? 


How has your, stress level changed with the change in your relationship with your son and incorporating all of these different kinds of aspects of, I want to say health, but how has your relationship with your body changed with your relationship with your son and incorporating all of these different kinds of aspects of, I want to say health, but It’s more than, it’s not really health. 


It’s about, and I don’t want to say self care either because it isn’t that. Oh, I hate  


[00:52:49] Brenda: that word. We need a new word. Somebody needs to invent a new word.  


A magic  


word.  


[00:52:55] Ericka: Honestly, I don’t understand what self care is because the definition I understand is I took a shower today, so I did my self care. 


that is not quite right. And so you’re absolutely right. We need a different self care. We need a different word. Let’s, let’s put it to the community and find out, find a new one. But I’m really curious about how you have started the process of coming back into a more healthy space within your body. 


[00:53:29] Brenda: I would say that today I am drastically, like if I had to put a number on it between one and a hundred, I would say 110 percent healthier than I was. I do still struggle with the SIBO, which that is another episode, which is small intestinal bacterial overgrowth because in part because of the stress, not entirely because of the stress. 


So there’s some other issues that cause SIBO, but I’m still in treatment for that because my body went through so much. Trauma, little t trauma with, with the stress. So I’m still dealing with that, but I, when my son, got out of the hospital, he was there for a month in the hospital. And then we moved him in with his dad and he went through a partial hospitalization program and intensive outpatient and, on and on and on. 


But at least he was in a safe container. And when I got back to my life, basically after, after he was in that safe container, I started really applying yoga. I’d really, I experimented with yoga before, but I was kind of like, and I know you used to be like this, like it had to be really hardcore or it wasn’t anything. 


so I started just because I was still in so much pain, I couldn’t really do anything else. I started stretching, working on flexibility. Trying to, trying to do some yoga, trying to do some bar, doing a little bit of Pilates, just because I, that was basically, and it was just teeny tiny little bits at the beginning, starting a whole new relationship with food, because food was the enemy, and it’s still a little kind of is the enemy, only because of the SIBO, but, just, I had to shift to say, food is not the enemy, food is going to be part of my solution. 


I switched to a plant based diet. I’ve, I’ve done so much, since 2017, that has really brought my body back into balance. I feel like for the most part, there’s still some weird oddities, but I don’t have the leg pain. I can basically do whatever I want to do. I have a strong core of a strong, back. 


I don’t have. Any physical pain day to day, which is massive. sure. I think you can overlook how like to wake up and not feel any, anything like, Oh, I feel great. That’s, that’s huge. When you come from a place where you can’t even walk. Absolutely. Yeah. But it takes a lot of focused work to do that. 


[00:56:06] Ericka: What do you do in the moment when you start to feel your stress response Ramping up. Is there anything that you have that is a go to for you in the moment? Or are you, just maintaining with a consistent practice of, of staying healthy?  


[00:56:29] Brenda: I would say that I’m fairly even, but when I get a whiff of that cologne or if I get the text message, anything that I feel starts that trigger, I have, I just breathe that the breathing for me is what I can use if I’m in the car to red light. 


If I’m, the great thing about like intentional breathing, Is is something that for me brings everything down so I just spend a few minutes doing some deep breathing exercises and that tends to free up brain space for me to say, okay, is this really a threat or is this really just my son texting me to tell me that he got a promotion at work, which is usually what it is so I, I, but I have to breathe a few times to get to the point where I can. 


Process that in my brain and ask myself the question and that’s what I do is I do some breathing and then I say is this really a threat is this really like here’s this poor kid walking through the grocery store like he’s he’s not intending to traumatize me he just happens to wear the same cologne you know it just gives me the brain space to say to to just be real real about it and and process what’s going on and ninety nine point nine percent of time there is no actual threat it’s just. 


A byproduct of what happened and I need to just work through that and then and then I’m fine. So yeah, I would say breathing for me and water just drinking water. Yeah, it’s amazing. Yeah. Magic of of just having some water in you. It’s  


[00:58:06] Ericka: true. It’s true. breathing is the fastest way into the nervous system. 


Absolutely. The fastest way to affect it in, in one way or the other. So we can either calm the nervous system or activate the nervous system just simply by changing how we breathe. yeah, so it’s, it’s a great tool to have. And that’s really what we need is just more tools. Yeah. to, to have because everybody is so different. 


And so if we can add more tools to the toolbox, that’s a great thing. And speaking of tools, can you tell us a little bit more about the stream and if people are interested in joining that community, what is it, what’s it all about and who is it for?  


[00:58:56] Brenda: Sure. So the stream is, my creation based out of what I didn’t have when I was going through this experience. 


So I did not have a tribe of other women who were going through the same thing as I was that I could reach out to and just connect with and say, am I saying, am I losing it? have you been through this? What did you do when this happened? And After leaving corporate America, I had a long career in advertising and marketing. 


I got certified as a health and wellness coach through the Mayo clinic. And I didn’t really know what I was going to do with that. I just knew that I liked all of the things that I had done for myself. And I wanted to share those. Things with other people, and then it made the most sense to share those with other people like me who had been through this horrible experience and, and it’s so isolating with so much stigma that I knew that there was probably thousands of other moms sitting in their closets crying like I was at the time with a kid who’s in, in addiction or struggling or experimenting. 


And so I just thought, what would the nirvana have been when I was going through it? And I thought, man, if I could have had kind of a positive place to go online, because it’s always two o’clock in the morning, you never have this need at, three o’clock on a Saturday. It’s always two o’clock in the morning, you’re freaking out. 


You need to know that there’s other people out there. And so it’s just an online space that’s positive. Positively focused. And I think that’s a big difference from other support groups that are out. There is this isn’t a place to rant and rave and post pictures of, your child passed out in their car or the drugs that you just found in their closet. 


And it’s not that we’re trying to fake anything. We’re just saying. Life can suck a lot, but there’s also something positive things that we can do. And so we choose to focus on the positive. We do share our struggles and we do share, Hey, I need this today. I’m really struggling with this. But I have found that there is a group of women out there who are saying, I am not going to let this take me down. 


I am going to. bring every resource I have to it. I’m going to find other people who’ve been through it and learn from them. And we’re going to lock arms and say, okay, this is what I’m going through, but I’m not going to let it take me down. And I’m going to be stronger together with other women who are going through it as well. 


It’s kind of like, how there’s this movement. Where, for like the sober curious community and there she recovers and there’s tempest and there’s all these really cool groups for women in particular. And I’m sure there’s ones for men. I just don’t see them to say it’s cool. And it’s okay to say, I want to stop drinking. 


And that’s always been in the closet. And that’s always been a shameful thing. And I’m trying to do the same thing with these women who, Are, have always had to hide the fact that they had a kid who was struggling in addiction. And it’s you know what? It’s life. It’s what happens. And we don’t, we don’t have to put it in the closet and make it really like, Ooh, I don’t want to talk about this. 


And so the stream is this place where, really cool moms, really smart, intelligent women. Are getting together and saying, Holy cow, I didn’t know there’s all these other people going through the same thing and let’s be positive about it. Let’s have a little bit of fun because life is hard enough as it is. 


So we have a book club where we, we have a rule that we cannot read books that are anything about treatment or addiction or like anything. They just have to be fun. We have guest speakers. You do this amazing yoga class for us. We do live meditation. It’s just, it’s just, and you could describe it. 


I don’t know. I’d be curious to hear your, your take on it. Cause you’re an advisor member for us, but I just look at it as I feel like I’m just opening my home to, to this group of women and what would I want to, what would I want that experience to be when they come into my home? I would want it to be lovely. 


I would want it to be welcoming. I would want there to be some good snacks and, just like a really nice place to be together. So that’s what I try to make it.  


[01:03:25] Ericka: Really? It is all those things except the snacks. Like we get virtual  


[01:03:30] Brenda: snacks. we do say for our Saturday zoom calls, bring a snack and a mug of something. 


So  


until the  


internet can figure out a way to do virtual snacks.  


[01:03:42] Ericka: Virtual snacks would be amazing. Yes.  


[01:03:45] Brenda: Oh, that would be brilliant.  


[01:03:47] Ericka: Yes, for sure. So Brenda, I just want to thank you for your time today and it’s a great conversation. I always enjoy talking to you and I love seeing you in the stream and your podcast is phenomenal and I highly recommend you have some fantastic guests on there and it’s such a resource and it’s a resource. 


A standalone resource that I wish that I had had 10 years ago and it wasn’t there. They just, it was just so hard to find out anything about addiction with teens. It just wasn’t available. So I think you are doing a phenomenal job changing the world in a really, really beautiful way. And anything I can do to support that is what I want to do. 


So I really appreciate you and I appreciate your time today. So thank you. You’re  


[01:04:43] Brenda: welcome. Thank you so much for listening. If you would like to go to the show notes, you can always find those at brendazane. com forward slash podcast. Each episode is listed there with full transcript, all of the resources that we mentioned, as well as a place to leave comments. 


If you would like to do that. You might also want to download a free ebook I wrote called Hindsight, Three Things I Wish I Knew When My Son Was Addicted to Drugs. It’s full of the information I wish I would have known when my son was struggling with his addiction. You can grab that at brendazane. com forward slash hindsight. 


Thanks again for listening and I will meet you right back here next week.

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