Ten Recovery Eye-Openers For Parenting a Child Through Substance Misuse or Addiction, with Brenda Zane

Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Ten Recovery Eye-Openers For Parenting a Child Through Substance Misuse or Addiction, with Brenda Zane

For parents who are on a roller coaster ride with their kids who misuse drugs and alcohol and struggle with mental health, recovery can sometimes feel like an elusive dream. 

So, after 187 episodes where I’ve talked with experts, people in recovery, parents, siblings, and my son who’s in recovery, I wanted to distill down 10 of the top eye-opening recovery insights I’ve gathered on this journey. ⁠I also share related episodes for these so you can dive deeper into the ones that resonate most. 

If you’re looking for ways to stay positive and hopeful or wondering how to be helpful as your child is in the early stages of recovery, this is your episode.


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 0:01You might feel like you’re out of options or like you’re banging your head against a brick wall and nothing you’re doing is working. I get it. I have been there and it is not a good place to be. However, I hear it time and time again from people on the other side of their addiction. Please do not give up on me. You might be the only person your child sees who they believe will be there for them when that moment comes and they say, I can’t do this anymore. I need help. Hey, it has been a bit since we’ve had a one on one chat. If you’re listening in real time, we are coming off a great month of September where we focused on recovery and it was so impactful. I got so much great feedback that I wanted to do a follow up episode with just a few more thoughts that have come to me since recording those episodes. I have the unique position of talking with lots of people about addiction and substance use. And treatment and recovery and mental health, it’s what I do pretty much all day every day. And because of that, I get soaked in a lot of insight from very wise and seasoned people. And as I was reflecting on all of the episodes I’ve done about recovery, I thought it might be helpful to do a condensed version that gathers up the things I hear over and over and share them with you in one place. I’m hoping it might buoy you if you feel like you’re drowning in difficult decisions and cycles of hard conversations, which I know you might be. And because I know you’ve got a lot going on, and you’re probably listening on the go and not sitting and taking notes, I’ve created a PDF in the show notes that you can download and keep in your back pocket for times when you might be discouraged or when you have an opportunity with your child. And you need a little cheat sheet on how to respond or how not to respond. So here are 10 things I hear the most from people about their substance misuse and their journey to recovery. And they are in no particular order. Number one is the friends, the people your child spends time with absolutely impact their decisions and actions. I hear it over and over that as their friend group changed, so did these people’s choices, their mindset, and their use of substances. Especially for teens, their friend group is basically everything in life. And if your child has had a hard time fitting in, and then they find a group that are accepting and they make them feel important and like they’re part of the crowd, that’s going to be hard for them to say no to. So what’s the takeaway here? I would say to just be aware of shifting friends as part of your overall assessment of your child’s well being. If they have gravitated toward a whole new set of friends that you don’t know, it would be worth using some motivational interviewing skills to find out why they’re doing that and what they’re 160, Episode 160 with Dr. Emily Klein is a great place to start if you’re curious about motivational interviewing. Number two, another thing I hear from people in recovery about their experience is, I’m trying. Despite what you may be seeing and hearing, there’s a good chance your child is actually attempting to make some change in their life. But think about it. There’s usually a lot of collateral damage in the wake of someone who’s misusing drugs and alcohol, and if they’re at the point of physical dependence or addiction, their body is saying, Whoa, whoa, whoa. No, you’re not going to stop. We need that to not feel horribly sick. So change doesn’t come easy and most likely feels incredibly overwhelming to your child, even if it seems very simple to you. There’s a lot going on in their mind and body that you probably can’t relate to or comprehend. So approaching the idea of change with a whole lot of empathy will go a long way. And when you’re having conversations about change, keep in mind the stages of change model so you know how to interact depending on what stage your child is in. You can go way back in your podcast machine to episode 66 for an overview of what the stages of change are. We also host a workshop on the stages of change regularly, and you can find that at hopestreamcommunity. org. Number three. This one is a universal statement I hear from people, specifically when they are talking about the relationship with their parents. And that is, be a safe place for me. I can’t even recall how many times I have heard this from podcast guests who really needed their parents to be there for them, to be a safe place for them to share their struggles because young people truly do value their parent relationships. And if it is safe to do so, they will come to you with requests for help or to share what they’re going through. unfortunately, a lot of the time our kids don’t come to us because they feel threatened or like they’re going to be judged, criticized, or I hear this often as well, they’re just going to ship me off to treatment. This is such an important insight to spend some time with. Think about how you respond or react when and if your child has tried to talk with you about what’s going on with them. I get it. It’s uncomfortable. It’s not an easy conversation to have. Also think about the signals you send, even without trying or knowing, about people who are different from you or who may be misusing substances. Your child is watching you closely. everything from your body language to your words to gauge how you might respond if they come to you. Number four observation from talking with a lot of people who have struggled with substances is that being sober is not the same as being in recovery. Once you have been on this roller coaster for a while, you start to notice nuances about how people navigate life after substances and addiction have ruled their lives. And this realization that being sober is not the same as being in recovery is one that is so important to understand, especially when your child is newly quote unquote sober or transitioning out of a treatment setting and readjusting to life without the buffers of drugs or alcohol. What I have learned through so many of these conversations is that being sober in the absence of a new life of healthy people and activity. It’s an exercise in sheer willpower and it takes a lot of grit and willpower to get through a day and just not use substances. Whereas a life that is already full and rewarding on its own doesn’t require that grit and willpower because the substances have been crowded out or replaced. Jo Collette talks about this in episode number 135, how she white knuckled it through Six years of sobriety before she created a full and robust and beautiful life of recovery. It is definitely one to check out if you’re curious about the difference. Number five is just a statement and it says, I finally decided. As you may know, there is quite a bit of controversy around the term rock bottom, and rather than sit here and debate words, I think it’s worth sharing that the majority of people I’ve talked with and who I know who are in recovery from addiction, say something to the effect of, and then I finally decided I didn’t want that anymore, or I couldn’t do it anymore. I knew I had to get help and change. What’s important about this is that it starts with I. I finally knew, I decided, I realized, not my dad told me or my mom sent me this link. Not that those are bad things, but when your child makes that realization, that’s when lasting change is more likely to happen. I know from personal experience that I couldn’t ever imagine my son saying or thinking this until he did. It took a very dramatic experience for him to get there, but he did. And my pushing and prodding, pleading, threatening, all of those things never worked. One of the reasons I am such a fan of the Invitation to Change approach is that it helps you create conditions in your home and your relationships that can help your child get to, quote, I finally realized, sooner than later. If you want to know more about that approach and how you can start to motivate your child to change, take a listen to episode 138 with Dina Cannizzaro. She used the invitation to change approach with her son Parker, who finally decided he didn’t want to live in his addiction to IV heroin any longer. I promise this is an episode you will get a lot from.
10:24If you’re here today, there is a good chance you may want other resources that will help you navigate a tricky and scary season of life. Well, I have some good news for you because we’ve combined all the information you need into a one stop shop for parents called HopeStream Community. It’s the gathering place where you can exhale, know you’re not alone, and find a lot of ways to start improving the dynamics in your family. We offer private online communities, retreats, workshops, and of course, the podcast HopeStream Community exists solely to help you, because we know that when you’re better equipped to help your child, no matter what stage they’re in, they have a better chance at recovery. You are not helpless when your child misuses substances. So after the episode, go to HopeStreamCommunity. org to get plugged in to our amazing resources. And now back to the show.
 11:18number six, I wanted to fit in and then I became addicted. You might be parenting a child who desperately wants to fit in with a social group, with a group of friends, and when they find alcohol or weed or they realize that their ADHD medication is in high demand, it becomes their calling card to hang out with the cool people. And the more time they spend with those new friends in a new lifestyle that is exciting and rewarding and oftentimes a little risky and they continue to use substances, the more important those substances become in their life. And what we know about Substances like alcohol and especially today’s t h C concentrates is they are highly addictive. So even if our kids are primarily using them to be part of the cool crowd, They’re still susceptible to dependency and addiction. I hear this from many of my podcast guests and even my son who say that, yes, the substance felt great, but it was the social acceptance. That was their primary reason for using. And then at some point they didn’t have a choice, but to keep using because of the body’s need for the substance. A great episode to dig deeper into this is number 110 with Dr. Anna Lemke, who wrote the must read book, Dopamine Nation. You will learn a ton about the body’s physiological response to drugs and alcohol, which can really help shift your response to anyone who has an unhealthy relationship with them. Number seven, a common recovery statement or request really is, Don’t give up on me. You may be at a point of total exasperation, feeling like you’re at the end of your rope with your child. You might feel like you’re out of options or like you’re banging your head against a brick wall and nothing you’re doing is working. I get it. I have been there and it is not a good place to be. However, I hear it time and time again from people on the other side of their addiction. And that is, please do not give up on me. You might be the only person your child sees who they believe will be there for them when that moment comes and they say, I can’t do this anymore. I need help. They may feel inside like they’ve burned all their bridges and they need to know that you’re not going to give up on them. My guests tell me all the time how lonely it is to be in that place where you’re not understood. You don’t necessarily like, let alone love yourself, and you feel completely hopeless. So, to know there’s someone who isn’t going to abandon them is critically important. This doesn’t mean, though, that you’re running to rescue them or that you don’t have healthy boundaries. That’s not what I’m talking about here. Continuing to rescue them from natural consequences or allowing yourself to be a doormat to their destructive behavior Really is not helping them. It’s actually prolonging the time they spend in their addictive cycle. You can take a listen to episode 1 74 with my business partner and sometimes co-host Kathy for a conversation we had around boundaries and natural consequences. It’s a good one that will help with that distinction between being there for them not giving up on them and. Also staying healthy and sane yourself. Number eight, and probably the most common theme I hear from people in recovery is, my substance use solved a problem for me. If you’ve spent any time with Dr. Gabor Maté’s work, you probably know his famous saying, don’t ask why the addiction, ask why the pain. And I talk about it here often, that the substances are the solution to a problem, not the problem. They are a problem, but they’re not the problem. Really understanding this is the beginning of taking an empathetic and compassionate approach to your child’s struggle, rather than anger and frustration. It also just makes common sense that people do things because they’re getting something from it. If they didn’t get anything from it, they wouldn’t do it. And I know when you’re riding the roller coaster with your child, it can be really easy to forget this because the symptoms they’re likely displaying are hurtful and dangerous, they seem to not make any sense, and you can think, my kid is just angry and mean and doesn’t care about me or how I feel about all of this. If this is where you are, Please, please, please go back and listen to episode 131 with Dr. Gabor Mate. It’ll be helpful in gaining that compassion for what your child is going through. Number nine, always enable recovery. Enabling is one of those words I wish we could ban from the conversation about parents and kids who are struggling with substances. But since that’ll probably never happen, I hope that we can start to think about it in a new way. Repeatedly, I hear from people in recovery that when the person who had been making it easier for them to use stepped aside and allowed natural consequences to happen, they started to change. And one way you as a parent can do this is to enable recovery for your child. This doesn’t mean you need to pay a billion dollars for treatment for them or to come running any time they say they want to go to treatment. It means that you’re there as a safe place for them when they want to move closer toward getting help in whatever way you are able to. That might mean that you’re willing to do some research or that you’re able to provide transportation to treatment or neither of those, but you are supportive and encouraging. And a really important part of this is that you’re keeping yourself whole and healthy, which leads to number 10, which is please take care of yourself. That’s your job, not mine. Oh, this one is so important and also can be hard to hear and absorb because it might feel counterintuitive to what you’re used to. When we make our kids responsible for our mood, our mindset, our happiness and feelings, it creates a burden on them That isn’t fair. If you’re in the mentality of, I can only be as happy as my unhappiest child, then this point is for you. Think about this in terms of someone you know and love, and what a heavy lift it would be if you had to live and act in a certain way, or else they would be sad, depressed, angry, floundering in their work, and overall miserable. That’s a lot to carry on your shoulders, especially if you have your own mental health issues and you’re grappling with an addiction. If you’ll take on your own wellness, mental, emotional, and physical, it’ll lift that responsibility from your child’s shoulders. That’s your job to do not theirs. If you want to go deeper on this subject, I would highly recommend going back to episode 101 with Dr. Brad Reedy, whose books Journey of the Heroic Parent and The Audacity to Be You will shed a lot of light on why this is so important when our kids are hurting. Okay, my friend, I felt that it with you. Because when I see patterns like this, it tells me to pay attention. And these are 10 truths that can and should be really enlightening for you, even if your child is in or moving toward full recovery. Leaning into them and digging deeper into these episodes I mentioned can be a very, very potent antidote to feelings of despair or negativity if you’re feeling stuck. And, if you have not yet downloaded the free e book that I wrote called Hindsight, Three Things I Wish I Knew When My Son Was Misusing Drugs, you can download that for free at BrendaZane. com forward slash hindsight. It is full of information that will give you insight about what’s going on with your child and also importantly, it will help you start to be healthier through that experience. I’m so glad you were here today. I’m so glad you are leaning into the work that you can do with your family. I appreciate it. Your family appreciates it, and especially our entire communities appreciate it. So be really good to yourself, and I will meet you right back here next week.


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