Why Your Child’s Substance Use Makes Perfect Sense And Four Helpful Strategies When They’re Not Open To Change, with Brenda Zane

Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Why Your Child’s Substance Use Makes Perfect Sense And Four Helpful Strategies When They’re Not Open To Change, with Brenda Zane

This episode will give you an alternative view of your child's substance use that might create more space for empathy and an understanding of why they continue in high-risk behaviors. I share four helpful things you can do when your child isn't showing signs of wanting to change what they're doing and you're pulling your hair out.

You'll come away from this short, solo episode with a new perspective and some tools to try this week that will improve your life and could also make a significant impact in your child's life as well.


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Welcome, welcome. For today’s episode, I am going to share some perspective with you that might be helpful if your son or daughter, or just basically anyone that you love is struggling with using drugs or alcohol in an unhealthy way. And I want to focus on this today because parents that I work with are often at their absolute wit’s end to understand why their child would do something that is so obviously, and blatantly unhealthy and dangerous. Coming from our perspective. 
And when I say unhealthy and dangerous. I’m not talking about like eating a ton of fast food or going bungee jumping. Most parents, if you’re listening to this, you would actually be thrilled if those were the kinds of dangerous things that you needed to worry about. Rather than running around with drug dealers and gang members and swallowing pills that have potentially lethal levels of chemicals in them. Oh, well, also drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana and driving, just to add to the level of crazy and danger. So if that’s you, if those are the kinds of things that you worry about, you’re in the right place from a podcast listening perspective. 
I think, really easy for us and for society in general, to see that using drugs and alcohol to an unhealthy extent is bad for your body and bad for your brain. And just generally a bad idea if you want to live a full and healthy life. Yet our kids do these things regularly. And often they won’t admit that there’s any problem at all. So we being concerned parents, enlighten them about how bad this is and that they need to stop, which usually turns into a yelling match or with somebody slamming the door and leaving with lots of profanity involved. 
What’s important to recognize is that your child has actually chosen a really effective coping mechanism Xanax and marijuana relieve anxiety really, really well. Alcohol does an amazing job of relaxing you and lowering your inhibitions. So your son or daughter has found a strategy that works for them. And then you go and tell them that they have a problem and need to stop using this thing that works amazingly well at making them feel better. Of course, they’re going to battle you on that. 
Now, their strategy has so serious flaws in it, right? It’s highly dangerous, it’s bad for their body and their physical health. It’s causing problems in your relationship. They might also have some school and legal problems because of it. So there’s that. But until those things become unbearable, the effectiveness of their strategy is going to win every time. From their perspective, they have anxiety, or social awkwardness, or loneliness, or depression. And then they do this thing over here. And they suddenly feel better and cool. Like, what’s the problem, Mom? Why are you overreacting, dad?
Their behavior is positively reinforced when the anxiety goes away, or when they can suddenly hang with their friends and fit in. So the more that we pick out the wound and rub the salt in it and tell them to stop using this highly effective tool, the more their anxiety builds, their depression can get worse, and their friends who are not telling them those things become more attractive to hang out with. And then that whole cycle continues. 
So if you start looking at the substance as the solution instead of the problem, it can help refocus your efforts at helping your son or daughter come up with different, less destructive coping strategies. Now, I am all about keeping it real. And it would be Nirvana. If you could just sit down with your 20 year old daughter and say, Honey, I know what you really want is to feel less anxiety. Let’s talk about that. And then she says, Oh, Mom, you’re right. I’ll just go on a walk, do some meditation, instead of taking that Xanax bar. Gosh, I’m glad we had this chat. 
If that ever happens to anyone, please send me an email. And we will get you on the podcast to teach us all how to do it. But I’m guessing this is not all entirely new information to you, you’ve probably heard at least aspects of this somewhere else. And yet, you haven’t been able to get your child to stop using drugs and alcohol in an unhealthy way. And you are probably pulling your hair out. 
I personally recall talking to my son trying to uncover what he was coming out with all of the drugs. And he would just laugh at me and tell me I’d been talking to too many psychiatrists, and that he wasn’t numbing anything out. He just liked to party and hang out with his friends. Oh, and the marijuana did help with his ADHD. But that wasn’t really a big deal, because it’s just weed and it’s legal. So whatever. So I get it, I totally get it. 
You may have spent a lot of time educating yourself about this. And know that the drugs and alcohol are the solution and not the problem. But when your kid won’t acknowledge anxiety, or depression, or learning issues, or emotional or physical trauma, then what do you do? Or you might be thinking when he or she first started using, that was true, but now my kid is a few years or more into this. And they’re not even using for the initial impact or problem that that drugs have anymore. They’re just using because they go into withdrawals if they don’t, and they’ve been beat up, and they’ve been to jail. And they’ve been kicked out of school and apartments, and severed all their relationships with family and friends. So how is it possible that they can’t see that this is an issue and want to fix it? 
Well, I am not a therapist or doctor of any kind. But I have spent a lot of time in this world and learning from all of those therapists and doctors. And there are a few things that you can do. I’ll warn you though, none of them are quick fixes. None of these are going to work overnight. So you just need to go into this knowing it’s a long game. Here are four things that I have learned from the people around me that you can actually do when you’re in this incredibly painful and frustrating place. 
Learning number one, you aren’t going to fix this for your child. There is something that’s oddly freeing about realizing that you cannot fix this for your child, it doesn’t mean that you are powerless, it doesn’t mean that you are ineffective. It just means that this is a door where the lock is on the inside, you don’t have access to it. You can make your son or daughter more or less likely to want to find the keys. And you can even tell them where to find a locksmith. But ultimately, you can’t unlock this door. 
This realization and acceptance can help shift your entire focus away from fixing and changing them to working on yourself. This means educating yourself learning new skills, getting yourself healthy and whole, and being a resource for them. So it turns you more into a consultant than a surgeon. 
Learning number two, since you aren’t going to fix this for your child, do what you can to keep them safer while they’re using. Now I know this stuff all sounds good. But you’re thinking yeah, but each day that he or she goes out and uses I’m afraid that they are going to overdose on fentanyl, or get in an accident and kill themselves or someone else. And my friends, those fears are 100% valid. Because of fentanyl, using street drugs is a literal Russian Roulette and drunk driving or high driving or “Xanned-out” driving is a reality. 
And if it were just a matter of them killing some brain cells for a few years while they matured, this whole thing would be painful and torturous enough. But this has become a day by day, hour-by-hour level of fear for parents in your position. And that is just something that I think not a lot of people understand. 
Boundaries play a role here where you can make it more difficult for them to get and use substances. This is a deep, long topic in itself this topic of boundaries. So I would highly recommend going back and listening to Episode 41 with Dr. Julie Jarvis for a really great discussion on boundaries. That in a nutshell, just don’t make it easier for them by allowing it in your home or helping to fund their life or their purchases. I’m going to leave that there just because we would spend two hours going into this topic, but definitely pop back to Episode 41 for more on that topic around boundaries. 
Also, because of the very real and present danger with fentanyl, you are going to need to have a direct and blunt conversation with your son or daughter about Narcan. It’s an overdose reversal drug that can and might save their life. But it can only do that if they have it. And if you have it in your house. Narcan is the only reason that my son is alive today. He was saved with it twice that I know of. And so I’m a really big fan. And it is really important for you to have. 
It’s also important to know that even if your child is what you believe just taking Xanax a benzodiazepine, or maybe they’re using meth, or maybe they’re using cocaine. And so you think well, I don’t need Narcan in my house. That’s actually not true. Because today, all the street drugs are being cut with fentanyl at some level or another. And so they are finding traces of fentanyl in drugs like meth and cocaine and Xanax, because those are being manufactured illicitly. So just because your son or daughter isn’t taking an opioid, so maybe that’s oxy, heroin, fentanyl, just because they’re not taking those that you know of, does not mean that you don’t need to have Narcan in your house. 
Part of this conversation also is about doing drug testing to know what chemicals are in whatever it is that they’re taking, and is also offering up safer options to what they’re doing, which I know sounds awful as a parent, I know. But having them alive and carrying a couple of doses of Narcan is way better than having them in a grave. And in Episode 46. I talked with Dr. Nzinga Harrison about this concept of harm reduction and some of the really practical things that you can do. So be sure to go take a listen to that episode 46. She’s amazing and gives some really, really great things to think about in that episode. 
Learning number three, since you aren’t going to fix this for your child learn skills that move them toward becoming more open, and toward becoming more aware of what’s going on with them. You’re gonna learn a lot about a lot of things with a child who’s experimenting with or addicted to drugs and alcohol you to start, you can kind of consider it a bonus education that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. 
But seriously, if you’re invested in this process, and you believe that your role is to help motivate your son or daughter to change rather than to fix them, you are going to be amazed at the things you learn. And the great news is that this is all really practical stuff that you can apply to all the relationships in your life. It doesn’t only work with kids who are abusing substances. This works in your personal life with spouses and partners, significant others with parents, with other children in your professional setting. So there’s a silver lining for you. It really is valuable information to learn. 
And you’re already doing a lot of that by just listening to this podcast, you are educating yourself building new skills, you can read all the books that are recommended by the guests here in the podcast, definitely dive into www.drugfree.org. It’s the website for the Partnership to End addiction. They have amazing free resources and content. They offer free parent coaching, free helplines, free text message, help and hope by text, online courses that you can take online support groups. So just a ton of incredible content for you there that’s all free. 
Read Beyond Addiction, I know you’re probably really tired of me saying that if you’ve been listening to Hopestream for a while, this is a book that will help. And you can work through the 20-Minute Parent Guide that goes with that can’t say enough good about that book. 
Also, tap into trusted resources. A lot of them that I mentioned here and who I spent time getting to know and interviewing on the podcast. One of those is all kinds of therapy.com where you can look for people and programs, whether you’re looking for treatment, if you’re looking for an educational consultant to help you through this process. Or if you just want to learn there are tons and tons of blog posts and articles there about this whole process of trying to find the right resources and help for your son or daughter.
Learning four: Since you aren’t going to fix this for your child, give them the healthiest, most well-prepared parent, you can. If you were going to hire somebody to work closely with your child during this situation during this part of your journey, would you look for somebody who wasn’t sleeping or eating well, was debilitated by fear and anxiety hadn’t read or studied the most recent evidence-based treatment options, and was basically a hot mess. No, you wouldn’t. So don’t be that person. 
Because you are most likely one of the biggest, if not the biggest influence in your child’s life right now. Whether it feels like it or not, I know that they will tell you that you are a terrible parent, you’re the worst mom in the world. You’re a horrible Dad, you have ruined their life, I could go on and on with all of the things that you’re probably hearing right now. But know that you are absolutely big influence in their life. So there are a few non-negotiables that I’m going to share with you when it comes to taking care of yourself.
The first, get yourself a therapist, this is a must, must, must-do if you’re going to do well through this process. There are lots of resources for that great online options if you need that right now. But get yourself a therapist that is the person who is going to be there for you and can catch a lot of the emotion, the anxiety, the fear that you don’t want to be projecting onto your son or daughter. 
A second is move your body every day, it doesn’t matter what you do. Just get up get out of your chair, get out of your bed, wherever you are, you just have to move. 
Next is put real food and water into your body. Think of it as gas if you need to. Just don’t let this most important vehicle of the whole process run on empty, you’re not going to be able to function. 
The next one is figure out how to sleep. Again, sleep is a huge topic with lots and lots of information behind it. If you want, you can go back to Episode 10, where I did a whole episode on sleep and how you can try to get more of it and better quality. So Episode 10, you can go back and listen to that.
And then gather a support team around you, friends or family members who can hang with the crazy. Okay, so these are the Super Friends and the superfamily members, the ones who won’t judge you, the ones who will actually be there to prop you up when you need it. And if you don’t have one of those, and that’s fairly normal, this is a really difficult thing, and people are already stressed out in their own life. So if you don’t have somebody in your life right now, who you feel can be that supportive scaffolding for you find it elsewhere, join an online group, find an Al-Anon group that you like, there are free parenting support groups at drugfree.org, you can check out, the community that I host called The Stream for moms, whatever it is lean into them right now, because you’ve got to have some of that support holding you up. 
Okay, well, that was a lot. So I’m going to leave it there for you. Definitely, if you want any of those references, back to other episodes, go to the show notes. BrendaZane.com/podcast, you can check out the show notes there that will be listed. 
And for a quick summary of these four learnings that you can use right now, if you’re pulling your hair out, your child isn’t really interested in changing their behavior. 
Learning number one, just know, you aren’t going to fix this for your child. That is not your role in this.
Learning number two, since you aren’t going to fix this for your child, do what you can to keep them safer. While they are still using. 
Learning number three, since you aren’t going to fix this for your child learn skills that move them toward becoming more open to and more aware of what’s going on within themselves. 
And then learning four, since you aren’t going to fix this for your child, give them the healthiest, most well-prepared parent, you can. 
Also, if you want to get on my email list, so you can get the email every Wednesday that I send out just as a way to support you and what you’re going through you can go to Brendazane.com/email and just drop your email there and I’ll send you a short kind of one-pager email on Wednesdays, and I would love to be able to do that for you.
You might also want to download my free ebook called “HINDSIGHT, Three Things I Wish I Knew When My Son Was Addicted To Drugs.” It is packed with information that I truly wish I had known back in the darker years with my son. And so I share it now in case it might be helpful to you in your journey. You can get that at Brendazane.com/hindsight, and I will put a link to both of these resources in the show notes as well. 

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