• Parenting An Addicted Child | Brenda Zane | Episode 143

  • Parenting an addicted childToday’s show is about parenting a teen who is addicted to drugs. Not someone who’s in recovery or has moved through recovery, but a child who is actively abusing drugs. It’s not a pretty topic and many would say it’s not an uplifting one but this show is uplifting because we are all here to understand; to understand what other parents are going through, to understand how we can support another family who may be living through this, to understand what our teens are going through and to understand what we can do if it happens to us. Addiction is not selective. It isn’t governed by geographic, economic, or ethnic boundaries. Brenda Zane joins Mighty Parenting podcast host Sandy Fowler to share her story of parenting an addicted child. Brenda shares her story along with support, direction, and hope.


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    A Favorite Quote from the Show: 

    “It’s not your job to fix your child. It’s your job to support them and pull in resources. It’s also your job to take care of yourself.”

    High Points From Our Conversation About Parenting an Addicted Child:

    It's not a parent's job to fix an addicted childDiscovering your child is an addict can be a slow process. Brenda noticed changes in her son around 8th grade. He was caught with marijuana in school and other little things popped up as well. His grades changed, His friend group changed. It wasn’t clear what was happening because he’d also entered middle school at the time. As a parent you’re also asking yourself if this is a phase. It’s normal for kids to experiment and distance themselves from parents at that age.

    When John was diagnosed with ADD they tried a variety of medications. Later on John told Brenda, “Mom, the only time I feel normal is when I smoke pot”.

    He’s one of those kids who is wired for risk, adventure and danger. That combined with social pressure. He began to lose touch with kids in neighborhood because they were all very athletic and he wasn’t. Then, when he was caught with marijuana, the other parents didn’t want their kids to hang out with a kid who did drugs.

    He looked for new friends and the bar was pretty low so he ended up with a group of kids who weren’t the best influence.

    He’s a highly sensitive kid and when his parents got divorced it shattered his world. He didn’t portray that on the outside but he felt a tremendous amount of loss.

    You start wondering if this is a phase and if you’re losing connection with your child. It’s normal to act out once in a while or be argumentative. If you still have that underlying relationship you’ve had then you’re probably okay. But they really lost connection with John. At 15 1/2 it wasn’t really a drug addiction. It was an addiction to this lifestyle with the other kids who didn’t really have any parental support, they didn’t have to be home at a particular time. 

    Eventually you see a consistent pattern of substance use, skipping school, etc, you start to realize this isn’t a phase. At that point you need to be strong and get some help in your corner.

    You need to think of addiction like any other life-threatening disease.

    Unfortunately, parents don’t discuss their children’s addictions. The stigma causes parents to keep drug addiction to themselves. 

    You feel guilty and think the addiction is a reflection of your choices and parenting skills. But you didn’t make this happen and you don’t have time to feel guilty about it. Instead, think of it like any other life-threatening disease. It helps take away the stigma and spurs action. It lets you become the fierce mama bear you would be if they had cancer or another life-threatening disease and needed help.

    If someone tells you they have an addicted child you’ll likely feel uncomfortable and not know what to say. All they need is your support. They need you to validate the scariness of the situation, the unknown of it, the exhaustion of it. Simply say something like, “Oh my gosh. That must be so scary”. You can offer to look for resources or to cook a dinner or to do the laundry.

    You’re keeping the house going, caring for other family members, working, and trying to save your child. And while you’re trying to save your child they are fighting you along the way. It can feel defeating. Imagine if they had cancer and refused to get chemotherapy.

    When a parent is living through their child’s drug addiction they forget that things like getting a call from jail aren’t normal. If they tell you about something like that which is startling to you, try to be matter of fact about it.

    Who is fighting for you?

    If someone offers help, accept it.

    Brenda’s son was scared and confused. He wasn’t doing this to hurt her. Drug addicts do terrible things to their parents. They steal, lie, and say things like, “I hate you” or “You’re the worst parent in the world” but they aren’t really directing it at you personally.

    Remember, this is a person who is really hurting.

    It’s not your job to fix your child. It’s your job to support them and pull in resources.

    It’s your job to take care of yourself and to do your own work around learning to interact, communicate, and draw boundaries in a new way. You need to eat, sleep, and get some support for yourself.

    Get yourself in a position so when the phone call comes where your child is ready for help you are in a position to actually help.

    Resources Mentioned in Show:

    Protect Your Teen From Prescription Drug Abuse | Judy Davis and Sandy Fowler. | Episode 4

    Parenting An Addicted Child Through Recovery | Kim Muench | Episode 84

    Our Guest Brenda Zane:

    Brenda Zane talks about parenting an addicted childBrenda Zane is a Mayo Clinic Certified Health and Wellness Coach and Founder of The Stream, an online community to support moms of kids with substance use disorder.

    Brenda writes and podcasts about the unique and hidden struggles of parents with kids in addiction and focuses on finding healthy ways to cope.

    You can download her free ebook, “HINDSIGHT: 3 Things I Wish I Knew When My Son Was Addicted to Drugs” or request membership to The Stream on her website, www.brendazane.com.

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