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Hi, everybody. Today’s guest is Pam Lanhart. And she was on the podcast last year in September. This was not Pam. We just realized that before the episode. And Pam is from Thrive Family Recovery Services or Resources. And we were talking about ambivalence recently and thought we would have an episode about it.
But I just want to share that Pam has been a wonderful friend to me ever since she found out that Helena passed away. She reached out to me. And it’s funny, I don’t know if I ever told you this, but you had sent me a friend request and I saw that you were a coach and I don’t know if you get them all the time. But you know how the coaches are constantly trying to sell you something about growing your business. And I was like, the last thing I need is a coach right now.
And then I find out she’s the nicest, most supportive person. And we ended up meeting and it has just been so comforting to me to have you in my life and to see you doing well and still living purposefully, even though you’ve been going through grief of losing your son just a little bit before I lost Helanna. So just having you ahead of me on this journey, not just in like
the grief that we’re going through for our kids, but just doing this work in general. I look up to you so much. I have learned so much from you. You’ve really influenced a lot of just the way that I was kind of the direction I went after Helena passed away. So I just want to take this opportunity to thank you for that and that you, you always support me, even though we do similar work, that you look at it more as
a way to reach more families by us working together. And I love that because I think the same way. So I just want to thank you for being here again because a lot of people really resonated with the last episode that you were on.
Heather, I love you. And I’m super grateful to be back on this podcast. And I’ve learned through my journey that when one person wins, everybody wins. And until every single family.
impacted by substance use, which is honestly close to 100 million people in our country that are supported and that have guidance and have been able to learn how to walk through this in a way that is honoring and compassionate. And until every one of those people is served, there’s absolutely enough space for all of us to do this work. And I just have learned through examples of
that we don’t have to be competitive, we can be supportive. And like I said, when you win, I win. And I think about just recently in the, you know, how you were looking for the possibility of maybe applying for a grant in Florida. And if I have someone that I rely on and trust, and I know that I can say, hey, there’s someone in Florida doing this work, and it aligns with my work, which there’s not.
lot of us out there that are really strongly advocating for the messages that are entrenched in compassion and empathy and support. So when I find somebody that does this work, I’m going to latch on to them. And we’re leading the way. We’re really thrive. I just got the opportunity yesterday to do a pod webinar that was put on by SAMHSA by the Department of Recovery, the Office of Recovery.
top department in the federal government that is promoting recovery and supports for substance use. And they asked me to do a one hour webinar. Probably the most exciting thing that’s happened to me, one of the more exciting things. And I’d like to think that you and I, and you know, a few other really amazing women and men out there, mostly women, are leading the charge with.
changing the narrative around how families are walking through this with their loved one. And that’s kind of why I wanted to talk a little bit today about this topic of ambivalence, because it’s probably one of the things I see families struggle with the absolute most. And I thought, we need to just have a conversation about this. So, yeah. I don’t think you can talk about it enough.
because it is something that can be so painful for families to watch that ambivalence and all the stigma there is about what that ambivalence actually, what it means. And so I think that the more we talk about it and normalize what ambivalence is in the process of change, I think the easier it’s gonna be on families and the person who’s struggling to, on their recovery journey.
One of the things I love about the work that we do, and in particular, the work that came out of CMC, the Invitation to Change process, is so much of it is about putting ourselves in our loved ones shoes in order to gain empathy. And I just started another diet for the 8,000th time the other day. And I was like, you know how it is, you wake up in the morning and you’re, this is the day, I’m gonna do this.
I already had my last meal last night, ate every single bit of junk in my house, threw everything away, all the good intentions, and by three o’clock in the afternoon, I’m out at the store buying rice crispy bars or looking for the chocolate that’s left over in the crevices of my kitchen cabinet. So we’re so in that space, all of us, we’re just human beings.
And we struggle in the same way. The difference between my struggle and my loved one’s struggle or someone with substance use is that typically I don’t cause harm to other people because of my ambivalence. You know, it only really affects me. Although by three o’clock I’m pretty crabby and my husband might say something else about that. But we all struggle with ambivalence. And I think that…
Every time we do a podcast, every time you do this, you probably have someone new in your audience. Every time I write, it reaches somebody different. Every time we talk about this, somebody who is just starting on this journey is in that place where their loved one is experiencing that back and forth ambivalence. And in their mind, they’re wanting to stop it. We talk about
make it stop behaviors, right? And they wanna make it stop and they label it and they shame and dehumanize the person. And my heart and your heart is to prevent that, right?
Yeah, absolutely. And that’s one of the things I think that does hurt my heart the most is when somebody is struggling and maybe they talk about wanting, like they’re struggling with.
cravings and they want to use or they actually do have a reoccurrence of use. And then the immediate thought is they must not want it or they don’t want it. They’re not serious about their recovery. And that always hurts my heart because I do try to put myself in that place like you’re talking about. It’s the same thing with me with dieting. And I think about like how many times a day I have to think about it. And it’s been going on for…
as long as I can remember. And I think about, like you said, when I overeat, it doesn’t really cause anybody else any harm. But at the same time, I try to think like, what if like every time I ate a brownie, somebody said to me like, Heather, you really don’t want to lose weight. Or sorry, but we can’t have a relationship until you haven’t eaten brownies for six months. Or whatever it is. That would be really, really painful to me.
And it would just make me feel worse about myself, and it would probably make me want to eat more brownies. So I love what you said about thinking about it from our own perspective, things that we struggle with in the change process, and what it actually, the change process is actually like. So do you want to share a little bit about what the change process is actually like for somebody who is in early recovery?
The first thing I want to do is because I always say yes, and that’s my new thing. And before we talk about solutions, I want to validate the pain that parents go through. And typically what this looks like Heather is they have jumped through a thousand hoops because their loved one finally comes to them and says, I think I’m ready to go to treatment. So they have.
dropped everything because it’s a full-time job to find a treatment provider that is in their network for insurance or that is more local or that fits to certain criteria, especially right now with medications and opioids where we wanna get people into treatment that support suboxone or support subutex or methadone. And so they’ve been ready for this moment, right? They are charged up, locked and loaded.
The minute my loved one wants to get help, I’m gonna drop everything and I’m gonna help them. And they do, and I don’t ever want to tell someone not to do that because if my loved one came to me and had cancer and they walked in the room and they said, I have cancer, I need treatment, I would do anything I needed to in order to help them have cancer.
I’m sorry, to help them get treated for that cancer. So it’s perfectly normal and natural to wanna have the ability to help your loved one. I wanna be ready, I wanna walk through this with them. I wanna protect them from making a mistake. And we know that there’s a window, a small window of opportunity. And so when we do that and we drop everything and we get them ready to go,
And one of two things happens. One is they might go, and then like you said, there’s always the conversation about a return to use. But even before that, if we look at, they’re there that night, you feed them, you water them, you love on them, you make sure they have clean clothes, you buy all of their personal care supplies, and you wake up the next morning and they’re gone. And of course, that is going to be
so painful and so disappointing. And so we always wanna validate that. When we walk through this, there are times where we are just gonna be subject to so much suffering and pain because things don’t play out the way that we thought they would, that we hoped. And this is part of the conversation always is the hope. The hope, you wait and you wait and you wait and you hold onto the hope.
of getting your loved one to the point where they finally ask for help or waiting for them to do that and you’re all ready and they they’re not there and they run off. So before we talk about this anymore I really want to just validate that because of course that’s painful.
Of course that’s disappointing. Absolutely and I think
that time also can create this. For me, I had this unexpected sense of urgency at that time as well. I almost felt like the stakes were higher during that time. Once Helena said that she was willing to go to treatment, I suddenly felt like I had been very patient. And now I didn’t have as much patience. And it was really…
hard for me to not act on that sense of urgency. In fact, I got caught up in it a couple of times and had to pull back a little bit to give her time to go a little bit further with that decision. Cause at the time she wanted to go, but she needed time to get ready to actually take the leap and go. But during that time, and even when she was in treatment, I had to really…
work through this extra sense of urgency of needing it to happen right now before we lose our what felt like one chance.
And you know, the stakes are higher Heather, because going back to your diet analogy and hopefully no one’s triggered trigger warning. We’re gonna be talking about health and wellness and maybe mention a diet once or twice here because that’s something we can all relate to. But how many of us have gorged the night before, right? We’ve cleaned out our cupboards.
We’ve eaten the last meal. And when somebody does that with substance use, it leads to an overdose. And so there is this acuity with substance use and in particular with opioids, where if they wanna clean up all of the leftover drugs that they have, because they’re gonna go to treatment the next day, that can cause harm or death.
And so you’re right, like there is this acuity and there’s something very unnatural about taking it slow and letting them pace the decision and not making it for them. And it’s probably one of the harder things because we, again, we have that buildup of they finally want help, we’ve got a treatment center kicked out.
They’ve agreed, they’ve even called the admission line, and now they take off. Or, and this is another thing that happens, is they call a week into treatment, and I wanna particularly address this, because it’s so common, they call a week in and they wanna leave. Now first, let’s talk about the dopamine in the brain. And the fact that the minute you stop using, your dopamine tank is completely empty, you’re not getting anything flooded,
in your brain from external drugs and your tank is empty and you are in the worst pain of your whole entire life. Now if I was in, like we’ve had, we birthed children, we know what pain is like. From what I hear, and I have never used opiates, but from what I hear, the pain of withdrawal is the worst thing that anybody can ever experience. And so you start to withdraw the night before.
you’re not gonna be using, you know you’re not gonna be using in the pain start. So that’s number one. And the cravings that go with that are so astronomical that I think you and I and normal people, we have a lot of parents here that are listening or spouses, we can’t even wrap our brain around it. We can’t even imagine how painful that is. And I’ve had even people who are in recovery say,
I used meth and the withdrawal was, I was tired, I slept a lot, I wanted to use. But when I used fentanyl for the first time and I had to withdraw from that, it was like nothing I had ever experienced. So we’re talking about a drug that is so incredibly powerful, even in small doses, that it’s going to change our behaviors. It’s going to cause us to want to go back.
and relieve that pain. And remember, behaviors make sense. When I feel pain, I know I can use this drug and then I won’t feel pain anymore. So it makes sense. Their behaviors make sense. And I think we have to do a couple of things. And one is think about it in that respect. Like they’re not bad people that just want to make me mad. They don’t want to make you mad. They’re not doing this to piss you off.
Right. They don’t care that much about you. Trust me. They’re not even thinking about you. And I know that feels hard. Yeah, they don’t even think about me or anybody else. I remember when I was in the very transitional phase of labor, saying something like, if you touch me again, I will kill you. I wasn’t thinking about my husband in that moment. I was thinking about how I could get through this.
and how I could get through the pain. And if I probably could have stopped it and turned around and said, let’s just skip this, I would have done that at that moment. I would have opened that door. So we have to remember that there’s, on the front end, preparing parents, if you’re listening, preparing you for the fact that they might start and stop, start and stop. They might dip their toes in and then pull their toes back.
and not having any expectations around that, or trying to remember that this is gonna happen and be prepared. Because as you said, the tendency is to wanna shame and blame. Do you have any idea the work that I did in order to help you get there? Yeah. And the, just listening at that point, like it’s so hard to hear in the…
part of the invitation to change that willingness to just sit with the discomfort of hearing those words without really responding to them and just listening and holding that space, which I’m acknowledging is incredibly hard. I’ve got, I can’t even tell you how many times I got that phone call and how hard it was to hear it and how my heart raced and I’m having this completely physical reaction. But now also thinking like…
yeah, why wouldn’t you want to leave? Thinking about those physical symptoms that they’re experiencing, and then the neurotransmitters, the lack of dopamine, how awful they’re feeling just all the way around, not having the mental capacity at that time to deal with how it feels physically.
So what are some things that…
you recommend getting that call. So we know they’re going to get the call, right? It’s just part of the process. One, if we just think about a checklist that they’re going to go through when they go to treatment, that’s one thing that’s going to be on the list. You’re going to get the call that says, I want to leave.
Yeah. I’m going to get to that in a second. But one thing that I thought of that bubbled up when you were talking was also, and we take people through this exercise.
remembering that you’re asking your loved one to give up that one thing that they love the absolute most. And if they’ve been using for a while, they can’t even imagine a life without substances. And the minute they start to feel an emotion, they feel a feel, they’re going to want to numb that feeling with the substance. So early treatment is super hard, super hard. And this is going to get to what you just asked me.
and they’re gonna feel a lot of feels, right? They’re gonna all of a sudden, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, they may have to be with a roommate that initially drives them insane. They might not love their counselor to start out. They might not feel like it’s the right program. Maybe somebody brings up something that just makes them feel really uncomfortable.
Someone has used drugs for a very long time, it neutralizes emotions. And so they don’t know how to feel their emotions. And it’s so hard, it’s so hard. So going back to what happens when they go into treatment, they’re starting to feel the feels, they’re physically in withdrawal, their counselor starting to push them a little bit, and it happens.
Oh, almost every person I know in the first seven to 10 days, their loved one will call them and say, I want to leave. And they will say, there’s cockroaches, the food is terrible. My counselor hates me. I’m shocked at times at how many parents buy into that. They believe their loved one’s stories. And
One of the things that we do at Thrive is we vet treatment centers all throughout the country and I walk through them. And so when I refer someone to a treatment center, I’ve toured it, I know their staff, I know it’s clean, and that’s the benefit of vetting a program. So if you don’t have the benefit of me giving you that information at least, go there, make sure it’s the real deal. There are websites that put up what they say are beautiful treatment programs and they’re dumb.
So just be aware and be cautious when you even vet a program or refer to a program or recommend a program. So knowing what you’re dealing with is really important. And then the skills, which are the same skills, no matter where your loved one is at in that stage of change or in their process of ambivalence.
which are those motivational interviewing skills that we talk about all the time, validating your loved one. And when I talk about validating them, it doesn’t mean I agree with them. It means I hear you and I see you and I am with you as you walk through this experience. So it’s creating a safe space for them and allowing them to express themselves as they feel those fields.
So they might come back and say, I can’t stay in this place, this is awful, I wanna leave. And validating them would be saying something like, you can reflect that, right? So I heard you say, this is really hard. And yeah, I can’t even imagine how hard it is. Then you back that up with an affirmation, which is, and taking this step to do this.
is the bravest thing you’ve ever done. And I am so proud of you, and I am here with you as you make this move, as you continue. If they want you to come and pick them up, there might be a need for a boundary there to say, I can’t pick you up right now. I can support you while you stay in there. And what I know is that when a parent doesn’t go pick up their kid, they stay out every time. And sometimes they might leave.
for a minute and then they realize they made a really bad decision and they go back. But usually if the parents don’t acquiesce to those demands and they hold a boundary that the person will stay. But when we are looking at ambivalence, as you said, when I’ve wanted to make a change, I’ve gone back and forth, back and forth a dozen times. And when I am the most successful
I’m not shamed into it. I’m not blamed into it. I’m not told what to do. But I have a community of people around me that are gonna say, hey, we’re gonna walk through this with you as you make this really hard decision.
Yeah, and being able to go at your own pace, like that’s something that’s really important to me when I’m making change,
pressure to do it a certain way or on any timeframe to do it the way that works best for me. I think about even just thinking about my weight, the easiest time in my life was when I had somebody else in my life who was like doing it with me, which I think is probably one of the reasons why family recovery is so important, that feeling like we’re doing it together. I’ve got that support system.
I think one of the things for me that I learned in that too was like, wow, a lot of the stuff that I want my daughter to do, I don’t even know how to do myself and never have done myself. So maybe if I start learning those things, like, admittedly, in the beginning, I was just doing it hoping that she would do it, you know, doing it to be an example. But eventually, I started actually liking the things that I was doing. But I think being a part of that.
change process and support system is really helpful for them and comforting. And I love the response that you gave because instead of saying, like trying to talk them into staying, right? And like creating more resistance in them, it’s just really holding that like unconditional space that we would hold if we were working with a client for them to work through something. And I think that
that’s something that’s really underestimated how powerful it is to have somebody hold the space for you to have uncomfortable emotions and but to be able to actually say it and work through it.
One of the things that you brought up and we’ve talked about this a couple of times already is when you feel pushed, when you feel prodded, when you feel forced,
My favorite saying is when you tell someone what to do, it activates their natural rebellion. So I could be ready to go and if somebody tells me that I should do that, then it’s going to create some resistance, but also that there’s a process that we all go through when we need to make those steps. And if someone feels forced, like mom or dad or spouse says,
you do this or like I’m going to leave or even you have to go to this treatment center and they don’t feel like they have agency or they have a choice, then what happens is if for some reason it does go south, then you’re right there to blame. Right? You’re the first person that they’re going to point fingers at if you do too much too soon, dictate what that needs to look
before they’re ready. Now, I will say sometimes with ambivalence, they need just a little bit of help. I always use the analogy of a boulder. So sometimes, so they have these boulders and sometimes they can carry it themselves. Sometimes they need help carrying it. And every once in a while we have to carry it for them if it’s too heavy. But…
in certain instances you could inquire and we never do anything without gaining consent. That’s always part of the communication process is you don’t ever do anything without asking permission but you could say something like would you like to make a three-way call to that admissions line? I’d be happy to do it with you. Do you want to
I can call, we can put you on speaker phone, or I can patch you in, and then I’ll get off. And sometimes they do need just a little… Like, you know how it is. Have you ever tried to jump into cold water, like really cold water? You’re on a diving board, or you’re on the edge of a lake, or on a boat, and you’re going to dive off, and you know the water is cold, and you go, one, two, three, and then you stop and you can’t jump in.
But then if you grab onto your girlfriend and you hold their hand and you go, let’s do it together, ready? One, two, three, jump, you jump, you do it. So reading the cues that your loved one is giving you, asking permission, like, do you want help here? Do you want me to walk with you through it? Do you wanna do this together? What do you need from me? And then sometimes they might say,
Nope, I’m gonna do it myself. I’m gonna jump when I’m ready. I know it’s cold. I know I’m gonna get frozen, but I’ll do it when I’m ready. You go ahead. Or they might say, you know what? I really need you to hold my hand and jump off the ledge with me. So that might look like making that phone call with them or driving them to the program or transporting them to the program or whatever that might look like.
So I think that we have to learn to read the cues and we have to be in a place of preparedness so nothing catches us by surprise. If they call you and they do wanna leave because of course they’re struggling and they’re having pain and the cravings are difficult and the roommate probably does annoy them and maybe the food isn’t the greatest, what are you gonna say to them when they call? How are you gonna
And one of the principles of craft is practice, practice, practice. So if you have a friend and you role play it, or if you’re coaching with Heather and you want to role play this, it’s a good thing to role play. How am I going to respond to this when they call in ask to leave? Yeah, that’s something that I talk about with my clients a lot is planning ahead, thinking about what’s going to happen next and writing out.
what you want to say so that you’re not trying to think of it in that moment when you’re panicking and scared because you got that phone call that they want to leave. And that makes a big difference.
Like you said, also practicing with somebody so that… Because it’s one thing to write it down and to think about it. It’s another thing to hear the words coming out of your mouth. And it might be a struggle. So the more you practice it with somebody, the more you hear yourself…
say those words and more comfortable you’re going to be in that already uncomfortable situation. So thinking about those things ahead of time is really important and just knowing them. I didn’t know to expect that when Helena went to treatment. I didn’t realize that that was a part of the process, but somehow I was able to tolerate the discomfort of the calls and not agreeing to go get her, which again was…
really, really hard to do. And she did leave and like you said, she did actually go back. She felt like, oh, wow, I did make a mistake. I want to go back. But that, even her leaving and going back totally changed her experience and her willingness to be there. Like she had been fighting it so hard for three or four weeks before that. Like it was really tough.
But after that, she wanted to be there. It was totally different. She was really in it and really changing at that point. So her getting the option to leave and realize like she saw her old life through different eyes. And that made her realize that like, wow, things were worse actually than I remember.
and I don’t want to live that way. And now actually, I think I can go back to that treatment center and actually want to be there and go through all this pain that I’m going through because I don’t want that pain. So just letting her go through that process was really empowering to her.
And you led right into my next thought about all of this. So we were laughing about, oh, I think we can just have a conversation and play off of one another. And we think so much alike.
that we’re finishing each other’s sentences. One of the things that is the hardest and the thing that we have to do is to step out of the way of those natural consequences then when they do make certain choices. So if they decide to leave rather than picking them up, which sort of helps them escape the consequences of that decision, what you said was that you allowed her to make that choice. You didn’t pick her up. She experienced…
some of the natural discomfort of that situation, which then prompted her to re-engage. And I think that part of the process and part of this is we reinforce all the positive, right? And then we allow for those natural consequences. It’s not punitive. I’m not gonna punish you, but I’m gonna allow you to make the choice. And then of course I’m gonna decide what my limits and boundaries are. And if that means you have to sit in that, in a discomfort.
that’s fine because we do not change without pain and discomfort. And I always talk about this when I talk about ambivalence is if I could eat junk every day, all day, and never have my weight change, and never have my pants get too tight, I would do that. Why wouldn’t we do that? That sounds like a really great plan to me, but that’s not how things work. So when I make a choice to not move forward,
and I continue delaying the healthy eating plan, my pants get tighter and tighter, and it’s only until my pants get to a certain, you know, I can’t zip them anymore, that I decide that I’m uncomfortable enough to activate change. And while we know that positive reinforcement is important, what’s equally as important is to allow someone to feel uncomfortable.
And it really, if I did never feel uncomfortable, I would never change. I just wouldn’t. And that’s the honest truth about human behavior is that even though we’re reinforcing the positive things and we’re competing with the positive benefits of the substance, we’re also in a place where we have the opportunity to step out of the way and just, and we don’t have to, again, when they leave, you know, and I know you, I know you didn’t
blame or shame Helena. It’s so often so easy and I see this a lot Heather. Every mother I know would say they love their child, everyone bar none. And I know for myself personally and the hundreds of mothers that I’ve interacted with, sometimes our behavior isn’t very loving. And it’s super easy in those situations when you’ve just dropped everything, spent thousands of dollars.
And you add your hopes up when they walk out of treatment or they call you and they’re annoyed or they’re not engaging in the program to do the whole blame shame, making it about you. Are you kidding me? You know, we just spent $30,000 to get you into this treatment center and you wanna leave? And we make it about us. And it’s so easy to do that and understandable, understandable because of…
course, it’s painful when things don’t play out the way you want you and I know that better than anybody. But I think that we have to then practice all of those skills of self awareness and taking moments to pause, going back to what are my core values? How do I want to show up in this? And then moving forward with intention. And so that might mean
I’m not gonna answer this text. I’m not gonna answer this phone call because if I do, I’m not gonna like how I show up. I’m not gonna like who I am. And so I’m gonna be intentional, right? And I’m going to not respond. And you know, I can’t tell you how many times my son would call me and I wouldn’t be able to answer. Maybe he’d text me and I just wouldn’t answer or I wouldn’t answer his text. And two hours later, he had the whole DLL worked out.
So they call you and their sky is falling and you don’t answer. And guess what? They figure it out. They do, they figure it out.
Yeah. Yeah, I was thinking about also a lot of times, or if you do answer the phone, but you say no, and, but you’re living with all this discomfort of having to say no.
and worrying about what they’re doing. And then you find out that they figured it out the next day or something. But that whole time that they were fine, you’ve been living in this pain of having to say no and worrying about them being uncomfortable. And I think that that’s why discomfort tolerance is a superpower in this, just practicing that pause of not.
responding or fixing right away and are not saying something when you’re not feeling very loving. And so then you don’t have to go back and apologize for it later or forgive yourself or whatever it is. And just really learning to build that muscle like even if you’re only living lifting one pound weights for increasing your discomfort. To be able to just…
sit with that and not act on anything. And I can remember learning to do that and just like wanting to send Helena a little meme so that I could get some little response from her that let me know everything was okay with her so that I could be okay and like noticing all these impulses in me to act in different ways and just really being aware of like, okay, this is just me wanting to do these things.
being curious with myself just the way I was curious with her about why I wanted to do those things, what I was trying to get, and how could I create that comfort for myself. And that also gave me really more of the ability to create my own sense of being okay and safety. And the more that I could do that, the more I could tolerate my own discomfort, the more I could tolerate hers as well.
We catastrophize, that’s the word that I want to use is that we often catastrophize things. And I think about this skill in dialectical behavioral therapy, which is called the opposite to emotion, or, you know, reframing the story, right? We create a narrative, we don’t even know the truth. But you know, we look at our phone and our person contacts us. And our, we go down the rabbit hole.
Oh, she’s doing okay too. Oh my gosh, she’s not gonna make it in like a half a second. So our work in all of this is to take our thoughts captive and start to reframe our own narrative, which is what do I know? What don’t I know? What is the truth? What isn’t the truth? What are the best possible outcomes that could happen here? And then deciding that that’s where I’m gonna live.
that’s the space I’m going to live in is not the worst possible outcome, but the best possible outcome. I want to say this is something that happened, Heather, after our last time that we did our podcast. And I think I gave you the information, but I did a retreat at onsite workshops for parents that have lost children. Right. And what are the
things that gets in our way of allowing for natural consequences or letting them work through this as our own fear. And when I was sitting at this retreat and there were 47 families that had gone through either suicide loss, death by suicide or death by overdose. And for every person that did it one way, there was somebody that did it a different way. And my mantra is always fear doesn’t stop death, fear stops life.
And I would, looking back, I am so grateful that I didn’t live in that place of fear, that I lived in a place of hope, and always believed the best of my son, always affirmed him. I mean, early on, I wouldn’t say always, because there were those few years initially where we didn’t know what we didn’t know. And then when we knew better, we did better. But How do we want to?
be in this. And what’s important to me, I don’t want to show up for my family, dysregulated, activated, depressed, all the physical ramifications of what happens in our bodies when we go down that rabbit hole, when we catastrophize, when we sit in a space of worst case scenario. And that’s one of the reasons why reinforcing and affirming positive behaviors
is so critical because what it does is it it releases dopamine in my brain and rewires it in a positive way. And so if we can think about does this reflect my recovery? Does this reflect how I want to be? Is this aligned with my own health and wellness goals? Right? When I define recovery it says…
reclaiming something that was lost or a return to health and well-being. So when I go down the path of worst-case scenario, does that align with recovery? My recovery? Because I’m returning to a state of health and well-being. I’m reclaiming the things that were lost in this journey. And the time to do that, one of the best times to do that
is while our loved one is in treatment, that is really good. So, and I want to mention really quick, and we can talk about this idea of, okay, so now they’re done with treatment and they’ve finished and they’re on the right path and they’re three months or four months in recovery and they have a return fee. They have a recurrence, right? And I know we’ve both been through that.
Yeah, that’s a hard call to get.
very hard. And me, what I’m most grateful for in getting that call was that I had a response that aligned with who I wanted to be as a mom. I wanted to show up in the situation. And that when I got off the phone with her after getting that call, I got really angry then. But thank God, I knew that anger was mine to manage.
I didn’t respond to it. I actually stopped and wrote about what I was feeling and got intentional with how I wanted to show up. And then I sent her a text, which was one of the last texts we ever had. And I just, I’m so grateful that I did that work and knew even though my discomfort is coming from what she did and that it, of course it has an effect on me, but…
what I’m in control of is me and how I show up in this situation and how I support her. And I’ll be forever grateful that our last interaction was positive and that, of course, you don’t want to think about it that way. I wasn’t thinking at all that that would be our last interaction. I felt pretty confident that we had a really good plan and she was going to follow it. But I controlled what I could in the situation and that was me and how I showed up.
And yeah, that is such a hard phone call to get, but it’s important to think about again ahead of time. If that does happen, how do you want to show up? Who do you want to be in that moment? What do you want to say? Knowing ahead of time. Like when I work with people, I talk about that and they’re like, it’s not going to happen. They don’t even want to talk about it. I’m like, well, let’s be prepared in case because then you don’t have to have it hanging over your head anymore. You can be confident that when these things you worry about, if they come up…
that you know how you want to respond and that you have the skills to handle anything that comes up.
Well, if we’ve created safe spaces and we’re a safe person, then I even take that a little further. And I facilitate a conversation with a parent and their loved one that says, hypothetically speaking, if there was a return to use, how would you like me to respond?
and what would you like my response to be? And what kind of plan could you agree on? Now, the longer they’re back out, the harder it is to implement that plan. But at least if you’ve had that conversation, you can say, hey, we’re prepared for this. We knew that it could happen. The rates of a flare-up in diabetes are higher than that of a flare-up in substance use. So every disease, rheumatoid arthritis,
Heart disease, everybody has flare ups or a lot of people have flare ups. And how we respond to that sometimes can really impact the way that they move forward with their plan, with their plan of action and keeping that environment safe so that if we respond with shame and blame, then we’re shutting them down and what we’re doing is training them not to be open and honest with us. We’re training them to lie.
We’re training them to not tell the truth. So think about it this way. Every time you’re positive with them, every time you’re safe with them, you are conditioning them to tell the truth and to come back to you and be honest and open. So if we respond with anger or volatility or blame or shame, why would they ever come to us again? Right? I wouldn’t tell somebody my deepest, darkest secrets.
if they responded to me in that way? Absolutely not. So we’re talking about conditioning here. What am I conditioning my relationship to look like? And you can condition it for the positive or the negative. And what I wanted to say is I had the same experience. We have the same exact story. Jake had a one-day return to use. We were in communication. There was no blame. There was no shame.
I coached Maddie, who was his girlfriend and was with him at the time and coached her through this. And it didn’t have the outcome that I would have wished for, but I do have those texts and I do have those messages. And so I really think, cause I know it’s time to wrap this up, but if you just look back at like, what would I want the most?
in a person if it were me.
Yeah. And I, as you were talking, I was just thinking about how there’s always that confusion. Like, I just want them to tell me the truth. I wish they wouldn’t lie to me. But then comes the question, like, are you a safe person to tell the truth to? Can you handle the truth? How can we get you prepared to be able to manage how uncomfortable the truth is sometimes without?
reacting to it in a way that’s going to make them feel you’re an unsafe person to share those things with. That’s really, really hard. Once you open yourself up to the truth, I heard a lot of things that were really hard to hear. But I wanted to be a person that could hear those things so that I could keep that connection and understand. So I would have information that I could use to help and support her.
when you hear yourself saying like, why don’t they tell me the truth? Why do they lie all the time? Then asking yourself like, are you a safe person to tell the truth too?
Yeah, I was thinking the exact same thing again, finishing sentences for each other, Heather, because yeah, that’s the question. If they don’t come to me, if they don’t wanna share things with me, what’s the underlying reason? And I was…
not always safe and didn’t even realize it. So I think that’s the value of the work that you do and the coaching and having community and accountability is that we can look at the situations and go, am I a safe person? And really that’s what it boils down to is. And here’s the one final thing. You might be thinking as you’re listening to this, but what about me? Who’s safe for me? Like I’m giving, giving, giving.
and I’m trying to be safe and I’m doing all this work, who do I get in return? And two things, first of all, if your loved one gets well, you will have a relationship with them. But I also wanna remind you that you need your own community. You need safe people. We all wanna have people in our lives. I didn’t even know what safety was because I didn’t grow up in a safe home.
And I’ve learned and I have people in my life, beautiful women who support me, listen to me, affirm me, validate me, they are safe humans. So if you are listening to this today and you’re feeling like I’ve had those pity parties where like, what about me? It’s up to us to find those people. It’s up to us to gravitate towards the people in our lives that can hold safe space for us. And Heather.
I’m so grateful you’re one of those people for me.
Yeah, I was just thinking the same thing about you. I was like, when as soon as I lost Helena, I needed, I’ve told you the story, Pam, but I prayed, I need strong women to look up to that can show me that I can get through this. And then it was a matter of time before, I think it was less than a week before we met to talk to each other. And then without that,
Like it’s been so important to me in everything to have my community, to have my safe people, to have support. And I like I have a new Invitation to Change group starting for free and it’s a great place to get support. I know Pam, you do Invitation to Change groups. Are some of yours online?
We have eight virtual groups every week and we have eight in-person groups in Minnesota and
one in Greeley, Colorado. So we have 16 groups right now that are doing, most are doing the invitation to change curriculum. I think we only have one that does not. They do a faith-based curriculum that I wrote. But yeah, yeah, we’re, there’s, I think that we, we find what we’re looking for.
Yeah, absolutely. So I’m going to make it.
easier for people to find you if they’re interested in going to any of Thrive’s groups. I’m going to put the information in the show notes, a link to Thrive’s website. And is there any last things that you want to say before we wrap up?
Nope, we got to do this again next time. Next September. Next September is our annual thing now. I think we should make it more than annual, but I appreciate you, Heather, and I love the work that you’re doing. And thank you for…
for having me on and for this really meaningful conversation today.
Yeah, thank you.