Living With Your Child’s Addiction podcast EP88 Transcript – How To Find Peace And Possibility Beyond The Pain With Author Barb Klein Part 1 of 2

This transcript has not been formatted or edited other than to add names.

Heather

00:00

As I prepare to release this episode on International Overdose Awareness Day, I feel many emotions. August 31st is an important day because it brings critical awareness to the global crisis of overdose deaths. It’s a day marked not just on calendars, but deep within the depths of every person who has lost someone to an overdose.

00:30

It was a day that I had the luxury of not knowing about until my beautiful daughter, Helena, left this world far too soon. International Overdose Awareness Day is a day we come together to remember and honor those we’ve lost without the burden of stigma, guilt, or shame. It’s a day we acknowledge the unfathomable grief that engulfs families and friends.

00:58

who have been devastated by loss. It’s a reminder that this crisis affects us all, directly or indirectly. If we haven’t experienced loss, then we live with the fear of it. The goals of International Overdose Awareness Day resonate deeply with me. They are to provide an opportunity for people to publicly mourn their loved ones in a safe environment.

01:27

some for the first time without feeling guilt or shame, to include the greatest number of people in international overdose awareness day events and encourage non-denominational involvement, to give community members information about the issue of fatal and non-fatal overdoses, to send a strong message to current and former people who use drugs that they are.

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valued to stimulate discussion about overdose prevention and drug policy, to provide basic information on the range of support services that are available, to prevent and reduce drug-related harm by supporting evidence-based policy and practice, to inform people around the world about the risk of overdose.

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and our support. One of the reasons that overdose deaths are so tragic is because they are preventable. Please get and carry Narcan if you don’t have it already. I will put a link in the show notes to help you find Narcan in your area.

Hi, everybody. Today’s guest is Barb Klein, and she is the author of 111 Invitations,

02:56

and the founder of Inspired Possibility. Barb is a certified recovery coach, family recovery coach, invitation to change group facilitator, meditation instructor, retreat leader, and writer. Barb is also mom to two young men, one of whom struggled with substance use disorder, eating disorder, and other mental health challenges. Barb has been trained in craft,

03:22

motivational interviewing, invitation to change, and Tai Chi for recovery, seeking innovative and meaningful ways to support people. As a mom who has navigated life through her son’s substance use and eating disorders for 13 plus years, she is determined to create something positive and meaningful out of this experience. She supports other family members who have been impacted by a child’s mental health challenges.

03:48

and people in recovery to make their own well-being a priority and to find peace and possibility beyond the pain. She is committed to bringing more love and compassion to the journey with substance use disorder, eating disorder, and other mental health challenges. She is currently working on her second book, One Moment at a Time, which will support families to find peace and joy while loving their child, no matter what path their child’s life takes.

04:16

So Barb, thank you so much for being here today.

Barb

You are so welcome. Thank you for having me.

Heather

So let’s just start with sharing a little bit of your background and how you started Inspired Possibility.

Barb

Inspired Possibility began 10 years ago in 2013 and really grew out of being a manager in a nonprofit organization where I was helping families to navigate special education.

04:46

all of which was driven by my journey with my son through his school age years and really trying to understand him better and help educators understand him and figure out how to get the best supports in place and just constant searching for appropriate supports and ways to help him learn more effectively. But in that job, I realized that really what I loved was coaching and kind of helping people to step into their own.

05:13

So originally, it started as Inspired Solutions, and it was more about career change and things like that. Honestly, it was three years before this idea of inspired possibility came to me, because I didn’t have anybody’s answer. And in those years in between, in 2014, was when I started writing my book. It was when I went on my first women’s retreat. So my whole journey started changing to a much more inward personal growth to support me. Well, I was also dealing with my son’s substance use, which had started.

05:43

in 2009. So it’s about five years into it, the book came out before the inspired possibility part popped through. And the business continues to grow and evolve and morph based on what’s been happening in my life. So I started leading women’s retreats back in 2014. I did my first retreat for moms of kids affected by their children’s mental health challenges in 2016, just because my own awareness of the importance of

06:11

Taking that time to get to know ourselves better, to grow ourselves as strong human beings was so critical in how we can relate to anything with our children or anything else that’s going on in the world. And then I also realized early on, even when I was coaching people on career change, it always came back to some idea of true self-care and really honoring what this being needs. So that’s kind of the foundation of it all. And…

06:38

Heather

So you mentioned a little bit about your son’s journey inspiring all of that work. And this is going to come out on International Overdose Awareness Day. And so we haven’t gotten to that part of the story yet. But I do want to start by honoring Nate’s memory and giving you a chance to tell a little bit of that part of his journey and how

07:06

Even though he didn’t pass away from an overdose, I do think it’s really important to honor that loss, just because they don’t get a day. But everybody needs to be remembered. And so I just want to start by honoring him.

Barb

Thank you. Yeah, and we don’t know how he died. It may be deemed an overdose in the end, but at this point, it’s still in the unknown category, simply because there are so many overdose deaths in our area.

07:35

that it can take 12 to 14 months before a family even gets that answer. So what I know is since my son was probably forever, and he came into this world just full of life with his own personality, his own character, his own way of being, and we were challenged by it from the beginning. Because to us, we just had this beautifully happy, perfect child, but who struggled even as a little one. And so I was trying to read all the parenting books about how to be a good parent.

08:04

Do you let him sleep with you? Do you not let him? I didn’t know enough to trust my own gut. So yeah, he got to pick up the stress of this new mother as well, which I’m sure didn’t help anything. But really, he was just a joyful, energetic kid. And once he started school, things just got hard for him. And he was not designed to sit for seven hours and be still or to fit the mold of I don’t know if there is a student out there that does do that, but some do it easier than they did. So lots of years of struggling. Lots of years of…

08:33

trying different medications and therapies and things like that, leaving him, I’m sure, feeling like a problem to be solved or a puzzle to be worked out. And I did apologize for that in recent years, because even though we were doing it from love and we were doing everything that we could to help him, it had to feel not great as a kid, like something’s wrong with me. And so it was 2009. He was 16 years old when I first found out that he was smoking marijuana. And had what?

09:02

probably seemed like an overreaction to it at the time because a lot of parents find that out. But I do have to think something inside of me knew that, oh boy, this is the beginning of something serious because he had assured me, I know I’ll never do that because my personality is such that if I do, it’s gonna be a problem. And by the time we found out it was a problem, and I would say today they would call it a cannabis use disorder. He was very dependent on it, very addicted. So.

09:31

first few years was just a matter of scrambling and trying to do everything that we knew. Counseling and inpatient, outpatient, not finding a whole lot of supports outside of each other. And I do want to make sure I say upfront, my husband has been a great support through all of this. And we have partnered super well. Because I hear myself sometimes say, I didn’t have any support. I don’t want anybody to think that wasn’t him. But outside supports. Anything other than tough love, you got to kick them out. This isn’t working.

10:01

And we did come to that point when he was 18. We felt like we had done everything we could. And I would say we had done everything we knew to do. If I could go back now, knowing what I know now, I have to believe those early years would have been different and the whole path might have been different, which is partly why you and I are sitting here today. Because my boy was beautiful and sensitive and deeply sensitive in a world that is really harsh. And I think he found himself just not belonging. And then…

10:30

to have nowhere to live when you’re 18 years old, threw him into a life of trauma and survival mode that I don’t think he ever outgrew. I don’t think he ever really got beyond that. Definitely his self-image was impacted. Even early on, when I was going through photos and everything for his memorial service, I found a little bio he had written of himself in third grade. And he said, I love to frustrate my teachers in all caps. And part of me is like, oh, that’s funny.

10:59

He knows who he is. And then a huge part of me just went, wow, what a story for an eight-year-old to take on as this is who I am. This is the person I am. I’m the kid who frustrates the teachers. So I feel like that followed him throughout his schooling career, along with these messages of, if you just tried harder, you could do better, which left him in this really awkward state of thinking if he was smarter, he could do better, thinking he should be able to figure things out on his own.

11:28

His life led him to court systems and treatment facilities and times of incarceration and more trauma than I will ever know. I just don’t know everything that he lived through. He shared a lot with me, but I know his life was hard. Even in high school, he had turned to cutting. And things that we know offer that similar temporary relief, but then add to the cycle of shame. And the eating disorder was brewing.

11:55

before the substance use, but I had no idea that it was a serious thing. It wasn’t until he was hospitalized when he was 21 that I understood the nature of how deadly eating disorders are. So when he told me at 16, marijuana is the only thing that makes me feel peaceful. It wasn’t legal in our state. I didn’t understand it. I was very scared. And my reaction was, you know, you might be onto something, but it’s not safe. It’s not legal. And we can’t do this. So we kind of got into a battle immediately.

12:25

Whereas again, if I had known some of the things I know now, I would have been able to hear him, oh, this is what that’s doing for you, let’s find something else. But I didn’t know that. So he was creative, he was artistic, he was a very gifted rapper from anybody who knows the genre, which is not me, but people would hear him and just say, wow, he had such talent. And I will say that I am so grateful in the last six months of his life that he was able to get out there and record.

12:53

his music and he has it on SoundCloud now. So I feel like he left that legacy with his music, with his art. I have probably 20 years of writing to go through, and I feel like that will live on because he just was a deeply caring, sensitive soul who loved everyone with a huge heart, except himself, perhaps. And even the week before he died, he was telling me about some of the relationships he would get into with people who I think fed his idea of himself. And he just said,

13:22

I used to be addicted to how bad this person made me feel about myself, and I’m not anymore. So I thought, okay, well, at least he broke himself free from that, but he really struggled with how can you all still love me when I’ve done all these things, when I’ve been this way, when life has been so chaotic? Why am I not smart enough to figure these life out on my own? When my husband and I talked about cause of death, Tom said life, life was his cause of death. And I’ve said, yeah, it’s a million things over.

13:52

this lifetime that just accumulated to a place that finally broke down his spirit and his body to where it couldn’t go on. So thank you for giving me a chance to give you a sense of him and I was kind of all over the place. But at the heart, I would just say he is a beautiful soul. He had a giant heart. Yeah, he was funny, vivacious, big personality wherever he went.

14:20

Heather

It just shows he’s so much more than somebody who struggled in the ways that he struggled. And I watched the memorial service and that was the first time I really got to know very much about him. And I really enjoyed hearing everybody describe him. And I felt like I got a sense of the essence of him. And I think that’s what I got from your description just now as well. And

14:48

The part that really stuck out to me was you said, like, he was always getting the message. If you just tried harder, you could do better. And I think that I was definitely guilty of that message with my daughter as well. And I overreacted. But there’s also something comforting in me hearing other people having a similar reaction to what I did, because it just goes to show that.

15:15

we don’t know what to do when we first find this out. And a lot of times when we find out it’s so far ahead of us and we can’t catch up fast enough. And I too feel that things would have been different if I had been exposed to like craft an invitation to change in those early years, I would have responded totally different. And I know Helanna responded to it so well, even though she was so far into it that

15:44

I think she would have responded well to it before that.

Barb

 I agree. We only know what we know. And I have to believe you and I did the best that we could with what we knew given what was available to us, which is part of why I’m so emphatic about getting this message out now so that we can reach families when they’re younger kids or earlier on in the whole process, earlier in the journey.

Heather

Well, one of the things that I like

16:13

when I hear you talk about Nate is like the words that you use when you describe him and they’re very, I think, carefully chosen. And that’s so important. Like these words that we use help form like the way we think about them and they feel that and then the experience that we’re having with them and it affects our relationship. So can you share some of how you choose the words that you describe?

16:43

Nate with.

Barb

Yeah, thank you. I think one thing I didn’t say in describing him was that the best description we ever got of him was when he was about eight or nine from a developmental pediatrician who said he’s a complex child who defies categorization. And that just stayed with me. It didn’t feel like a gift at the time, because it felt like, okay, what do I do with that? The teachers don’t know how to make an IEP for that. But it’s true. And that’s who he was throughout his life. And I just

17:12

Actually, I can look back with such reverence and appreciation for the fact that he basically refused to be boxed in or labeled in any given way because he was always more than any of his struggles. And yeah, I mean, what we’ve learned about the stigma of language and how it keeps people from seeking treatment, how it keeps families silent and hidden because they’re so afraid to speak up if this is going on in their family. So we don’t use words like he’s an addict.

17:42

I probably used to. I used to definitely distinguish between him and the addict in him. I don’t even think of it that way anymore. Now I just understand that this was his way of surviving, of coping, of getting through, of doing what he could to find some peace, to quiet his mind. So I think I’m always hoping to portray him with love, dignity, and respect, and honoring the humanity that is beneath the behaviors that you see on the surface. Because as you…

18:11

What we see on the surface is really upsetting and unsettling and chaotic often. So it’s almost like what you learn when kids are little, right, to separate the behavior from the person. It’s the same messaging. It’s just helping them to feel the love and the respect and the dignity that is still there beneath whatever might be going on. Yeah. And I think that I had to change

18:38

Heather

Definitely like the words that I was thinking even when I was thinking of Helanna and and that changed our relationship it helped me to I talk about like aligning your Thoughts and feelings and actions and your energy and everything like if that’s all got to come together And if it’s not they know because they know it’s better than we know ourselves sometimes just like we know them And and that was part of that process

19:03

for me was being really intentional with how I thought about her and just loving her exactly where she was. But I also know that even if you start listening to this podcast from episode 1 to now, you can see the change in the way I talk about things, and the way I think about things as I’ve been on that same journey of continuing to grow and learn and think of things so differently. Like you said, the humanity of it,

19:32

This has just helped me look at all people in situations differently than I did before.

Barb

Me too. And helping to educate our kids. I mean, Nate said to me once, you know, I went wrong. And that’s a story he’s carrying and such a burden that they can carry on their own shoulders, right? Of it’s me, I am the fault. I am the problem with everything. And I think that’s the other thing I love about the Invitation to Change approach is all of us are part of this.

20:01

And we were all part of creating the chaos. I mean, the yelling, the screaming, the reacting, the fear that drove the anger, that didn’t come from just one person. So we can’t put all the blame on their shoulders. It’s all of us. And that’s what frees us to also see, OK, we can all be part of recovery, reforming relationships, repairing relationships, coming back together. So I think sometimes I had to do a lot of coaching with him around that because he was so adamant to not blame us.

20:30

He couldn’t, again, that was a kind of a cognitive dissonance in his mind. Like, it doesn’t make sense to me. How did I end up here? I had such a good family. And I think there’s extra pain when it doesn’t make sense. And I’m in this place and I’ve done these things that have been so hurtful that I never would have done or wanted to do. So how we talk to them, how we look at them, this comes back to that. Finding the love, finding the compassion. I think for me, getting really honest about the fact that my anger did come from fear was helpful, too. It’s like.

20:59

I am so angry at him because I’m afraid he’s going to die. Well, that doesn’t make any sense. Because if he’s going to die, I don’t want him to die with me angry at him. So that was one of my shifting points along the way. And then really just deciding, I guess, accepting the truth that we couldn’t save his life, even if he was living in our home. We couldn’t, unless we tied him to us 24-7, which wouldn’t have worked for anybody either. It just wasn’t within our control. So coming to this acceptance of.

21:27

Let’s love him as he is for as long as he’s here. That is what we can do. We’re in charge of how we show up.

Heather

Really beautiful loving him as he is for as long as he’s here and in really powerful way to approach the situation. And I’m sure you’re deeply grateful for that now, as I had similar thoughts and feelings. And I’m just so grateful that I got the opportunity to relate to Helanna differently.

21:56

You mentioned that Nate had an eating disorder, and Helena, it started with an eating disorder for her too. I don’t even know what started. I shouldn’t say that, like chicken or the egg. I’m just not sure, because that whole time is such a blur and of me not really even understanding or even wanting to see what was going on, because I didn’t know what to do about it. But I’d like to talk about eating disorders a little bit, because it’s something that I haven’t talked about much. But.

22:25

now even looking back, it had a huge impact still, even like one of the last times I spent with Helene, I don’t have a lot of pictures of her because of effects of the eating disorder. And so what would you like to share about your learning about eating disorders?

Barb

Yeah, thank you. Like I say, I didn’t know it was serious. I knew like, I knew he binged, I knew he threw up. And I had to put it in this category of, oh, yeah, that’s just this thing he does. Yep.

22:52

He throws up every now and then the school nurse called me his senior year and said, you know, I think he has the Lemia. And I’m like, yep. But I had no clue. So it was four years later before he was getting to a point where his muscles were seizing up and he wasn’t able to keep working and was missing work. They insisted that he go to the doctor and get checked out. And so we took him to the doctor. She called us at like six o’clock that evening and said, you need to get him right now and you need to take him to the hospital. His electrolytes are so low, he could die.

23:22

I was like, oh my gosh. And we went to the emergency room and they rushed him right in to get an EKG. So that was the first wake up call for me of like, oh, this is not a joke. This is at least as threatening to his life as the substance use is, if not more. So from 21 on, the first night then they were teaching me that even as they reintroduced potassium to his system, he’s at risk of his heart stopping. You know, you have to be very careful with this balance. And then there’s a piece about

23:50

re-feeding syndrome, I think it’s called, whereas if someone has not been nourished well for a long time, once they start eating again, that can throw the electrolytes off. So Nate got to learn his body really well, and he would know if he started feeling tingly or lightheaded or whatever, he probably needed to go to the hospital. And he would get his IV bags of the electrolytes and get… You could watch the color change, you could watch his energy change. And what I had never thought about, honestly, until this past year…

24:19

was how malnourished his brain was and how that affected everything. I had always just attributed it to substance use or alcohol. It’s like, oh, but a malnourished brain alone can’t really function very well in the world, can’t make healthy decisions, right? So you’ve got that, then you add in the substance use. And I think what I found with him over the years was when one was worse off, the other one would subside a little bit, and then, but those were his two main coping mechanisms.

24:48

The other thing I would say is I think they’re far more common in men than we know. And the shame around that is why we’re not hearing about it. Because professionals would even say to him, this is really something that affects young women more than young men. And he would say, as he was also a teacher in every environment, I didn’t say that earlier, but he would just say, well, that’s not really helpful because I’m not a young woman. So I think he taught people over the years. But our medical profession doesn’t know about it. I mean, he was in the hospital.

25:17

nine times between the beginning of December and when he died at the end of March for multiple days and he knew the hospital to go to where he would be treated with respect and care because there is another hospital in town that that was not the case. But even as frequently as he was in, they still had to ask him the same frustrating questions over and over again. And I was there when they were doing the intake one day and he’s like, well, so you’re not nauseous. I don’t understand. Why are you throwing up? And Nate wants to just throw his hands in the air. And so the doctor looked at me and I said, well,

25:46

It’s a mental health disorder. It’s not a condition that anyone should choose to have. He’s not doing this on purpose. There were so many times over the years where he was treated as if he was doing it on purpose and just stopped. And yes, stress definitely contributed to it. But I think the other thing that’s really important to bring up is finding treatment for a person who has both a substance use disorder and an eating disorder is really challenging, if not impossible.

26:15

What we found was that the mental health people who could probably address it all, and I think this is why it’s like, if you just look at these as symptoms instead of the core problem, then we could treat the person holistically. Then they can get the help they need. They can have that support. But as long as you’re looking at it as, this is the thing we have to address, or this, we’re addressing one or the other, the people with substance use were afraid that he would die from the eating disorder. So they didn’t wanna bring him into their program. They didn’t feel equipped to handle that.

26:43

to monitor him. He was in a hospitalization program at one point for 10 days where he was very closely monitored. He couldn’t go to the bathroom with the door closed. So there was nothing in the room to throw up in. It was that level of monitoring. And really to interrupt the symptoms, that’s what you need to do. So for him, it was very extreme. And I know when he was in the hospital in January, his kidneys had been affected. So this is the other reason that I feel like his death could be.

27:11

He just sat down to rest and his heart gave out. I mean, he was definitely spinning out of control on all fronts for the last three months of his life. The eating disorder was through the roof. The substance use was coming back into play in more serious ways. And he was cutting and burning himself in a way that I had never seen before. So we were going from crisis to crisis to crisis. And he even said to me, you know, I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to live like this. And I think what we didn’t.

27:39

hear or the professionals didn’t hear or see was, and I don’t know the way out. So I think there’s a very fine line between respecting people’s autonomy and their adulthood and also being willing to step in and say, dude, what you’re doing isn’t working here. Like, we’ve got to do something different. How can we find something different together that would work for you? Yeah. And it’s so overwhelming when there’s so many things to address.

28:06

Heather

And I think I’ve actually heard you describe it the same way that I’ve described it, which is like, it’s like playing whack-a-mole. Like you’re just dealing with whatever’s coming to the surface. And it started with Helena, like the first indicator where she got caught stealing diet pills. And I was so mad at her for stealing the diet pills that I missed what that was telling us. And I was more focused on I couldn’t believe she was doing it.

28:35

the, I raised you better than this, all those kinds of things. And then, like, so I was focused on what had worked for her before. And I was trying to make her, I was like, you can’t just not do anything, you have to work out or something. And then when I took her to see the doctor, somebody who was like an eating disorder professional, she was like, you, she can’t work out, like her heart is too stressed. And because of the eating disorder, and it’s actually

29:03

not good for her to work out right now. So you need to stop pushing her to do it. And there was just so many things. And like you mentioned, finding a place that treats both, like places will say they can, which is what we ran into. And the place gave her a book to read about her eating disorder, which just triggered her. But it was the thing that I knew the least about, because her drug use always, that

29:32

the more concerning thing, even though, like you said, the eating disorders really are dangerous. And it was always that same thing. One would be, she would take down the drug use or wasn’t using it all. And then the eating disorder would come up more. And then the image, her self-image, like she looked at herself, we were dress shopping just before she passed away. And we just had to stop because it was too triggering for her.

30:02

Even though my mom and I are like, Oh my gosh, she looks so beautiful. It’s like so wonderful for us to see her. But yet for her, it was torturous. And before, I would have been disappointed and it would have been about me that I didn’t get to experience watching her try on the dresses. But at least by that point, I understood like, this is something painful for her. And this is not a fun experience for her like it is for me. And at least had that knowledge before.

30:32

by that time. But after she passed away and I was like looking through pictures, trying to find pictures of her. And I was like, frustrated, like, why don’t I have more pictures? What is wrong with me? Why didn’t I take them? And I’m like, Oh, well, she wouldn’t let me. There’s a lot of times that she would not let me take pictures. And so it’s really lucky that last day that I saw her that she let me take a lot of pictures. But it’s just, it’s a lot to have to manage.

31:00

all of those things and Helana dealt with the self-harm as well. And just the information that I got about eating disorders and the self-harm, I think, was all just as damaging as the information I was getting about her substance use. One thing I heard you say though on a podcast that I thought was really powerful was you started thinking of Nate as an empowered adult rather than a sick child. And how…

31:29

I’d like to hear you share how that helped both of you.

Barb

Yeah. Yeah, that was in a recovery coach training, like Recovery Coach University. And it really did stop me in my tracks. Like, oh, because the evidence would suggest that you’re not really an empowered adult. So it doesn’t look that way. It doesn’t look like you’re able to handle things. It doesn’t look like you’re making good decisions. So again, it’s a mindset shift within me as to how I’m going to treat him.

31:58

And I think what it did was allow me to come alongside him and stop pretending that I knew what was better and stop pushing and telling and yelling and all of that and really start treating him with more respect, more dignity, more open-mindedness, more curiosity. Sometimes if a kid says, I don’t wanna go back to inpatient, we immediately get upset and think, well, you’re just being resistant or obviously you don’t want it enough, but maybe there’s a really good reason.

32:27

Maybe they had a horrible experience. So it allows you to have those conversations and start to get curious, start to listen, start to let them lead, follow their guidance. And I guess, where as a sick child, obviously you would be doing everything to take care of them. You are treating them as if they can’t do anything for themselves. And that’s just not true. Even when people are really affected by the diseases, I don’t think are the disorders. They still have capacity and ideas and opinions

32:56

need to be valued. Again, the only piece I would say maybe now is a little bit of a caveat when somebody is so affected that they’re really struggling to make healthy choices and they don’t really seem to know their way out. I might like people to intervene a little bit more at that point and just again, come alongside but not don’t just hand him a list of here’s a few more meetings you can come to I hope you show up. Towards the end, in the last month, he finally had gotten connected with a care coordinator.

33:25

for the eating disorder, who was really doing a fabulous job because she was also bringing together the substance use outpatient people and the mental health outpatient people, who to that point were kind of operating in silos instead of the holistic care. And she was stepping in and saying, okay, I’m gonna help you fill out this paperwork. I will drop it off for you. So he needed a little bit more of that. The empowered adult thing actually, he had, I don’t know how many prescriptions.

33:54

living on his own, eight, 10, that he was supposed to manage on his own. And I had thought of the idea that maybe we could help him with that. But somehow I managed to bite my tongue long enough for him to actually ask us to do that. And when the ideas come from them, it’s so much better than if I’m the one saying, I think this would be good. You know, I think you should try this. But even there, all that meant was we would meet with him once a week. We would fill up his pill containers. And so he only had a week’s worth.

34:22

to manage or available to him because Adderall was one of the descriptions that he would sometimes mistake, take too much. But that was a thing that allowing him to be empowered allowed him to ask us for that help, allowed him some space to guide and say, okay, and we tried some harm reduction things that we had never done before, buying cannabis for him. Okay, you’ve told me for 13 years, this is helpful for you. You’re right. I have no idea what’s going on in your brain.

34:52

What’s it going to cost to get through a week? I’ll do that. Never, ever, ever, ever would have imagined having that conversation or considering that approach. But we were at the point where like, well, nothing else is working. This is something we’ve never tried before. The hope was that it would keep him away from the harder things. Obviously it did not do that, but at least in that moment, he felt so seen and heard and respected. I mean, he was literally blown away. He’s like, mom, I can’t believe you’re sitting here with me doing this.

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So what does that do for our relationship? Just felt treating them that way, seeing them for who they are, allowing them a voice is really critical to building a strong relationship.

Heather

Yeah. And it is so hard. Like I’m thinking about like when the first time Helena went to treatment and she came home afterwards and she wanted to, she was just going to smoke pot. That was gonna be her harm reduction. And

35:49

that is a really hard decision to make, because it feels so wrong. We’re constantly told abstinence is the only way. But I’m actually grateful that I gave her the, like it was her decision to make. And also, she had to go through that process for her. I don’t know what Nate’s experience was, but Helena had to realize that she could not manage smoking pot, because then she’s just gonna smoke so much of it.

36:19

like that it wasn’t going to work out like she planned. But she needed the dignity and the opportunity to figure that out on her own without me hanging over her telling her, see, you can’t do it. She came to that conclusion on her own. I think that, but I also want to really acknowledge how hard that is to come to that place. I don’t know, did you struggle with yourself when you came to that place?

Barb

Oh, yes.

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I mean, my husband was actually the first one to do it. He was like, oh, this is what I did. I was, he just saw how desperate Nate was to get it. And it was like, he’s going to one way or the other. So I would rather help him to get it legally than to leave him to steal or be so desperate that he’s going to do something that’s going to get him into more trouble. So oh no, I had to talk to a couple of my invitations.

37:16

to change friends and say, this is what I just did. And they’re like, great, I’m so glad. And again, it was kind of like, OK, we’ll try this as a trial. And I think that’s the other thing you can do. Start to learn to play with things. Let’s try this for a week or two. Let’s see how it happens. Unfortunately, he did not ever get to the point where your daughter did to say, this isn’t working for me. I am only going to smoke this, and I’m going to smoke too much, and it’s not going to help me. But again, I don’t know. Did it?

37:45

make him feel better about his life while he was here? Did he make him feel better about our relationship and the fact that we were listening and hearing him? I hope so. I think one of the things we have to do is let go of the outcome. When they talk about detach and let go, I don’t think that that’s necessarily for me about the letting go of the person as much as it is of letting go of the reality that I’m not in charge of how this is going to end.

Heather

You don’t know, and I do know now, but. I agree with that. I feel the same way about detaching. I try to…

38:14

talk about that as much as possible, that it really means, like if you look at the actual Al-Anon literature, it means detaching from the outcome and not the actual person. But, and also just to be fair about Helena’s experience, it led to her, she was back on heroin again and that’s when she realized like, oh, this is just gonna be a cycle for me. I’m not gonna be able to manage this the way that I would like to.

38:43

We knew that when we started talking that we were probably going to end up doing two episodes because we haven’t even gotten to the part where we’ve really talked about like what helps you and how you live your life every day, which I think everybody needs to hear. So we’re going to end here. And there’s going to be a second part where we talk more about like what Barb’s daily practices and what has helped her to really live a full rich life like her book.

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title. And but I’m going to let Barb end with something before we take a little break and come back with part two.

Barb

Okay, thank you. I’m going to end with a couple of things. I’m going to end with a reading from the book. And this is, I think it goes along with everything we’ve been talking about. This is called I Have Always Loved You. It was the last poem that I wrote for the book. And of course, it was for my beloved son. From the moment I knew you existed, I have loved you in a way I didn’t understand. When I felt you moving within me.

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our bond began. I didn’t know who you were or where you were headed. But my love was unconditional and eternal. Even then. I’ve always loved you. Even as we’ve grown apart. Even when my words and touch no longer soothe your pain. I’ve loved you even when I couldn’t hold you. Even when I’ve lost you and you’ve lost me. I’ve loved you in my darkest hours when I’ve doubted myself and my ability to love when I’ve had no idea how to help you.

40:11

I’ve loved you as I’ve screamed at you, terrified of the world that had consumed you. I’ve loved you as I’ve cried out in despair, sobbing for someone to show me the way. I’ve loved you as I have seen past the fog, beneath the shadows, and into your heart, your spirit, where I have always seen and known your wisdom, your depth, your kindness, your love, and your promise. I’ve loved you when you cast me aside.

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because for me to see you was unbearable. I’ve loved you through it all and I will continue to love you into eternity. And that’s always a hard one to get through. But the other thing I would just say, you asked me before we talked was, did I have a call to action? And I’m kind of in a beautiful place of sabbatical right now with my work, so I’m not selling anything. I’m not asking anybody to enroll in anything. But I do have a call to action and that is simply educate yourself.

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If you’re affected by substance use disorder, eating disorder, find resources out there. There’s a ton on my website. Get yourself the information that you need so that you can show up as a more effective partner. Or if you’re the person who’s struggling, you can understand yourself better, maybe. And just come together with more compassion, more gentleness, more love. And let’s just make the world a little bit gentler, kinder, softer.

Heather

Thank you so much for sharing that. That’s beautiful.

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It’s a beautiful place to end. And Barb’s information will be in the show notes. So make sure that you check for her website so that you can look at those resources she mentioned.