EP66 What if your child Says They Want to Quit Using Substances, but doesn’t quit?

Living With Your Child's Addiction Podcast
Living With Your Child's Addiction Podcast
EP66 What if your child Says They Want to Quit Using Substances, but doesn't quit?

Did you know we can want two things that contradict each other at the same time? It’s called ambivalence and it’s a complex emotion. It’s part of the messiness of being human. When we feel complex competing emotions the last thing we want is someone to minimize how we feel by oversimplifying it, yet that’s what we do when we label our kid’s ambivalence about substances as denial or accuse them of not being serious about recovery. It’s possible for your child to want to quit using substances and keep using them. 

3 things you’ll learn in this episode:

  • Ambivalence is normal
  • Ways we all experience ambivalence
  • How to leverage understanding your child’s behavior

Episodes to listen to next:

EP 58 The 6 Stages of Change and Strategies for Motivating Change in Each Stage

Ep 54 Harm Reduction with guest Lara Okoloko, LICSW

EP 60 Sobriety Can’t Be Your Only Measure For Success

3 Steps To Create Holiday Peace & Maybe Even Some Joy Blog Post

Resources From Heather Ross Coaching

NEW GUIDE ABOUT ENABLING – If you’ve ever worried about enabling, this guide is for you! https://heatherrosscoaching.com/perspective-about-enabling/

GROUP COACHING PROGRAM – Join the waitlist – New Group Starting soon! Be the first to get details. https://heatherrosscoaching.com/peace-of-mind-community/

If you want coaching about your child’s addiction or anything else Sign up for a 45 minute $17 call with me using the link below



There’s a new parent support group in Town. Use the link below to find out about the Invitation to Change support group Heather is hosting.

Learn More & Sign Up For The Invitation To Change Group

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This transcript has not been formatted or edited.


I’m Heather after many wasted years, trying outdated, approaches to my daughter’s addiction, that felt wrong to me harmed.

Our relationship and didn’t help my daughter.

I finally found an effective evidence-based approach.


That repair my relationship with her helped me.

Create my own peace of mind and made me an ally in my daughter’s recovery.

I teach you a loving and compassionate approach to help you encourage change.

And create connection addiction impacts the entire family system.


Family recovery is the answer.


How’s everybody doing?

I hope everybody made it through Thanksgiving.


I know how hard the holidays can be, and I wrote a blog post with a few ideas that can help you through the holidays.


I will put a link to that in the show notes, so if you haven’t seen it yet, you can start working on those ideas Before Christmas.

Because this time of the year can just be really tough.

Can magnify I everything that’s already difficult enough.


The rest of the year today, I want to tell you about the free invitation to change support group that I’m a facilitating starting.

December 6th, invitation to change, is a helping framework.


That was created by the psychologists at CMC foundation for change.

It seems like every time I start trying to do a podcast like my voice, Starts acting like I’m a 14 year old boy and it’s a starts changing.

So invitation to change is a helping framework that was created by the psychologist at CMC foundation for change.


Some of those psychologists co-authored the book beyond addiction how science and kindness help people change.

So if you like that book then you are going to love ITC.

But I TC meaning invitation to change.


If you’ve never heard of either of them, That’s okay.

I’m still going to tell you more about it.

Invitation to change is completely different from my coaching program.

It’s something that I’ve never offered before and again, it’s free.

So I’m not going to spend a ton of time explaining exactly what invitation did change is because you can read about it, on my website, there’s a link in the show notes, that is dedicated to describing all the details of when the meetings will be.


Be there going to be online and explaining exactly the science behind invitation to change all the details of it.

But what I want to do in this episode is just share one of the concepts that you’re going to learn in the meetings so that you can get a feel for what it will be.


Like to make sure that this is something that you’re interested in, which I would have loved, I would have killed to have found this.

When I was first, Trying to figure out how to help myself and help huh, Lana.


So I think it’s amazing and that’s why I want to share it with you.

So the concept that I’m going to talk about today is called, ambivalence is normal.

So I want to start by talking about what ambivalence is what the definition is, and it’s simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings.


Such as attraction and repulsion towards an object person or action.

In this case, it means wanting to quit using substances and also wanting to continue using them.


The desire to quit or keep using is not mutually exclusive both can exist at the same time.

So I want to give you a couple of examples Examples of ambivalence outside of substance use so that maybe you can identify with them and see, ambivalence in yourself.


So it’s longing for and missing an ex who hurt you repeatedly and that you know, is bad for you but you love them and you also don’t like them wanting to meet your friends for dinner and also wanting to go home.


And go to bed early being happy for your friend that her child is headed off to college on a scholarship and pledging for a sorority while.

Also being sad and disappointed that your child is nearly homeless because of their substance use and may never get that college experience.


And last one you want to love and support your child, but seeing their struggle really hurts and you wonder if Helping or hurting them, and if maybe you should cut them off, like everybody’s telling you to, you just can’t decide.


So you keep going back and forth.

Behaving somewhat erratically.

Ambivalence is complex and we all experience it.

It’s not good or bad, it’s just part of being a human.

Being, a human is messy and we often have competing emotions pulling us in different directions.


It’s when we’re feeling competing emotions, we understand the complexity of it.

But substance use is often way over simplified, because the uncertainty of it creates so much tension and discomfort.


Plus there’s that stigma and misunderstanding about substance use as well.

We want to ease the discomfort of things that are really uncomfortable by trying to Them into nice neat categories but we also don’t want that done to our emotions.


We don’t want our emotions to be minimized by oversimplifying them.

So if we can hang in there with the complexity of someone else experiencing competing emotions, we can learn a lot from that experience and give ourselves and our kids, the gift of being seen Heard and understood in the process thinking about the examples of ambivalence I used earlier.


You can see that there is an acknowledgement of the push, and the pull and the complexity of each situation when it comes to substance use, though, those complex emotions of wanting to quit and also not wanting to quit at the same time.


They’re so limited.

Ed and categorized and labeled as denial, we say, they’re denying their problem with substances.

They don’t care, they aren’t motivated and many other judgments that seek to simplify again.


A very complex situation.

So many of the things we learn about substance, use are based on stigma and stigma comes with a lot of judgment and major lack of understanding.

So I want to use the example Apple of wanting to lose weight.


I think it’s a great example of ambivalence because most people can relate to it.

It’s also less triggering than substance use.

So that will make it hopefully easier for your mind to be open to learning this concept.

And just for fun.


I’m going to use myself as the example.

So last year her, I guess this year after, holy Anna died.

I gained about 15 pounds.

And I want to lose that weight.

I complain about it.

It bothers me.

Every time I look in the mirror and then it bothers me when I look in my closet at my clothes that don’t fit.


It’s a problem for me.

I know what I need to do to lose the weight but I just don’t do it.

I definitely need to lose weight before I attempt, my breast reconstruction, which is something that’s really important to me, but I still haven’t done anything about it.

I just named like a lot of reasons for me to be motivated to lose weight but I’m not doing anything about it.


I keep doing the same thing.

A over and over again.

Like I don’t schedule time in my day to eat breakfast.

I might eat a protein shake which is not very filling for very long.

I don’t schedule myself time to eat lunch and then I eat some kind of unsatisfying snack when I get a break between calls and then by the time, I sit down to eat dinner at night.


I am hungry and starving and overeat.

Like it’s just this vicious cycle.

All, I really need to do.

I say this like it’s so simple but obviously it’s not simple to me right now, but all I need to do is grocery shop and meal prep like has to be done ahead of time for me and I would lose weight because when I’m motivated, that’s what I do.


But right now that sounds to me like the way a lot of people feel about doing taxes, like it just sounds that complicated that’s just where I’m at right now and some people might be hearing this.


And judging me thinking it would be just so easy for me to fix that.

And for you eating a healthy diet is probably easy, or maybe it’s something that you worked on until it became easy like you have balance and structure in that area in your life.


And you might even think that I would just do it if I really wanted to, but I can really want to lose weight and also not want to do the work.

Is the way yet and I’m not lying or manipulating when I’m telling you that I want to lose weight.


I’m telling the truth.

I might say, starting next week.

I’ve done this before.

I’m going to go grocery shopping and meal prep and nourish my body with healthy meals when I’m hungry.

And when I say it, I mean it, but but then by the time, Monday rolls around, I wish I wanted to do it and I want to have the desire but I just don’t Don’t so, I keep repeating the cycle and I’m sure that there are other people listening to this, who can identify with what I’m saying.


You’ve experienced this you wanted the desire to lose weight and you’ve wanted to want it, but you are not there yet.

So you’re not taking the action to go after what you want.


I trust myself that at some point, I’ll have The extra emotional capacity and energy to put their and my ambivalence will change.

And I’ll take action but then it’s still not one decision.


Once I do that, it’s the decision to do the work then deciding to actually go out and do it and then deciding not to cheat on my commitment to myself.

Every time I get tempted by something and then a another little decisions repeated over and over again.


So I can’t imagine what it would feel like if my friends and family called me a liar and a manipulator and said I was in denial about my weight because I said I wanted to lose weight but then I haven’t taken action yet or if everybody I loved turned their back on me because it was too hard to see me heavier than I was Last year like that 15 pounds was just too much for them to handle that would not motivate me.


It would make me so resistant and I would just stop going around those people and talking to them.

I would feel so alone in the world like just thinking of that makes me so sad and just sticking with that weight loss example.


Ambivalence is actually the first step in developing the motivation to change.

So my desire to want to is a push toward change and part of the change process.

So, this concept of ambivalence is normal is focused on understanding.


Once you understand your child and their behaviors, then it’s, it’s easier to help them in a helpful way, helping them easier to help them in a way that they can receive the help in a way that feels good to them, because It’s really important.


If you don’t understand substance use and why your child does it, they can feel the resistance just emanating.

From you like their brain processes, your tone of voice and your body language before it processes the words that you say.


So they really sense that energy in you.

Some of the concepts from invitation to change our focus on understanding and are focused on how we can help once we understand.

So that’s what we’ll talk about in this support group each meeting, we will learn about a topic, like ambivalence is normal.


What I just explained is just my version of that, I didn’t want to do a podcast sharing, what we’re going to go over in the group, but my explanation from that is different than what?

We’ll actually go over when we get to that topic, but we will discuss it.


Then we’ll do some exercises to practice understanding it.

And talk about ways you can use that understanding to help because it’s really easy to consume a lot of information but then never put it to use in your life.


So that’s a really important part of that discussion is how you’re going to put it to use in your life with your child.

The other part of the beauty of doing that in a group is being reminded.

Adieu aren’t alone.

Hearing somebody else, describe the same situations that are happening in your home and then learning from their experiences as well.


So if this sounds like something that you would be interested in use the link in the show notes to get all the details and you can sign up there as well.

But if groups aren’t your thing and you want to learn how to help your child one-on-one like just you and I alone Own and working together, you can use the sample coaching call link instead and sign up to learn more about my one-on-one program.


Alright, that’s it for today.

I hope I see you in the group.

I’ll talk to you soon.

Thank you for listening to this episode.

If you want to learn more about my work, go to Heather.

Ross coaching.com if you want to help other parents who are struggling with a child’s addiction, you can do it two different ways.


First, you can share the podcast with them directly or you can share it on your social media second.

You can leave a review, talk to you next week.