Healthy Brains – How happy thoughts can lead to serenity

brain healthA while back, I caught Dr. Daniel Amen on TV talking about his book, Magnificent Mind at Any Age.  I am interested in his work, especially since I discovered that the nutritional supplements he recommends seem to help with depression.  When my son was first struggling to become sober, he carried his vitamins and nutrients everywhere with him in a shoe box.  They kept him on an even keel and took the edge off, much as opiates had done.

Dr. Amen claims that SPEC brain scans reveal that people who think happy thoughts show much “healthier” brain activity than those who think sad thoughts.  I didn’t catch his definition of healthy brain activity, but no matter:  the point is that you improve your brain function when you are optimistic and positive, rather than negative.  That sounds quite Disneyesque and is a tall order for the mother of a teen drug addict, but what have you got to lose?

This approach also dovetails well with that handy Al-Anon slogan, “Fake it till you make it,” which helped me get through many difficult hours.  During my son’s active addiction, I awoke most mornings riddled with anxiety. Anticipating some sort of crisis, I greeted each day with a fight or flight state, ready to leap into action and deal with the missing son or the car accident or the threatening phone call.  It took a lot of mental muscle-building (and a good therapist) for me to learn to talk myself off the ledge.  Now when I am stressed, I flip the switch and reach for Smiley Faces instead of the Grim Reaper, faith instead of fear.  That very conscious and deliberate action helps me feel calmer and—yes—happier.

Trust me, I am very much a work in progress.  I was born in a state of High Alert, but as I learn how my brain works, I am equipping myself with some powerful tools to reclaim my serenity.

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

Do you have peace within?

Free from Worry – Regain control of yourself in order to help your addicted child

StressSomeone mentioned recently what a big smile I had.  I responded, ‘Yes, I have a lot to smile about…’  Then I thought about how that wasn’t always the case.  There were many days and weeks that would go by with no sign of a smile.  This was during the depths of the dark time with my child’s struggle with addiction.  I was consumed with worry and obsession about her well-being.  I did not find joy in anything, even when there were good things going, because my heart ached with despair.  But as I reflect, over time that changed.  As I got healthier and realized that I was not in control of the outcome of another person’s life, I began to regain my own.  I went from reacting to the day to day crisis to being proactive and in control of my boundaries and my time.  This began to give me peace of mind, serenity and sanity.

It’s hard to imagine that you can be happy if your child is not happy.  But it is possible to disconnect from the sinking ship that is their addiction and swim to shore.  Once I started to get perspective and take care of myself, I realized that if I got stronger and healthier I could be in a better position to help my daughter.  It is like the airlines when the flight attendant tells you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first then help your child.  It is the best analogy, how can you save them when you are suffocating yourself?  As parents we love our children so much that we would do anything to save them from harm.  But the very act of helping a loved one in addiction can, sometimes, have the opposite effect and help keep them in their addiction.  I am glad that I am smiling today.    I have a lot to smile about…my family is in a good place, my daughter is clean and sober. I am grateful for the happiness that I have and I know that just for today I will enjoy and feel grateful.

What Hope-Springs-Eternal Means to My Serenity

water flowingThere was a time I’d spend my waking moments hoping for a positive change in my sons. I would hope that the rehab people would do the trick and in 30 days. I’d hope that magic bullet would find the target and I’d hope that my sons would beat all odds to a full recovery and cure. Once I discovered the hope heard in the rooms of AA, I then changed my tactics. My focus was still on my sons, but this time I had answers! I wanted to make sure they were appropriately informed about AA, were going to AA meetings, essentially, were as excited and interested as I was about AA! I would cleverly leave pamphlets out or suggest a tape I had heard… I’d hope someday they would embrace the gift of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and become a spokesperson, speaker, and well respected sponsor. I just knew they’d get their life back on track with employment, relationships and financial stability, if only.

I constantly had these hopeful dreams for them. Without hope, how could I have gone on? I don’t know why I continued to move towards a spiritual journey of recovery in Al-Anon for myself, but I did know what, when and where to get it. Perhaps it was because nothing I seemed to be doing was helping them.  My focus was misdirected but I did not know that at the time. If nothing changes, nothing changes! I slowly realized if I keep the focus on me, my desire to achieve serenity is more likely to be obtained. I kept coming back hoping to hear more stories of hope!  And it was not the stories of how their kids were doing well, though helpful and encouraging, it was how well THEY WERE DOING!  Serenity was alluring and I was told, “obtainable.” For some reason, I believed them.

Denial is the antithesis of knowledge and acceptance

Mental Illness and AddictionSCENARIO: You have received bad news again, either from your son or daughter directly, their employer, landlord, friend, relative, fill-in-the-blanks. This time the emotional roller-coaster is curving through the anger turn. You think, “This is the 6th, 7th, 12th, 100th or another LAST time!” In yet another opportunity to drill into them the PROBLEMS they are creating for themselves, maybe this time you blast them with righteous indignation about the problems they are causing YOU.

ME: “I don’t understand why you do it!”                THEM: “I don’t know why I do it!”

Who’s right? Both! “I just don’t understand why” was often said from my mouth. Yet my actions for many years did not indicate any desire to try and learn about it. Moreover, I did not hear myself when I said the words: I don’t understand – I was preoccupied with WHY. Yet it armed me with ammunition: I don’t understand, therefore I will fight-fight-fight.

In recovery I have learned that understanding is mental action of study which is sometimes measured through aptitude tests and scoring. Acceptance is a spiritual action of study with notable behavioral changes in attitude: serenity, kindness, gratitude and love. The further along I get in my own recovery, the less important “why” becomes. Knowledge has provided me with information – it was the resistance to this information that kept me in denial. Denial is the antithesis of knowledge and acceptance. And the battle of the non-Al-Anon vs. Alcoholic/Addict continues on or maybe, this time, something changes…


Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

If you knew others’ challenges, would you have more tolerance?

Seven Powerful Ways to Find your Sunshine Again

Cathy TaughinbaughCathy Taughinbaugh is a guest blogger and a Recovery Coach working with parents of addicted children. Find her at

“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” – Joseph Campbell
Are you feeling overwhelmed because of your child’s drug abuse?

When we take the time to get the support we need, our outlook can feel so much brighter no matter what our children choose to do with their lives.

I’ve found an Al-Anon parent meeting that works for me. We often laugh at our meetings, which may seem strange to you. I’ve discover that if you don’t laugh and seek joy, you remain in that well of despair.

To listen, to talk and to learn how you can live a peaceful and serene life even if your child chooses a life of chaos is immeasurable.

Many come to meetings with paper and pencil in hand ready to write down all the things that will fix their addicted child. They are surprised when their paper is blank and they have nothing to write down. There are no easy answers.

Support groups, such as Al-Anon will not fix your child, but they will help you handle the emotional toll of addiction.

We can offer treatment, and there is always hope that our kids will take us up on our offer. Our addicted child may make the decision that they want to make a change.

It is excruciating, but this is their personal journey. We want to control their progress, but they will cross the bridge to recovery when they are ready.

What can you do in the meantime?

You can work on yourself. You can take steps to ensure that you will remain healthy and find some joy.

Here are some ideas on how to let the sunshine back in your life when you are feeling overwhelmed by addiction:

1) Attend a Parent’s Support Meeting.

Finding a parent’s support group that works for you may take some work, but it is a wonderful way to interact with other parents who have experienced addiction with their children. You will realize you are not alone. You can share and listen openly without feelings of shame. Al-Anon meetings are easy to find in every city, but there are others types of parent groups that may better fit your needs.

2) Exercise

Even taking a walk on a regular basis can do wonders for relieving the stress of dealing with addiction. When you find an exercise plan that works for you and make it a regular part of your week. You will begin to feel better, stronger and more hopeful. Your focus will begin to change.

3) Talk to a Professional

If you are feeling excessively stressed, a counselor trained in addiction, can help to relieve your anxiety about your situation. An objective opinion can be a welcome help on even a short term basis. Just knowing you have someone to call if you need to can make a big difference. Get the support you need early on. Don’t wait until you are emotionally exhausted. Ask others for referrals and find someone you feel comfortable with.

4) Find Some Quiet Time

Sit quietly for a few moments each day. Find a comfortable spot in your home. Sit on a chair or on a cushion on the floor. Let your thoughts float by and don’t judge them. It will help to center your thoughts, and give you a chance to stop and focus on your breath. Your mind will welcome the short break. You will begin to access your inner thoughts. Sitting each day each day helps to make us feel happier. Try it and see if you don’t feel some relief.

5) Treat Yourself Well

Going to a movie, or getting together with friends can add a little fun in your life. It will make you feel better. Just the simple act of bringing in beautiful flowers can give you something to smile about. Take care of yourself and give yourself the loving care that you deserve. Don’t do it just once. Make it a regular part of your life. Treat yourself well and you will realize the benefits.

6) Write Down Your Feelings

Writing each day is a soothing way to express our feelings and get our thoughts down on paper. Find three things to be grateful for each day and write them down. Write about something positive that has happened in your life. You may find that making a goal of writing three pages a day gives you a clear starting and stopping point. Of course, you can add more when you feel the need.

7) Let Go of Trying to Control Your Child’s Disease

When you surrender and realize that your child’s addiction is out of your control, a huge burden is released. We realize that we cannot solve our children’s problems. We can love them, and we can support them in healthy ways. When our children take responsibility for their lives, they become stronger. They will become the person they were meant to be.

Find your sunshine again. You can have that good day you’ve been missing, one day at a time.

Cathy Taughinbaugh is a former teacher and mother of a crystal meth addict in recovery. She writes on addiction, recovery and treatment at You can also follow her on Facebook at Treatment Talk and twitter @treatmenttalk.

All I want for Christmas is an orange jumpsuit

I used to think that my child’s arrest would be the worst possible thing ever. Talented and energetic enabler that I am, I gave that topic a lot of thought and even imagined that I could keep my kid out of jail.  Note to self:  as Al-Anon so wisely teaches us, we cannot control another person’s addiction to alcohol or other drugs.

Today, with the holidays and winter’s cold blasts at my doorstep, I have a very different perspective on jail time for someone addicted to drugs or alcohol. Today, an orange jumpsuit and “three hots and a cot” might be the best gift imaginable for a chemically-dependent child (of any age) and family alike:

  • You’d know where your child is.
  • You’d know your phone wouldn’t be ringing with a desperate or dire phone call in the middle of the night.
  • You’d know you have a chance for a good night’s sleep.
  • You’d know he or she is sheltered and being fed.
  • You’d know he or she was not wandering the streets, a potential victim of assault or street drugs.
  • You know that your child is experiencing the consequences of his or her poor choices and dangerous decisions. And that can be an incentive to change.
  • You’d know (or you’d hope) the legal system would put in place some sanctions, like requiring your child to go to treatment.
  • You’d know that, at least temporarily, the balance of power has changed.  You’ve got some leverage on your side.
  • You know that you and your child have been given the gift of a brighter tomorrow.

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

12196101_722392971226415_7560179514246009591_n“This doesn’t mean I don’t care. Or don’t hurt. Or won’t cry. It just means I will fill the hole in my life where Joey should be with goodness, not badness. Kindness, not madness. I will honor my son with my words and my actions – not the addict. The destructive spread of the disease of addiction stops with me.”

Sandy Swenson, author of The Joey Song, a Mother’s Story of her Son’s Addiction

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

Can you forgive to find peace?

Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.   – Jonathan Lockwood Huie