Addiction awareness and recovery: Ask a certified parent coach!

Published 16 May 2023 • By Polina Kochetkova

In this interview, we talk to Cathy Taughinbaugh - a certified parent coach and author, who helps parents to support teens and young adults who battle addictions. Today Cathy gives her take on addiction, describes possible ways to help a loved one struggling with addiction and gives advice on support techniques to use when facing substance or drug abuse yourself.

How to aid when your loved one is suffering from addiction? What missteps to avoid when providing support?

Discover in this interview!

Addiction awareness and recovery: Ask a certified parent coach!

Hi Cathy,

Thank you for agreeing to tell your story to the Carenity audience!

First of all, could you tell us more about yourself?

Hello, I’m Cathy Taughinbaugh, founder of www.cathytaughinbaugh.com. I’m a wife and a mom of three children, two sons and a daughter; I'm also a grandmother to four grandsons. I have lived in Northern California for all of my adult life. I was a fourth-grade teacher in an elementary school for many years before I started helping parents concerned about substance use. I enjoy reading, gardening, walking, and spending time with my family.

You help families struggling with addictions. Could you tell us how the job came to be in your life? At what age did you start aiding those in need? Why did you choose this field of work? How long have you been doing this for?

As a result of my journey with my own child’s drug use, I wanted to become an advocate for parents and create awareness about substance use disorder. Two of my children struggled with substance use at one point in their lives, which was frightening and challenging to cope with. I attended a support group and connected with other parents dealing with the same issue. After my children were in recovery, I was still interested in the topic and created a website for parents. I then got connected to the Partnership to End Addiction. From there, I trained as a parent coach to help families. I’ve worked in the substance use field and supported families since 2011. 

When you see a family member struggling with addiction what could be the best and most supportive ways to react? How can you support someone with an addiction?

Rather than turning away or letting your loved one hit rock bottom, leaning in and staying close to your struggling family member is more helpful. Too many do not come back from their rock bottom. Substance use can often become chronic if a person is left on their own. Learn all you can about this complex topic to make the best decision possible.

I like the idea of a patchwork approach to see what will work for your family. Support groups and therapy are great ways to learn more. From there, you can help your loved one consider a treatment facility or other form of support. Attending traditional meetings and learning new evidence-based information can give parents a broad range of options to help a struggling family member. Although it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the negative behavior it can help to look for anything positive that your family member is doing and acknowledge that behavior. Use positive communication to encourage changes that lead to a healthier life. 

Is it normal to feel detached from a loved one who has an addiction? What can you do about it? How does the feeling of detachment affect addiction recovery?

Traditionally families have been told to detach and let go or to detach with love. Wanting to disconnect is normal because addiction is painful to experience. To watch your loved one suffer can feel overwhelming, especially if you feel there is nothing you can do. A helpful approach is to stay connected with your family member if possible.

People with substance use issues are suffering greatly, and there are unique reasons why they feel that a substance can help solve their problems. When we detach, we further alienate our loved ones. We lose the ability to communicate and support the change process. The Invitation to Change Approach has tools that families can use to communicate better and encourage a more positive relationship which can lead to change.

What is the most important thing to know about addictions? 

Addiction is unique for each individual. Loved ones struggling with addiction are using substances to solve their unique problems. While it can be fun to drink or use drugs in the early stages, many negative consequences can occur as time goes on and the use continues. The sooner families can be proactive and learn ways to help their loved ones and themselves, the better the outcomes will be for everyone.

I wish there were an easy roadmap to solve addiction issues. As our loved ones have turned to drugs or alcohol for their personal reasons, they will change or recover in their own way too. While many people recover from addiction, it usually takes months or years for a person to be ready for recovery, so family members must do things to help themselves and their loved ones stay resilient. Prevention, especially during the teen years, is vital so that families can avoid substance use problems.

You work with parents concerned about substance use with their teens or young adults, using the Foundation for Change program. Could you tell us more about the program? How does it work?

The Invitation to Change approach (ITC), created by the Foundation for Change, gives parents and other family members a sense of hope. Parts of the Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT), Motivational Interviewing, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy have been combined into one package, which is ITC.

Family members can support their loved ones with substance use issues. The first step is to understand why they have turned to substances, next gain an awareness of the problem and then be aware of how you are being affected by it. ITC offers communication tools and behavioral tools such as positive reinforcement. While keeping safety in mind, it’s helpful not to jump in and solve your child’s problems. Instead, allow for natural consequences so they can feel the downside of their substance use. Also, setting clear boundaries and following through is helpful as well.

ITC enables parents and other family members to stay focused on their values and think about how they want to show up. Parents can motivate their struggling children to consider a change. I’ve witnessed many parents improve their relationships and find their children begin to change when parents and family members approach the problem in a new way.

What are the most common mistakes parents make when faced with a dependent child?

I hate to use the word mistakes because I believe most parents are doing the best they can in a difficult situation. Many parents feel guilty because they think they have done something to cause the addiction which can keep them stuck. Especially at the beginning, there is a natural tendency to try to do too much to try and fix the problem. I don’t like to use the terms enabler or co-dependent as it only makes parents feel worse. It is more helpful to do things that support recovery instead of supporting continued use. Sometimes parents are afraid to let negative consequences happen in an effort to protect their children. While safety is always a concern, setting clear boundaries and allowing your child to experience the adverse effects of substance use helps increase their motivation to want to consider a change. Hopefully, as parents learn more, they can find information to help their child and make the best possible decision going forward. 

You are the author of the book called “The Compassion Antidote”. Why did you decide to write it? What is your book about? Who should read it?

I decided to write my book, The Compassion Antidote because I wanted to share ideas I had learned in the hopes that they would help other parents concerned about substance use. The Community Reinforcement and Family Training Approach has benefited me. The book shares tools for self-care and communication strategies that many have found helpful. The book details how the change process works and how addiction affects family members, including siblings. The book is helpful for any family member but mainly for parents with preteen, teen, or adult children. My goal for sharing the information in the book is to provide ideas for the reader on how to move forward.

What have been the most rewarding aspects of your work?

It has been wonderful to have met and connected with so many parents through the years. Many have expressed how relieved they are to learn that they don’t have to let go or turn their back on their struggling children. Learning about the CRAFT and ITC approaches that are research-based and have been shown to work, has helped many parents deal with the problem in a more positive way. It has been rewarding to hear from parents whose relationship has improved with their struggling son or daughter. Many now have a son or daughter interested in getting help and living healthier lives. Through the process, parents feel better themselves and do better when coping with this challenging problem. It is wonderful to know that families are using the tools and finding ways to support themselves and their children.

Are there any resources or support groups that could be helpful during recovery?

Many support groups are available to help a person struggling with substance use. The group that many know about is AA or NA, which is a traditional approach. AA works for some, but not for everyone. SMART Recovery is an alternative that is based on science and encourages empowerment. Also, Recovery Dharma, LifeRing, Moderation Management, and She Recovers Foundation have groups that many have found helpful.

For family members, I encourage people to try an Invitation to Change group. The groups are usually free and run for about fifteen weeks. They cover understanding, self-awareness, communication, and behavioral tools. Other groups to consider are SMART Recovery for Family and Friends, Al-Anon, and local community groups for family members. 

Finally, what advice would you like to give to members who are also affected by addictions?

When each family member addresses their own issues, it helps everyone involved. Young people need healthy role models. The environment, early substance use, genetics, trauma, and mental health issues can be risk factors for substance use. The more that families can stay healthy and support each other, the less chance of substance use occurring. Addiction is a complex problem with many negative consequences. The longer it goes on, the more a person can suffer. And family members suffer as well. It helps to be honest with yourself about any issues you may be having and then learn helpful ways to stay resilient and healthy.

Any final words?

Millions of people suffer from substance use, but the good news is that many recover. Don’t let the shame and stigma overwhelm you. Reach out for help, and learn as much as possible from different sources to make the best choice for your family. Also, know that you are not alone and there is hope for your family. Parents and other family members can motivate a person to change!

 A big thank you to Cathy for this interview! 

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Take care of yourself!  

avatar Polina Kochetkova

Author: Polina Kochetkova, Health Writer

Polina is a content creator at Carenity, specialised in health writing. Polina is pursuing her bachelors in fashion marketing from IFA Paris University and in her spare time loves to play tennis and listen to music.

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