Breaking the Cycle of Addiction | Jennifer Hunt

Breaking the cycle of addiction is greatly helped when a person understands two key things: 1) addiction is a chronic, often relapsing, developmental brain disease, and 2) there are five key risk factors for developing this disease: genetics, social environment, early use, mental illness and childhood trauma. It is not uncommon for children who grow up with one or more parents with untreated addiction or an untreated mental illness or any one of these key risk factors to develop addiction, themselves. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to be contacted by Jennifer Hunt about the memoir she is writing, titled: Smoke Rings Rising: The Triumph of a Drug-Endangered Child.

When I spoke with Jennifer, she said the reason for writing her memoir was to break the cycle of addiction – not only in her family with four generations having this disease (the genetic risk factor) and being raised by her mom who had an untreated co-occurring disorder [bipolar and meth addiction] (the childhood trauma, social environment risk factors) – but for others who find themselves living in families similar to her own.

I invited Jennifer to share some of her memoir in this post. She welcomes your feedback or comments and can be reached via email at or on Facebook at Smoke.Rings.Rising


Author of the upcoming memoir, written to help brea

Author of the upcoming memoir, “Smoke Rings Rising: The Triumph of a Drug-Endangered Child,” Jennifer Hunt around age 2 and one-half. She’s writing her memoir to help others break the cycle of addiction.

“When you were five years old, someone wanted to buy you from me, but I said no.” – my mother (addicted since her early twenties) 1984.

Our family of origin doesn’t have to determine our family of creation, and our past choices don’t have to define who we are today. SMOKE RINGS RISING: The Triumph of a Drug- Endangered Child is about my journey – not unscathed — through a world of addiction and dysfunction. Now, I am a happily married mother of two, plus stepmother of three, who lives in Oroville, CA, where I have been employed as a court reporter for 20 years. The memoir is due out in fall/winter 2015 and below you’ll find an excerpt.

Since my parents moved me up in the sticks and I was starting my freshman year in a different high school district than Danniel, I had hoped I would at least get to see him a little more since I’d be in town every day, and maybe even get to meet up at lunch sometimes like normal boyfriends and girlfriends did. It didn’t happen. Except for my 15th birthday in October he showed up on lunch break with flowers and a long kiss. Then he was gone again.

As the distance between us grew, he called me at home one night and told me that he was going to Iowa to take care of a friend of his, a female friend, who was sick.

I asked, “Iowa?”

He laughed because I had pronounced it “ahy-OH-uh,” then corrected me and said, “You say it “AHY-uh-wuh.”

However you say it, I took it as his way out of our relationship. I had no choice but to say, “Okay.”

Even though I was described once as her “sidekick,” I started hanging out more and more with Brooke and some new friends. And since it looked like it was over between Danniel and me, I started seeing other guys. I became involved with someone whom I thought I really liked, Eric. He was 19, and I was only 15. He was tall, had blond hair past his shoulders, was from L.A., and said he loved me. I’d sit and listen to him practice his acoustic guitar sometimes when we were together as he tried to write music about “the girl with the long brown hair” – yours truly. We lasted almost three months together, but then someone new came into his life, someone more appropriate for him. In the middle of carving a “J” for Jennifer out of a piece of wood, he couldn’t decide whether or not to turn it into a “T” for the first letter of the name of the new person. He eventually chose to sever the hook. Even though he was up front with me about everything, that one still hurt.

Danniel must have found out that I had a boyfriend after the fact because he showed up on my lunch break at school one day and laid a long kiss on me in front of everybody to let them know that I was his. I didn’t hear from him again until Mom had him call me to try and talk some sense into me:

“Mom says you’re doing some really bad, bad things.” Then, in a tone of surprise, “I waited for you for a long, long time.”

I didn’t respond to him.

After feeling burned and abandoned by my own mother and fathers, plural, as well as every other male in my life, I did pretty much anything and everything I wanted to without regard for anyone else, or myself for that matter. It was easy to do what I wanted. I would buy my mom out:

“Mom, can I go to Brooke’s?”

“You’ve been there for three days straight.”

“I’ll bring you a joint.”


After Eric and by the end of freshman year, I had gone through a couple of boyfriends, as did Brooke. She and I partied with pot and booze a lot during that summer. It was rare to hear someone speak about coke up in Concow, but crank was everywhere. I came dangerously close to testing my resolve against the power of the almighty meth, my greatest nemesis, but I knew it wouldn’t be worth it. And, while at a party, I did find out what acid looked like. I watched while the adult handed out vitamins to those who had fried as she explained, “It takes a lot out of a body.”

It wasn’t long after our sophomore year started that Brooke began dating a guy a little older than she was. Her new guy had a friend that was a little older than he was. That friend was Rick, a “surfer-hippie-jock,” as he’d often refer to himself. He was a good looking man, well-built but slender, six foot tall, had a Tom Selleck mustache going on, and was always drinking. He would tear the tabs off his beer cans because he said they got caught in his scarred nostril that at one time had been torn by a cleat from Kurt Russell during a high school football game.

Brooke, her boyfriend, Rick, and I spent a lot of time together. Rick was nearly 20 years older than I was, but often would make advances toward me. I was not interested. He’d say, “When I’m 90, you’ll be 70.” “I’ll put your face on a magazine.” “I’ll treat you like a queen.” He talked about us leaving Concow and going down to southern California where he could show me how normal, civilized people lived. And since I told him I had never eaten a good steak, he wanted to take me to a place where I could get a killer one.

I had a boyfriend at the time. “No, I don’t think so,” I’d tell him.

He’d write poetry for me. One was something about a dove and him, Rick, shedding a tear, for he would have to wait another year. He assured me he’d come back to Concow every year until I turned 18.

My life had veered off in such the opposite direction of where I once intended it to go. All of my childhood dreams of becoming a lawyer or doctor – Lord knows we needed either one or the other in my family – or the once-asserted courtroom stenographer that “made the bucks” seemed no longer viable options. As to my chance at ever being loved by someone? It was obvious, I wasn’t loveable. I had a boyfriend, but that’s all he was, “just a boyfriend,” so I didn’t have to be alone. I found myself exactly where I had said I would never be: seeded right alongside my mother.

Back at home, needles hidden in the bathroom medicine cabinet, a canister of some form of liquid meth in my closet, and a spoon on my dresser, all of which were never mine, Mom was impatiently pacing the house waiting for my sister Lori to come by. I assumed, as was usually the case, it was so she could get wired. Lori was late.

Then, desperate, Mom delivered her very own coup de grace: “Jenny, do you have any?”

Additional Information on Breaking The Cycles of Addiction

In closing this post by Jennifer, I’d like to share a few key resources for people who may find themselves in similar families.

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren of Addicted Parents

There are many reasons grandparents find themselves raising their grandchildren. This article is specifically for grandparents raising grandchildren of addicted parents. In other words, they’ve stepped up because their own adult child is incapable of raising their own child as a result of their addiction.

I’m writing this because the ramifications for all concerned – grandparents, the grandchildren, the addicted children – as well as the potential for the cycle of addiction to continue or the trauma for a child whose parent finds sobriety, takes them back, but then relapses and returns them to their grandparents, are huge. Huge.

Diverse ChildrenAs with others in a family with a loved one with addiction, the stigma, secrecy and shame can be staggeringly crippling for grandparents and their grandchildren who find themselves in this position. In my view, this is one of the least understood or addressed examples of secondhand drinking | secondhand drugging, which refers to the negative impacts of a person’s drinking or drugging behaviors on others.

So here are some suggestions to help grandparents who find themselves raising their grandchildren because their child is addicted to drugs or alcohol. This information will help you better understand things like, why your child continues their drug or alcohol use in spite of what it’s doing to their child, what your grandchild may experience as a result of being born to a drug or alcohol addicted mother who was actively using while pregnant, where to find help and support for yourself, how to set boundaries with your addicted adult child and so forth.

Before you continue, however, please understand you cannot do this all at once. Skimming through this article may feel daunting and the suggestions impossible to do, so take your time, take breaks, come back to it when you’re ready to continue.

Learn as Much as You Can About the Brain Disease of Addiction, Secondhand Drinking/Secondhand Drugging and Addiction Recovery

This will help you answer the question, “How can they do this to their own children?” It will also help you better understand the impacts on you and your grandchildren (i.e., secondhand drinking / secondhand drugging).

Find Support for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren of Addicted Parents (Including General Support for Raising Grandchildren)

General support around raising grandchildren:

  • AARP’s GRANDFACTS – state fact sheets for grandparents and other relatives raising children that provide information about the range of support services, resources, programs, benefits, laws and policies available to help them successfully fulfill their caregiving role.
  • Grandparents Raising Grandchildren – find grandparent programs in your state and get information about benefits, assistance, and more.
  • AARP’s Guide for GrandFamilies – things to know if you’re just starting to care for a grandchild.
  • – offers a national legal resource in support of GrandFamilies within and outside the child welfare system.

Support around coping with your child’s (your grandchildren’s parents’) addiction:

Understand What May Have Happened to Your Grandchild if Their Mother Was Using While They Were En Utero

This is not to scare you but to prepare you for how you can address issues that come up along they way, because according to the CDC’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders information page, “research shows that early intervention treatment services can improve a child’s development.”

You might also want to download this free report, “22 Things Parents Must Know About Kids With FASD That Will SAVE Heartache, Hassle, and the Emotional Fallout from Trial & Error.

Understand Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Another aspect of all this is what your grandchild may have experienced as a young child, regardless of whether their mother was using drugs or alcohol while pregnant. It has to do with what are called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

Two excellent resources are ACEsTooHigh and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Newsroom, as well as the CDC website explaining the ACEs Study, major findings and similar information.

Bottom Line

Know – the mere fact your grandchild has you – a loving, caring adult – in their lives goes a long, long way to building their resiliency in spite of what all they’ve faced thus far. Not only that but the 21st century neuroscience research shows the brain is “plastic” – it can heal, it can re-wire, it can thrive – which of course, means your grandchild can, too!

And feel free to call me at 650-362-3026 or send me an email at with any questions (no charge).

Toxic Shame | Guest Author Darlene Lancer

Darlene Lancer's latest book, "Conquering Shame and Codependency, 8 Things to

Guest article by Darlene Lancer, Author of “Conquering Shame and Codependency, 8 Things to Freeing the True You”

Toxic shame – sometimes called Internalized Shame – is typically at the root of codependency or addiction. Here to help us understand this dynamic and what to do about it is Darlene Lancer, author of Codependency for Dummies and Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You. Darlene’s latest eBook is titled, Spiritual Transformation in the Twelve StepsIt’s always a pleasure to share Darlene’s work. She can be reached at or you may wish to follow her on Facebook or visit her website

Toxic Shame (aka Internalized Shame) by Darlene Lancer

Toxic shame ruins lives. It usually starts in childhood as a result of chronic or less frequent, but severe experiences of shame. Parents communicate shame to their children through verbal messages or nonverbal behavior. Even a parent’s depression, absence, indifference, or irritability can make a child feel inadequate or rejected. Competitiveness and over-correcting behavior are also examples of unintentional shaming. A child needs to feel loved by both parents for his or her individuality. When children are scolded harshly, they feel alone and ashamed, unless the parent-child bond of love is soon repaired. However, even after toxic shame has been internalized, it can be reversed by therapy or later positive life experiences.

Some of the beliefs that accompany internalized shame are listed below. Underneath, the basic assumption is “I’m unlovable and unworthy of connection.”

  • I’m stupid
  • I’m unattractive (especially to a romantic partner)
  • I’m a failure
  • I’m a bad person
  • I’m a fraud or phony
  • I’m selfish
  • I’m not enough (this belief can be applied to numerous areas)
  • I hate myself
  • I don’t matter
  • I’m defective, inadequate
  • I shouldn’t have been born
  • I’m unlovable

Usually, normal shame passes like any other emotion, but toxic shame hangs around. It can totally absorb us and our life or it may remain unconscious, but be very powerful and linger once it’s been triggered. Some other key differences between ordinary and toxic shame is that the latter is more intense and can be triggered by our own thoughts – meaning that there’s no external event causing the shame. The event or events happened long ago in childhood, but once internalized, they needn’t be remembered. Toxic shame creates “shame anxiety,” so that we worry about being rejected or feeling ashamed. It also leads to codependency and addiction, as well as aggression, hopelessness and depression, eating disorders, and PTSD.

To read more on the causes and characteristics of toxic shame, please read my post, “What is Toxic Shame?,” and for help with healing from toxic shame and building your self-esteem, check out my book, Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You.

©Darlene Lancer 2015

Help for Moms Whose Kids Struggle With Substance Use | Cathy Taughinbaugh

Discovering your child is using or abusing or maybe even addicted to drugs or alcohol can be a mom’s worst nightmare. She is often shocked, guilt-ridden, confused, angry, ashamed, saddened and floundering as she battles the stigma, misinformation and shame to figure out what to do to help her child. And it’s a land mine of information, conflicting advice and unhelpful “help.” So it is my great pleasure to share this interview with Cathy Taughinbaugh, CPC and founder of, whose new program “Rise Up Moms Club” is designed specifically to help moms whose kids struggle with substance use. She is the author of 101 Natural Highs for an Amazing Drug-Free Life and Parents to PhDs: 28 Interviews With People Who Share Heartache, Wisdom and Healing From First Hand Experience With Substance Use Disorder (includes interviews with David Sheff, Christopher Kennedy Lawford, Tommy Rosen and Greg Williams). 
I have known Cathy Taughinbaugh for five years, now. She is an important and highly trained, experienced voice spreading awareness about the dangers of drug or alcohol abuse in our youth and helping parents weather this turbulent time in their child’s life. I’ll let her interview tell the rest of her story and give you more insights into her new program to help moms.
Parent Recovery Coach, Cathy Taughinbaugh

Parent Recovery Coach, Cathy Taughinbaugh

For those that don’t know you, can you tell us about yourself?

Help for Moms! Cathy Taughinbaugh's "Rise Up Moms" Club

Help for Moms! Cathy Taughinbaugh’s “Rise Up Moms” Club

My name is Cathy Taughinbaugh. I’m a former educator and now work as a Certified Parent Coach (CPC). I work with parents who are concerned about their child’s drug or alcohol use.

A number of years ago, after discovering drug and alcohol use had become an issue with my children, I decided to support other parents and share information about drug and alcohol abuse, treatment and recovery at Cathy

I’ve had extensive training in the CRAFT program, which is designed to help families, and am a member of The Partnership for Drug-Free Kid’s National Parent Network, where I volunteer to work with parents through their Parent Coaching Program.

What inspired you to start the Rise Up Moms Club?

In 2004, one of my children entered treatment for drug abuse. I found myself thrown into the world of addiction with no training or knowledge of the subject. I was anxious, filled with fear and under a tremendous amount of stress as I attempted to understand and solve my child’s drug issues.

Family members really suffer when they are experiencing their loved one’s substance use. They feel many emotions, including anger, guilt, frustration and shame. The continual chaos and confusion when a parents is worried about her teen or young adult can be emotionally exhausting.

All family members, including moms need to find a way to heal. By understanding what is behind their loved one’s substance use, by developing an awareness about all their options, and by taking action, they can begin the process of healing and finding answers that work for their situation.

What are some of the topics that are going to be covered in Rise Up?

One of the first steps is for moms to take care of themselves in a healthy way. They will improve their ability to make good decisions. They become a role model and their actions may encourage their child to do the same.

The plan for the club is to cover twelve different themes over one full year. After surveying parents connected to my website, enabling and codependency seemed be a big concern for many of the parents.

Comments like, “I need very specific information on how parents enable their child, how to recognize enabling and also how to stop doing this.” or “How does a parent know the difference between co-dependency and support?” made me realize that this was a big issue for parents.

Another big issue is how to cope with the pain of having a child with a drug or alcohol problem. Parents often struggle with the shame and stigma associated with their situation for years. Easing the pain in any way that you can is important.

The twelve themes will cover taking care of yourself first, the difference between enabling and support, as well as the science behind addiction, how to resolve fear and shame, the power of positive communication, self-compassion and more.

Who is the Rise Up Moms Club for?

The purpose of the Rise Up Moms Club is to inform, educate, inspire and encourage moms who are struggling with their child’s use. I want moms to know that a wide range of tools and strategies are available to help them get through this crisis and feel less stressed.

The Rise Up Moms Club is for moms who are concerned about their child and are struggling to cope with their family’s situation as well as work through their own personal shame about having a child with drug or alcohol issues. Coming together and getting support from like minded people always helps a person feel less stressed and anxious.

Too often moms of kids who are struggling have remained isolated. They do not share what they are experiencing with friends or extended family because of the shame and stigma. They feel isolated and alone. This isolation does not help the depression, stress, anxiety and sadness that accompany any parent whose child is abusing drugs or alcohol.

The Rise Up Moms club is a place where moms can come together, and not feel judged. It is a place where moms can receive information, work sheets, reminders, encouragement as well as a live monthly teleconference. Video interviews with professionals and other experienced parents will be provided, so that a wide range of information will be provided.

You will be able to access the information out of the comfort of your home. You don’t have to go anywhere or face anyone if you are not ready to do that. Via email, videos and live teleconferences, the information will come to you.

What do you want moms to take away from the experience?

I want moms to know that they can be resilient and meet this crisis in their child’s lives in a way that will be helpful and will encourage positive change.

Educating yourself, taking care of yourself and learning to communicate in a positive way with your child, which will give him or her a better chance of finding recovery. It’s important for moms in this situation to take some time out of their busy lives to regroup and find their way through to a better place so that their family can heal and hopefully their child will as well.

My hope is that the Rise Up Moms Club will give moms an opportunity to connect with others, as they grow and thrive in a way that betters their lives. It’s not easy having a child with drug or alcohol issues. Moms overall were not trained to handle their child’s drug or alcohol issues and often are at a loss as to what to do to help themselves. This is an opportunity to receive information support, camaraderie and encouragement. Getting support helps to relieve the stress and anxiety of any challenging situation.

My hope is that the Rise Up Moms Club empowers moms to be able to make better decisions, push themselves daily to make changes, grow and eventually turn things around.


To follow Cathy, here are her social media links  TwitterFacebookGoogle PlusPinterest

To get a copy of her free guide, “7 Ways to Find Parental Recovery When Your Child is Addicted,” and sign up for her newsletter/blog updates, click here.



Setting Boundaries YOU Can Live With

Last week I wrote a post on setting boundaries with addicted family members and touched on why we keep moving our boundaries and what a person can do to prepare themselves to set and stick to the boundaries they need/want to set. (To re-read that post, click here).

This post goes further to give you tools on how to set boundaries that YOU can live with, in other words, how to set “healthy” boundaries. Every time you set a boundary YOU can’t live with, you move it. And every time you move it, you lose another piece of yourself. By this I mean, you are either disappointed, angry, saddened, frustrated at having settled for less or giving in, lashing out, afraid of the other shoe dropping and generally falling back to that awful place, If you loved me, you’d stop.

Think and Speak Only to/of the Behavior When Setting Boundaries

There are many reasons we excuse drinking or drug use behaviors (also covered in the previous post linked above). We can make some of the most horrific behaviors somehow OK and with some of the craziest excuses, too.

As a way to counter this tendency of excusing drinking | drugging behaviors (easier to do if you’ve done the prep work covered in Setting Boundaries With Addicted Family Members), I suggest you reframe the situation in the context of drinking water. If your loved one had consumed 4 or 8 or 12 glasses of water last night (and NO alcohol or drugs), would you be saying things like,

Where were you last night? You said you were going to stop by your mom’s on your way over, but I checked and you didn’t. She hadn’t seen you for days! You didn’t answer your phone or my texts. What were you doing?! What!? You went out drinking with Bob – well why didn’t you call me!

What do you mean, ‘You don’t remember!?’ How do you not remember sleeping with that girl and what were you doing at that party, anyway. I thought you were going with Todd to the City.

I am so sorry about the way Sheila went off on Karen last night. That’s just not like her, you know. It’s just that she hadn’t eaten much all day and then had several of those Lemon Drop Martinis. You know she didn’t mean it.

So when you’re mulling over what you’re going to do about your loved one’s drinking or drugging behaviors, remind yourself, “Would I be tolerating this if they’d been drinking water?”

But What if It’s Not Addiction and What if It Is – Does It Matter?

We often get sideways in our boundary setting because we’re afraid they’ll think we’re calling them a drug addict or an alcoholic or that anything short of that shouldn’t be of concern. But either way – abuse or addiction – it’s the behaviors that are of concern. Nonetheless, answering the questions, “How much is too much?” “Addiction or abuse, what’s the difference?,” can help with your determination to set a boundary that works for YOU. Consider these links:

NIAAA’s Rethinking Drinking website

NIDA’s Resource Guide: Screening for Drug Use in General Medical Settings

NIDA’s Drugs of Abuse.

SingleQMark.iStock_000013963468XSmallAnd an additional question you’ll want to ask and understand, is what key risk factors for developing addiction does your loved one have? These risk factors include: genetics, mental illness, childhood trauma, early use and social environment. They are important to understand because they are either brain changers, in and of themselves, or contribute to why a person uses. Thus your loved one’s ability to successfully change his/her drug or alcohol use patterns will depend on their addressing and treating their risk factors, as well, which may be an important component in your boundary setting. Check out Co-Occurring Disorders Require Co-Occurring Treatments.

When To Take Action

This is always the dilemma, and it’s here we get stuck in setting unhealthy boundaries. Because we’re not certain (and we’re not even sure what we should be certain about), we tiptoe or we lambast or we ignore or we __________ in order to believe in our loved one’s truthfulness, integrity, desire to change, etc. But here’s the rub. They want the same thing, but they typically want to be able to do it while drinking or using in “moderation.” And depending on where they are on the continuum of developing the disease of addiction, they may or may not be able to use or drink, period. Contrary to popular belief, a person DOES NOT HAVE TO HIT BOTTOM before they get help, and a big part of “wanting” to get that help will be the healthy boundaries you set. So don’t wait until you have all the answers to have a conversation.

I suggest the first step is once you’re solid in your beliefs about the information shared so far and in the previous post, ask for a quiet moment with your loved one and say something like:

As you know, we’ve been fighting about your drinking or drug use and it’s getting us nowhere. So I’ve been doing some research and have found a wealth of information about drinking and drug use and its impacts on the brain – much of it only learned in the last 10-15 years – and I’d like you to read ________________ and then we can talk about it on ______________ .

If they baulk, ask them to think about it this way.

If you had cancer, we would be scouring the internet, meeting with experts, exploring everything we can find about the diagnosis and treatments. I can’t say for sure what it is we’re dealing with, but the behaviors you exhibit when you misuse drugs or alcohol are awful and the way we’ve been talking about and dealing with them is not working.

Follow Your Boundary Thread All The Way Through to Implementation Before You Set It

This is CRITICAL. Threatening to take the kids and leave if h/she comes home drunk again isn’t practical unless you’re really willing to leave your home. Instead, you want to think through where you’ll go or whether h/she should be the one to go, and if h/she goes, where to and how will it be paid for, etc. This is where having someone (such as a therapist specializing in addiction or a certified addiction recovery coach) you can talk with can help. These two books can also help: A Guide for Families, Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change and Get Your Loved One Sober: Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading, and Threatening.

This way of boundary setting may sound tedious and crazy-long. But remember how tedious and crazy-long your arguments and deal makings have been thus far. So whatever you want to have happen if the behaviors surface, again, you’ll want to think all the way through so that you can actually stick to the boundary you set.

Get YOUR Brain Healthy

As described in this post, The Fight or Flight Stress Response System – Secondhand Drinking Connection, coping with a loved one’s drinking or drugging behaviors changes your own brain’s health. Getting your brain back to health will go a long ways to helping you set and stick to your boundaries because you will be able to “think” instead of “react.”

This is where getting help for yourself comes in. For me, help included three years of cognitive behavioral therapy with a therapist who specialized in working with family members of addicted loved ones. I also attended Al-Anon, a 12-step program for family members whose loved one drinks too much. I worked hard to eat nutritious meals, exercise daily, engage in mindfulness practices and get adequate, restful sleep (all work to heal the brain, by the way). And I read and I researched and I practiced and I learned to forgive myself when I slipped by reminding myself, “Well, now, I know that doesn’t work so I’ll either make a sincere amends for my behavior and/or I’ll admit to myself, ‘I made a mistake.'”

Bottom Line

This is a lot to take in, so if you have questions, feel free to call 650-362-3026 or email