Self Care and Recovery for Parents of Children with Substance Use Disorders | Dave Cooke

Self care and recovery for parents – seriously? Yes, seriously. If you have a child with a substance use disorder, it may be the most important thing you can do. But for so many parents, finding time or believing it’s okay to take care of themselves can be extremely difficult.

Today’s guest post by Dave Cooke, founder of 100Pedals, is about helping parents understand the importance of self care and their own recovery – not only for what it will do to help their child but as importantly, what it will do to improve their lives. As Dave writes on his blog, “I am that Dad.  I am that parent — the father of a son with a heroin addiction.” As Dave further explains, “When it comes to addiction there are two victims, the addict who battles with their disease and the families who struggle to understand, cope, and live a normal life.  Many parents commit every ounce of love, time, energy in their quest to save, help, and cure their child to the point where they often have so little left to give themselves or to the point where it nearly destroys them.  It is as if the addiction has taken control over two sets of lives.”

You can follow Dave and 100Pedals on Facebook and Twitter, and he welcomes your emails at

Self Care and Recovery for Parents Whose Child Has a Substance Use Disorder by Dave Cooke

Three years ago I made a decision to ride my bike. It wasn’t one of those times where I simply said, “I think I will ride my bike.” And, the situation wasn’t the most conducive for fun, celebratory events.

Dave Cooke, Founder of 100Pedals, shares self care and recovery help for parents.

Dave Cooke, Founder of 100Pedals, shares self care and recovery help for parents.

When I made this declaration, I was eighteen months into my life experience and education associated with being the parent of a son dealing with a heroin addiction. For eighteen months, I did everything I could to rescue, love, save, cure, encourage, support, inspire and help my son. It seemed like everything I did, everything I tried, was met with another relapse, another betrayal of my love, another deceptive, manipulative tactic. The more I worked at his recovery, the less progress I seemed to make.

I finally came to the realization that he needed to want his recovery more than I did. There was nothing I could do to support a recovery program for him unless he wanted it.

I also realized that my life had become so attached to his addiction and his recovery that my business, my health, my relationships, and my psyche were being systematically destroyed by his addiction.

That is when I knew I had to do something for me. That is when I decided to ride my bike. I chose to ride my bike, not for the health value of cycling; but, more for the meditative effects of getting away from the chaos and clearing my head. I ended up going for quite a ride. I rode my bike one hundred consecutive days, at least one hour every day. I rode over 2300 miles. I covered a lot of ground and dealt with a lot of head trash. And, I completely changed my life.

Being the parent of an addicted child is maddening. We become so invested in helping our children and in finding a solution to their problem that we end up destroying ourselves along the way. We are of no value to anyone when we are broken. We accomplish nothing when we allow the addiction to destroy us. We solve nothing if the addiction successfully draws us in and breaks us down.

This is why self-care and personal recovery are so important. You may not have the time, the interest, or the physical ability to ride your bike like I did. That’s okay. You do have the ability to step away from the madness, get quiet, take a few deep breaths, say something loving or affirmative to yourself, and find a moment of peace. It only takes five minutes to step away, get quiet, clear your head, and discover peace.

Biking, hiking, running, walking, or meditating are all example of self-care. Whether you have an hour or five minutes you can and will find the time to accomplish it. The more you diligently practice it, the more you will make time for it. The more you make time for it, the more effective and strong you will be in the face of the adversity of your loved one’s addiction.

My bike rides completely changed my life in more ways that I can share in this article. While my son is now in his sixth year dealing with his heroin issue and still struggling to embrace a recovery program that works, I am a strong, healthy, inspired, loving, and available dad. His addiction didn’t destroy me and my self-care saved me. As a result, I am able to be strong for my son when he needs me most and even stronger for myself when he is lost to his addictive ways.

Self-care is an integral part of a parent’s recovery program. The sooner you embrace it and put it into practice the more prepared you will be for all the craziness that flies at you in the addiction environment.

Secondhand Drinking | A Phenomenon That Affects Millions

“Secondhand Drinking” – the negative impacts of a person’s drinking behaviors on others – is “A Phenomenon That Affects Millions.”

This title is the first in my new series of Quick Guides. Why this series? They’re to share 21st Century brain and substance misuse-related research and science in a way people can use the information to self-elect change. This research and science has unleashed an explosion in discoveries about the human brain, its development, its functioning, what changes it, what can heal it, its ability to regenerate cells and so much more.

But it doesn’t help if we don’t understand this science, which is the point of my Quick Guide series. Each Guide addresses a specific topic in a short, easy-to-read manner, with key concepts hyperlinked for further information. Coming soon is the Quick Guide to Addiction Recovery | What Helps, What Doesn’t.

About the Quick Guide to Secondhand Drinking

The explosion in 21st century brain research is radically changing our understanding of what happens to the brain when it’s under the influence of alcohol and when it’s on the receiving end of a person’s drinking behaviors. As a result, this science is giving us new language for talking about a phenomenon that affects 90 million Americans and hundreds of million more people worldwide. This phenomenon is Secondhand Drinking (SHD).

Now Available from Most eBook Retailers.

Now Available from Most eBook Retailers.

As stated, secondhand drinking refers to the negative impacts of a person’s drinking behaviors on others. These behaviors are not intentional. They are not the “real” person coming out, rather they’re the consequence of the chemical in alcoholic beverages changing brain function when alcohol is misused. Drinking behaviors include: verbal, physical or emotional abuse; driving while impaired; domestic violence; committing a crime; creating a safety risk or productivity burden for co-workers (e.g., reporting to work hung-over); sexual assault; generating significant economic costs to others related to lost workplace productivity, health care expenses for problems related to excessive drinking, and criminal justice and law enforcement expenses related to alcohol consumption, to name a few.

In other words, SHD crosses spectrums from those directly affected by SHD – family members living with someone whose behaviors change when they drink, for example — to a community’s citizens paying the quality-of-life costs and/or tax dollar contributions for law enforcement and criminal justice expenses of alcohol-related crimes. It can be as indirect as a co-worker whose own workplace experience suffers as a consequence of their fellow-employee’s ongoing exposure to SHD.

People on the receiving end of drinking behaviors can experience a range of negative physical, emotional and/or quality-of-life impacts, often related to ongoing activation of the brain’s fight-or-flight stress response system. Thus attacking the underlying problem, a person’s drinking behaviors, from the other side – preventing and protecting oneself from secondhand drinking – offers a sea change opportunity.

So how does a person protect themselves from secondhand drinking without interfering with another person’s right to drink? What does stress and stress-related brain and physical changes have to do with SHD? How is it possible secondhand drinking affects 90 million Americans? And perhaps most importantly, why should we care?

Where to Purchase Quick Guide to Secondhand Drinking | A Phenomenon That Affects Millions

You can purchase any of the Quick Guides from most eBook retailers. The image below shares a few. Here’s the link to the Kindle version. This link takes you to iBook section of the iTunes store where you’ll type in the book title (Quick Guide to Secondhand Drinking); and this link takes you to the Nook version.

With 90 million Americans affected, you’ll want to check out this Quick Guide. Even if you don’t think it affects you personally as an HR manager or teacher or law enforcement officer or therapist or the neighbor next door, you’d be surprised how it does. Additionally, it’s a quick read, and its protection and prevention messages may be just what you’ve been looking for but could never put your finger on why.

Distributors of Lisa Frederiksen Quick Guide series. Each Guide retails for $2.99.

Distributors of Lisa Frederiksen’s Quick Guide series. Each Guide retails for $2.99.


Treating Addiction Like Cancer – Guest Author Diane Mintz

Treating addiction like cancer – why don’t we? Why don’t we given there are 23 million Americans living their lives in recovery from addiction as compared to 14.5 million Americans living their lives with a history of cancer (as of 1/1/14)? For readers of my work, you know how passionate I am about this difference NOT because survival from cancer is any less important than survival from addiction, but because of the stigma, misinformation and shame that makes the survival of 23 million Americans from addiction such a secret and another alarming statistic true. That statistic? Over 23 million Americans struggle with addiction, but only 10 percent get the help they need. So you can imagine how thrilled I am to share today’s guest post by Diane Mintz.

Author Diane Mintz shares her thoughts on what it would be like if we treated cancer like addiction.

Author Diane Mintz shares her thoughts on what it would be like if we treated addiction like cancer.

InSicknessandinMentalHealthDiane Mintz is a business owner, author, speaker and mental health advocate. Her book, In Sickness and in Mental Health – Living with and Loving Someone with Mental Illness, gives a candid look at how she and her husband battled and had victory over mental disorders and addictions despite the barriers stigma imposed. For more about Diane and her work, please visit her website,


Imagine a world without stigma where treatment for the mind was as common as treatment for the body. Many deaths that are attributed to physical ailments actually stem from untreated mental illness – especially addiction. Why haven’t we given proper attention to the root cause?

What if we screened and treated the warning signs of mental illness like we do for cancer and offered complete treatment along with substance abuse treatment – without shaming the person? Substance abuse and mental illness frequently go together, but it takes time to uncover both issues because the symptoms often mask and mimic each other. How many tragedies could be avoided if the early detection of mental illness and addiction were commonplace?

What if we viewed the killer disease of addiction more compassionately? Don’t just walk a mile in my shoes, drink for a week with my brain, and you will experience the phenomenon of craving. You will realize that the stop mechanism in my brain doesn’t work.

I have not had a drink since 1991, but if I took a drink today, the cycle of craving would begin. Does that make me bad or weak willed? If society stopped viewing alcoholism as a moral weakness, perhaps it would free alcoholics to talk about the very real struggle to control the uncontrollable. Perhaps others wouldn’t judge.

Unfortunately, people tend to shame their loved one when they relapse because it is so disappointing. It is also heartbreaking when cancer comes back, but people respond very differently. People see cancer as out of a person’s control, but I dare anyone to take on the two no-fault illnesses of addiction and mental illness and overcome them with their upstanding moral character.

In a world without stigma, maybe medical professionals wouldn’t wait to recommend treatment for substance abuse until the late stages of the disease, when physical health is severely affected. Maybe people wouldn’t resist treatment until it was court ordered due to trouble with the law. In both scenarios, there is already so much damage to repair that the chances of recovery are slim. People feel utterly hopeless.

Instead, imagine a paradigm shift in society’s view of mental illness and the disease of addiction, where early treatment was expected and applauded. It would result in a dramatic improvement in both mental and physical illnesses, saving millions of dollars in health care costs and restoring families for generations to come.

What You Should Know About Addiction If You Have ADHD

ADHD and addiction - is there a link? Laura Haver explores this question in her guest post below. But first a bit of background. ADHD is one of many mental health disorders and one of the most common diagnosed in youth. A youth diagnosis is especially concerning for three reasons: 1) the stigma, misinformation and shame that still surrounds mental health disorders and thus a child’s desperate desire not to “have one,” 2) its interactions within a developing brain ages 12-25, developing processes that have their own complications, and 3) the role is plays as one of the five key risk factors for developing addiction. THIS IS NOT TO SOUND PESSIMISTIC, FOREBODING, or INEVITABLE. Rather it’s to share a complicated dynamic that needs to be understood so we can work together to shatter the stigma misinformation and shame that surround mental health disorders.

It is a great honor to carry this post, “What You Should Know About Addiction if You Have ADHD,” by Laura Haver. As a mental health care worker, herself, and a mother, she plunged herself into researching ADHD when her son was recently diagnosed as having Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Because of the role mental health disorders play as one of the five key risk factors in developing addiction, she is sharing her guest post to shatter the stigma, misinformation and shame and help other parents, teachers and community leaders better understand ADHD and its connection with addiction.

What You Should Know About Addiction If You Have ADHD by Laura Haver

Addiction and ADHD have been described as inextricably intertwined in an article published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, where it was suggested that people affected by the condition, and their parents, need to be educated about the link. Understanding the way that ADHD and addiction can feed one another could be the key to avoiding the trap of self-medication, but there are still too few rehab programs that offer simultaneous treatments for dual diagnoses.

Understanding ADHD

ADD and ADHD can both present with a range of different symptoms, including inattention and lack of focus, although ADHD will also include a hyperactive component, which may appear as impatience, talkativeness, or fidgeting. These symptoms usually first appear in childhood or adolescence, at the same time when many people first begin to experiment with drugs or alcohol, but they can be present throughout life, and a diagnosis may not be made until adulthood. When treatment is offered it often includes medication, but it may also involve therapy and lifestyle changes, sometimes without the need for any prescriptions. If the diagnosis is missed, or if effective treatment is not given, there can be serious consequences. In addition to having to struggle with symptoms that can affect educational achievements, employment and everyday life, people with untreated ADD or ADHD are at risk of turning to addictive substances in an attempt to self-medicate.

The Link with Addiction

The risk of developing an addiction is already raised for people who are affected by many mental health disorders, including ADD and ADHD, although the reasons why are still poorly understood. ADDitude Magazine suggests that the rate of drug and alcohol abuse for people with ADD or ADHD is three times that of the general population. The NIH stresses that the occurrence of mental illness and addiction together does not necessarily mean that one causes the other, but rather implies that there may be people who have an increased risk of both conditions. Similar regions of the brain are affected by conditions like ADHD and the substances that give rise to addiction, which could create the association, but there might also be a genetic link. Someone who is susceptible to addiction may also be more likely to develop a mental illness.

In the case of ADD and ADHD, the risk of substance abuse is particularly high when the condition has been left untreated. Many parents of young people affected by ADHD worry that giving their children potentially addictive medication to treat the condition could lead to substance abuse in later life, but in fact, it can have the opposite effect. A review conducted by Timothy Wilens at Harvard concluded that people who had received treatment for their ADD in childhood were 50% less likely to abuse addictive substances in adulthood than those whose condition had remained untreated. The NIH agrees that treatment with stimulants under the guidance of a doctor should not lead to later substance abuse, but it does caution that there is still a lack of rigorous research into the long-term effects.

Treating Addiction Alongside ADHD

Even if the effects of treating ADD and ADHD with medication are positive, helping to reduce later substance abuse in this high-risk group, there are still some potential issues linked to the types of drugs that are used. Stimulants such as amphetamines and methylphenidate that are often prescribed for ADD and ADHD are also among the addictive substances that may be abused for non-medical purposes. The calming effects that stimulants can have on people affected by ADD and ADHD, emulating the gradual, natural production of dopamine in the brain, can be reversed in those who take larger doses without needing the medication, resulting in wakefulness or even euphoria, as well as addiction. Solutions need to be found to enable ADHD to be treated even at rehab centers where the rule is usually no addictive substances allowed.

It is often necessary for ADHD medication to be avoided during the initial phase of rehab. This is because the symptoms of addiction, withdrawal and ADHD can overlap. Problems such as restlessness or difficulty concentrating at this stage could be the result of any of these, and it is important for the causes to be untangled before the right treatment for ADHD can be found. This does not mean that nothing can be done in this period to tackle ADD or ADHD, if a diagnosis has been confirmed. Therapy and lifestyle changes can be initiated to help tackle the condition, with medication only being introduced, if needed, after a couple of months of sobriety. Even then, medication choices can be carefully made to reduce the chances of triggering a relapse into addiction. If one of the more addictive medications is needed to relieve debilitating symptoms, it can be offered in an extended release form that is less likely to be abused. Alternatively, it may be possible to avoid the addictive stimulants altogether, and offer a medication such as atomoxetine, which boosts dopamine without acting as a stimulant. However it is achieved, a solution must be found for the ADHD as well as the addiction.

If treatment for the addiction and the ADHD is not offered simultaneously, the risk is that the untreated problem will prevent the treatment of the other issue from being successful. Untreated ADHD can drive people back to misusing addictive substances in order to self-medicate, while an untreated addiction can make diagnosing and treating ADHD much more difficult. Finding the right combination of therapy and medication for ADHD can be impossible when the symptoms are complicated by the effects of addiction.


1. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Substance Abuse, article by Elizabeth Harstead, Sharon Levy and the Committee on Substance Abuse, in the American Academy of Pediatrics journal.
2. ADDitude Magazine article on Addiction and ADHD Adults
3. Why do drug use disorders often co-occur with other mental illnesses? according to the NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse
4. Impact of ADHD and Its Treatment on Substance Abuse in Adults, article by Timothy Wilens in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry
5. NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse advice on Childhood ADHD and Later Drug Problems
6. NIH information on Stimulant ADHD Medications

#14Days on the Wagon – Accept the Challenge

Join CBS’s #14Days on the Wagon challenge beginning Monday, October 6.

And what is this challenge?

The challenge is to give up alcohol and “any non-medically necessary drugs” for the next 14 days. As Parvati Shallow explains in the short video below, this is to help you experience the “real effects of healthier living and feel a little bit of what life is like for those on the path to recovery.”


And why is it so important we understand something of what it’s like for those on their paths to recovery?

According to The Addiction Project, a collaboration of NIDA, NIAAA, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and HBO, “over 23 million Americans struggle with addiction, yet fewer than 10 percent are getting treatment.” This is due in large part to the stigma, misinformation and shame that surrounds substance use disorders. So much stigma, misinformation and shame, in fact, that most people are unaware there are “over 23 million Americans living their lives in recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs,” according to Faces & Voices of Recovery.

10712834_775130665884816_6886022141739757584_nTo put these numbers in perspective, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, “an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease.” The image to the right reports there are 2.9 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. (truly wonderful news). Yet, as a society, are we even remotely aware there are more than 23 million survivors of addiction (those 23 million Americans living their lives in recovery)? And when you look at survival of persons with all forms of cancer, the figure rises to 14.5MNow this comparison — 14.5M cancer survivors vs. 23M addiction survivors — is NOT to suggest addiction is more important than breast cancer or cancer in general, rather it’s to raise awareness of how far the cancer awareness movement has come, as compared to the addiction recovery awareness movement.

Accept the #14Days on the Wagon Challenge and Pass It Along

I urge you to accept the CBS #14Days on the Wagon challenge and give up alcohol and other non-medically necessary drugs for the next 14 days. In so doing, you will be helping raise awareness about the 23 million Americans living their lives in recovery AND the 23 million who still struggle with the disease. 

For more about the addiction recovery movement, check out:

Faces and Voices of Recovery

The Anonymous People.

For more about the disease of addiction, check out:

The Addiction Project,” created by NIAAA, NIDA, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and HBO

Drugs, Brains and Behaviors: The Science of Addiction,” created by NIDA.

And please help spread the word by challenging your friends and family to go on the wagon and sharing your challenge tweets, photos and posts using the hashtag, #14Days. To get you started – here’s a tweet size announcement should you accept the challenge:

I’ve joined the #14Days onthe Wagon challenge 2 show solidarity w/the 23M Americans in recovery&raise awareness for those who still struggle