Today I’m joined by author Jessica Lahey to tackle one of the biggest topics in our community: How do we keep our kids safe from the trick of alcohol?
This conversation is so important and enlightening!
Jessica shares about her own sobriety journey while also giving us so much knowledge about the risk factors for substance abuse, practical tips on how to talk to you kids about alcohol, and so much more.
Get your copy of Jessica Lahey’s book, Addiction Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence here:
The CDC – Kaiser Permanente ACE study: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/aces/about.html
The Deepest Well by Nadine Burke Harris:
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Speaker 1 (00:04):
Hi, welcome to the Sober Mom Life podcast. I’m your host, Suzanne of my kind of suite and the sober mom life on Instagram. If you are a mama who has questioned your relationship with alcohol at times, if you’re wondering if maybe it’s making motherhood harder, this is for you. I will be having candid, honest, funny conversations with other moms who have also thought, Hmm, maybe motherhood is better without alcohol. Is it possible? We’ll chat and we’ll talk about all things sobriety and how we’ve found freedom in sobriety. I don’t consider myself an alcoholic. You don’t have to either, and maybe life is brighter without alcohol. I hope you will join us on this journey, and I’m so excited to get started.
Hello, welcome back. Happy Monday. Happy new Week. I hope you had a wonderful weekend. All right, I’m gonna get right into this because this is probably one of the most talked about topics when we talk about sobriety as mothers and as parents are concerned. Then when we’re done kind of perseverating on our relationship with alcohol and our past and what it has taken from us and all of that, then we think about our kids, right? And we think about, oh shit. How do we protect our kids from the alcohol trap and all of this stuff that lies ahead. That’s where our guest today comes in. Jessica Lehe is the author of The Addiction Inoculation, raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence. She’s also the New York Times bestselling author of The Gift of Failure, how the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed.
That is next up on my list. I, I have to read that you will really find this conversation very interesting. And if you’ve ever thought about how to protect your kids from alcohol and and falling into the trap of it, this episode is for you. She gives practical tips about what we can do, how we can talk about alcohol, how we can talk about prescription pills. There are actual things that we can be doing now, rather than just kind of crossing our fingers and saying, okay, let’s just hope for the best. We talk about their brains, how our kids’ brains develop until they’re 25. Yeah, this, this is a must listen for really every parent. And before we jump into the episode, just don’t forget, come and join us on Patreon. If you are loving the podcast, I have more bonus episodes over there. We have the Real Sober Mom.
Chats are back every Wednesday. You can go binge some of those episodes over there before they come to the podcast. Also, we have our book club on Wednesday. We have Zoom support meetings. We have a Discord chat where sober and sober curious moms are connecting with each other and talking all throughout the day. Come and join us. It’s five, seven, or $10 a month and you will love it. There is just more community, more connection. Also, come and follow me on my kind of suite on Instagram to see a full sober life. What else, guys? Oh, and if you love the podcast, don’t forget to rate and review it and maybe share it with a couple friends. Now it’s time for me to stop talking. Please enjoy this episode with Jessica Leahy, Jess Leahy. Thank you. Welcome to the Sober Mom Life podcast.
Speaker 2 (03:42):
Thank you so much for having me on. I’m so excited to be here.
Speaker 1 (03:46):
Yes, I was just telling you, so your book, the Addiction Inoculation, raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence, I’m in the middle of listening to it and um, it’s incredible. I I, oh,
Speaker 2 (03:58):
Thank you. I’m
Speaker 1 (03:59):
Going to shout it from the rooftops. I’ve already told my Patreon about it. You know, this is the Sober Mom Life podcast. We talk about motherhood, we talk about children, we talk about sobriety and all of that. And this is the intersection of that, of how do we protect our kids from substance abuse, from addiction. You go into all of that, and I love that you give like actual tips. It’s not just these like <laugh> big ideas, you know, that I’m like, okay, but tell me how, and I wanna get into all that. First, I wanna hear your story because you do share some of that in the book too. Um, you call yourself an alcoholic, right?
Speaker 2 (04:37):
I do. So, you know, the terminology we’re supposed to be using these days is person, first person with a substance use disorder, person with alcohol use disorder. For myself, I think this is in reaction to the fact that I was never allowed to talk about what was going on in my home when I was little. Yeah. The fact that my sister and I knew that our parents had a problem with alcohol and later on with other stuff as well, that just, it was so painful for us that we were gas lit and told, no, no, no, that’s not what you’re seeing. That person is just tired taking an nap, whatever. Um, that my reaction and my reaction as a writer has always been, and I think I just don’t like euphemisms in general. I absolutely am 100% behind person first language and language that avoids shame and guilt and all that sort of stuff. Yeah. For myself though, I just identify with the term alcoholic. It’s something that smacks me in the face a little bit more than, you know, a person with substance use disorder, but for everyone else, I use the person first language, but just for me, that’s what I identify with.
Speaker 1 (05:48):
That makes so much sense. And that’s what this, my whole community, that’s what, that’s what it’s about. It’s about what works for you, what you feel powerful If it’s, some people like the label, some people don’t like the label and you, you write in your book, the only thing you hated more than alcohol was the lying growing up.
Speaker 2 (06:07):
Yeah. You know, my job is to talk to people about things that are challenging, whether that’s over parenting, whether that’s substance use disorder, and I don’t have a problem saying a shocking thing about myself. Yeah. Using a word that might be, might freak people out a little bit in terms of myself, thereby removing some of the shame and guilt and whatever that someone else may be experiencing. Um, I’m perfectly fine with using myself as a way to get into that conversation in a way that will make other people feel comfortable talking about themselves.
Speaker 1 (06:44):
Yeah, I mean, that makes total sense and that definitely comes across in the book. It’s funny cuz as I was listening to it and you know, you get into your story and it’s, and then when you said that it was like, oh wow. Like she’s, yeah, she’s leaning into this and you can feel the power behind that for you.
Speaker 2 (07:00):
I also have a ton of respect for the people who, you know, there are a lot of people out there right now saying, you know, we don’t need to have to identify something in order to reevaluate, re uh, relationship with alcohol. Yeah, totally understand that. And that’s a fantastic place to be because that opens up the door for lots more people to say, you know what, alcohol or whatever this substance is just isn’t working for me. And I love that. Yeah. But for myself, I think in order to hold myself accountable, it’s important for me to sort of use that language.
Speaker 1 (07:31):
Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, your story didn’t have the quote unquote rock bottom, right? Is that, am I right in saying that?
Speaker 2 (07:41):
It definitely was for me. Yeah. Like I was on the verge of b I’m one of those very fortunate people that has a, a lot of knot yets. Like same, I wasn’t yet drinking at work, but I was really close. The booze was in my car. I just hadn’t started excusing myself to the car. I hadn’t yet been drunk at work, but I’d been hung over at work. I hadn’t yet been fired. I hadn’t yet gotten divorced, but my husband had made it really, really clear that, um, this is something that was going to be untenable and he would not allow our children to be raised the way, you know, with an alcoholic in the home. So there were a lot, I was so close to having a lot, uh, to having everything taken away from me. So in the sense that I didn’t have to lose everything.
But on the other hand, you know, I, I think the minute we start comparing, we start getting ourselves into trouble. And I, you know, I work in a rehab now and, you know, the temptation to compare is huge, especially early on. Cuz you’re trying to get a sense of where am I on this spectrum of like, you know, barfing in the gutter. Well, I didn’t barf in a gutter, but I barfed in my garden a lot because our house was really small and other people would’ve heard me. So I went out and threw up in my garden a lot, but I wasn’t, you know, I did have a place to live and my, and I did have, you know, I managed to keep my marriage and all of those things, but that wasn’t not, that was not gonna be a foregone conclusion moving forward.
Speaker 1 (09:09):
Yeah. And it’s this idea that just because you haven’t lost everything to alcohol doesn’t mean you haven’t lost things and maybe a lot of things. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I like how you described yourself as a careful drinker who protected her right to drink.
Speaker 2 (09:25):
Well, I mean, I was just a really good liar. I mean, that’s a really nice way of saying that I hid things really well and I was a really good liar and, you know, I tend to really trust people. It’s, it’s, I’m extremely optimistic. I really wanna trust people. It’s gotten me in trouble with my students because someone could be lying to my face and I really wanna trust you. But I’ve learned a lot about my ability to trust people newly in recovery just based on the fact that I was such a good liar. I mean, that’s one thing we do know about each other is that we are extraordinarily good, uh, confabulate and Yeah, <laugh>
Speaker 1 (10:00):
Confabulate. Oh, I like that one. Confab. It it is, I mean, it goes back to your childhood of like, yeah, you hated alcohol when you saw because your parents drank it. Right. Did both of your parents drink it?
Speaker 2 (10:10):
Just one. Just one. Just
Speaker 1 (10:12):
One. Okay. Yeah. So one of your parents and was addicted and that you have that genetic component and mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. And the, the only thing you hated more than alcohol was the line because that is, I could relate to that. That’s a scary, especially for a kid that’s really fucking scary.
Speaker 2 (10:28):
Yeah. And I, you know, that’s something I hear a lot. Um, I’ve read all, I read all of the substance, uh, uh, all of the addiction memoirs out there, all the quit lit, all the stuff. Yeah. And that’s a fairly common refrain. I mean the, the language about, you know, the elephant in the room, that’s, you know, Susan Cheever talks about that with her father. You know, the one thing you’re not allowed to talk about is the thing that’s just stomping the crap outta your family. And, you know, and when I did talk about it, or when my sister, my sister and I would kind of tag team each other like, okay, sure. Turn. And then later on when I was Yeah. Later on, um, you know, when I was old enough to do some things that really pissed my parent off, like flushing pills down the toilet or, you know, that kind of stuff. And then have my parent not speak to me because of those things. You know, that was just really complicated. And the reason, and just to be really clear, the reason I don’t out which parent is simply because it’s not my story. Yeah. You know, that’s not my thing to tell. I’m allowed to tell my story. And so I, you know, I try to give other people grace when it comes to telling their stories.
Speaker 1 (11:34):
And does it matter, it affects you. It’s in, it’s under your roof. It’s our parents are, you know, I, I grew up my dad and he’s now passed away and he was a big drinker and we did never talk about it. My parents were divorced. And so it is a scary thing as a kid, and I talk about this a lot with my community of moms that kids do know. They, they might not know what or why or how or they don’t have all the answers to the questions, but they know that something is off and it’s really fucking scary when your parent is not acting the way. And then, so not talking about it does make the kid just question, oh, okay, maybe it’s me. Maybe if I was better, maybe I, maybe I’m doing something wrong. Maybe. Like, I know that I definitely went into that spiral of, oh, let me just be more, let me be better <laugh> and that. Right. And then dad will like, yeah, dad will be dad again. And yeah, that’s the danger of not talking about it.
Speaker 2 (12:37):
Yeah. I was definitely the placate, I was the fixer, I was the perfect fit kid, you know, and, but then there were moments that I should never have had to deal with. I shouldn’t have had to talk to my friend when I didn’t have a driver’s license yet. But I did have a learner’s permit wondering whether or not the passed out parent in the car, because I thought we had to go to the hospital, um, would count as the driver in charge so I wouldn’t get in trouble. You know, the, all these things that I shouldn’t have had to think about. I did. And then, you know, the, the hard part for me is no matter how much I didn’t wanna be that parent, I still became that parent. You know, I still, I’m very fortunate also in that I got sober when my kids were nine and 14.
Um, so I don’t know that they ever really saw me drunk. Um, I think the closest a kid would’ve come to remembering anything as if one of them had woken up and heard me barfing or something like that. But they were old enough that they could understand when I told them what was going on. And they also knew that they had a grandparent with, um, substance use disorder. So that had been like, we did not keep the reason that Christmas was destroyed one year. Um, secret. We talked about why we all had to leave, um, because of a relapse. Um, now the really cool thing is, you know, I have now a 19 year old and a 24 year old Wow. Cuz it’s almost 10 years.
Speaker 1 (13:59):
Speaker 2 (14:00):
And they, because I get interviewed so much about the parenting stuff that I do, and every once in a while someone will ask me to ask my kids a question. And every time anyone has ever asked me to ask my kids either their favorite moment with me growing up or what they’re proudest of, um, you know, the fact that I have managed to stay sober and be get sober and stay sober is one of the things I know they’re most proud of in me. Um, simply cuz I wouldn’t have been the same parent, um, if I hadn’t.
Speaker 1 (14:28):
Yeah. I I mean, without a doubt, and that’s something that we talk about a lot too, is like if you do drink when your kids are young and if they do witness your most shameful moments, I mean, that can be really, that’s, that could be heartbreaking and just horrible for a mom. And I think it keeps a lot of moms drinking because that’s hard to look at. And that’s all that and that inward feeling when we just wanna curl up because, you know, and we know that, you know, Brene Brown teaches us that teach, talking about shame and shining a light on shame is the way to get rid of it. But that’s really hard to do.
Speaker 2 (15:04):
I’m left having to laugh. I’m, I’m left having to laugh at some of it. Like my last drunk was really humiliating and I don’t remember most of it. It was my mom’s birthday party on June 7th, 2013. And, um, I, it was horrible as from what I understand. Yeah. And I don’t remember it. And I would give anything to excise that from my personal history, but I can’t <laugh>, you know, so I might as well, you know, we talk about it, we laugh about it, you know, it’s just a part of who I am now. So I’m very proud of it now. But I would love to excise that particular six hour period <laugh> from my life story. It would be great.
Speaker 1 (15:43):
Exactly. Yeah. I talked to Laura McCown about that. Like, the shame does get less, it doesn’t, it doesn’t continue to mm-hmm. <affirmative> to weigh on you. And
Speaker 2 (15:53):
The more you talk about it, the faster it goes away. Yes. I have to say, like from, I, I came out publicly once, I had one year under my belt and it was such a relief and it was also, I also knew that that was gonna be part of the deal, was talking about it a lot. And you know, now as someone, you know, once <laugh> once there’s been a four page spread or a three page spread in People magazine talking about your life, you know, having with alcohol disorder,
Speaker 1 (16:20):
There’s no going back
Speaker 2 (16:21):
Alcohol use disorder, there’s no going back after that. And so I have to live, I live this stuff very publicly and the more I do, the more people entrust their stories to me. Yes. And let and invite me in to become a part of their story and their path towards recovery, whether it’s immediate or not. Um, it’s been an incredible privilege to me.
Speaker 1 (16:41):
It’s such a gift that you give the world because there’s nothing like reading a story like yours when you think you’re the only story and that you, you are, you’re special in your shame. And we’re just not, we’re just not special in our shame. Yeah. But we don’t know that until we start talking about it.
Speaker 2 (16:56):
That’s one of the real gifts of being involved with people in early recovery cuz of working at the rehab. There was someone just recently who heard me tell my story and just started to weep and really and truly believed that they were the only person on the planet who did the things that I didn’t have the heart to tell him are going to be very common stories once he sort of starts talking to more people. Yeah. You like the throwing up in the garden was the point at which this person was just started to cry and they’re like, oh God, I was the only one. And you know, you just start to realize how not alone we are in this, in this story.
Speaker 1 (17:32):
Right. Oh God, it’s so true. And there’s not, there’s no better feeling when you’re, when you’re in a meeting or, you know, I have meetings online and, and we share it all. And when you just see all those little heads nodding mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it’s just so affirming and yeah, you, you’re in the right place. If, if the heads are nodding, you’re in the right place. And so are you still teaching the, the adolescents?
Speaker 2 (17:57):
No, sadly I would if they hadn’t closed the adolescent unit. So, oh. Um, I had been there for five years and we sort of saw it coming. The landscape for adolescent rehab was changing and the number of people who were being sort of routed that way was changing. So I would still be driving all the way across the state once a week to do that. But, uh, they closed it. So now, um, I work with, um, in an adult rehab, it’s a medical detox and rehab and the hours that I work there go to fund a scholarship for people 18 to 25 who can’t afford rehab. Cuz this is a really exemplary, amazing, um, facility that, uh, offers just top-notch, um, detox and recovery, evidence-based medical detox and recovery. And it’s expensive. And so I just didn’t want that to be a hurdle for someone 18 to 25 who really felt like they were ready to get help and couldn’t afford it.
Speaker 1 (19:00):
Yeah. What a wonderful way to give back to that group that you’re really passionate about too. I mean, when they need it, you know?
Speaker 2 (19:07):
Yeah. It’s, it’s a, it’s a pretty, it’s a pretty cool place. I’m really proud to be a part of it. Um, and as I said, it’s also expensive. So <laugh>, you know, you gotta find some way to help younger people get help.
Speaker 1 (19:18):
Yes. And speaking of younger people, let’s talk about the younger people. So when you were teaching in the adolescent facility, was that when you started to really see how the steps that we could make to prevent substance abuse in adolescents? Or did you just see that from your growing up and then your children? Like when did you start to say, okay, wait, we’re not talking about this in the way that we should as a society?
Speaker 2 (19:47):
Well, so the, I started thinking about what it meant for sort of the next generation. When I got sober, realized, holy crap, you know, I’m the child of an alcoholic. My parent is a child of an alcoholic, and so on and so on and so on and so on. And then realized, yeah, holy crap. It’s the same thing in my husband’s side of the family. So if we do nothing, this will continue either, you know, one of my kids or both of my kids will end up in the same situation. If I, at, at the very least, I need to know what’s real, what’s myth, what’s magical thinking. And I couldn’t find a resource that really gave me, both from the parenting and from the education perspective. Um, the information I needed. There were, there were books that gave me great bits and pieces of what I needed. But I have this incredibly cool job. Um, you know, for 10 years as a journalist, I would get curious about something and I would, you know, do all this research. And I love the research you
Speaker 1 (20:45):
Could tell in your book. I always tell my people here, don’t come here for facts. Cause I don’t have facts <laugh>, I have like antidote a anecdotes, but I don’t have facts. And so like us non fact, people need you fact people. So I’m very appreciative of all the facts and the research.
Speaker 2 (21:01):
Well, even as a fact person, you know, my job is to become an expert in something and then write about it. But I don’t have a PhD in this stuff. So, you know, I’m very lucky in that I’m married to a physician who is also a statistician. I’m the mother of a mathematician slash statistician. So, and my husband’s an a medical ethicist. And so we get to have these really cool conversations about this stuff. And then I have them, you know, I’ll, I send them stuff all the time and say, what’s wrong with this study? Can you find anything wrong with this study? If it were to be criticized, how would it be criticized? So, you know, I spent a full year researching before I even wrote the proposal for the book. And the way non-fiction works is you have to write this big proposal. It’s like 80 pages long.
Speaker 1 (21:45):
Yes. That’s what I’m doing right now on mommy wine culture. Ugh.
Speaker 2 (21:49):
Yeah. So the proposal for the addiction inoculation was like, cuz it has to include a sample chapter was about 80 to 90 pages long. And then you send that off and then you sell the book and then you’re like, okay, I’ve done some of the research, now I have to get going. Um, but the good news, and actually I have, I have, uh, very good news that I just got recently is that the Research Society on alcohol, um, is giving me their media award this year. I’m going to, I just made my reservations, I’m going to their annual meeting. And That’s amazing. It’s an award for interpreting the research for the general population. So I’m very, very proud of that because
Speaker 1 (22:23):
Speaker 2 (22:25):
Thank you. Because having that sort of like, stamp of approval by the, the people actually doing the research means more to me than any publishing prize that I could ever receive. It’s pretty cool.
Speaker 1 (22:36):
That’s incredible. And it’s, I mean, the book is also incredible and, but PS you’re a beautiful writer. I mean, so you Oh, thank you. Got Oh, thank you. You have both you you have the research, but this book is not dry. It’s not, it it, it’s so beautifully written.
Speaker 2 (22:52):
Speaker 1 (22:53):
Yeah. That’s amazing.
Speaker 2 (22:55):
I, I, you know, I think I’m lucky enough in that the books that I love to read the most are at the intersection of research-based non-fiction and memoir. And so there’s, that’s what I write. Both the gift of failure and the addiction inoculation are both a little of each. And I have to give huge props to two of the people, the young adults who gave me their stories to tell, uh, for the addiction inoculation, Brian and Georgia. And they both as young adults insisted on my using their real names because they felt it was so important that their stories were told and that their stories, you know, are of value and mean something to the people that might need to hear them.
Speaker 1 (23:32):
Yeah. I mean, as a mom and everyone who is listening is probably a mom too. I mean, we appreciate it because there is this question, this just lingering question, it’s always in the back of my, how do I protect my kids from substance abuse, from alcohol? You, you talk about the gateways and kind of the path that kids take. What would, where do we start? There’s a lot.
Speaker 2 (24:01):
Yeah. So for me it started, um, it started with the genetics piece because that was sort of the big neon sign there. Yeah. And genetics, according to the best research we have, um, are about, that’s about 50 to 60% of the risk picture with the other 40 to 50% being, um, trauma adverse childhood experiences. Um, and then, you know, a bunch of other sort of things like undiagnosed learning issues, um, academic failure, social ostracism, aggression between, you know, if kid, if a kid is aggressive toward another kid physically, then that’s a risk factor. And then there are other little things we need to pay attention to, like transitions, particularly transitions between like middle school and high school. And just knowing I back to the adverse childhood experiences, you know, those, there are some that are more powerful than other in terms of, you know, we know that physical and sexual abuse obviously is a huge predictive fra um, a huge risk factor for substance use disorder. But, you know, divorce adoption, um, there are a whole bunch of, especially if you look at the C D C Kaiser Permanente list of adverse childhood experiences and mash that together with Nadine Burke Harris’s, um, the deepest, well, okay,
Speaker 1 (25:15):
We’re gonna link, we’re go we’ll link those. We’ll link those.
Speaker 2 (25:18):
Yeah. The, the deepest Well is such a good book and, you know, systemic racism, adoption, a whole bunch of stuff that she has in there that she saw as part of her pediatrics practice in California, all of that stuff. So this is the main reason that we can’t let shame, guilt, defensiveness, cloud our ability to take in information. So are all divorces and separations created equal? Of course not. Sometimes is divorce and separation in the best interest of the children? Of course it is. However, if I know that at base level in a sort of a general terms divorce and separation are one of the things you need to think about in terms of risk factors for substance use disorder, then I can be a lot more objective about how I precisely use various protections in order to sort of balance that scale. You know, if we look at risk and protections as like one of those scales of justice old timey scales, we need them to equal out and with what would be great is if the protection side is even heavier than the risk side. My kids have the genetic predisposition. I have an L G B T Q kid, I have a kid who we moved in between middle school and high school away from all of her friends and the families that I knew really well. And all of those things are a part of the picture for where my kids are in terms of their risk.
Speaker 1 (26:44):
So in your mind, this scale is kind of tipping like this, right? So you’re, you’re like weighing these risk factors and you’re like, okay, well there’s this and there’s this Yeah. And if you get a divorce, there’s this, right. And so it’s like what can we pile on that protective factor side to combat the risks?
Speaker 2 (27:02):
Yeah. Well, and also realize that, you know, a lot of the stuff that can fall on the risk side, we can’t, we either can’t control it or it’s in the past and we can’t go back and fix it. But what we can do is intervene and get kids the guidance, the help, the objective listener, the therapy, the whatever it is that they need, you know, in order to give them a sense of self-efficacy in order to help them feel like they can advocate for themselves. All of that stuff will help protect them over the long run.
Speaker 1 (27:32):
I think that’s a really important point too for a lot of moms listening who have been drinking for a lot of their kids’ lives. And generally probably if you are drinking, you’re not going to be talking to your kid about preventing substance abuse. Right. It’s, it’s probably blinders on nothing to see here. Like, we’re good. Right.
Speaker 2 (27:52):
Managing our own crap is often the first step towards stealing with the kids stuff. Oh,
Speaker 1 (27:57):
So much crap. And yeah. Rather than just crossing our fingers and being like, well I hope I didn’t quote unquote screw them up too much. It’s not too late. Right. To go back and actually talk.
Speaker 2 (28:10):
Speaker 1 (28:11):
I I isn’t the answer always talking
Speaker 2 (28:14):
Speaker 1 (28:16):
Like, isn’t it just
Speaker 2 (28:17):
Always Yeah. Honesty and talking and supporting your kid, um, where they are as opposed to supporting your kid. Like when they’re only doing the things that we really love them for or when they’re being exactly who we want them to be as a human. The honesty thing is at the core of just about everything I do as a parent. So Yeah.
Speaker 1 (28:37):
Yeah. And going back and saying, you know, what you felt like why you felt scared was because what be because I was drinking. Is that what you would say?
Speaker 2 (28:49):
Yeah. So for my kids in particular, you know, there were sort of two stages to this, the conversation we’d been having for a long time about, you know, their grandparent and, and okay. You know, like I said, why Christmas blew up that year and all that sort of stuff. Um,
Speaker 1 (29:04):
And you would say, so why Christmas blew up, you would say like, w what’s something that you would say? So,
Speaker 2 (29:10):
So the year, well, so the year that Christmas blew up, um, my parent relapsed and my sister and I realized it right away. And, um, my sister had flown in from somewhere else with her husband and her two kids I luckily could drive home, um, but you know, wasn’t close. Hmm. Yeah. And we were like, okay, well Christmas is gonna look a little different than we planned and my sister’s gonna have to go move into a hotel. And um, you know, that just, it was horrible. It was a horrible Christmas, but if we had attributed that to anything else, we would’ve been squandering this incredible object lesson Yeah. In what can happen and ps not just what can happen because we know scared straight doesn’t work very well. So if we’re using it just as a, oh look, if this happens, it can make all kinds of bad things happen. Um, that doesn’t tend to work very well, but does what does work that
Speaker 1 (30:06):
Just scares them and produces anxiety. Right?
Speaker 2 (30:08):
Yeah. Scared straight. Yeah. We know that stuff doesn’t work.
Speaker 1 (30:12):
Yeah. Like the nineties, I’m a kid of the nineties, it’s like, no, that doesn’t work.
Speaker 2 (30:15):
Right. But what we do know, um, is really helpful is it is my job as your mom to protect you from stuff that’s gonna be stressful or dangerous to you. And they, you know, it, this was where we also had a conversation about the fact that when they were littler that yeah, sometimes I had to sort of check in, wait, is this grandparent drunk or is this grandparent sober and is it safe for me to leave you there? So that was when I came out with like the full story of, you know, this has been going on for a long time and your grandparent is working, is trying really hard, but you know, substance use disorder is really tricky and really scary and we’re gonna make sure that they get the help that they need in the meantime. It’s not safe this year emotionally or you know, to be a part of Christmas with this person.
So that’s been a really important touchstone in our family history. Um, and I’m, you know, it’s not a pleasant topic for the grandparent that grandparent’s sober now, by the way. But it is a really important part of our family and it’s a reminder to me that, you know, I’ve got kids now that are, you know, probably gonna be having their own families in the next decade and I don’t want Christmas to ever blow up like that. And I would hope that they would protect their own children from me in the same way that I protected them from their grandparents
Speaker 1 (31:39):
Choosing to protect your kids over choosing to protect mm-hmm. <affirmative> your parents.
Speaker 2 (31:43):
And that same messaging can be a really important part of, you know, how we deliver effective substance use prevention. Because, so I have two kids. One was raised for the most part pre-do all the research for addiction inoculation. So I was operating on flawed information. I was operating on magical thinking and myth and all kinds of stuff. Like the best information I had at the time, I don’t blame myself for, it’s just I didn’t know any better. So after addiction inoculation came out, you know, my older kid, um, he’s now 24 and he was allowed to have sips and he was allowed to have a beer here and there. Okay. But his sister is not allowed to have alcohol. And the messaging is, look, you were living with me while I did all the research for the book. You know what’s in this book? You have heard ad nauseum about this stuff.
Um, she made a joke once, actually, one of her teachers asked, pulled the class and said, you know, how many of your parents ever talked to you about substance use? And my daughter was like, oh my gosh, when do my parents not talk to me about substance use <laugh>? But for her, in fact, she was home, um, over Thanksgiving from college with a friend who lives in a country where the drinking age I believe is 18 and that friend is over 18. And in our home, Phoebe does not get to have alcohol even at Thanksgiving. And it’s because she knows what I know. And so if I say to her, well sweetie, a, I would be kind of the cool parent, or it would be easier for me or it’d be less Yeah. Weird in front of your friend who can legally drink in his own home country. Why don’t I just let you all have your own glass of we were having sh they were having champagne with something. But I can’t do that because if I do that, what I’m saying to her is, I know what the best practices are for keeping you as safe as possible from a statistical standpoint for substance use disorder, but I’m gonna do what’s easier for me because Right. You know, you know, that’s what I would be saying to her.
Speaker 1 (33:47):
Yeah. And that’s the bigger message. It’s like, well, you know, you know the right decision and you know what to do, but rather than doing that, let’s do what’s easy.
Speaker 2 (33:55):
That’s like, I wanna be your friend as opposed to being your parents. Yes. I don’t want you to be mad at me. I don’t want you to think. And frankly, this was the challenging thing about moving too. Like all of her friends where we used to live and all of their families, we were all on the exact same page and we could back each other up, you know, and then we moved to a new place and suddenly, I don’t know the families, but let’s say I did and let’s say I was really worried about what her friends think of me and or our home or whatever. Yes, of course I want my home to be the place where everyone wants to hang out, but it’s not gonna be because I allow drinking in my home. Um, that’s just not, I’m totally cool with them thinking that I am the dorkiest parent on the planet because frankly I’m just doing what’s best for my kids in terms of lowering risk.
Cuz what we know, just to put it out there, what we know is the younger kid is when they first try drugs or alcohol, the higher their lifelong risk for substance use disorder. So if a kid is in eighth grade when they first try drugs or alcohol, then they have, it’s a little bit lower than 50% chance of having subs, uh, of developing substance use disorder over their lifetime. If we can push that till 10th grade, then we can cut that pretty much in half. And then if we could push it till 12th grade, we can get it down to pretty much where we are in the general population with sub risk for substance use disorder, all sort of for all comers. Um, and we know, like I said, to turn to flip this on its head, we know that people who have substance use disorder in their adult lives mm-hmm.
<affirmative>, 90% of them started before they were 18. So, wow. Yeah. There is this, there’s not only that statistical stuff, there’s also the adolescent brain and what’s happening in the adolescent brain, which is frankly my favorite topic in the whole world to talk about. But essentially what we know is it needs to develop unimpeded for a lot of different parts of it need to develop unimpeded for the brain to finish developing in a way that it’s supposed to by the early to mid twenties. And so the longer we can keep kids away from drugs and alcohol, the better their brains can develop and the lower their statistical risk of substance use disorder. So if my kid knows all that stuff for me to do anything other, anything counter to that, I’m saying, you’re not worth it.
Speaker 1 (36:07):
Right. I’m saying your brain doesn’t matter to me and it shouldn’t matter to you that much. Like this is better. Yeah. Right. Okay. So once she turns 21, how does that work? I’m trying to fig, my kids are eight. Uh, how old is she? Eight, six, and three. She just turned six. And I’m, I’m trying not to demonize alcohol because mm-hmm.
Speaker 2 (36:29):
<affirmative> of course.
Speaker 1 (36:30):
How does that work? Making something completely off limits. Like I, I don’t want them to drink because I do think alcohol is a demonn <laugh>.
Speaker 2 (36:37):
Well here’s the thing, here’s the thing that’s really important about really good solid information, and I highly recommend if you have not listened to it, go listen to the Huberman Lab podcast episode. Yes.
Speaker 1 (36:48):
Speaker 2 (36:48):
Have On alcohol in the Brain and Body. Okay. So you give that episode to anyone and you know, he has one on caffeine, he has one on nicotine, he has one on cannabis and he has one on alcoholic.
Speaker 1 (37:00):
Okay. But I don’t, I don’t wanna listen to the one on caffeine
Speaker 2 (37:04):
<laugh>. Okay. I I have, I don’t wanna listen to that one either. I, I’m clutching my coffee right now. That’s all I have left <laugh>,
Speaker 1 (37:11):
Like I don’t wanna hear about sugar and caffeine. Like don’t take
Speaker 2 (37:14):
Those. You can
Speaker 1 (37:15):
Take them from my cold dead hands. I
Speaker 2 (37:17):
Know. So anyway, all four of those episodes are really eye-opening. There was some stuff even in the cannabis one that was fascinating to me. But the alcohol one is so interesting because there’s a reason that the worth World Health Organization says that no amount of alcohol is safe. Um, right. That’s not, you know, the problem is, is when we start talking about, um, and, and this is great, we talked a little bit about quit lit and stuff like that, you know, alcohol, it, you know, is a carcinogen. It does do damage to the human body and that’s, there’s all sorts of things we do that have a risk benefit analysis for us. And you know, for me, obviously I can’t drink because uh, who knows where I’ll end up after I have one, but Yeah. Yeah.
Speaker 1 (37:58):
Speaker 2 (37:59):
But for everyone, you know, sugar makes me feel like crap and it makes me have really, really bad heartburn. So there are moments when I’m really, really craving sugar. I love sour haribo gummy bears more than just about anything.
Speaker 1 (38:13):
Oh my god. So good. But
Speaker 2 (38:14):
I have a decision to make every time I want to eat them because they’re going to make me feel terrible. Yes. But I love them. So it’s similar to the alcohol thing. Like every once in a while I’m gonna let myself have the Haribo gummy bears. Cuz thank goodness I don’t have like, you know, um, Haribo gummy bear use disorder.
Speaker 1 (38:34):
I mean, I always say like if, if A D U I included sugar, I’d like be in prison for life, <laugh> like, could you imagine <laugh>?
Speaker 2 (38:40):
Yeah. So I mean, all of us do this risk benefit analysis to everything, but at a certain point, don’t you kind of wanna know like if it for alcohol in particular, if something is, you know, all of this stuff that we’ve come to clinging to like it, you know, the resveratrol and it’ll lower my risk for whatever. Yeah. Um, there’s all kinds of myths that are out there that we clinging to because it makes it easier for us to justify it. And, um, and that’s fine. And I’m gonna take, you know, there’s lots of risky things that I do that I really, really love and it’s worth the risk for me. But I think it’s worth having all the information. So when we give kids good information and we give kids really good information, not just about the fact that adolescent drinking is just different from adult drinking both in practice and in the chemistry and what it does to the brains and the long and short term, uh, damage it does to the brain. I’m not talking about adult drinking in, in all of the work that I do. What I’m talking about is drugs and alcohol in the adolescent brain, in the child’s brain and in the adolescent brain, which is a very different story. And you can want to call me a Pollyanna, call me a t-to or whatever it is you wanna call me? That’s fine. Yeah. I have the data and I have really good solid information and I give that to my children to help them make better decisions.
Speaker 1 (40:04):
No, we’re rebranding sobriety over here sobriety’s. Cool. Um, that’s, that’s how we roll over here.
Speaker 2 (40:10):
Oh. And so anyway, you asked the question you asked was what’s gonna happen at 21? So here’s the deal, right? Right. So I know for a fact that my 24 year old shocker drank before he was 21. I know that because we’ve talked about it. Because here’s the other thing that starts happening when you come at this discussion. Um, and it’s a discussion you have often and it’s a discussion based on trust. If my kid is using before the age of 21, they can still talk to me about it. Which is really important for a couple of reasons. So for example, I’m not gonna identify which kid this was, but one of my kids had to have a minor surgery. Anesthesia does not work as well. If you are using T hc Mm. Marijuana alters the way anesthesia works, it makes it less effective. Okay.
Speaker 1 (41:01):
Speaker 2 (41:02):
Kind of important information you need to know. Right.
Speaker 1 (41:05):
That’s, that’s pretty scary. Yeah.
Speaker 2 (41:07):
So the child at the time was not a child. They were above the age of 18, but they wanted me to be there with them for this doctor’s appointment. And so I was, and so the conversation about, you know, have you used T H C recently came out and it came out that they had and I’m so glad they were honest about that in front of me. Yes. Because now the doctor knows and the kid knows do not use within x amount of time before or out, you know, before the surgery. Um, that conversation’s really important. The conversation about, you know, we have a lot of conversations about what the difference between like, you know, having a beer or two at a party versus I’m really starting to look forward to like five o’clock and then three o’clock and then can the weekend start on Thursday instead of Friday?
And yeah. Do I need this drink or do I want this drink? Here’s the deal with this stuff. Like I wrote the book on this and I cannot guarantee that my children are not gonna have substance use disorder and Right. What I need for them however, is um, I talk about substance use disorder and realizing that you need help as like a 100 piece puzzle. And I, you know, my dad happened to be piece 100 when he told me that I had a problem and I needed help and I was ready to get help, but there were 99 other pieces that had to be in place before I could hear that one. So for my kids, all of this protection stuff, all of this, um, the he heaping on of the protective factors that I do with them are also pieces of their puzzle. So if my kids do go on to have an issue later on in life or tomorrow, they’ll be closer to that 100th piece than I was. Um, and that’s what’s really important. Maybe they’ll recognize it sooner than I did.
Speaker 1 (42:52):
I mean it sounds like you’ve set the groundwork so that they probably will and, and, and that they’ll come to you probably first.
Speaker 2 (43:02):
Well, and here’s the thing, I’ve been in recovery long enough now to know that if they don’t, that’s okay too because AI can’t control their sobriety. Right. I had to learn that with my parent. You know, I got sober before my parent and the thing I wanted more than anything else in the whole world was to be able to control my parent getting sober and I couldn’t do that. So if I couldn’t control my parent getting sober, I definitely can’t control my child getting sober. So keeping an eye on that whole what you can control and what you can’t control. Yeah. And letting go of some of it. But you better believe that if there are evidence backed ways that I can heap the chances, the statistics in my favor. Yeah. I’m gonna do those things.
Speaker 1 (43:45):
Oh hell yeah. Does your husband drink? I don’t know if this is too personal.
Speaker 2 (43:50):
No, no. In fact, I did a presentation last night and this is one of the, one of the questions that came through on the q and a. My husband, um, has, you know, grew up in a family with a lot of substance use, uh, disorders. So he was born at higher risk just like I was. He does not have a problem with alcohol. He can have half a drink and walk away from it. So for the first year of my sobriety, we had no alcohol in the house. We actually talked about this last night when I was done with my presentation. I’m like, help me with this. Cause I’m not sure I remember for the first year or so, it was just best for everyone. I think. Um, there was a lot of trust rebuilding that had to happen. Um, and then about a year in, I think we decided to try out having closed, not opened alcohol out in like the refrigerator in the garage. You know, the one that breaks? Yeah. And then you don’t get rid of it cuz it works most of the time.
Speaker 1 (44:44):
Speaker 2 (44:45):
Right. So if he wants a drink, he has, um, he’ll buy singles of things. And so every once in a while there’ll be like a can of beer or a can of rose or something like that, um, in the refrigerator, in the garage. And then if he wants it with dinner, he’ll drink it with dinner and then if he doesn’t finish it, he empties it. If we have friends come over and they wanna bring wine that’s cool or they wanna bring beer, that’s cool. We send it home with them if it’s not done or we pour it out. Um, and you know, frankly, when people come to your house and bring a nice bottle of wine and you don’t get to it, um, and then you say, could you take that home with you? Um, they’re kind of like, Ooh, bonus <laugh>. Yeah.
Speaker 1 (45:21):
They’re like, yes, I get
Speaker 2 (45:22):
To purchase the wine and get to have the wine. So yeah, exactly. Yeah. And then, you know, when we’re in public places where there’s a lot of drinking going on, we have sort of, you know, I don’t feel particularly at risk, but we also have prearranged signals for when it’s time to go home. Mm. Um, if I’m feeling weak or if I’m feeling hungry, angry, lonely, tired, all those sorts of things that we have to check ourselves for. Um, we have, and my friends and I, I have incredibly supportive friends. Um, if we’re going to a function, uh, my friends have been known to call ahead to make sure that there’s gonna be non-alcoholic beverages available.
Speaker 1 (45:56):
What’s great friends? Yeah.
Speaker 2 (45:57):
They’re fantastic friends. Yeah.
Speaker 1 (46:00):
Wow. I love that. I also love the tip that if you’re going out with friends, like you decide the place and you decide when it ends, you know, so you like set those boundaries going in. It’s like, yes, I’m coming for two hours Yeah. And then I’m leaving if you’re newly sober and if you’re just trying to socialize. Yeah.
Speaker 2 (46:18):
I, and that’s something I talk a lot about a lot at the rehab is exit strategies. Yeah. And realizing that your sobriety is more important than possibly insulting your host. Yes. And frankly, any host that would be insulted by your leaving early because you were not feeling safe in your sobriety, is not really a friend that you need to have anyway. But most because I’m so public about it, um, most people at least you know, most people that I, whose house I go to know, but I always feel like I can leave whenever I want. Yes. Um, this is my sobriety. That is the mo you know, I don’t get to have this life without being sober. I certainly don’t get to have the career I have, which is based on being sober. That’s the one benefit of having a career. That’s absolutely 100% predicated on your sobriety. Yes. Is that it really does help you stay sober.
Speaker 1 (47:08):
It’s so true. Like there’s no, yeah. Even just me and being a sobriety influencer and having this podcast mm-hmm. <affirmative> writing a book, it’s just like, well, okay, we’re doing this <laugh>. Okay. Yep. This is the thing.
Speaker 2 (47:19):
Well and that’s also cool when I talk to people who are new in recovery about my particular higher power. So I happen to be an atheist. Um, and the God stuff just doesn’t necessarily work for me. But every single time, like showing up today, you and the Audi, your audience, you’re my higher power today going to the, I work at the rehab on Friday. They’re my higher power cuz I can’t show up for them if I’m not sober. Yes. I do a daily, um, video on Instagram about preventing substance use in kids. I can’t make that video and put it out if I’m not sober. Yes. So the people that I get to talk to and help and listen to and be there for those people, um, and it’s even bigger than my recovery community. It’s anyone I get to show up for, you know, all my heart. Yeah.
Speaker 1 (48:09):
Oh my God, I love that. That’s a perfect if if you don’t believe in God because there is a lot of God talk in sobriety. There
Speaker 2 (48:15):
Is a lot of God talk. Yeah. There’s,
Speaker 1 (48:17):
Yeah. And I, I know some people are like, well, like universe or spirit or whatever. Perfect. All
Speaker 2 (48:23):
Kinds of cool things. I’ve heard. One woman told me, she said she was out hiking one day and she saw this huge boulder on the side of a mountain. She said, yep, I’m not strong enough. I’m not powerful enough to put that boulder up there on the side of the mountain, but something is, and that for her was her higher power. And then I also, my husband, his uncle who has now died, he’s just was a fantastic, amazing human being. He was an Episcopal priest and he and I talked a lot about religion and taking what you need and leaving the rest. And, um, so for me, recovery works, 12 step recovery happens to work really well for me. Um, mainly because it’s a proxy for, you know, it’s part of therapy and having self-awareness. Um, but does all of it work for me? No way. Um, but I take the parts of it that I love, like the community and, um, you know, I travel a ton for work and I have favorite meetings all over the place. I have favorite meetings in Oh, that’s so cool. LA And favorite meetings in New York. And I love going to those meetings and it’s like seeing old friends again.
Speaker 1 (49:28):
Yeah. And do you go to meetings still regularly? Like consistently or how is that?
Speaker 2 (49:34):
So I have a couple of things that I do. I have online meetings that I love going to my, I don’t, when we moved, I lost the two most kickass meetings ever. One was my original home group, um, that I just loved in White River Junction. Um, Vermont. You
Speaker 1 (49:50):
Drove quite a ways. That was
Speaker 2 (49:52):
The first day meeting,
Speaker 1 (49:53):
Right? Yeah. Okay. Yeah. You didn’t wanna anyone to see you, so you’re like, I’m gonna drive. Yeah. And it was worth a drive every time. <laugh>.
Speaker 2 (50:00):
I loved it. And then I also have, um, I had a women’s only meeting that I found really, really important to me. Yeah. And so I have, I occasionally zoom in on that one. Um, I get to lead meetings, um, both at the rehab where I work, and then occasionally I’m a guest speaker in meetings. And then on top of that, it turns out that I have a close group of friends that it just so happens are all in recovery and we all live near each other. We have our own little text thread and we check in on each other. One of our group relapsed during covid. Hmm. And, um, she goes up to speak at the rehab with me, um, mainly about relapse and what relapse looks like and how now that she knows what she knows, she could have recognized that she was on the path to relapse for a good six months Right. Before she ever did relapse. Yeah. So, you know, we all, it’s a big community and meetings can take a lot of forms for me. And yeah, sometimes they’re just meeting meetings and I go and I happen to like speaker meetings the best, but sometimes they’re more informal and it’s texting with my friends and my, uh, yes. Sort of co people that are in recovery with me.
Speaker 1 (51:11):
I love that. Like, and don’t discount online. Right. Don’t discount online and texting and all of that. Okay. Well if there’s a mom who is like, what can I do today with my kids to help those protective factors mm-hmm. <affirmative> to make that side of the scale heavier, what would you say? Yeah,
Speaker 2 (51:30):
So if you want a real shortcut, um, if you go to jessica leahy.com, there’s a blog post that’s the top pinned post that has a table of contents with a linked index to every single video. And they’re all only 90 seconds. So if you wanna understand perfect, really, really quickly what the main risk factors are and you wanna understand really, really quickly what the main protections are, there are videos for that. The first chapter of the addiction notation is sort of more an introduction to me and who I am, but at the very end is a little sort of summation of that first chapter is a little sort of summation of where we’re headed. And the book really goes in a very clear sort of, here’s the risk, here’s the protective factors, and also offers scripts. So this stuff, really effective substance use protection starts with kids who are in pre-K and kindergarten. Yes. Both school-based programs and home-based programs. And the thing I learned from traveling and speaking a lot about the gift of failure is that people want scripts. And I underestimated that when I wrote the Gift of failure. Like there’s some in there, but not like there are in the addiction notation.
Speaker 1 (52:40):
Well, it was still a bestseller. So you did great <laugh>
Speaker 2 (52:43):
<laugh>. So, so there’s a lot of, here’s a way to approach this topic. Here’s a natural way into that topic. Here are some words you can use. Here’s how to approach that topic. And then on topic of that, you know, coming up with, my favorite part of the book, by the way, is the part from kids where kids gave me advice on excuses that they could use if they were like, for example, out at a party and didn’t necessarily wanna use but wanna save face. There’s like two and a half pages of those excuses. Um, so good. You know, there’s just, hopefully what I try to do is give you the big picture, but then actually lead you by the hand if you wanna be led. Yeah. I really do give you the option to either take the big picture and run with that in your own way, or if you wanna follow the scripts, the steps, that kind of thing, they’re there.
Speaker 1 (53:30):
I appreciate it. As a mother, you in each, each milestone, each step. We’ve never been here before and I’ve never, I’ve never parented a nine year old and I’m going to a 10 year old and I’m, give me a guide. Yeah. And you are, you are the guiding light in this space. And I, yeah, I can’t, I can’t encourage everyone enough to go read the addiction. Thank you. Okay, so tell everybody where to find you.
Speaker 2 (53:51):
Easy-peasy. Jessica leahy.com and it’s l a h e y and everything is there from my journalism to the books where you can get signed copies to all those videos that I mentioned. That’s in the, the blog post. Um, and then, uh, the daily videos are on Instagram and I’m at Teacher Lehe over on Instagram.
Speaker 1 (54:10):
Thank you so much. I love this. Everybody go check out the book, see where she’s speaking. Go follow her, do all the things because, uh, yeah, moms need help. And you are helping. Thank
Speaker 2 (54:21):
You so much. I’m so grateful. I’m so grateful for you keeping this conversation open, um, for being a place that people can go and trust that this is a safe way to have this conversation. Cuz for a lot of people it’s not. And you know, not everyone has support of their family and their friends and there needs to be a place where we can go and talk about this stuff.
Speaker 1 (54:40):
Yes. Yes. We need to talk. We need to talk and listen. <laugh>, thank you. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Silver Mom Life. If you loved it, please rate and review it wherever you listen. Five stars is amazing. Also, follow me on Instagram at the silver mom life. Okay. I’ll see you next week. I’m gonna go reheat my coffee. Bye.
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