I had the wonderful opportunity to interview with recovery coach Cathy Taughinbaugh, a Life and Recovery Coach specializing in helping families. Here is her bio:
Cathy Taughinbaugh has experienced substance abuse with two of her children. As a result of her journey, she founded CathyTaughinbaugh.com and became a Certified Life and Recovery Coach in order to work with other parents of children struggling with substance abuse issues. Cathy is a member of The Partnership at Drugfree.org’s National Parent Network.
What inspired you to become such an active advocate for family-oriented recovery?
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 substance abuse issues.
Family members really suffer when they are experiencing their loved one’s substance abuse. They may feel anger, guilt, frustration and shame because of the situation. The continual chaos and confusion of a loved one’s actions can be emotionally exhausting.
Family members need to heal as well. By understanding what is behind their loved one’s substance use, they can begin the process of healing. The recovery process is important for all involved.
You specialize in helping parents cope with their child’s substance abuse issues. What are the top three pieces of advice you give to them?
1. Take care of yourself. There is the saying from the airline about putting your oxygen mask on first before you help others. This saying applies for the situation of coping with the substance abuse of a child. It is crucial that parents take steps to understand that substance abuse is very stressful. Understanding and managing their emotions can help the situation. When a parent helps themselves, it will enable them to help their child more effectively.
2. Educate yourself on recovery strategies and tools that can help you and your family member. There are many good evidence-based approaches available as well as traditional approaches that may motivate a person to change and seek recovery. One such program is CRAFT which I feel strongly supports family members. The 20 Minute Guide is a must read for any parent concerned about their child. It is important for parents to stay involved in their child’s situation, and it is not always necessary for them to turn away or detach. While it is tempting to want one answer that works for everyone, the solutions are often unique to each individual. Each person has their own individual issues that need to be understood and by doing so can often result in a better chance for long term change.
3. Positive reinforcement can make a difference. Substance abuse is often accompanied by negative behavior and negative talk. One thing that can make a difference is positive reinforcement. Just changing the conversation to one that is more positive can remind you and your child about what they are doing right. While it may feel that you are acknowledging behavior that your child should be already doing, like not using drugs or abusing alcohol, positive reinforcement has been shown to motivate your child to make positive changes because it encourages better self-esteem and change.
What would you say to someone who wishes to seek recovery but is struggling to take the first step?
I would want someone who wishes to seek recovery to know that I understand their ambivalence. I’m sure there are days when they feel ready to seek recovery and other days when they fall back into using. Substance abuse, however, is not a long term solution. It can only add problems to your life and take away the potential you have for the future. Find someone who understands, someone who has walked in your shoes, about the possibility of seeking recovery. I know I needed to call a friend to take me to my first Al-Anon meeting, so reaching out to others can make the difference. Know that you don’t have to give yourself a label and that there are many paths to recovery. Find the one that works for you.
What would you say to someone who has relapsed and is struggling to get back on track?
Have faith in yourself and know that recovery is a journey that may include times when you stumble and fall. But like any situation, you have the ability to get up and try again. Some have compared recovery to a marathon. Know that there may be times when you fall back into a behavior that is harmful. Forgive yourself and then make the decision to move forward in a positive direction. Reach out for professional help if you feel that will make a difference and surround yourself with people who will support the positive changes you are trying to make in your life. Above all, don’t give up hope.
You also guide others in building more wholesome, joyous lives. What are five lifestyle choices you encourage in both recovery and life?
1. Connecting with nature brings peace and calm. Go outdoors and observe the green trees, the ocean, the mountains, the sunset, the flowers, the birds and the butterflies. Getting out in nature brings you back to the present moment with calm and joy. It is a reminder about how beautiful our world really is.
2. Physical exercise is a way to improve your mood, relieve some of your stress and stimulate brain chemicals that will leave you feeling healthier and more relaxed. Two benefits of exercise are increased self-esteem and better sleep.
3. When you eat healthy food, it can help to stabilize the physical aspects of recovery and gives your body the best fuel for a balanced life. By eating a healthy diet, you encourage the healing process and support overall good living.
4. Create a social network. As humans, having a social connection is what will enable us to live well and thrive. When a family has substance abuse issues, sometimes we let go of people that are close to us and it is painful. Surrounding yourself with family and friends with similar interests is one of the best things you can do to be happy.
5. Living a life of gratitude will make you feel more joy in your life. You can even feel grateful for those moments of stress or crisis in your life, because they are learning opportunities. Gratitude is a reminder of what is important in our life.