Welcome to the Unbreakable Boundaries Podcast
Dec. 21, 2021

Ep #50 Dr. Susan Birne-Stone: How to See, Hear, and Listen to Yourself


Creating unbreakable boundaries is really about honoring yourself and others. In this episode, Dr. Susan and I get into some really great conversations about creating awareness around the question that Dr. Susan loves to ask, "Why does this make sense?"  Having a loved one with substance abuse is complex, challenging, and it's important that we can honor ourselves and really see ourselves, hear ourselves and be willing to listen to ourselves.

About Dr. Susan
For over 35 years Dr. Susan has successfully worked in the field of psychological, emotional and relationship health in a variety of settings and roles. She has helped thousands of individuals and families to improve their relationships in all aspects of their lives and achieve their goals.  Dr. Susan is a therapist, international coach, professor, mentor and thought leader. In addition to regularly being quoted in the media, Dr. Susan is the producer and host of the television talk show Your Voice with Dr. Susan. 

To learn more go to drsusanbirnestone.com

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/susan-birne-stone-brooklyn-ny/300230

or contact her at drsusanbirnestone@gmail.com

 

Transcript

Welcome back to the unbreakable boundaries podcast with your host, myself, Jennifer Maneely. I am super excited about today's podcast for a couple of different reasons. One, this is my 50th. Podcast. That's exciting anytime there's like such a consistency where all of a sudden you've gotten to that marker of 50 of anything. It's like, wow, how did I get here? The other reason I'm excited, and we've been talking about having my guest that's on this episode today with us for a while. And I was like, I would really love you to celebrate this 50th episode because of just how much I have really learned from this guest in just the field and how aligned we are in recovery. And I'll go into that in just a second of all of her great and wonderful things and her name. And I'll just go ahead and tell you, Dr. Susan, burn stone, and she is a therapist. And she's so much more than that, though. She specializes in marriage and family therapy, which I love. Because after all, my whole thing is about supporting family, especially marriage. So one of the things that's really important when it comes to having loved ones with substance abuse, especially if you have a spouse is that you're on the same page. It's really challenging to not be on the same page with each other because there's just so many times where it's like you really meet each other through something that's really challenging. And so one of the things that I really admire is I know that Dr. Susan, I refer to her as Dr. Susan. But Dr. Susan can help get people on the same page. And, and just the overall family dynamics. One of the things that I've really come to appreciate about Dr. Susan, and this is just personally is one of her gifts is that she can really, truly listen to what someone is needing. And then actually help them achieve in a very simplified and digestible way. The goals in order to achieve the thing and she takes very much a holistic approach. So she looks at the bigger picture. So she doesn't look just at the mental stuff she takes into account. Well, what are some of the physical things? Is there some physical challenge do we need to go get you into a doctor or assess, you know, something that's maybe going on physically that's impacting you, mentally or emotionally. So let's start there. Let's really look at the whole person. And I, I've had so many conversations, and she's helped me in so ways, and here's the thing about someone like myself, I have been in therapy in and out my entire life. And it's like, it's always just the same kind of stuff. It's just like, we're going to go in, or at least me I'm going to go in, I'm going to tell you what you want to hear. And you're going to buy into whatever it is that I want you to know about me. And that's going to be our whole conversation. It's whatever that I want. What I love about Dr. Susan, and what she does is she will pull out, ask the tough questions, ask the right questions based on monitoring what that person needs. And that's something that's been such a gift for me is when I get into that place, she's able to go in, ask me some really great questions, and then help me clarify what it is that I'm looking at in a very safe environment. So I think that is the star of at least the introduction of why I think Dr. Susan is just so amazing at what she does, especially from someone that has been in and out of therapy their entire lives and what makes her so magical and different from every other therapist that and I don't go to her professionally, but because we're friends, she has certainly helped me out in so many ways. So I really appreciate so welcome to the show. Dr. Susan and thank you for allowing me that introduction.

Dr. Susan:

Then I first of all first let me just start with congratulations on 50 This is amazing and I am so honored to be here on your 50th show like this is amazing to me like do you I know you know a little bit about what an achievement it is. But it is a huge achievement to stay all through this process up and downs of making this This stuff this what you've created. And so congratulations, you're just amazing. And I'm really thrilled and honored to be here. So that's what I wanted to start with, first of all, and I'm still recovering from that election, like, I really was working to take it in. Because taking in compliments, was have difficulty with that. But I tried my best to stay centered and to listen, and what I, you know, brought tears to my eyes, because what I loved about everything that I heard you say, was so much of what I tried to do, so to know that, like, you get that without me telling you that that's what I'm trying to do. It's like, oh, you you need to write my book or something. Like, whenever I struggle with a description, like I'm calling on you to write that I have, and I have so much to say, and just, you know, I'm here, and I'm so glad to be here. And again, thank you. And yeah, yeah. Also your, your listeners, and I'm excited for them to hear our conversation too.

Jen:

Yeah. And that's just it. What I love about the way that I enjoy doing this is it's, it's really just a conversation, practical things like helpful suggestions, to the families out there that really are struggling in this way. And I couldn't think of anyone better than to help, you know, my listeners really understand all of the complexities that come with, you know, the struggles of having a loved one that has substance abuse issues, and I know the technical terms, and in, you know, we talk about this substance use disorders, but I like saying substance abuse issues, because we can get over issues. So, um, you know, I think that one of the great and wonderful places, for my listeners, where I would really like to start is maybe a little bit because I know that you've worked, you've worked 35 years in this field, and you've seen a lot and you've helped a lot of people. So um, what do you feel like for yourself in terms of helping, you know, other family members? And whether it's with substance abuse or not? How do you feel like, let me ask this differently? What's your biggest proudest moments when you can start seeing families shifting and changing and growing? So like, when you can start seeing some changes in them? What does it usually look like for you? And what makes you the proudest? I don't know that that question was very clear, as I'm listening back to it, but we'll just open it up and see what you take from it, and then go from there.

Dr. Susan:

That's great. And I have to ship because I had in my head a whole nother question. without you telling me Okay, so what was it? Let's start there? No, this is a great question. Because what I heard, and it's, it's so interesting, because for me, I love those moments when I see the shift being made, whether it's an individual's or families, and those are my moments when like, I get the chills where I know, I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. So it's a great question. And, and it's having me think about it, you know, I think it's about first of all, the first thing that comes to mind, and I'm getting the chills again, is when I see viscerally in people, the guilt get lifted. Families are walking around and holding on to so much blame and guilt, interest, especially parents, I mean, oh, yeah. You know, like, we feel like it's, I'm a parent, and it's like, no matter what our kid does, it's like, Oh, my God, it's our responsibility and the things that we swear we'll never do as parents, and then we do them and all of that stuff, by the way, just to audience to explain something. I'm from Brooklyn, New York. I was born in Brooklyn, I've lived in Brooklyn most of my life, and I'm still in Brooklyn. We talk really fast here. So Jen, please, I know that you have listeners all over the place. But when I get excited, I go quickly. To say that, Susan, slow it down. Okay, cuz I can feel myself in that. Like,

Jen:

you know what, just get excited and just talk fast, people can slow slow it down.

Dr. Susan:

Because we all feel that like that responsibility. We want to do it right. And the hardest thing for parents, whether it is a substance abuse or anything else, even if it's physical, like whatever that thing is, we feel a lot of guilt. So um, For me, those moments are when I see a parent or a family member, really start to allow the blame and the guilt really get released. And it's because until we do that we can't, we can't, we can't be really helpful to anybody when we are so bogged down with that. And it's understandable, but it's not helpful. And I'm not saying it's gonna go away completely, it doesn't. But I can see that. So for me, that's like a huge highlight. Just, it's interesting, because I work with boats, I work with the families. And I also work with people who are suffering. And, you know, we've talked about this a little bit, but I, I'm very happy that recently too, I got somebody who was not seeing how a substance was impacting on their life. And they recently after two years of working with them, got to see oh, this is the primary. This is the primary. And that was when the person went, oh, oh, oh, oh, like, huh, I now I'm hitting like, you've been telling me that? Oh, and they accepted it? And so it was like, Yes, I know. Yeah. So and that, to that, that, that that stuff, too? Yeah,

Jen:

yeah. And so that's, um, like, both sides of the equation. So from the families of the families going, Oh, I'm not responsible, like, I don't have to hold on to all this skill. And my decisions don't need to be designed around trying to compensate for all of the reasons I feel guilty and trying to make up for something that I didn't.

Dr. Susan:

Yeah, you know, I'm all about complexity, right. And I also just want to say, although all families have similarities, and some patterns, every situation is different. Yeah. Um, but it's very complex. Because one of the kind of the challenges, if you will, it, you know, if I can get into this a little bit, one of the challenges for family members, is that sometimes what happens is, they're so looking at it through the lens of doing the right thing, and being the good parent or family member, that they can't see what that person really needs. Yeah, because they get so stuck in, I have to be the right parent, I have to get it right. And then it's related to what is their idea, their belief, about good parenting. And sometimes the belief about good parenting is really not helpful. It hinders their being able to support their loved one.

Jen:

Yeah. And yet, it's, it's, you know, going back to the complexity, it's like, all they want to do is help their loved one. So it's like, redefining, what does that look like? And what are the outcomes of this is where it's, for me, I look at when I'm helping families of going, we can totally see how you got there. And what your thinking is, let's reshape the thinking, though. And look at outcomes versus expectations, versus, you know, how much is being driven by the emotional because it's like, of course, all you want to do is, and we do what we know to do. Right? When it comes to helping, we're just doing what we know. And this is in general, what we know how to do. And so it's like, sometimes it does take someone else to kind of say, Okay, you're doing what you know how to do. It's kudos for you like, and let's reshape some of these things and look at really helpful.

Dr. Susan:

Yeah, absolutely. You know, my famous question is, like, why does this make sense, right? And looking at why does this make sense? On both sides? For everyone? Why does that behavior make sense? But then it's not helpful. You know, why does it make sense that this person is using, okay, because they need this? And let's now figure out how else they can call. Right. Yeah. You know, why does it make sense that the parent is not able to set the boundary that's needed? Right? You're unpack that. Oh, okay. This makes sense. And now let's look at it differently. Yeah.

Jen:

Yeah. And, and I, and I love that because it's like, obviously, this is the unbreakable boundaries podcast. Right? So we're talking a lot about boundaries. And a part a big part of the boundaries, is actually looking and this is what makes them starting to think about them being unbreakable. It's not just, you know, saying something. It's also doing things doing things differently than what you've ever done doing things that are structured to really look at, what are you trying to achieve? And then making sure that your decisions are aligning with those goals that you're setting out. And I think that's, that's really important. And then also looking at and I love that question that you ask because you've asked me this several times, where it's like, well, so Okay, so why does this make sense? And what I love about that question is that for me, when I'm starting to feel some shame, and self doubt, and all of those things about something that I'm experiencing at the time, you say, Well, okay, so why does this make sense? And then I can actually come at that from a different place. That removes the guilt that removes the shame feelings and get a little bit more clarity on what's really going on, and then tackle it from a different angle. So

Dr. Susan:

yeah,

Jen:

I will. I love that question. I want to kind of go back, though, if you don't mind. Because I think one of the family struggles is what seems so obvious on the outside looking in is not so obvious to the person that is struggling with substance abuse, right. And this is something that families have a very challenging time, getting their heads wrapped around. And this isn't just with the person that you had just mentioned, that actually is, you know, looking and going, Oh, maybe the substances are causing a big part of some of why I can't move forward in my life, right? And how long and how much it really takes for someone to realize that these substances are a big challenge. And so can we just talk and I don't, you know, necessarily want to talk specifically about that person, but just the overall resistance that people have. And I know that you've been in the field of people that have substance abuse, and you work with them, what do you feel like are their big resistances? And why does it take so long for someone to start seeing that the substances have a big impact on our life?

Dr. Susan:

So great question. And I think, again, the word complexity comes to mind, as you said earlier, I look at everything. So when I, when I look at a situation, I'm looking at the individual and all of the different layers, I'm a systems thinker. So I look at like the individual, holistically, both the biological, the cognitive, the emotional, all of that, then I also look at all the other systems, and how the person interplays with their immediate family, their group, their church, their religion, institution, within all the institutions that they deal with, and a larger society. So the reason why I mapped that out, is because I think it is complex. And I think, one of first of all, it's hot, I want to talk about society, because I think that that gets underplayed in some times, sometimes, when someone and a family feels like they're dealing with this alone, and it becomes self blaming of the individual. The messaging from society, is whether it's alcohol, or drugs. I mean, if you watch TV just for a little bit, how many ads will you see for pills, medications, maybe it's not for psychological stuff. It's a physical, we are at a time when we as a society, we fix our problems with little pills, or injections or different things. It's a constant messaging, look at what went. Now, I know that there's other reasons why we did this. But look, what was considered an essential business during the pandemic, when things were shut down. Liquor stores were considered an essential business, what now that we will get into why that was, but there because there was some reasons for that. And that made sense. And there are other reasons that do not make any sense. Because what are we telling people having alcohol is essential, right? Like like, huh, like? If so, the messaging is like, okay, so it normalizes the behavior, like, I'm just doing what everybody in society is doing and telling me to do, and then it needs to be acknowledged, we need to acknowledge that like, I'm, I'm really big on it then. So I don't know what do you what are your thoughts before I write? What's your thoughts on that?

Jen:

Oh, I totally. I totally look at society as a whole of what our messaging is, I mean, down from, you know, just being like, growing up really young. Like we are getting messages all the time. And subconsciously, we also take a lot of the messaging in as is like if we can if we have a problem, then we have a problem. Right? Like we should be able to control our alcohol drinking. It's totally a social norm, it's totally all of these things, right. And even for me, like that's what it was, for a long time where it's like, I couldn't wait to be able to drink with the rest of the family. So there's also that kind of like, the society connection norm of this is how you connect with other people. It's like, oh, you're going to a party? Well, Oh, thank God, it's gonna be wine there. You know, because that's how you really kind of start opening up and connect. And so there's this right complexities. It's very complex, very complex.

Dr. Susan:

And, you know, we think about, you know, this is my pet peeve, too. And, you know, some people will be aghast at this, but I would love to get bars out of airports, you know, because think about this, right? You have a bar, right? Before people are getting on a plane, and then drinking on the plane, like, what what you know, so that's a whole nother thing. But that's the messaging. Like, it's good. You get on a plane, like, you know, I remember being able to have like, a drink on a planet. How is that cool? Okay, right. So that's the one piece. But the other piece is and what you said, you know, this, this in, we should be able to control it. The the so going back to the individual and the physiological issues, so not everybody is the same. And there are fizzy out real true physiological aspects, that will make one more vulnerable to become physiologically addicted, then other people. If I and these, the studies have proved it, if genetically, you have addiction that's related to you genetically in your family, parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, you're going to have to work harder. It's like sugar for the physiological addictions than somebody who doesn't, you can't choose that. If two people go to college, and they go to, you know, a drinking thing, the person who has drinking physiologically genetically in their background, versus the person that doesn't, they both come out and go, Okay, we're quitting. It's physiological, they have more challenges against them. And the other thing that's really important about this and the connection to mental illness, there was studies that are being done that have shown that if adolescents, adolescents who have schizophrenia has a very high genetic predisposition. So there's all these studies where if you have, let's say, a parent who has schizophrenia, or a sibling, an identical twin that has schizophrenia, you have in life more of a chance of getting schizophrenia, then somebody else doesn't mean you are, but you have no chance, okay? If you what they have found that children, adolescents who have a parent or have to have that, right, predetermined possibility to have schizophrenia, if they smoke marijuana at an at a younger age, later on, they, their chances of getting schizophrenia coming down with it is higher than that. There's that connection. So so taking in a substance is not just about control, it's about what it can do to one's body. Yeah. And we don't realize that that's so you know, this society that that we also, as you said before, it's like the individual should be able to do it, we have to look at the complexities, you know, no, there's no logical addictions here that make it hard. Look what the industry did with opioids. You know, like, we know, this wasn't this wasn't an individual's decision. Oh, I'm going to just get get over this and stop it. There's a real strong physiological determinant here.

Jen:

Right? And it's

Dr. Susan:

black cities too.

Jen:

I mean, and we can keep keep going down the road and complexities. I was just thinking about when you were talking about the physiological stuff, I keep hearing all the time, like, part of the thing that like parents will say is like, if you just put all the drugs down, right, then like, you'll be fine. So just put the drugs down and then you'll go fine. But in the physiological what you're also saying is is that there's there's just a little bit of extra things that someone that has the physiological terminologies escaped escaping me right now.

Dr. Susan:

It's right. The

Jen:

Russian isn't right. So someone that has that may have to work just a little bit harder. It's not a an escape to say excuse it's not an excuse and this is

Dr. Susan:

knowledge mint. It's a you have to write and here's what I also want to I used to do this with with regular phones, but we don't use regular phones anymore, but I'll do with cell phone. So for families that go you know You just have to stop, right? I would like everybody try it now, you probably have a dominant hand that you pick up your cell phone with. And maybe, you know, you put it up, you know, we don't always put it up to our ears anymore. But you know, sometimes you probably do take the hand that you pick up your phone with and put it up to your ear. Okay, so now try for a week using your other hand. Okay, just use your other hand, how difficult is change, and that has nothing, it's not physiological. There's no association, it's not an emotional coping mechanism. It's nothing, it's a neutral thing, if we realize how difficult changes over something neutral Majan how challenging it is to give up a substance that has all these levels of complexity. And so I mean, for the families, it's when you said that it's about honoring the complexity. And the challenge doesn't mean that you, and this is the again, it's the other piece doesn't mean then that you allow someone to break the agreement, there's a difference between holding someone accountable, you know, which is what you are ready to talk about in terms of the boundaries, right, holding someone accountable to the agreement, setting the boundary, while also having compassion?

Jen:

Well, and I think I think there therein lies like a big thing where families can really find themselves, truly helping is both balancing out the complexities, while also honoring themselves and going, it's not an excuse, we're not just going to allow you to act any way you want. But, but I hear you, I know how hard it is. And I want to support you in understanding and being mindful that this is a challenge. And yet, I believe in you. And I know that you are strong enough to be able to work through this, while honoring them. So I think that's a really important piece of all of this for the families and for the loved ones.

Dr. Susan:

Right. And the other thing too, especially for parents of children of all ages, it doesn't matter how old your child is, right, is that and this is oftentimes something that I see, I work on this with all families, regardless whether it's substance abuse or other issues, is that we talk a good game. And we also know that children learn by what they see, not by what they hear. And the most important thing is the way that you yourself are living. So what is like when in terms of substances, what are you trying to get your child to do to set boundaries right around the substances, right? If you're not modeling, setting boundaries and other ways, but you want your child to set boundaries, you're giving them a mixed message, even unconsciously. And so that's when it comes about where your work is so vital. You know, it's so great. Jen, what you talk about, and why it's so important to have set those boundaries for family members and for your kids or whoever the whoever is challenged, because you're also modeling that behavior. You know, I want if you want your your child, an adult child to take good care of themselves. My thing is you taking good care of yourself, because they're going to do what you do. And and that's that's the other that's the biggest challenge. I think for parents. It really is they preach, right? We all we it's, you know, I, I live it and breathe it myself. I'm always it's hard work. It's a journey. It is

Jen:

what it is. And but that was a really pivotal moment for my mom and I. And she did not get help. And I talked about this a lot. But she didn't get help for herself. For the sake of modeling. She got help for herself. For the sake of understanding that it was like this stuff was way over her head. She didn't understand and it wasn't to try to like help me it was to help herself. Through her journey. She figured out that she had a problem that was different than mine. She did not have substance abuse issues. She didn't have to like put the bottle down before I was able to put the bottle you know what I mean? Like that wasn't the challenge. The challenge was is knowing what she was responsible for. And then her own personal journey of working through some of her stuff. For me, that was a really pivotal moment because what she modeled for me was the journey of self discovery. And that she kind of took honestly she kind of took some of my excuses away from me in terms of I would look at her and be like but what are you doing to change and I know that's not healthy but here's the thing is at the time I wasn't in a very healthy mindset. So of course I was going to look at her go so what are you doing to change? And And honestly, here's here's the thing, I can't tell you How many people in recovery, beg and plead and wish that their families would get help for themselves as well, just so that they can know how to talk to them, how to relate to them, what's really going on. And they're like, I just want to be seen. And I just wants to be heard. And I wish that you could see and hear me more than anything else. And that,

Dr. Susan:

yeah, I love that you talked about, you know, the pivotal moment when your mom went to really go through her journey about working on yourself. Because I often hear this and I wonder, did you also feel a little bit relieved? Like, like her, her happiness or her whatever her world didn't just revolve around you? And did it provide you with some relief? And in a way?

Jen:

Honestly, it did. Because it was it was a very, it's just, it was very interesting what happened? Because I didn't ever think that she would be able to live without me.

Dr. Susan:

Hmm. And yes, yeah. And in

Jen:

the back of my mind, I just always kind of knew that no matter how bad things got, she was going to do what parents do, which is swoop in and rescue me because she didn't want me. And it wasn't a manipulation. It was really a thought of my mom's never gonna let anything truly bad happen. And

Dr. Susan:

right, as if she had the

Jen:

power, she had the power, right? The power, right? Yeah, right. Right. So the Baba, in the back of my mind, I always told myself, like, things got really bad enough, I could always just get her to, like, come and bail me out. I didn't really, she would. And this was great. And part of me, and this was just my story. So part of me also felt like her coming in to swoop no matter how mad she got, because she'd get really mad, right. And she scare the hell out of me. But, but it didn't matter that she was mad. But only the only thing that mattered was that she was there. And that's how I received love that the time was that when that's how I knew she loves me when she would come in and take all my problems away. And it was great. And I was like, This is awesome. And so I didn't know how to do it any other way. So that was for me when it was actually I'm going to allow you to live your life, the way that you choose to live it. This is my mom saying this to me. And I'm going to learn to live without you was a very big pivotal moment for me based on our patterns. And based on what it was that I really needed to see happen with her. I mean, obviously, we didn't know how that all was going to play out. And what a big pivotal moment that really was until later. But I

Dr. Susan:

just want to add, but you know, clarify that she still loved you she wasn't there's a difference, just to clarify that she's not because sometimes parents hear that is I can't abandon my child. She wasn't abandoning you. You knew she loved you. Yes, and was there, but she had to take care of herself, right and learn how to take care of you.

Jen:

Well, and I think for her, and, you know, the timeline, from the moment that she got help to this moment, that was three years of solid work on herself deep diving work on herself to deliver that message in such a way that told me that she still loves me, she wasn't abandoning me, and she was gonna allow me my choices, you know, in such an impactful in that way. So, you know, there was a lot of her own journey. And we talked to my mom and I talked about this a lot of how much of her. She's had her personal work, how I've had my personal work, and then we've been able to work together. Yes, it's three separate things.

Dr. Susan:

Yep, absolutely. And you know, the other thing that just popped into my head, that I hadn't mentioned yet, and I think it's really important for people out there to listen to hear this, too, because there might be some, it's not just about parents and children in terms of the children, having the substance abuse, addiction or the challenge. It's also the parent. And I've seen a lot of adult children whose parent is has the addiction problem. And it's the same thing. It's about, you know, they've grown up thinking that they had to do everything for their parents, in order to have them and the work that we've done that's been successful and you're not doing it for the parent, you're doing it for yourself. But what some sometimes happens is, and I've seen this just recently, where the parent starts to change, because you're not going in and rescuing them, and you're setting boundaries, and I saw this on it, you know, I won't get into the details, but you know, it was happened just now where you know, somebody was coming to the house and they, the person had to set the boundaries? Yeah.

Jen:

Well, and that's something that I feel like you can really speak on, because one of my things that I tell tell families is like, first, let's just look at your patterns. And then let's look at where we can change some of these patterns. Because if you change a pattern, it's going to cause your loved one, for better or for worse, to also change whether they want to or not, and it amaze, I mean, we don't know how the outcome is going to look in terms of the change. But the question is, is, okay, they call you, and they tell you this, and you react this way, and then they react that way, and then you react, you know, and it's just like, we're in that pattern. So what is like the change that you can make, to change the conversation, it's those little subtle pattern changes, that can start really making a big impact, just from changing the pattern.

Dr. Susan:

Well, and here's something that I want to bring up, that's really key. And it's a big piece of the work that I do with some people, I call it, and other people have called it this, the consequences of change. And I see this a lot when doing couples, especially with couples work, because I'm sure you know this, because when one person supposedly has the, quote, issue, or the challenge with substance, and the other person just sees it, it's them. Well, what's gonna, what's the what's the consequence of change, there's always consequences. It could be positive, but it could be negative. And so what I always take people through is some kind of exercise and like, if that person does change, what's your life going to be like? And what what's going to change your relationship to this person to that person, even if it's in your own head? So for instance, you know, sometimes in couples, the the, if you no longer are focused on the person with the substance abuse problem, suddenly the focus is on you. And your stuff comes out. And it's like, Oh, ouch, what have you been covering up all the stuff? Not on purpose, no one's doing it on purpose. It's a, it's an unconscious kind of thing you get so in the habit of making the person's problem, the problem? Well, you take that problem away. Now, suddenly, oh, you're breathing, right? But are you and then suddenly, there's all these other dynamics that are underneath it. So I like to do that sometimes. I mean, it's very complex. I also want to something else came to mind before, when we were talking about this, and I think this is a good boundary, it popped into my head. And it's like, it's with something that's less challenging than substance abuse, just to show how parents rescue about, oh, this was years ago about this was an extreme case about I think it must have been 20 years ago, now. I used to work with children, and a lot more than I do now. And I used to work as an advocate also in schools, in helping both parents and the school system see the child's needs. So I would work with children who really, you know, that's a tough thing for parents to do to be able to see that their kid has something that they need to get helpful, right. So I would, you know, assess kids, and then work with the parents to see that there's a need, and I worked with a family and got the in booked with the school to get the child into an appropriate placement and get all the services that they need. And then the kid grew up, and, you know, I saw them periodically, over the years and, and the kid was now in high school. And they so loved him, and they wanted him to succeed, that they were 100% Doing all of his homework, and because they didn't want him to fail, because he had worked so hard. And, and like, you know, that is like, if you just look at that, right? It's a similar behavior. You know, it's, it's, it's rescuing, it's like, it's rescue, and I, and I worked with them really hard to get them to not do his homework and to realize you are actually doing a disservice by doing all of that for him. And, and that's a similar thing, with the families with again, children, and siblings, whatever it is, you think you're helping weight, um, he's getting a good grade, we're gonna do it for him. No, he's not learning how to live and perform, and you're also giving him the message that he can't do. And that's another thing, you know, and I know that, you know, you know this that if you rescue the messages, yeah, you really can't do it, you're not going to be able to recover.

Jen:

Well, and that was that was something that honestly and I was just actually talking to a mom the other day about this very thing because it was like she was struggling and I said listen, what you're actually Showing them and telling them is, is that and I had the same thing with my mom, I didn't actually believe that I could live my life on my own because I didn't know how to live my life on my own. And the truth is, is is in will go back to your question. Well, why does this make sense? Well, in this context of the example that you just gave, what is this make sense? Well, in their minds, their logic is, well, we actually are trying to help them build his confidence. Right? Right. So it's, there's so many other like complexities. So it makes a lot of sense is how those parents got to that decision to do that. Right.

Dr. Susan:

I remember, right, I remember when my daughter was in kindergarten, and or first grade, whatever she was, in the early years, and all the parents were doing, like all the assignments for the kids, and I'd go into the classroom, and I'd see these magnificent things hanging on the wall and be done. The kids aren't doing this. You know what she was gonna give the class I'm like, she's not there. I knew these kids were as gifted as they were, they were not doing this. And and so, you know, hers was, she did it, I was not that parent that was going to do a whole lot, right? Because I knew that wasn't so hard was the worst on the wall. And I would go up, and I'd be looking at going, and there was a part of me like, Oh, my God, but I knew it was her work. It wasn't the parents, it wasn't my walk. And you, it's you give that message. And we don't realize it sometimes that, you know, when we do it for them, the messages, they can't do it. And then we got to do it. Then we said, What do you mean, you can't do it? And it's like, Well, I never had to how would I have learned to do it? Right? For me all this time, right?

Jen:

And it's like, whereas in your logic flow, you want to build their confidence, you're actually giving them an opportunity that takes away their confidence, you know, and that's really what they need more of than anything, is the confidence that they have the ability to do it. And I think that when my mom, you know, delivered her message, she's like, you're just gonna have to figure out how to do it. Then when I actually started doing it, I was like, Wait, I got myself out of trouble. I started living my life. So when I would get myself in financial trouble, I figured out how to get myself out of financial trouble. In the beginning, it wasn't always very clean. You know, there's times even now where it's like, I'm going to have to figure out how to get out of trouble. And it's not by just asking someone to give me money. It's by how am I going to work a little bit harder to make ends meet? Right. So, you know, there's, there's, there's so much

Dr. Susan:

of that. Yeah, and the other important thing is, and again, I just want to underscore because I know how parents can hear this, it's not about not done with love, and you're not abandoned a thing. You're also teaching your kids to identify their own needs, so that they can ask for help. So that now Jen, what you've learned, I know you've learned this, what you've learned to do, it doesn't mean you have to do it on your own, it means that you're assessing yourself, alright, I don't have this, like, what do I need? And there you go, when you ask for help, I can use a discussion to bounce ideas, I can use some something here, I need help here. That's a gift. And that's really hard to be able to do. And the other thing too is, you know, we as parents, we want to be able to protect our children from feeling any kind of negative emotions. No, they can't. You have to actually and I remember the hardest thing for me that I remember one year doing, my daughter was upset about some very upset. And I had to sit with her. And I worked really hard to do this while she was in pain. And I didn't tell her give her the answers didn't tell her don't feel that way. I had to literally bite us on find out to not allow I had to go, what would I be telling somebody? What would I be telling the client right now what this was, I knew what the right thing was. And I was struggling, but I had to do that. And also, it is so painful when you witness your own child in pain. And you need to be able to do that because they have to feel it. They have to in order to learn how to adapt in a healthy way. You have to you know, I always say this to you have to feel your feelings and what is one of the things that you know, people who use substances do they're using the substance to not feel the feeling?

Jen:

Yeah. Yeah. And and it can, it can definitely be very challenging when you have someone in front of you that, like you just want to fix it. Like you don't want them to feel pain. And it's and but I do understand also the consequences of that because I again, you know, we go back to my mom, and this is not beating up on moms. This is just my story, right? But there was a lot of times and I it took me a lot, even many, many years in recovery to start realizing this. I always went to my mom to ask her how I should be feeling in this situation.

Dr. Susan:

Oh, interesting. Yeah. So It was like,

Jen:

right as it is, right? Yeah. So so like, like I, you know, for many, many years, even in my adult world, I'm like, Well, how should I be feeling this? Should I be feeling this? I don't know. Let me call my mom. And she would tell me how I should be feeling in that situation. What should I be feeling? Am I crazy, whatever. And she would either choose, like, she would validate, or she got no, this is how you should feel or whatever, unconsciously only because it's like, I'm literally going to her asking her how I feel, right? So of course, just immediately, she wants to help me and tell me how that I need to be feeling this right. And so then she was my go to person, I started realizing it growing up, when I really started embracing the whole, whatever it is that I'm feeling is okay. Right. And then there was, there was a little bit of some challenges for a minute between me and my mom, when I'm like, I'm honoring my feelings. And she's like, You shouldn't feel this way. And I say, I'm honoring my feelings. Well, you shouldn't be and I said, Yes.

Dr. Susan:

Change, right, there kinds of forms of change. If you start to become your own person and trust your own self, what's her role in? And that came from a good place her going, huh? No, no, you should she thought she was helping you. And surely, right. So it comes from a good place. But the consequence of that was her feeling okay, what is my role? Now? What it does? Jenny, Jen does no longer needs me. Tell her what to feel? She needs me to then say, I hear you. I hear you. Yeah. Well, and and that, and then, you know, the person may not need you as in the way that you thought they needed you. Right, that's a consequence of change. Doesn't have to be a bad one could be you know, it's just it's acknowledging that that when the person changes, other things change too.

Jen:

Well, and what was really interesting in those moments where we had some challenges, there was her stuff coming up. Absolutely. And that's where like, part of the work is where it's like, okay, wait, wait, this is not about actually you telling me how and what I should be feeling. You have some fear going on with yourself for other things that have nothing to do with me. And it's gaining the awareness. And so that's where it's like, that's some of where the parents role can really be impactful, where it's like, oh, I have stuff coming up in this, and how do I need to just take a pause, and look at it, and then be able to actually really be present and be there and hear what my loved one is saying. And this is not the easy stuff. I'm sorry, this is not easy stuff. This is

Dr. Susan:

this is, you know, the parent has to look at themselves, because their reaction is actually and this is hard for people to get, oh, it's because they did this. No, it's not, it's because of what's happening within you. When we react to anything, whether it's a parent, a child is something in society, we are reacting, because through our lens, and our stuff. So we had a look at our stuff in order to change our reaction. Yeah, you know, there's, we can't change any, but we know this, but you really got to know know it, you really can't change anybody else, the only person that you can change and look at is yourself. And you know, you can just start with, you know, for the parents out there. A simple thing to look at, if you look at it this way, and I use this for myself, sometimes with my own daughter is okay, what were you doing at the age that your child is right now? What was life like for you, at that age, suddenly, when you start to think about what life was like for you at that age, it gives you a completely different perspective on your own reaction, as well as what they may be going through. Even if it was completely different. It puts a different perspective on

Jen:

right, well, and some of the some of the work is because some of this stuff is like, it really is like a reactive we're being sent off into our survival modes we're being sent off into our patterns. And we don't actually have, and I say we, because it's like, I think the human condition sometimes is like, we just we just react and we don't give a whole lot of time in certain situations to really take a pause and think about what do we want to accomplish here. So we only have like milliseconds to give ourselves that pause. So that's when the snap comes in this. So this is exactly where I wanted to go. Next is I want you to tell people because you've mentioned your snap method before. And I think it's such a powerful method in those moments where you only have like milliseconds between the time something happens. And then the response and I'll say the response to it. There's milliseconds to really process of what do we want here? So tell me a little bit. Well tell my audience a little bit about your snap method because I think it's a great approach.

Dr. Susan:

Yeah, so I created this for lots of different reasons, in lots of different contexts in this show, I'm going to give you the very short overview. It can be used by yourself, it can be used with in relationship to other people. It's, it's called Snap s, N, AP. And it stands for stop name, accept and plan. And if you think about it, it's like, because we do snap, and it's a way to not snap out of it, snap into it, you know, it's like you can, you know, you can snap your fingers in second. So the thing is, when we feel ourselves, like reacting, right, you and everybody feels it differently, you might feel it in your breath, you might feel it in your head, you might feel it in like your cheeks getting ready, you might feel a tension in your shoulders, wherever you feel that you know, when you are about to react, instead of respond to just stop for a moment. And then you name it in your head. What is it that I am experiencing? What is it that I am feeling? Now, kids are really good at naming their feelings, adults, we've had years and years and years of laying layering on the denial. So it might take you a few different names. So the first for instance, you might, you might be angry. So anger, my calm, but really underneath that is hurt. So you know, you're the anger is coming up coming up there. So you want to name name, name, the experience of the feeling and do this, you know, a couple of times, then what happens? It was great, because you just talked about this gem about how, like that little voice that pops up and you go, what I'm feeling? Are you kidding me? You're still going through that? Or you got to be kidding you? What do you mean, you're feeling that you can't be feeling that? And it's like, no, no, no quiet that voice. You can air it, let it go and just accept how you feel. Just accept it. And then you can make a plan or what do I need to do? Now when you just said it's so quick, quick? Well, maybe the plan is to say to the other person? I can't answer that right now, it might take some time to be able to process that because I'm not in a position right now. I need to take a break. I love you. I want to answer. Give me an hour. And I will get back to you on that.

Jen:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think I think that's important. So like, that's one of the first things that you do. And your snap says, Stop, just stop, just stop right there.

Dr. Susan:

And depending on how much time you have, maybe you go to, you know, you say oh, excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom. And you buy yourself some time so that you can do the rest of it. So that you can name what you're feeling. Maybe you can take out a I love writing. And I think writing does something when you get it out with pen and paper. And so if you have the time either then or later, you process it and name it and keep writing it until you get the bottom of it so that you can accept it.

Jen:

And I think this is a great method, especially in those moments, because I know what happens a lot to parents that have this is a lot of times their loved ones will call them in crisis mode. Maybe they just got you know, maybe they're in jail or calling you from jail going mommy, daddy, fill me out. I'm gonna die in here, right? So we automatically go into reactive mode from that there's so many other things that happen out there where they're in crisis mode, they need something and all that stuff. And it's like, Look, stop, don't like let's not communicate any more to say, Hey, I've heard what you're saying. I need to gather some of my thoughts. Let me take a plan of action. Let me think through some things, and I'll call you back. If they're in jail, you don't have a call back, call me back tomorrow, because you're going to spend a night in jail.

Dr. Susan:

We think about our worst decisions all of us write about anything. It's when we were reacting instead of responding. Because we getting triggered, and we weren't able to think about the best solution. We were just reacting our emotions coming from a different place. You need to be able to think about Yeah, and I get it you know, the call. That's happened so many times with families where they're just bailing people out because they go into survival mode, they got

Jen:

no decisions, no good decisions have because we're not in a place where we're getting chased by a predator that's going to kill us that is just not our world anymore. It's not happening. We're not in survival mode. We can take a pause,

Dr. Susan:

oh, well, I just want to do most but there are times when we are and that's appropriate. And we know that there are certain groups of people that are in that mode because there are those creatures that are coming out to get them. So I just want to also acknowledge that for some communities for some people, that when they call and they're in a situation that we do need to protect them from other people, from other people. And I just want to acknowledge that that sometimes that you know if you if they you know if you're there those circumstances where we do want to react if you truly hear that It's a life threat. And there are occasions when that does happen. So for instance, if you see a two year old running out into traffic, you have to run after them, pull them back, get them back to safety, and then deal with it. Right? You know, if there is somebody that's threatening another human, you want to go and get your kid out of that bullying or or situation to get them safe. However, if they're in if they just got a DUI, if they got picked up, because they got into a car accident, and they were intoxicated, and they were brought to the jail, they're safe at that day, right? They are safe. That's not someone you know, where they're picked up by a terrorist for being politically incorrect, that's a different, you know, they're being held responsible. And also they're being they're being protected being protect other people, society is being protected from them, because they're being destroyed.

Jen:

Right, there's reference and well, and the truth is, is in those types of types of situations, one, you're absolutely right, we need to assess, what is their safety level, like, are they actually saved? Do I have 510 minutes to go think about what is my plan of action, if they are not, if you really feel like their life is in danger, that's different, that's different. And it's also time to hang up and call 911. Exactly. Like, like, like, that is something that is, let them let the other people that can actually handle the physical danger, and all those things. And it's like you tell your loved one, it's like, if your life is really threatened, what I'm going to do is I'm going to get off the phone, tell me where you are. And I'm going to call 911. Because otherwise, you put yourself in danger. And that's another thing that we don't want to do, too. You also get to find out exactly how dangerous are they really, because if you say 911, they're either going to say please don't call 911. In which case, you know that they're safe. If they say yes, call 911, you hang up that phone, and you call 911. And you let them handle it.

Dr. Susan:

I love that you bring that up. And I want to even go further with that is that if a person is in a creating dangerous situation for you, to give you permission to call 911

Jen:

on them. So 100%

Dr. Susan:

comes to your home, whether it is your child, your parent, and they are going to be violent. Don't take it upon yourself, call 911 Because they're out of control. And see, here's another thing, they do not want to hurt you. And by not calling 911 and letting them hurt you. You're not helping them either. They want to be controlled. They want to be stopped from doing something where they're gonna harm you.

Jen:

Yeah, they absolutely do. And I think it's really important because I can't tell you how many times like parents will tell me all the nefarious characters that are like around their house, and they're like, I'm afraid like people will show up. Well, here's the thing is, you're whoever was dealing with substance abuse, the last thing they want is to deal with the cops. So if they know that you are someone that is going to be quick to call 911 When there is illegal things happening, when there are nefarious characters running around trespassing on your property, that's not going to be a place where your loved one is one again, going to want to bring people that you don't want around you are dangerous people, like people will know what they can, because because there's no criminal out there that wants to like have the cops call on them. Like that's the one thing they want to avoid. So be quick to show up as someone that is totally okay. Calling 911 For your safety for their safety for everyone's safety, right.

Dr. Susan:

And also because if your child ends up hurting you, the guilt that they're gonna have to live with, is actually worse than spending the night in a hospital overnight or in a jail cell. Yeah, because when someone's that out of control, they're become violent, you know, you know, this working with people in terms of, you know, this stuff, once they're they are sober, the guilt that they feel from having stolen from their families, from doing all that when they were in using mode. They feel horrific. And that's a whole thing that they have to then deal with. So and I know it's hard to remember that as parents when you're in that moment, but, you know, that's part of the journey, and that's part of the wall.

Jen:

And I think I think part of going on with that and then we'll start kind of wrapping things up. But this is very important is that for the parents to remember that what you think they're not capable of? It doesn't apply when it comes to social Because I've seen a lot of really, really good people do a lot of really, it doesn't mean that they're bad people, but they are capable of doing really bad things I've seen really good people go down that road lose completely lose their sense of self, completely go depending on what drugs, they don't even recognize you any more. As it all they can recognize is that you're an obstacle, and that they are going to go through and I and this is not to put fear, but it is to put fear enough healthy fear to realize you're not talking to your loved one. But too many parents have either gotten harmed, like you said or have gotten killed by their own kids. Right? You know, because they've stood in their way of, or they confront of them under a certain state of mind. And it was dangerous. And so this, this has nothing to, and I don't necessarily want to end in on that note, but I do want to remind people that this is not your loved one anymore. At this present moment, this is some someone or something else. And then that's where some of those boundaries come in, you're not setting boundaries around your kid, you're setting boundaries around yourself to protect yourself, setting boundaries, so that they understand what they can and they can't get away with. And you know, the harder that they are into their substance abuse, the bigger more important the boundaries really can, is needed to be honest. So here's one of my final questions that I like to ask people. And then I'm going to I want you to share your contact information. But the final question is, is what is like, the one boundary that you feel like people and family members can set for themselves? And I know there's not one. But if you had to say one, what would it be? To start with?

Dr. Susan:

Yeah, that's a hard question. It's an interesting one. I know that that's, that's what you, you know, this podcast is all about is about boundaries. You know, I think it's, I don't know that I can. I don't know that I can come up with one that's, that's universal. But I can I can kind of, I don't know if this will help, but in answering it. I would, because every situation is different. But here's how I would suggest or I would invite people to think about it this way. And as I talk about this, I'll see if it gives me clarity is to in that in the situation that you're at when you're about to set a boundary? Think about your child, if they weren't in your situation, what would you want them to do? If they were a parent? And it was their child in that? If this was your best friend calling you? If this was your child going through it? What boundary? Would you tell them? To put? And and and because I think then that's the answer. That's because I believe that you know, it's it's inside you, like everybody has that wisdom doesn't mean that you should do it alone. So I want to clarify something, you have the wisdom within you. And you sometimes need help. And you need example and support to not do any of this alone. Do with other families that have gone through it, do it with supportive people, do it with professionals, just find people to help you do not do this alone. But when you're thinking about setting like, you know, either setting that boundary or you know, the boundary and you're about to break the boundary, just say wait, what would I be telling my child to do if this was them, because then that truly clarifies for you what your own value is. It's not caught up in your own junk, but it's really kind of your objectifying what you advice you would give somebody. So although it's not the boundary, that's what I could say to help. That's the piece that's most important, I think, is that we want does that help? And that is

Jen:

so that is exactly so at the core of all of this at the core of making the unbreakable boundaries. It's not so much the strategies and the tactical stuff and all of the like, Oh, we got to, you know, do this. And we got to say this and we got to be there and a one size fits all it's not a one size fits all, but what you just said was the most important thing is that you start paying attention to what is truly the right answer and the wisdom within you to deliver of what you need to do at any moment. And that is at the at the very core of making the unbreakable boundaries that's at the head of it. And that's what we really work through and all of this is getting you to pay attention that you already have the answers and how to listen to yourself when things are come up and how to read go, Okay, this is the right answer for this situation at the right time, I can feel it in my body, that this is it. And it may be not always the same in every situation like this, but in this one, or it may be going against what someone else is telling you that he needs to be doing. But that's their own stuff, right? It's really paying attention to what you are. And sometimes, we need help. Clarifying the wisdom that's inside of us. Yeah, we know how sup to someone removing the junk that gets in the way of our true wisdom. And that's where it's like people like me and people like you. It's like, that's really, really what we're trying. Like, our goal is to help remove all of that stuff so that you can be listening to yourself, and what's getting in your way. Well, Dr. Susan, I just want to thank you so much. This was such a great conversation we could totally have continued to go on much longer. But this has been a great conversation, there is going to be a part two, just maybe the 100th episode, welcome. We'll come bring you back. Right. But thank you for one being my 50th episode. And just being here. I think this was such a powerful conversation for my my listeners. And I want to thank you for your expertise and the work that you do with families as well. I think that's great. So I would love if you would give your contact information out in case someone is going, Hey, I really need you know, someone like you both for marriage and family and whatever we got going on for my loved one that needs help, you know?

Dr. Susan:

Well, Jen, I first just want to say congratulations again, and happy anniversary on your 50th. Again, this is just you know, I love to celebrate successes. So this is huge success for you. And I am just so honored to be a part of this special, this special episode. And we don't have to wait for 50 more we can know. And I'd be happy to come back on 100. But you know, and I look forward to that. And I would also love the feedback that would be great. I know that you sometimes get feedback from listeners. So it would be great. I'd love to hear if anybody got anything out of our conversation or what they disagree with. I love to hear disagreement. Yes, man. So that would be that would be great. So you can actually reach me my websites right now under construction. It's still there. But you can, you'll see some changes coming out in 2022. But you can email me at Dr. Susan burns stone@gmail.com. And I'm going to spell it out. It's Dr. Su s a n, b i r n e s t o ne@gmail.com. And you can probably put it into the show notes.

Jen:

Yeah, I'll have it I'll have a link under the

Dr. Susan:

show. You can just Google me and you know, my website will come up in lots of different places. So and then I look forward to having you on my show.

Jen:

Both Yes. Because you have a TV show.

Dr. Susan:

I do I have a vision show I I produce and host a television talk show on public access that's really streamed all over the world. And it's called your voice with Dr. Susan. And so you've been on a couple of shows. And in that I did during the pandemic, we're still in a pandemic, but that I did in the pandemic. You know, when I did those panels and those fun things with experts, but yeah, so I look forward to having you on again, when I resume taping,

Jen:

I'm so looking forward to being on it. I think it's great.

Dr. Susan:

Thank you again, in the work that you do and is just so amazing. And you're just such a great interviewer. And I think that you know, yes, just keep doing this because this is just so fantastic. And it's one of your many, many, many talents.

Jen:

Well, thank you very much. It's been such a pleasure to have you on the show. And

Dr. Susan:

if any of your listeners have any questions for me feel free just reach out

Jen:

and I'm sure they will and I hope that people do really take you up on the that offer of just like just reach out. What made you uncomfortable? What does what was something that you struggled with? What was something that wasn't really clear for you if you have a particular situation that you'd love to have guidance on, please feel free to reach out to either Dr. Susan or myself always. You know, me and Dr. Susan especially and she has some just some amazing insights. So thank you again for for sharing that and

Dr. Susan:

thank you and Happy 50

Jen:

Happy 50 Yay. And thank you for listening to this podcast. If you want to listen to more or find more information out about this podcast and more of what I do to help families you can go check out my page at unbreakable boundaries podcast calm it's full Have other great podcasts just like this one, and other great resources to look through. And please remember to share this podcast with others. You never know who may need to hear this people are often hiding their battles in this arena and sharing is a great way to provide this valuable resource to a person you may not even know who needs it. And don't forget, there is always hope, even when things seem the most hopeless

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Dr. Susan Birne-Stone

Founder/CEO

For over 35 years Dr. Susan has successfully worked in the field of psychological, emotional and relationship health in a variety of settings and roles. She has helped thousands of individuals and families to improve their relationships in all aspects of their lives and achieve their goals.

Dr. Susan is a therapist, international coach, professor, mentor and thought leader. In addition to regularly being quoted in the media, Dr. Susan is the producer and host of the television talk show Your Voice with Dr. Susan.