Hey mama. Welcome back to Follow Your Gut with me. Sarah Bennett, founder of ōNLē ORGANICS as a mama of four. I've gone through the ups and downs of sleepless nights. Undiagnosed symptoms gotten a complete runaround from the medical system and I've found a different way. No more waiting out your child's symptoms, endlessly Googling in the middle of the.
And feeling lost and alone in your family's wellness. This podcast will empower you to take leadership of your family's wellness. So your family can experience that deep level of health and happiness. You so greatly deserve. I'm so happy you're here. Let's dive into today's episode.
Welcome to Episode 26; When Addiction Runs in Your Family.
This episode Maybe triggering for some but I hope you stick with me until the end because it is full of important takeaways. We are going to cover two different topics centralized around addiction. Addiction is something very near and dear to my heart. I grew up around alcoholism and I am married to a recovering addict. I know that addiction can be messy and different for everyone. This episode is intended to inspire early thoughts and conversations for your family if addiction is prevalent in your world. And honestly, even if it’s not because addiction is something that will touch all of our lives in one way or another. And as mamas, we are the strongest leaders of our family’s when we are educated, have expansive minds and lead with intention over fear.
We are going to go over the the importance of raising addiction aware children and the connection between gut health and addiction.
Okay! I have a feeling this episode is going to be on the longer side and some emotions maybe stirred. Buts just jump in!
I remember being very young. Maybe four years old sitting there on my grandpas knee. In his dimly lit kitchen, his little dog McPhitis occasionally growling whenever someone walked by on the snow covered sidewalk and the smell. Him bouncing me rather abruptly on that skinny knee with a cigaret sticking out the side of his mouth and a very large glass filled to the brim with alcohol and a splash of tomato juice. The smell of cigaret smoke, tomatoey alcohol and old car grease are burned in my mind- and as wild as it is, it’s a pretty fond smell because it was my grandpas smell. It felt precarious on his knee but he seemed fine and everyone was laughing so I thought it was fine. Until I lost my balance and tipped his third cup over. He firmly pushed me off his lap, angrily poured himself and new glass and without a word stomped out of the room leaving a trail of smoke behind him. I remember sitting there silently crying to myself because I had been so “bad”. I was so naughty for him bouncing me so rigorously, for losing my balance and tipping over his cup. As a four year old highly sensitive child, I blamed myself and the beginnings of shame and guilt that are intertwined with addiction swept over me. You hear how these emotions are part of addiction but I don’t know if many people realize, it isn’t only the addict that experiences them.
My grandpa was a heavy alcoholic, so was my dad, step-dad and for many many years my mom couldn’t go a day without wine. Camping trips looked like once a year parties in the woods with step uncles and cousins and everyone drinking non-stop from Saturday to Saturday. Fights and fits of laughter. Bottle throwing, yelling, four wheeler crashes and older cousins friends touching my body in a way it should never have been touched at such a young age.
Many children might jump at the opportunities. Alcohol was always openly around and I could have easily slipped right in and joined the chaos. But their alcohol-use triggered me differently. I was repulsed by it. The sadness, the anger, the unpredictability. It all hurt me so badly that to this day I have never once had a sip of alcohol.
I was raised in the heart of Salt Lake City Utah a block away from a Mormon church and was squished between two opposing worlds. From the insides of my family home, Mormons were bashed for their outlandish beliefs but in my heart I craved the seemingly stable life that it appeared all the neighbor families had.
At the age of six I remember we moved to a new neighborhood. The day after we moved in a sweet girl from down the street invited me to come to a birthday party with her. When we arrived my breath was taken away admiring the beauty of this home. Family photos lined the walls (I don’t think my family ever once had a professional family photo taken). They had a dining room table where they actually all sat together and ate meals and that tree house. It was magical. Until it wasn’t.
All of the many birthday girls piled into that treehouse and then they noticed me - the new girl. And one of them said “hey! I haven’t seen you at church before, who are you?” In my shy little voice “I’m Sarry Beary Muffin Lynn Nelson” (for about a year there I was certain that this nickname that my family called me was my real name). Other girls chimed in and asked if I would be coming to church the next day and to my horror, when I shyly answered the truth that my family didn’t go to church they all started screaming and ran out of the treehouse. They locked me in and told me I couldn’t come out until I promised to become a child of god. A Mormon.
I left that party hating that I was different and feeling so ashamed of my family. This was the beginning of a sub-conscience hardening of my heart. I didn’t fit into my own family and I was shunned by the small world around me for being different. I felt a hatred that I didn’t have the intelligence to understand until my twenties. A hatred toward alcohol and a hatred toward religion.
Growing up, no one acknowledged there was a problem. The alcohol consumption was fine. They were all in denial. It was our “normal” but inside I knew it wasn’t right.
As I paint these pictures I need you to know, I love my family dearly. It’s likely my mom will listen to this - hi mom! I have done the work and have mended my heart. I will always be repulsed by alcohol so please don’t call me if you have even had a sip. But I do not hold hard feelings for my exposure to addiction as a child. I feel that addiction has culturally been accepted differently. And I do not blame my family. They are all a product of the culture they grew up in but i knew from a very young age that that would never be my culture. As an adult now I am unapologetic when it comes to sharing what it was like to grow up in the entanglement of addiction. It isn’t often that adults pause to really think about how addiction impacts children. And that addiction is more than the act of overusing substances. It is the emotions and behaviors that are subconsciously inherited by children who grow up in the mess of addiction.
Jumping back to growing up in Utah really quick, I learned over time that those birthday girls did have good intentions. They were naively trying to follow the righteousness of their church. I learned how to navigate the in between world of sin and pressure. Of unconditionally loving my family and politely repeating that I was not interested in joining the church. I had to include this in here because it is important to me that I only share love in the episodes. I don’t hold hard feelings and I don’t want to subconsciously embed seeds of negativity in your heart. Moving on now . . .
My entanglement with addiction didn’t end with my childhood. It was 6am on my first day of collage. I lived about 30 minutes away from campus and can remember so vividly driving in my white little vw beetle, running late and going too fast. With sweaty palms so nervous for my first day, I walked into my class. A triathlon training class and there he was. My breath tightened and I was awestruck. The man who would soon become my husband. I remember seeing him for the first time. Sitting there on the side of the swimming pool with a grizzly beard and so fit.
If you haven’t gathered it by now, I grew up with a maturity well beyond my age. I always felt many years older than my friends in school. And this man, he was so different from the boys I had just graduated high school with. He was mature and had a peace about him that I had never felt before. We started running together and within a week we were always together. I adored everything about him.
It was about a month after we met, I was sitting in my pottery class when he called me. I casually asked what he was doing and his response was one that may have turned every other girl away but was one that sang to my heart. He said “I have something I need to tell you. I just got out of therapy.” Being naive as I was I said “oh no! Physical therapy. Did you get hurt training?” “Oh no,”he said. “I am a recovering addict so I see a therapist every week”.
My gut response was butterflies. This was the moment I fell in love with him. At the age of 18 I had the wisdom to understand the cycles of addiction. I knew that despite all of the hurt and chaos it had caused in my life, it was my comfortable place. Addiction is what I knew and I feared it creeping into my life in relationships. The part I feared most was the silence of it. The denial. So this man coming forward and telling me out right that he had a problem and was facing it was nothing short of beautiful. He was the first person I ever met who admitted he had a problem. From the depths of my soul gut knew that because I grew up in the mess of addiction, it would forever be part of me and I would way rather commit to a relationship with someone who recognized there own problems than denied anything was wrong. Him sharing this with me was a breath of fresh air.
We laugh now looking back. I was fresh out of high school, he was fresh out of rehab. I never intended on getting married at the young age of 19 and honestly, all odds were against us. But between my sensitively to substance use (I can tell if someone has had two sips of wine and every cell in my body tenses) and my zero tolerance for the behaviors connected to addiction and my husband Tys humbleness and we make a solid team. I hold him accountable and his sobriety has helped heal so much of my childhood trauma.
My story leads me to mindful parenting and breaking the cycles of addiction. I have a strong opinion about raising addiction aware children. Addiction runs deep in both me and my Ty’s families which makes our children very genetically susceptible. I think culturally most people have the good intention of preserving their children’s innocence by avoiding the recognition of addiction but this unknowingly perpetuates the problem. In our family we have intentionally taken the opposite approach. We are very transparent about Tys addiction and the troubles his alcohol and drug use caused. About the reasons people turn to drugs and alcohol and the effort it takes Ty to choose sobriety everyday. This does not instill a fear in our children, it invites them into our hearts while empowering them with awareness while they are in the safety of our home. It gives them an opportunity to learn from Tys humble past. In fact, A huge reason we homeschool is so that together we can all learn appropriate ways to honor and feel our feelings. Emotions are, I guess what you could call, the main subject of our school. Culturally there is so much focus on children learning academics but zero focus on them learning how to manage what happens on the inside of their minds and hearts. My husbands academic intelligence meant nothing when he graduated high school and didn’t have any coping skills, felt bad about himself when he experienced uncomfortable emotions and like most people, entered the world without the skills to know how to handle the heaviness and hardships of suddenly becoming an adult. Add in his genetics and the lack of awareness around addiction and he didn’t stand a chance.
Ty was raised in a very stable home. I don’t think his parents have ever even tasted alcohol. His parents set him up for a life of success. At least by cultural standards. They did everything our culture tells us that children need. Except for one critical part. Ty never learned how to feel his feelings. Of course his parents are not to blame for his addiction. Absolutely not. But recognizing the significance of him never learning how to feel his feelings gives us the opportunity to raise our children in a very intentional way.
Not many adults know how to feel their feelings. Again because this is a flaw in our culture. I believe if a significant portion of public education was heart focused over head focused our world would be so much healthier. I know my children will all learn to read, write and have a solid foundation of all other subjects. Simply because learning is a natural gift of being human. Above all else, as a mama I feel it is my responsibility to teach my children how to acknowledge and manage their emotions in healthy ways. If I can do this, I know my children will be okay in our big world. It isn’t about what the want to “BE” when they grow up. They are their wonderful selves no matter what they DO. It is about how they want to feel and experience the world. It is who they are on the inside that defines them. Certainty not a profession.
Teaching our children how to feel means us as parents have to learn how to feel. And feeling means so much more than just your emotions. How do you feel in your body? In your heart? And in your mind?
Getting in tune with yourself means learning how to feel and understand your whole self. So now let’s jump into the connection between gut health and addiction. Did you know that 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gut? Serotonin is the hormone that regulates your mood. To really help you understand the significance of this hormone, Antidepressants are artificial forms of serotonin.
When you and your child’s gut is balanced your body is able to produce optimal amounts of serotonin which travels to your brain and again, regulates your mood. It's often called your body's natural “feel good” chemical. When serotonin is at normal levels, you feel more focused, emotionally stable, happier and calmer. When your gut is imbalanced it is not able to produce sufficient amounts of serotonin. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, anxiety and rapid mood fluctuations. Depression and anxiety are always intertwined with addiction. Always.
Are you seeing the connection here? The cycle goes something like this . . . a person unknowingly has a gut imbalance. Maybe they are more genetically prone to gut imbalance, maybe a life circumstance caused a lot of stress or heartache which caused the gut imbalance. Maybe they have eaten foods their whole life that were unknowingly fueling the bad bacteria and harming the good. Maybe they have other medical issues and take medications that are harmful to the gut. In our culture we associate so many of these directly with symptoms like depression. But take grief, it alone does not directly cause depression. Something happens inside the body that causes your hormones to shift and that is what leads to depression. Right? When a tragedy strikes you are first in fight or flight mode. Meaning your adrenaline spikes. A spike in adrenaline wipes out your good gut bacteria so your body is not able to make optimal amounts of serotonin and then depression sets in.
Okay. So a person unknowingly has a gut imbalance. I am going to use my husband as an example. His is likely genetic and he grew up eating foods that were not supportive to his gut bacteria. Of course this was all unintentional. None of this information comes from a place of judgement. Everyone has the best of intentions, this is simply information to so we can learn and grow together. As a young teen he was prescribed antidepressants. These maybe helped a little but they didn’t get to the root. They didn’t heal his body, they masked what was causing him to need artificial serotonin in the first place. Throw in a long history of genetic addiction, the fact that he was raised like most people and was never taught how to feel or manage his emotions, an underlying gut imbalance that made it impossible for his body to regulate his mood in a positive way and there you have it. He turned to drugs and alcohol for 10 long and hard years.
Of course we aren’t perfect parents and we are figuring things out every single day. But this is information helps me show up in my motherhood feeling like I am ahead of my children future. The more we as mamas understand about the connection between our children’s gut health and their mood, sleep, food cravings, poop, behavior, focus, growth, development and everything in between we are able to raise children who have a deep awareness about their own bodies. Children who are able to communicate “mama, my tummy hurts and I didn’t sleep very good. Can you please help my gut bacteria so I can feel like myself again?” (Real words from my five year old just this morning). Raising self-aware children means giving them the tools to not only understand why they might wake up feeling different one day but then gifting them space and skills to feel their feelings in healthy ways. Allowing them to feel however they feel but teaching them solutions so they don’t have to feel that way for longer than necessary. Nurture the gut back into balance and feel all the feelings. If addiction runs in your family, also teaching about from a young age. I am so so confident that this is a way we as parents can raise children who are equipped to enter the big wide world with the absolute most potential. Filled with self-awareness, acceptance and love and a foundation of how to cope in healthy ways.
Before I let you go I just have to say this again. I say it in just about every episode but it is so important to understand that gut bacteria naturally fluctuates. It isn’t like you balance the gut and it stays balanced forever. No. It takes intention and care. Your good bacteria fluctuates just like your immune system and is impacted by unavoidable everyday things like water, stress, food and exposure to bad bacteria like the common cold, mold, toxins and chemicals.
In the next episode I am going to go over the safety of using CBD if addiction runs in your family. I intended to throw it into this episode but I want you to have time to sit with everything we covered today before considering adding something into your life.
If you are ready though to dive into your family’s gut health. To heal your mind, body and souls by going straight to the root of it all I would love to welcome you into my course; Happy and Healthy From the Inside Out. I will attach a link to it in the show notes.
Sending lots of love,
Thank you so much for tuning in today. Before you go, something you should know is that everything I share on this show is also applicable to you, not just your child.
And did you know, I started only organics as a way to create and share the absolute best quality supplements and products that support gap balance shop onleorganics.com. That's www.onleorganics.com. Lastly, I always wanna be very transparent that I am not a doctor nutritionist or dietician.
I'm a certified family health coach, and most importantly, a mama with a passion sharing my story and the products and practices that have brought abundant health and happiness to my own family. Please always listen to your own inner voice of wisdom and your healthcare professional. I'll see you next time.