Aaron is a parent coach for parents of kids at risk and the host of a parenting podcast called Beyond Risk and Back. Aaron shares with us his valuable insights on parenting a teen in crisis and his own journey of recovering from addiction.
- How did Aaron get involved in working with teens?
- Common issues within the families Aaron has worked with
- What are the causes of drug abuse and other dependency issues among teens?
- Reasons why being a teenager is hard today
- Some common things that loving parents do that aren’t helpful for their children, especially children going through a crisis
- Helpful parenting tips and advice
Transcript of Episode 57
Carrie: Welcome to Hope for Anxiety and OCD Episode 57. I am your host Carrie Bock, and you have been listening to our show for a while, you know that one of the things that we talk about are healthy relationships . And today, I’m very excited to have Aaron Huey on the podcast talking about Parenting Your Teen in Crisis.
Aaron is a podcast host of Beyond Risk and Back. And he also coaches parents with teens who are in deep crisis. And, he is going to give us some examples of some situations that he’s walked parents through, who have very challenging situations with their teenagers. Welcome to the show.
Aaron: Carrie, thank you so much. I loved having you as a guest on mine, and I’m really honored to be on yours. Thank you.
Carrie: How did you get involved in working with teens and parents?
Aaron: Well, it started way back, I was one of these teens and being in crisis for me meant living the life of experiencing being abandoned by my biological father. I was bullied mercilessly in school.
I was sexually assaulted when I went to acting school after high school. And these things led me to utilize weed and alcohol and LSD as a maladaptive coping strategy. I just did not want to feel the pain that I was going through. And I, I, the way I say it was this, “ When I was high, I was happy when I was sober, I was suicidal.”
So I had a lot of beautiful, loving people telling me, “ You got to get sober. You have a kid, you have to work.” But I didn’t have the language to say to them, “ When I’m sober, I’m ready to die.” And having had some near, some close calls as a child with my suicidality, I was very afraid of dying.That led and the, in my moment of sobriety, my, my moment of grace,my intimate communion with Divine love and forgiveness on May 21st, 1998, set me on a path of that 12-Step in recovery, which is bringing the message of hope to people who still struggle.
I was running a kids’ camps in the years afterwards, and a teen rites of passage program, and we had a parent. The other thing that I was doing was driving around Boulder, Colorado on, on Friday nights and Saturday nights, picking up teenagers who had contacted me saying, “ I don’t want a party this weekend.I want to go to a meeting.” So the parents would say, “ Yes, take my kid to a meeting.” And so I would go to 12 Step meetings on the weekend evenings. I ran a martial arts school during this time. And I had a parent who just called me one day and said, “ Can my kid just live with you?” And yeah, and my wife and I discussed it and it wasn’t that they had a bad relationship. It’s just that at home, this kid just kept spinning sideways, no matter what they tried and spun out. The motivation was not working. So could we just create a whole new environment? So we took this kid in. That mom told her sister who told her friend and that friend called us and said, “ Can my kid come live with you?”
And we said, “ Yes.” And a week later, Carrie, we had six boys and four on a wait-list. It was literally like we were being told what to do. And we, you know, you, you have to listen. And the 12 Step decrees that you say, “ I am here to give hope to the addict that still struggles.” But right away I saw it was the whole family.
Patch Adams was a mentor of mine at a very early I mean, for a very short time, but he said, “Your grandmother doesn’t have Alzheimer’s. Your family has it . Treat the family.”
And so right away, even at the very beginning, when we were just this sober home model, the kids doing martial arts with me, going to meetings, heading to the gym, doing family meals and them, doing online school, just restructuring the day with a lot of love and more love.
And when they did angry, risky things, we tried to find love and communicate love until they took over the work of love. Loving themselves so much that they fit the pot. And, right away, we started in on the fans. And that was the key to our success. The more we did the work, the more people wanted to do the work with us.
We started taking in interns, we started taking insurance. We moved to a huge, you know, 16,000 square foot lodge on 40 acres and staff housing. Everything like that. And we became one of the top treatment facilities in the United States, highest success rate, top 50 healthcare provider award in 2019, and then 2020 top 100 innovators of healthcare.
And, 13 days ago, I closed down the facility because insurance companies decided that my property was a high risk property. And my property insurance went from $20,000 a year to $470,000 a year. And we were utterly devastated that the insurance company would not be supportive of a childcare facility that had the success that we had.
So, in 13 days we closed it down. I’m continuing my work with families and parents and doing parent intervention and working with teens. But, we found that our success did not come from the work we did with the teens. We did good work. We did cool, cool stuff. We work with wolves. We were very art-focused. We were very unique. Holistic.
We would get our own 12 steps. Like, we had a good kids’ program, but the work we did with parents, no one else did to the level that we did it. Our intervention on parents is where our success came from. So that’s what I’m going to continue doing. Moving forward is how can I help parents keep their kids out off jails institutions and Morkes,
Carrie: That’s absolutely so true from my experience as a counselor and I used to work with children and teens, oftentimes, we would see teens go to residential centers and the parents didn’t engage in counseling. They maybe had like one weekend or something of that nature for parents.
And then the kids went right back into that environment and the whole cycle started over again. So absolutely, it is important to address a whole family in these types of situations.
Aaron: Here’s the thing, I, the way we would explain it was like this to parents, because they would want to come in and say, “ Fix my kid.”, drop their kid off, to pick them up in four months and everything the kid was doing, they’re not doing anymore. And everybody’s happy.
Aaron: Number one, the moment your happiness is based upon the actions of someone else, you are in survival mode. Because that is how lizards think,” If only the Hawk would stop hunting, I could bake and warm myself on the rock. Right. But the Hawk didn’t. These kids are not making bad choices. They are expressing the language of the entire family out loud, their confusion, their distress, and the trauma becomes their language. Their behavior is their language. So to think that if a child changes what they’re saying, everybody’s going to be happy means that we’re not actually listening to what they’re saying.
Number two, at home, let us just say everybody in the family is speaking. When a child goes to treatment, we’re going to teach them the language of recovery. Let us call it Spanish. And so the child becomes fluent in recovery language, in Spanish. Now the Spanish speaking child comes back home to an English speaking family.
What do you think the child has to do to survive the family dynamic? They have to go back to their old language. If the parents don’t change the language, then the child’s language will change back to the parents’ language. The parents have to change the moment a child, let me say that word again, child, is responsible for the happiness in the home for the self-care in the home ,for the harmony of the home is the moment the parents have lost control of the whole.
Carrie: Give us an idea of some of the issues that the families are facing that you’ve worked with.
Aaron: It’s a broad subject, but I can tell you, the teens are expressing the distress, the trauma, the dis ease through the mental health issues through self-harm through video game dependency, social media dependency through drug use, whether or not people think that cannabis is a drug.
It does change brain chemistry. You can, it does all the research shows that it does. Is it heroin? Absolutely not. And I’m sure you are working as a counselor, you’ve seen, I have never, in 20 years of working with a kid who is struggling with drugs or any dependency issue, I have never not found trauma. Not once.
Carrie: That’s huge.
Aaron: There’s always trauma. Understanding trauma is a key for parents in this, because we will always find trauma with mental health issues, co-occurring with dependency issues. Self-harm is a dependency issue. When kids are cutting, it follows the exact same cycles as someone who is using it. So, as a facility, we specialized in dual diagnosis and we were trauma engaged . We will always look for the trauma and any parent that says, “ But my kid has none.”, has two things going on.
Number one, parents go online and take the ACE quiz, ACE Adverse Childhood Experiences. Do it for yourself and do it for your kids because you will find a root and those roots create the fruits. It is not a kid’s bad choices. I hate that term bad choices that families are struggling with. It’s the risky choices that children, teens are making, and that’s the fruit.
And you cannot pluck a fruit and demand the tree gives you a different fruit. You have to go to the roots. Epigenetics is the root. Your own trauma is the roots. The divorce you had, which may be you and your ex are best friends. It’s still a little T trauma. It could be a big T trauma to your kid. So what we see in families, parents always want to avoid, you know, the therapist sitting down and saying, “ Tell me about your mother.”, because nobody wants to be blamed for their children.
But, if there is a failure point in the family system, we cannot expect the child to fix it.
Carrie: Yeah. I think that there’s an element there where school systems and bullying, and it’s how we handle those things as parents, I think is important, you know, trying to make sure that your child has a positive educational environment.
It is very easy for children to just get labeled as a bad kid. Like, they’re non-compliant, they’re not cooperative, they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do. They’re difficult, You know, they’re the strong-willed child, whatever you end up labeling them as, and then it taints everyone’s view and interaction of them from that moment forward.
And that happens in all of those systems that you talked about.
Aaron: Well, I know, I mean, so much of this has to do with us stepping back from the results. And the actions that the child is taking and the results that they’re getting, which are less than favorable results and step back, and look at systemic failure. Regardless of what end of the political spectrum you are on, I bet that 99% of us believe that the political system has failed. We all share a common belief , that the education system has failed. Now, I’m not saying teachers. Teachers are warriors. They do it for the outcome, not the income, anybody who does it for the outcome, not the income : soldiers, ER, nurses, teachers. These are the warriors of our society
Aaron: And are really doing it for the right reason. But the system, the political system, the military system, the things that these people are working under, have failed our children. The healthcare system has failed our children and our families. These are massive systems.Now take another step back , and look at how we are sitting in the midst of a global pandemic. A belief that the air you breathe, the people you love. If they touch you or breathe near you, it could kill you. And in America, 700,000 people have died from being breathed on. This is a level of fear and failure that we are living with that I have to ask the question, “ Does anybody feel safe? Can you, do you feel safe walking outside?” We were told that violence is on the rise. Suicides on the rise. Drug use is on the rise. People are standing in the streets, screaming at each other. Nobody thinks they’re on the wrong side of history or the wrong side of the spectrum. Nobody thinks they’re the bad guy and our own backyards are filled with weeds that need away.
And we’re wondering why 25% of the children ages 13 to 17 are displaying clinical anxiety issues. This is the result of systemic failure. Now, labeling kids bad because of how they’re handling, leaving a child bad because of how they’re handling systemic failure,something that they have no recourse to change. How do we allow ourselves as adults to say that, “ Kids are making bad choices?” when what we see with adults is systemic failure.
Carrie: I think that leads kind of into the next question is, “ We have more and more teens that are facing severe mental health issues. Do you feel like it’s harder to be a teen today than when you and I were growing up?” I mean, there’s different challenges with social media and all of that.
Aaron: You know, this is, this is such a powerful question because it is something and I love Facebook. And as a gen X-er and being connected to the gen X and the boomer communities and having millennial kids and working with the younger generation, the I gen, or the gen Zs, there is a belief that these kids are somehow less resilient than we are.
That somehow these kids don’t know how to pull-up by their bootstraps. There are a few points we have to look at. Number one, psychoanalysts, and psychologists are saying that there’s a truth to that, but that’s environmental. It is like, there’s an environmental poison that is affecting it, that we have to take a look at.
So what are these environmental poisons that are making these children less resilient than we are? Number one, we, in the past 20 years, the research on trauma, pretty much indicates that the gen X generation and the boomer generation are walking wounded, that we are traumatized. We have denied it, compartmentalized it and buried it.
And our parenting reflects that we have not addressed our own issues. Right. We still think therapy is for crazy people. And then our children are crazy for needing it and it’s just flat out wrong. Trauma is much, PTSD is much more prolific and prominent than we ever thought.
Understanding things like autism and ADHD and OCD and anxiety and depression, really understanding this, has led a lot of adults to go, “Oh, well, I’m depressed.” Like, “ Yeah.” You are like, “ We’ve all had to live with it. How about you go do something about it?” So that’s number one. It’s that we know more and it looks like these kids are being affected by it. We are just treating them for it. Number two, can you remember when you were in elementary school? You know, I mean really, really young age and or middle school or even high school and the last time, that was the very last one in primary school where you had to practice a live shooter drill?
This is something that we didn’t have to deal with. And if you watch the videos of what just took place in Texas, that the kids were filming with their phones, watching the police, open the door and say, everybody hands up, we’re knocking down your barricade. And , they pushed the barricade over , three policemen walked into a classroom with fully automatic weapons, fully loaded, fully armored, saying, “ Is everybody okay?”
And when you hear the children go, “ Yeah” you hear the trauma.
Aaron: Because someone opened fire in the school. We didn’t have to live with that. Number three, the anarchy of the internet. Can you imagine, as a child having full and total access, uncontrolled library cards, limitless borrow to the library of Alexandria.?
Everything. The sum total of human knowledge is available to our children in their pockets and 30% of it is pornography. Can you imagine a library with 30% of that library, those books were pornographic and the other 70% was everything else. That’s the internet. So we have all those things . And now we’re going to call the children less reserved?
We are going to call them, but they need to just buckle down. You know what? They did not ask for the ribbon for participation. They did not ask for a graduation ceremony from second to third grade when we had to wait till we were in high school, you know, who is giving it to them? The adults.
Aaron: We can not say that they’re more fragile. If we treat our children like glass, they will grow up breakable. And when we do not pay attention to the cracks, they will shatter. So this cannot be something that we look at the children, we go, “ You should be better.” We have to look at the adults and go, “You should do better.” And that’s hard. We don’t want to hear that.
We love our kids and we are trying our hardest and we are working with what we have that got us here. You want to get there, you have to do something different. And I say, “ I’m not going to call you enabling. I’m not going to say you’re codependent.” I’m going to say , “ Everything we did as parents got us to this point, what can we do differently to get away from this?” That’s the work.
Carrie: I’m sure there are plenty of parents out there that feel like, you know, they’re doing a good job and I wonder what are some common things that you see, maybe well-meaning parents do that are not helpful for their children, especially children going through a crisis or trauma?
Aaron: Well, what a beautiful question, Carrie. And I’ll say I, although I had a completely absent biological father, I had an amazing dad who adopted me when I was four years old. And I got to say, my mom was extremely progressive. She had great ideas. She was a good mom. She was a work at home mom. She was head of the HOA and the theatre. She was active in our community. She was a late J league leader and a late J league instructor trainer. So she was constantly teaching other women in the community to support them and being modeled. My dad was a hardworking businessman in the community who was respected and he was an amazing dad. I had incredible parents And I bet that bottle of vodka in their liquor cabinet to this day, because it’s the same one that was there when I was a kid, is still half water because I replaced it.
You have to understand that one of the mistakes we make as parents is no matter how good we do, your kids are still affected by other environments and traumas. Your kids are still affected. It’s hard with parents who have adopted their kids, just have given you everything except parents who’ve adopted kids.
You haven’t given them their biological parents. And if you don’t understand the wound that that creates, then you will never understand that it won’t matter how much love and support you give them. You cannot fill that void. You are not designed to. That means a different kind of work than you’re doing.
So that’s one thing, is thinking that somehow it’s something that we’ve done or not done is the root. And we go through the list of all the good things we’ve done and say, “ I don’t understand. You’re just acting out.” “ What are you acting out for?” Second, is that parents don’t really do the education about mental health.
When kids are dealing with anxiety and depression, you have to understand, that this is not about willingness. This is about capability. Depression is not a feeling. It cannot be solved by getting up and going jogging. It can be solved by getting up and going jogging every day for 90 days. That can be the beginning of the solution, but we also may need pills, it’s pills and skills.
But the mistake we make is thinking that this depression is an attitude and actually depression is a description of brain chemistry. The brain’s functioning is depressed. The brain is depressed, not the emotion. The emotions are sad, and hopeless. The brain’s chemistry is depressed. Anxiety is not an attitude.
It’s a response from the amygdala when the environment matches the picture of a trauma. And so it sets off an alarm in the body and the body goes into shutdown mode. And understanding this, understanding why your kid is attracted to cannabis, understanding why your kid is attracted to cutting and what’s going on in the brain.
That’s the work. It’s not we punish because we think it’s about willingness.
“ My kid’s just not willing.” I have to wonder if our kids are not capable because we’re punishing their inability to do something. We are making it worse. And that’s one thing that I see as good parents, mistake capability for willingness.
Aaron: Second thing I see, good parents do is, the moment the kid starts spinning out, the kid becomes the focal point. The kid becomes the patient of the family. And so, mom and dad are talking, mom and X are talking, dad and XR talking, the other siblings are talking, aunts and uncles are brought in on the situation because dad’s on the phone with his mom and saying, my kids just blowing sideways and mom’s telling dad’s sister.
And then everybody gets together for Christmas. And there’s this tiptoeing around this kid. Who’s struggling and they feel it on a psychic level and the child becomes the patient. And everybody says, “ This child needs to change energetically, psychically or verbally out loud.” This child, all of a sudden, is the black sheep of the family.
When, in truth, the parent changed the dialogue to say, “ This family is struggling with depression and is really hard on little Johnny.” “ This family’s dealing with anxiety.” “ This family is dealing with self-harm issues and we’re all doing our work, and everybody does their work and everybody recovers.” And we say to the kid, “ Hey, we’re all going into recovery. We know this is not just about you.”, that you are actually talking the family language out loud. Have that courage as a parent to say., “You’re speaking the family language out loud and you’ve shown us a lot of things that we could do differently. And we didn’t know how to do it differently, but because of you and because of how you’re going through the struggle, we’ve realized we all have to make some changes.So we’re in and we’re with you and we’re together.”
Carrie: I liked that. I interviewed someone recently who had a spouse that went into the psychiatric hospital and she shared her story about how that really triggered up some of her own stuff. And she went to therapy to help herself and also figure out how she could support herself.
But she knew that she had to put on her own oxygen mask first. And I imagine it’s similar with parents like,they have to be willing to read the books about, you know, depression, get some help, read some materials, learn different styles of communication, whatever it is, like you said, doing their work as well. And then, being able to communicate to that, to your teenager, I think is so powerful to say like, “ Hey, I’m in this with you. I’m learning new things. I know that I don’t have it all together.”
I think that that vulnerability as a parent is really powerful.
Aaron: It’s amazing Carrie, because you have perfectly demonstrated the trap we fall into as parents about avoiding the work and thinking that, you know, reading the book about depression so that we can help our children, is the work. That’s actually the third thing you do. That’s not the first. Right. And I love that you said that because that is the first thing we all gravitate to. “ My kids got anxiety.” “I better get online and learn about anxiety.” And we study and we print out articles and we call our, our spouse and we call our moms and we dig and we, we give the article to our children. We are still making the child first. We are still totally and solely focused on this child. The first thing we do as parents when our children starts to struggle, if we find out God forbid, we find out that something has happened to our daughter or our son, and they have been sexually assaulted, they are being bullied at school, the first thing we do is like, “ What can I do for them? “ And we think that’s good parenting. Well, what we forget is that when our child has a suicide attempt, we are traumatized.
Aaron: And, when we are traumatized because of something that happened to our kid or something that our kid does, they steal the car, they wreck it, they total it, the police show up and they are smashed out of their mind on drugs. And we had no idea they were even using it. You are traumatized. Now, what you’re doing is parenting from that place.
And when we are traumatized, what happens? We stopped sleeping. Well, we stopped eating well. We stopped drinking water. We stopped moving our bodies and we stopped breathing on purpose. And if one of those things slips, if one of those things goes away, the other four will follow because it is a domino of biology.
The moment. I am not sleeping the moment I am not eating. Right. My blood sugar levels are crashing up and down. I have coffee because it’s morning.I don’t eat until one o’clock and I have a total sugar crash. Shall I eat? And what am I craving? I’m craving something. That’s going to jack my energy right back up.
So, it’s a lot of carbs. And so I jumped right back up and then he came and I’m just on this roller coaster of blood sugar and I am not drinking enough water. My system is no longer lubricated on coffee and I’m soda and I’m energy drinks, and I’m doing whatever to sustain beause I gotta be there for my kid.
I got to do the right thing for my kid. And I’m not sleeping that night because my system’s all jacked. And now I’m supposed to come up with a good consequence. It’s actually gonna focus my kid on their strategy and not my emotions. There is no way to be a good parent from a bad place. You cannot accidentally parent your child out of a crisis.
Well, you have to do it on purpose, which means number one, parents, you take care of yourself first. You do the fab five: sleeping ,drinking water, eating nutritious food, moving your body, and even if it’s only one, even if it’s for an hour, I don’t care. Breathe on purpose. Not accidentally breathing through the day, but actually, go, “ Whoa, Aaron, you are not breathing.” Oh, you know what? I just practiced self-care.
Aaron: Now, the second thing I do is more important than now wanting to go parent my child. The second thing I do is I tend to my adult relationships because children can not relate to my emotional experience. Children cannot relate to my level of fatigue, fear, anger or anxiety with what’s going on in my home.
I have to find other adults who relate and I’ve got to be with those adults. I got to join a support group. I don’t care if it’s on Facebook or if it’s in your church basement. You join a group and you find other adults in your community who are going through what you’re going through. And if you can’t find them,start one.
Be that parent who says, “ Hey, I need other parents who are struggling with kids and call it, “Parenting teens that struggle.”, I don’t know. I just made that name up. “ That’s the name of my group on Facebook folks. Join me!” , but just start it if you can’t find it. And I’m also talking about your marriage or your exes, your, your parenting partners, your loves.
You have to tend to your adult relationships because that’s your support system. You got to go vent with your husband and be like, “…. I can’t take it anymore.” And your spouse goes, “ I was intense. Are you doing okay? I’m just listening. I’m just, being here. Don’t expect my feedback at this moment. How you’re doing?’,and you’re just, you’ve got to have these huge fear, frustration,anger and anxiety and fatigue experiences with another adult. So self-care first, adult relationship care second. Now you’re ready to go parent.
Carrie: You have really hit the nail on the head there. We have to have an outlet for our intense emotions when we are dealing with someone that’s going through a crisis, meaning that we’re experiencing the crisis and the trauma ourselves like , this is real work. And I think what you’re saying is that a lot of people, focus the same level of energy, but they’re focusing on the wrong areas. And if they would disperse some of that energy towards themselves, towards healthy relationships, then they will have that energy that they need to give to their child.
But it won’t be like this overwhelming overarching smothering, “ We got to fix your energy” , because they’ll have dispersed some of that.
Aaron: The anger, fatigue, fear, anxiety, and frustration that we bring to our parenting forces the children to focus on our emotions, emotions aren’t leveraged. Emotions are not consequences, especially in our kids become teenagers.
We have big, huge emotions. Teenagers could beat you in that game. They can go way over the edge. You, you have big tears and hollering voices and all of a sudden they call you a name that you have to go look up. You’ve suddenly found yourself in an urban dictionary going, “ Wow. That’s what that means. Geez, that kid was, oh, I’m devastated.”
I’m not saying you can’t have emotions. I’m saying you can’t use those emotions as consequences. You can’t leverage those emotions to get your child to focus on their strategy. That’s what consequences are supposed to do , is to get the child to look at what they’re doing and go, “ Oh, that didn’t work.”. But to see your emotions and you, “ Gimme your phone! ” They’re not going to focus on losing their phone . They’re going to focus on how you took it. The truth is , when I coach parents, I care less what the parent does and more how they do it. Because there’s two ways to take a child’s phone. Well, there’s actually a thousand, but I’ll give you two choices.
There’s this way, “ I can’t believe you did! You can’t send pictures like this. You’re under. Gimme your phone. No, you can’t have it back. I’m enough. I’m enough. I’m tired. I’m done!” or “I’m really sorry you’re going through this. Now we have agreements in this house that I’m willing to provide a phone and internet, as long as there’s no lying, stealing, sneaking, cheating, or breaking the law and you know this. I also know that being a teenager is really hard. So, I’m going to go ahead and manage your phone and the internet for two weeks. And as things change, I’ll change what I manage. I’m really sorry. I love you and I know you’re going through some rough times.” Now on both of those, I’m taking the phone away on one of those before I ever talked to my kid to have that level of voice, that level of calmness, that level of connection before correction, alliance before compliance. To have that, I have to have been resourced. I have to settle my own nervous system. I have to remember, I got to hit my knees in conscious prayer, not just those desperate nights when I can’t sleep and I’m crying out for some intervention from the Divine. But actually saying, “ At 12:30 today, I’m going to spend some time with my book and some time with my God. And I’m just going to ask to be shown the light in all this darkness.” And to be deliberate in your prayers, to write down a list of things you want to ask for to communicate clearly, what I do know is that you are actually writing down the list of what you’re going to ask God for, is you, using your prefrontal cortex? , not your survival, “ God, someone helped me!” You have to come out of survival mode if you want your kids to thrive,
Aaron: You cannot accidentally parent your child out of crisis. It does not, never ever know how , no way works.
Carrie: Tell us about how people can find and get in touch with you.
Aaron: I have a few freebies. I want to start with first and foremost, Carrie, thank you for the opportunity to talk to you, your moms and dads, and the people listening to your podcast. I really appreciate the opportunity. Parents, I have a free Facebook group called , “ Parenting Teens That Struggle.” I moderate it. My daughter moderates it as well.
I have some other therapists that I really know, like, and trust. Who are in there, Avani Dilger, Kaia, and you got to see , “ Kaia on notes by Kaia on Instagram” . She’s awesome. And Carrie, if you can get her as a guest, she is a wonderful, wonderful woman. And this is just, I have 1600 parents on there who are just supporting each other.
And these are parents who are in a pretty deep crisis and it’s just a place to go up and email and go, “ Here’s everything that’s going on with my family. Oh my God. I’m so embarrassed that no one else is going through this and I’m terminally unique. And 15 to 30 other parents would go, “ Oh no, I, I that’s exactly what I’m going through.”
And that’s the moment of tending to yourself and tending to your adult relationships that you go, “ Oh, thank God. I am not alone.” , because you are not. Parenting teams that struggle on Facebook. I post videos. I post podcasts, I answer questions and other families engage with what you’re going through. The second thing is , that my podcast
“ Beyond Risk And Back.” This is for the parents of kids who are really struggling. And this is where I interview the experts. People like Carrie, to talk about OCD and Anxiety, to come on and give you their advice. So, not everything’s coming from me, but I’m just a conduit where the experts can speak through my medium.
And I have learned so much from people like you, Carrie. And I know in your show, I called you. I was like, “ I got to know about OCD.” because there’s, “ Oh, my God. I’m so OCD.” And then there’s OCD.
Aaron: OCD is devastating to watch anybody that you love go through. And to hear from you , to give you to my audience, to have my items go, “ Oh, okay. Now my kid’s just a little type of …”
Aaron: Yeah, peculiar versus , “ My child is counting steps to the door and if they don’t get the right steps, they go back.” , and you know this is interfering. This is dysfunction . So beyond risk and back parenting teens that struggle. And then third, if you go to brabapp.com, B R A B A P P Brab stands for Beyond Risk And Back, brabapp .com for the same cost as a week’s worth of coffee. I put up 56 parenting sessions, in a red, yellow, and green course and you can take the classes. The red is the deep crisis. The yellow is , the at-risk and the green is , things are going good, but man, they could be great. This child is a world changer. “ What do I have to do as a parent differently to inspire this kid to the next level of expression and connection with the world?”
So all of these are everything that I have ever taught a parent and I made it extremely affordable because I want every parent to feel supported, not just the ones who can afford treatment. Let’s be clear, folks. Treatment is expensive mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. So, let’s try changing the home before we go ask the kid to change ,so that the home can feel better.
That’s the backwards way of doing it.
Carrie: So towards the end of every podcast, I like our guests to share a story of hope since this is called Hope for Anxiety and OCD. And so this is a time in which you received hope from God or another person.
Aaron: On May 21st, 1998, I stopped using drugs and alcohol for good . On May 20th, 1998, I hit my knees and I asked for a miracle. I had been a minister since 1996. I’ve had a very colorful spiritual life. But despite my promises to God, despite my promises to my daughter, despite my promises to who became my ex-wife, I loved drugs more to the point where the shame and the guilt forced me to my knees. And I said, “ I can’t stop. You have to stop me. I’m not going to quit. You have to make me quit. And I’m asking for a miracle. I’m asking to be shown that there’s something outside of this. Because otherwise this is going to kill me and I’m slowly dying. You have to bring me back to life.” The next morning I got up and I went to work and I got in my truck and I got high as I was driving to work and my truck died and my parents lived out in the country outside of Longmont, Colorado.
And so I had to walk about a mile and a half to get to a phone so I could call my dad to come pick me up. So I got my drugs and I got my paraphernalia and I started walking, leaving my truck on the side of the road and up ahead on my left, as I was walking down, this dirt road was the small, and it’s the quintessential picture in your brain of an old country church, right? Little white building, single room steeple and cross in the front, quintessential Norman Rockwell painting that you could imagine. And so I’m walking towards it. I hear this noise….and I know what’s coming and my heart starts pounding. I know that I’m about to get what I asked for, which was the end. It was my personal Babylon, was showing up. And as I’m walking, I’m getting closer. I’m staring at this church trying not to look at it and it’s just…and it’s getting louder and louder as I’m walking toward and I’m terrified. And all I did was say, “ Stop me. “ And now I knew that I was about to get stopped. I’m standing across the street from the driveway to this church and the noises now… like the worst scratching TV, FAS. And it was so loud. And I turned and looked and Christ was standing there and he said,” You can put down the drugs now for the rest of your life and never look back. “
Aaron: And the feeling of love and forgiveness that I experienced in that moment to that overwhelm of pure unconditional love. The thing that I had always been searching for and had never found. It just washed me and I threw them, took my drugs out of my pocket and Carrie, I swear on everything I had that bag hit the ground and the wind with and blew it out.
I threw my pipe and a ditch and I burst into tears and the noise was gone and the experience was over and I walked. And if that was the end of the miracle, then this will be a nice, short story, but I’m going to have to take you deeper into what happened next. So I went and I hit the phone. My dad comes and picks me up. When I get home, I call work, “Tom. I’m not coming in.” They’re not surprised I’m absent all the time. Because I’m always going. And I go up to my room and I call the triangle club, the 12 step group there in Longmont, Colorado on main street. And I said, I, I had called them two weeks prior and the line was busy and I, I promise you, that I took that as a sign from God that I was overreacting and that drugs weren’t that bad. I had lost my home, custody of my daughter, and my marriage. I was living either in my parents’ house at 28 years old, or I was living in the back of my truck, and drugs weren’t that bad. But that’s how insane this thing is. But this time when I called that the night of that first experience, May 21st, I called the 12-step and somebody answered on the first ring and they said,” Triangle Club”, and I said, “ When’s your next NA meeting? I think I’m an addict.” And the guy said, “ Where are you? I’ll come get you.” And I said, “ Don’t do this.” He goes, “ It’s okay, man.” And I said, “ Don’t you say it. I’m not ready to hear it.” , and it got all quiet. And he said, “ I love you. It’s okay.” And I said, “ I can’t do this right now.” And he goes, “ Every hour, we have a meeting. If you need a ride, someone will get you.” And I hung up the phone on him. And there was that love of a stranger. Somebody who didn’t know me didn’t know my past and he was willing to say, “ I love you.”
Aaron: So then the next morning I wake up and I go downstairs and I’ve decided I have the day off. So I’m going to a meeting and I go downstairs and my parents are watching TV and I kid you not, they’re watching clean and sober with Michael Keaton. And I sit down on the couch and I’m like, “ I can’t believe this.” And like, “ This is a sustained miracle and I’m exhausted.” And I sit down and I turn off the TV and my mom goes, she has this funny way of saying it. It’s very dear. She goes, “ Excuse me?” And she was being goofy. And I look at her about to break her heart. And I say, “ I’m not going to a meeting at work. I’m going to a 12 step meeting. I’m an addict.” And my mom goes pale. And my dad, the man who raised me, not my father, but the man who gave me everything who had lied to, who had stolen from and hurt his younger biological children.
He looked at me and he goes, “ Whatever you need me to do, I’ll do it because I love you.” And it was those three experiences of unconditional love that I just said, “ That’s it. That’s what this is about. I don’t love me, but everybody else does have this thing that I’ve always been seeking for, has been seeking me.
And I just have to let it in now.” And that’s what I say to families and to teenagers is “ A – I love you, and B what you are seeking is seeking you.” And that was the miracle I got on May 21st, 1998. And then on the 22nd, the miracles continue. A biker who yanked me back into my chair at the 12 step meeting who told me to sit down and shut up for once in my life and maybe I’ll learn something, who became my sponsor, the police officer that pulled me over after my first meeting and said, you know who I told him?, “ I, it was my first meeting. It’s the first time I didn’t have drugs in my vehicle in seven years and I didn’t have to lie.” And he looked at me and he saw the big stack of 12 step books in my truck, and he goes, “Keep going back at works . If you work at and you’re worth it.”, which is what we say at the end of every 12 step meeting, he told me he was a member.
Carrie: I understood. Yeah.
Aaron: And 23 years later, the miracles still continue. And that’s been my life for 23 years. I was born 23 years ago. And the sadness, these are tears of joy, folks because I have such a beautiful, blessed life.
I have a daughter, I have a son. My ex-wife and I are friends. I love my parents and they did so well. My brothers and I get along, my business is successful and all I do is the 12 step, and bring the message of hope to people who still suffer.
Carrie: Yeah. Aaron, that’s such a powerful testimony, which is amazing. I don’t think we can ever underestimate the power of unconditionally loving another human being.
And we, when we bring in that unconditional love to someone else, we are showing them the love of God. That God has, you know, showed us, and so many times, like, tries to get our attention and we’ve ignored. And then, like you said, you, you have to allow it to come into you like it’s there for you, you know, understanding that unconditional love and acceptance is there for you, but you have to let it in sometimes, man, that’s, that’s amazing. Thank you so much for sharing the story and going deep with us on that.
Aaron: If there’s one thing I can say, I’ve not met the devil. But if the devil is here on earth, it’s addiction. It’s that low , only people in addiction understand how far the devil can take you down. Loving when things are going good, loving an addict who struggles, loving your kids. Those two things are when things are easy when things are good, love is easy. Love is good. But when you’re standing at the gates of hell, love is divine and it’s the hardest place to find.
Carrie : Yeah. Well, I just appreciate you sharing just all your wisdom for parents that are struggling that have teens and crisis.
And hopefully, this gives them some hope and some ideas that the things can turn around and yeah. Then just thank you for being here.
Wow. That was probably one of the most powerful stories of hope that we have had on the show. I am so glad that Aaron came and shared that with us. I know Aaron spoke of a show that we recorded together for his podcast.
I wanted to let you know, at the time of this recording, that, that hasn’t come out yet just in the nature of podcast recording and how we batch episodes. I believe mine is going to be coming out before his, when that episode does come out on OCD, I will link it to this episode, so you can listen to it. Aaron asked me some really great questions about OCD and it was a super great experience to be on his show as well.
So check the show notes here, or we’ll also be posting it on social media with links from our Instagram and Facebook pages. You can always follow along on either of those pages for the most up-to-date information about our show. And hopefully, it’s a way for you to receive a little bit of a daily dose of encouragement.
Hope for anxiety and OCD is a production of By the Well Counseling in Smyrna, Tennessee. Our original music is by Brandon Mangrum and audio editing is completed by Benjamin Bynam.
Until next time. May you be comforted by God’s great love for you.