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Addiction & Families: Finding Strength Within Chaos

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

In this week’s series of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen continue their discussion on the many lessons and anecdotes taken from Tana’s highly anticipated memoir “The Reluctant Courage of a Scared Child”. Tana’s life had seemed to finally find some stable ground when a fateful late-night phone call brought along yet another helping of chaos. A family member had lost custody of her children and turned to Tana and Daniel for help. While it seemed to be another one of life’s setbacks, this sequence of events turned out to be one of the most healing of all.

For more information on Tana’s new book, “The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child”, visit relentlesscourage.com

For info on Tana Amen’s upcoming free live virtual event, visit tanaamen.com/event

Read Full Transcript

Daniel Amen, MD:

Welcome to the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

And I’m Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.

Daniel Amen, MD:

The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to brainmd.com.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Well, in this week of the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast we’re going to continue on our journey. We’re week five of six and life gets good.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Life is good for a long time. Yeah, it’s the best it’s ever been. I remember having moments, I don’t know if any of you have ever felt this way where you almost are afraid to trust how good it is. It’s like, this is almost too good to be true. It’s like it’s such a long stretch. I mean, I’ve had periods of time where I felt like life was pretty good in a lot of ways, that maybe everything didn’t sort of fit and all of a sudden I feel like everything is really good. And I’m like it just is like, “Do I trust this?”

Daniel Amen, MD:

[crosstalk [00:01:32] Which becomes a New York times bestselling book.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

My relationship with my daughter is great. My relationship with you is amazing. I’m walking in my spiritual beliefs. All those circles, the biological, the psychological, the social, the spiritual they’re all in alignment.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Yeah and then I guess it’s about four years ago last month that we had a call from your sister,

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Who I had disconnected from. Theme, have you noticed a theme here? Disconnecting from people in my life.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And she was clearly [inaudible [00:00:02]:12].

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Yeah and I disconnected from her because our values are just wildly different. So, my way of handling trauma in my life is control. My way of handling trauma in my life… I mean, that’s a classic sign of someone who develops an eating disorder. Substances weren’t an option for me because of the chaos I saw in my family from all the substance abuse. So control, it’s that control control, control, control, manage things with rigidity, do well in school, have money in the bank, don’t have bills that is my way of handling chaos.

My sister’s way of handling chaos is bury it under substances, don’t feel it. So she became homeless at a point in her life when she was very young and in her mind that was fine. It wasn’t even a big deal. It was just like, “Oh, I don’t want responsibilities.” And so, she just buried everything under these… She could not stand to feel it and she had a lot of trauma in her life as well. I couldn’t handle her lifestyle. I just could not handle the way she lived her life and so I disconnected from her. It was just too much chaos, too much screaming. We didn’t even grow up together and it was like it was worse than what I grew up with and I just could not deal with it. So, we had disconnected the lying and all that stuff and I just…

Daniel Amen, MD:

Well, and you actually had a period of time where you were very connected and she had lost 60 pounds.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

But that’s the point is there were always periods.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And then there was a relapse.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

But that’s the point there were always periods and you start to trust it and then there’s that violation of trust and the pain that goes along with that. And eventually I was like, “No more, I’m done. I can’t do this anymore with you”

Daniel Amen, MD:

Yeah but the problem was she had children.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Right and I didn’t really know her children so because we had disconnected I didn’t know her children. I didn’t know the little one at all. I’d only seen the older one once or twice, twice maybe when she was a baby. And so all of a sudden I get this call and she’s just hysterical and screaming and she sounds pretty crazy and so crazier than in the past. And she’s telling me a pretty wild story and she tells me they’d been taken. And there’s a pretty wacky story that goes along with it, I don’t want to get too into detail on that. I do write a little more about it in the book but just for her benefit I don’t want to go into too much detail about it. But there’s a pretty crazy story with it and I’m like, “Okay.” And I want to hang up the phone so badly. I just want to go back to my regularly scheduled programming of life is amazing and I don’t want to deal with this so.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Yeah except the 11 year old and the six year old are taken into foster care and part of us actually felt relieved because we didn’t think they were being raised in a safe environment.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

We weren’t sure. We didn’t know because I hadn’t seen them for so long.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Yeah but we were worried about them and part of it was good but part of it is, “Should we get involved? How do we get involved?” And it was one of the worst weeks of our marriage.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

It was. It was really bad.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Because you guys already know I have this tendency to try to [crosstalk [00:05:28]

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

And I’m like, “You are not doing this again. I’m not bringing a drug addict into my house. I now have a child that that is my primary responsibility.” And you kept saying this thing, “Why are you so worried about this? I’m a trained professional.” I’m like, “You’re trained to handle crazy at work. This is my life. I am the expert when it comes to my family. So, I’ve lived with crazy so I was not buying it.”

Daniel Amen, MD:

Yeah and I’m feeling bad for these girls.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Well, so was I but I still didn’t want crazy in my house.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And so, we compromised and I didn’t want them all in my house either but I want to figure out a way to solve it. And we went to Oregon, we visited the kids. And the way we decided to initially handle it was, “Well, let’s see, you can help Tana deal with child protective service.” [crosstalk [00:06:28]

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

And because it was out of state.

Daniel Amen, MD:

If you didn’t help here there’s no way she would haver gotten [crosstalk [00:06:33].

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

No, she would have never gotten the kids back. But they were out of state so of course it’s much more complicated to try and get kids out of foster care when they’re out of state and you have to travel back and forth and that was…

Daniel Amen, MD:

Which you did a lot. And so, we set her up in an apartment and met the kids. Wrapped her in services [crosstalk [00:06:54]

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

And I was the scariest person in her life let’s make no mistake about it.

Daniel Amen, MD:

You are the scariest person in a lot of people’s lives.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

She needed it. She was terrified of me. And I was just like, “I’m going to help you with this. I will literally drown you in my pool if you screw this up.” I was done. So I got a call from Child Protective Services from the supervisor at DHS, at Oregon one day and she was like, “We need to have a talk.” And I’m like, “Bring it.” I was just, I was in that fighting mood and I’m like I’m thinking I’m going to fight with her about something. She goes, “Can you soften up a little bit on Tamra?” I’m like, “What?” Said no DHS supervisor ever. And she’s like, “No, I’m serious.” She’s like, “We’ve been having these really long talks.”

Because before that she wouldn’t talk to DHS. She was so paranoid. And she’s like, “She’s opening up to us. She’s having long talks with us. She’s being very cooperative but she’s terrified of you.” And I’m like, “She’s more terrified of me than she is of you? Are you kidding me right now? You’re calling me to tell me to soften up?” So it was an interesting journey but we finally got the kids out.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Well I mean, we should talk a little bit more about just the process of dealing with the legal system that they’re just not set up often to be very therapeutic and they don’t think about the brain at all. The whole mental health system.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

They were happy. They knew who we were and they were happy to have us on board. They were like, “This is going to be easy.” Except my sister didn’t make it easy so.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And one of the really pivotal parts was Tamra’s mother came to live with her.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Because Tamra became suicidal.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And really helped to stabilize the situation but we had to have them both take our brain health assessment.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Yeah they have wildly different brains.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And Tamra’s a two and Kathy is a three and that combination, one’s spontaneous, one’s persistent, one rules don’t matter, the other one rules are the only thing that matters, and so balancing their brain was helpful.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

It’s really important too for me to bring this up because my tendency is to disconnect from people and because I was forced into the situation because of the circumstances I’m like, “I’m going to control the hell out of this thing. That’s how this is going to go, I’m going to scare her half to death into doing what she needs to do because the stakes were high.” Because we had to get these kids out of foster care so the stakes were high so I knew that she doesn’t care about rules. So, the only way for me to get her to care is to scare her in my mind. So I had to terrify her in order to get her to follow through and pay attention. And I’m not going to lie it was effective.

But all of a sudden she said something to me one day that just, she was crying and she looked at me and she goes, “I am so much more than my addiction.” And I was like… It was like someone just stabbed me. I was really seeing her as an addict and as just someone who just irritated the hell out of me. And when she said that all of a sudden I was flooded with these memories of her as a baby and how she used to follow me around and cling to me. And I just, I saw her as more than her addiction and it was a really pivotal moment for me so.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Well, when we come back we’re going to talk more about the journey that has been bumpy. That helping people usually does not go in a straight line. That there are usually ups and downs and ups and downs. And how do you ride the dragon to tame it in a way to get what you need? And in this case what we needed was stability for these children. Stay with us.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

If you are enjoying the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast please don’t forget to subscribe so you’ll always know when there’s a new episode and while you’re at it feel free to give us a review or five-star rating as that helps others find the podcast.

Daniel Amen, MD:

If you’re considering coming to Amen Clinics or trying some of the brain healthy supplements from BrainMD, you can use the code podcast 10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at amenclinics.com or a 10% discount on all supplements at brainmdhealth.com. For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.