Cuisinart-Head: My Mom Was Spinning from My Brother’s Drug Addiction

Like so many, my family has been touched by addiction. Our heads constantly spun for years as we tried to find the way to fix the addicts we love so dearly. Cuisinart-head is a term borrowed from a family addictions consultant – it perfectly described my mom’s mentality in the midst of my brother Chris’s addiction. Her head swirled with the familiar stew of questions parents of addicts will know all too well:

  • How does this facility compare to that one?
  • Where did Jane say she sent her son to? Did he like it?
  • Will Chris like Dr. Jones?
  • Why is Dr. Jones prescribing Lithium? What will it do to Chris?

Meds. Rehabs. The detox world tour. How can a mother desperate to help her son possibly make sense of all of this? Well, Mom tried. A discussion with one person would lead to another contact, and mom filled five notebooks with information. Chris may have gone through 12 facilities, but mom kept extensive notes on 25. She logged the 30 medications he was on over seven years and their associated side effects, along with notes from 28 providers she trusted. She called on any resource – published authors, researchers, psychiatrists, parents of other addicted children.

Mom was the super-case manager, addicted to Chris’s addiction and the quest to find the right program, therapist, coach, approach that would save him.  And Chris stood still, waiting for the next placement, or professional to meet with, seemingly unaware or unimpressed by Mom’s frantic efforts to keep him alive. We want to expect different behavior from an addict in response to an outpouring of loving effort, but those who have experienced this ride know that that rarely happens. Cuisinart-head can’t move an unwilling addict.

Addiction often causes this dynamic – a family consumed with information and plans for the addict and the addict unwilling/uninterested/unmotivated to change his or her behavior. For mom, research distracted her from her anger toward Chris, disappointment in his choices and frustration that he couldn’t just “stop using and return toward a normal life.” Instead of confronting uncomfortable emotions, it was easier to obsess over how to solve the problem. This thought stew can become at least a coping mechanism if not an outright addiction unto itself.

Sadly but unsurprisingly, Mom’s mental “spinning” didn’t solve Chris’s addiction. It made her feel as though she was “doing something,” and it did generate options but also created a lot of anxiety and second-guessing. Mom’s hyper-focus on the details obscured the real loss she mourned: her dreams for her son’s future.  But we now know that distress over a loved one’s future as a non-addict can consume the family’s present with little result.

Thankfully, our story has a happy ending, and my brother is leading a productive, happy life in recovery.

Families often ask “What did it?” and the truth is there are probably a lot of factors – Chris was older, “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” financial support was cut off, his last treatment center was a good match with a strong young person’s AA community and focus on yoga and meditation.

Mom no longer spends her time in Cuisinart-head spells trying to fix him. A couple of years into the madness, my mom stepped back and realized this process could continue for years and went into individual therapy. She had a place with an impartial observer to share her fears for Chris’ future, discuss her anger toward him and relay her concerns for my father’s health, which had been impacted throughout Chris’ journey.  My mom’s therapist gave her the confidence to remain clear-headed in crisis and helped her manage her emotions in a healthy way, which improved her interactions with Chris and thoughts related to his care.

For those who struggle with Cuisinart-head now, I would encourage you to prioritize your physical and emotional health. My mom’s research and calls weren’t incorrect actions, but in isolation, they created an unhealthy obsession and belief that she could fix Chris’ addiction by finding the perfect option for him.  In her case, a therapist was able to provide guidance and a space for her to discuss what happens if none of her efforts worked.

I hope that you can find some hope in our story and that you call on resources in your local area. Share your story below, talk with a therapist or coach, attend Al-Anon or another peer support group, call the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids toll-free Parent Helpline (1-855-DRUGFREE) – seek out guidance from others to stop the spinning.

26 Responses

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    Bryan Ellis

    March 13, 2015 at 11:45 PM

    I understand why your mother has put so much effort and spend time finding a better rehab program for your brother. Because a mother’s love for her child has push her to do that. No mother will wish that her child will die from addiction and do nothing about it. All she want is to save her child and have a better future. I’m happy to hear that your brother Chris is doing well and able to have a good life in recovery. Thank you for sharing your story! I will definitely share this too with my friends in Elgin.

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    Patti Herndon

    April 25, 2013 at 11:26 PM

    Arden…Thank you for your insights and heart.

    Mom Anonymous…My heart goes out to. And…you are an inspiration to us all. Your demonstrated spirit of living “good” in the wake of such personal challenge helps us visualize/believe in quality of life after loss. Thank you for that. Continued health and peace to you, Dear One.

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    Arden O’Connor

    March 26, 2013 at 5:59 PM

    @Anon Thanks for your comment, and I’m very sorry for the loss of your daughter. It is truly heartbreaking what the disease of addiction can do to people. I also sympathize with your struggle with your boys, and hope they can find recovery and meaning in life outside of using.

    While I support and advocate 12 Step recovery programs, which are the answer for many, many people, it’s now known that they are not the only way to sobriety. There are people who do recover using things like mindfulness as their basis for recovery. Surely, the chances re improved when including a 12 step program, but there are other successful paths to recovery out there for those reluctant to go the 12 step route.

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    March 26, 2013 at 4:14 AM

    To all of you that are in the depts of this disease I am an alcohlic,I have been sober now for 14 years. My daughter 2 years ago died of herion,she was only 18 years old. I did not know or even realize how bad her addition was. Now I have 3 boys that are addicted to everything from alcohol, molly,pot,lsd,you name it they like it all three of them.It breaks my heart,but from someone who knows what they are going thru you cannot do one thing about it until they hit their bottom. Anything from begging, rehab,the only way is thru a 12 step program both for you to help you center on yourself and to take care of yourself yes I do go to ala-non to help me. I can only pray that my 3 wonderful boys some day want the help that only God can provide for them. I still go to AA 5x a week and sponcer many people. Only alcoholics can understand how we think.Just because you have a loved one that has an addition doesn’t mean you understand unless you have been in our shoes.I have already lost one beauitful daughter Sara and God only know it would kill me if I lost one of my sons. However I can’t do anything for them until they want help for themselves.Sorry to bust your bubble but this comes from someone who drank from the age of 13-39. I never ever knew that I was hurting anyone. Once getting sober only then did I relize the damage and hurt that I did to everyone. When we are in the depths of our addition we do not even know that we are hurting anyone. Now the tables have turned. I want so much to help my boys but I know deep down in my heart that I am powerless over such things.The only thing you can do is not enable your love ones and get into a 12 step program yourselves to save yourselves from more harm.From a true sober person, life is good for me now.It is so sad about my boys it just kills me inside,

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