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

Friday, February 15th, 2013

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 at toll-free Parent Helpline (1-855-DRUGFREE) – seek out guidance from others to stop the spinning.

Posted by  |  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Family members, Family Therapy, Finding Treatment, getting help, parenting, Patience, Recovery, Uncategorized

25 Comments on “Cuisinart-Head: My Mom Was Spinning from My Brother’s Drug Addiction”

Ron Grover says:
February 15th, 2013 at 1:53 pm


“Cuisinart-head” never heard that term before but it fits. We know that feeling, we were addicted to “fixing” our son too.

Seeing how we live in Kansas I use to think of it like a Kansas tornado. Our son was stirring up everything he touched and we were all just spinning around and round the outside helplessly and having absolutely no effect on the tornado. The only way to get out of the storm is by taking care of yourself first.

Arden OConnor says:
February 15th, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Completely agree Ron!

steve castleman says:
February 15th, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Addiction is a chronic, progressive brain disease. It’s treatable. Perhaps not as successfully as one might like, but on a par with other chronic diseases that require substantial behavioral change, like diabetes and hypertension.

Unfortunately, many people still don’t believe addiction is a disease. That’s why science-based education is so important.

For a not-for-profit website that discusses the science of substance use and abuse in accessible English (how alcohol and drugs work in the brain; how addiction develops; why addiction is a chronic, progressive brain disease; what parts of the brain malfunction as a result of substance abuse; how that malfunction skews decision-making and motivation, resulting in addict behaviors; why some get addicted while others don’t; how treatment works; how well treatment works; why relapse is common; what family and friends can do; etc.) please click on

Doudlas says:
February 15th, 2013 at 6:47 pm

I just wanted to say it was an honor to spend a small part of my life with Chris, learning to live a more healthy life style for ourselves that includes yoga and meditation on a daily basis. May our dreams come true Chris


Arden O'Connor says:
February 15th, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Steve – we do agree that addiction is a disease. Do you have any thoughts on the family concept and how the disease affects parents? Thanks.

Arden O'Connor says:
February 15th, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Thanks Douglas, we do hope your dreams come true! Best of luck with your yoga, meditation, and healthy lifestyle.

beachmama says:
February 16th, 2013 at 7:59 am

Wow . . . this could be me starting on this path . . . thank you for this wake-up call. So happy to hear Chris turned his life around.

Donna says:
February 18th, 2013 at 4:38 am

I just found out that my sweet, kind, loving, quiet, college bound 17 year old daughter has been living a double world for years. A world filled with alcohol, pot, mushrooms, pills (someone’s Xanax). She keeps telling me she wants a successful future but keeps picking her drug loving friends. Three different high schools in three years. All her teachers love her, almost all straight A’s, a desire to get an engineering degree, sighhhhh. I just discovered this world two weeks ago when she came home drunk and I was able to get into her phone. Two days later we were flying across the country to a teen rehab facility. She is there now. It’s been 17 days and I feel like a cuisinart-head. I can’t eat, I can’t think, I spend every second reading and reading everything I can get my hands on. I’m so scared. I’m a single mom, I work full time as a nurse and my mind racing in every which way imaginable. I want to move, I want to stay, I want to find a good teen recovery support group that she can get involved in when she gets back but I can’t find one. I don’t want to screw up ths little window of opportunity I have before she is 18. Should I stay or should I move. I hate this city I live in now but my job I have here us great. I’m a wreck. It was nice to read that I’m not alone. Thank you.

Arden O'Connor says:
February 18th, 2013 at 8:31 pm

@Beachmama – sure, hope it was helpful. Feel free to contact us if you need support.

Arden O'Connor says:
February 18th, 2013 at 8:58 pm

@Donna – sure, we are happy to hear this was a help to you, and of course sympathize with what you are going through. Difficult as it is, the best thing is to try and remain calm and to seek help for yourself while your daughter is at rehab. Know that you have taken an important first step in sending her there, and seek out an Al-Anon meeting in your community as soon as you can: Please feel free to contact me directly if you need further help.

Also, your window of opportunity won’t close when your daughter turns 18. You will have plenty of time to help and support her as she grows into an adult and finds her own path to recovery.

Pernilla Burke says:
February 19th, 2013 at 8:23 pm

@Donna, please call the helpline here at 1-855-DRUGFREE and speak to a trained clinician in regards to you daughter returning from rehab. All your fears are valid and it is so important for you to have support, especially as a single mother.
There are several blogs on this site that will give you solutions and also hope — parents who have been where you have been. First that a look at this one…


Maryann says:
February 27th, 2013 at 3:21 am

When you discribed the way your mother handled the situation you discribed me. My son has been clean for 6 months but we are still climbing out of the hole he dug with legal trouble. I love him but there are days I have a real hard time liking him. I am financially, mentally , and spirituall broke. I just want this to be over

Arden O'Connor says:
February 28th, 2013 at 6:50 pm

@Maryann – that’s totally understandable, and a story we hear a lot. I encourage you to seek the resources you need to keep your own recovery from HIS recovery going. And I do hope that your relationship with him improves over time – I know my Mom and Chris are in a better place today than they were when he was 6 months clean.

Trinita says:
March 7th, 2013 at 9:28 am

I am so relieved to find this website and to read these stories. My 21 yr old son, is addicted to heavy drugs. I fee that my head is spinning 24/7. He went to away to Florida to detox, inpatient rehab, PHP and IOP all within month period. He is home now because of legal issues that need to be addressed. Unfortunatly, he has relapsed. I am allowing him to wait for his court appearance before we make the decision to go back into a program. I have spoken to many Helplines to even see if I can have him commited. No chance of that happening. Everyone states he has to want to do it himself. I tried to get him into another intensive outpatient program, but my Insurance will not pay a dime. How does anyone afford to pay for this. I am already faced with thousands and thousands of dollars from the treatment he has recieved. I see he is so much pain as he tries to withdraw from using. Which leaves him to use again to rid of he pain. It breaks my heart to watch this happen. I wish that I can stay home with him, but I have to work. I hope after Court today he makes the right decison for himself and decides to go to Detox and into treatment. I wish I can find a inpatient Rehab that will keep him in for 90 days, but how to accomplish this if you don’t have the funds?

Kristine says:
March 9th, 2013 at 4:31 pm

I wish I had found five years ago. Our son became a heroin addict at 30 and trying to find help for an adult “child” was challenging. I can relate to this article. We were constantly trying to reason with someone who basically had no emotions. He was there physically, but not emotionally. It was so hard to deal with. You have to let go of what your dreams were for your child, and live one day at a time hoping their life will change. You cannot change it for them. Our son did go to rehab, and is attending NA meetings. It’s a beginning in the right direction.

Jerry Otero says:
March 11th, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Dear Trinita,

The issues that you raise in your comment are serious obstacles to your son’s recovery, and ones that you, no doubt, will continue to struggle with until they can be resolved.

And, while there are no easy answers, there may be solutions. But you will only reach them with a framework with which to work through. To that end, why don’t you call me at the Parent Helpline at The Partnership at (number below)?

The call is toll-free and confidential. Hopefully, by talking a bit about your specific situation, we will be able to arrive at some workable solution.

Until then, I wish you the best in your search for the best care for your son.

Jerry Otero
Parent Support Specialist
The Partnership at
1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373)

NewHorizonRecovery says:
March 15th, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Nice Post, really this type of issues has to be bravely faced by your son, because the kinship never ends.

Arden O'Connor says:
March 15th, 2013 at 4:02 pm

@ Kristine: I totally understand. We have had several cases of adult children opiate addicts and this can be very challenging. The apathy towards life and lack of emotional presence is a very real difficulty that can make opiate related cases difficult.

Arden O'Connor says:
March 15th, 2013 at 4:10 pm

@Trinita Jerry’s reply is right on – I would encourage you to call The Partnership and also to seek out Al-Anon meetings in your local area to get support for yourself. Ultimately, your son will have to want recovery for himself to succeed and if you can guide him to that place by the way in which you express your love for him and what that means, you will be able to help him. But you must be certain to support yourself in the process.

Patti Herndon says:
March 16th, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Patti Herndon says:
March 16th, 2013 at 7:50 pm

The smart recovery link, above, would qualify as one of those “or other support groups” referenced in the blog. Signs of Progress: when the phrase “other support groups” (in blogs here,there, and everywhere ;-) is replaced by a specific reference/an actual name identifying the resource/support group…so that parents/CSO’s have, on hand, a menu of potential options to check into. Until that day dawns (and it will) …please see ‘self management and recovery training (smart recovery friends and family resources).

Arden O'Connor says:
March 16th, 2013 at 9:56 pm

@ Patti thanks for sharing those links, SMART recovery is certainly a resource that many people find helpful.

Anonymous says:
March 26th, 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,

Arden O'Connor says:
March 26th, 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.

Patti Herndon says:
April 25th, 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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