Voices InCourage with KL Wells | KL Wells | Brain Science Of Change

When we are in the throes of a loved one’s addiction, change can be one of the biggest obstacles that lies in the way of allowing ourselves to thrive.

In today’s episode, KL Wells shares her journey of learning how critical role the brain plays in embracing real change. She shares her most unexpected lesson in dealing with her own son’s addiction simply by learning the power to say “no.” She even reveals how she came to believe that “no” means “I love you.”

In this episode, learn the science behind why our brains are wired for protection, the process by which we can develop new neural pathways to rewire our operating system, and the importance of finding clarity, vision, and commitment to drive change as a critical tool for thriving amid the chaos of addiction.

If putting change into action is a barrier in your story, this episode is designed for you.

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The Brain Science Of “Change” With KL Wells

I was reminded how important understanding the brain science of change is. I wanted to touch on that in this episode because what we are talking about as we navigate this as loved ones, as moms, dads, grandparents, brothers and sisters, and friends dealing with somebody that we love, who has the disease of addiction or alcoholism, is that we’re asking ourselves to change in the midst of all this trauma, desperation and crisis. If we have an intention of going from crisis to struggling, to surviving and then to thriving, there are change points along the way that are important for us to embrace.

Personal Darkest Moment

I was reminded that our brains play a big role in our ability to perfect the art of change. I want to start a little bit with the story that, for me, was probably one of my personal darkest moments that I chose to take hold of and change for myself. That was one of the moments that, this was probably a few years ago when Sam would get a hold of us and reach out and want money. I had many times promised my wife that I was going to say no, then the moment I said that to her, I held all the conviction that was exactly what I was going to do.

The time would come and Sam would ask, “I need $10 for cigarettes, something to eat or something.” Those little cash apps on our iPhones are addictive in and of themselves. I’d get the request. I’d look at it, and I was still in that place personally as his mom and I desperately wanted to do something. What I began to realize was my pain in wanting to do something desperately drove me to override my promise to my wife.

I began to realize that when I hit that $10 yes to cash app, it was almost as if I was getting a dopamine hit. That was almost I was addicted to being able to relieve my own pain and feeling helpless and not being able to do something for my son. I got clear in one moment as the tears fell down my face with Patty, and I explained to her, “I am caught here. I am struggling to get out of this place of my own pain and get back in alignment with who I am in the world,” and my promise to her, and to be able to follow through with that promise.

Learning to override that neural pathway in my brain that said, “I’m in pain. I want to help my son,” and the pain of not helping my son drove me to do things that were not in congruence with who I define myself as being. I remember distinctly this moment when I was crying and asking Patty to give me a little bit more grace and space to figure this thing out and to get on top of it so that I could be responsible and stand in my own power around his requests for money.

I needed to take this on for myself in terms of the change that went with this. This was big in a way that I needed to rewire myself. I needed to remember what happens to your brain when you are in the throes of going from behavior and thoughts that you have been employing for a while to changed thoughts and behavior my intention was to flip the script. It was to go from I’m in such pain that I’m compelled to hit the cash app to send him money so that I get immediate relief from doing that, which in all honesty, within five minutes is followed by my drop and realizing that could be the last $10 I send him. I have lied to my wife.

I have not done what I said I was going to do. I may get a momentary relief, but it’s very quickly going to be followed by another pain. I needed to rewire where the pain resided and my ability without a shadow of a doubt, be able to get that request, have nothing happen with me internally, and for me, very clearly and distinctly say no, follow through and make sure that those actions are alignment with what I say I’m going to do and what I do.

No Means I Love You

Here’s what I know to be true. Most of us have been here, whether it’s giving them money or a consistent roof over their heads, whatever the enmeshed or enabling behaviors are that we are embarking on with our adult children in particular, our spouses or any adult that in our life that is dealing with addiction or alcoholism, is we are doing those things to relieve our own pain.

Get clear about it and get clear that that may be the last money you give them or the last time you fill their car because, at any moment, this is Russian roulette people, it could be the last time you see them, talk to them and have contact with them. I would rather say no than be responsible for my son’s death if he overdoses on Fentanyl, has a car accident or has any multitude of things that take place because of this disease. I want to be able to live with myself in those moments. I chose to rewire and get super lined up with my commitment to Patty and saying no to my commitment to Sam, whether he liked it or not, because mad and furious and all the things to say no because I knew intellectually that might be the last time that could be the money that kills him.

I needed to change it in my heart. The hardest is to rewire the connection. I loved him deeply that I was willing to say no. I leaned into, “No means I love you.” When we start to change behaviors and thoughts, our brain is wired to protect us and change our brain says, “We’re in danger.” Our brains start to come up with stories, start to go wonky on us and start to talk us out of it because our brains think we’re in danger by making these kinds of changes. I needed to let my brain know that I appreciated it in doing its job and that I had this. I needed to consistently do that over a period of time so that eventually it would get super clear that we were creating a new pattern.

No means I love you. Click To Tweet

I was creating new neuro-pathways in my brain that said, and lived into behaviorally, “No means I love you.” In my heart, that’s where I was able to settle. I want to drive this point home relative to understanding your brain. I call it the operating system. Anytime you want to make a significant change, it takes immersion in what it is that you want to create. It takes clarity in what it is that you want to create. It takes commitment in terms of what you want to create. I had a very clear vision, commitment, idea, and behaviors that I was going to live into. As my brain started to get wonky and try to talk me out of it and do all the things that it does to protect me, I let it know that I appreciated what it was doing and that I had this. We were safe and then I would proceed.

Slowly but surely, this was probably over months once I realized what was going on that I was able to override my brain and the operating system to the point where it got super clear and the pathways were created of, “No means I love you.” As I’m saying this to you, I’m strengthening those neural pathways in my brain. I’m continuing to train it to know that that behavior and those thoughts support my ability to say no when Sam asks for money in the future for as long as we both live. It’s been a challenging experience to override with intentionality. What I think most parents have been trained to do is to fix it is for me, the fixing it part dropped to a different level below that fix it part where I clear that it was my own pain of watching my son suffer and desperately wanting to do something. That something was relieving my pain. At the bottom of all of this, it was about me relieving my pain. I needed to override that importance and do what was the best thing for my son.

Creating New Neuropathways

If you get anything out of this today is to know that when you set an intention to change your thoughts about some part of this disease and your part in it, part changing your thoughts is the beginning path to changing your behavior it’s super important to get clear about what’s the behavior that you want to create? What’s the level of commitment on a scale of 1 to 10? If you’re not an 8 or above, you are not going to get there. What are you going to do to keep it front and center for yourself so that you are almost immersing yourself in this new thought pattern and this new behavioral pattern so that it becomes embedded and new neuropathways are created?

A couple of tools and techniques that I use is the alarm on my phone. You can write things in there if you set alarms. For a while, I wrote alarms that said, “No means I love you.” I would have alarms go off four times a day, “No means I love you.” I ran those alarms for a long time. I wanted it embedded in my brain that was a new thought and therefore there would be new behaviors that went with it. I kept it front and center on my wall behind my laptop, what my intention was, what my behaviors were going to be, and that I was doing this as an override to what I’d been doing previously.

I kept my intention, the clarity around what I wanted to create front and center, very visible through my alarms on my phone. I sit at my computer quite a bit during the day. There were a few times when I would put sticky notes in my car. It’s keeping it front and center from a visual perspective because I’m a visual person, then knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt, that when my brain started to get wonky, I was in control. It was not in control. If a thought went through, “You want to give him money, you’re going to feel better,” or anything along those lines, I go, “Thanks. I know you’re trying to keep me safe. Thank you for doing your job. I’ve got this. No means I love you.”

I kept running that pattern until it became how I thought and how I behaved. Lo and behold, I would get calls or somebody would call me or something would take place, I would get cash app requests and I would ignore them. I would ignore the phone call or say no. I knew when I said no, that that was the most loving thing I could do for him and for me. I encourage you to play with this. Think about this. Write about this. Think about what’s one of the behaviors and thoughts that you have that enables your spouse, child, parents, brother, sister or friends to continue to be in the disease of addiction or alcoholism.

Voices InCourage with KL Wells | KL Wells | Brain Science Of Change
Brain Science Of Change: I knew when I said no, that that was the most loving thing I could do for him and for me.

What’s one thing that you can do to take your own power back that says, “I love you,” that overrides your feeling of hopelessness, helplessness, feeling of pain, of watching your loved one suffer? This is big work I honestly do believe most in conversations that I’ve had with Patty, my wife, that the gift of Sam’s addiction has beyond a shadow of a doubt, created a closeness and a strength amongst the two of us that is unbreakable at this point.

I don’t honestly know that would’ve happened if it hadn’t been for Sam’s disease. Another thought that I carry with me is deep gratitude for the challenge, the drop to my knees, the heartbreak being cracked wide open, looking at my life differently, Patty, looking at her life differently, us looking at our life differently as a married couple because of the disease that Sam has and has struggled with.

This was a big one. It’s been rolling around in my head as something that I felt was important to bring to our community. An update real quick. Sam is currently 166 days clean from Fentanyl, has moved across the country, is working and appears to be loving life. He did it for himself this time. As you read this show and our coaching sessions, you realize that the turning point for almost all of the addicts and alcoholics that I’ve known, certainly including my son, has been the moment where you did it for yourself, where you took your life back for you. I encourage you, based on my story, to take your life back for you as a loved one, a mom, dad, sister, brother, aunt or uncle.

Take your life back for you so that you can be the healthiest version of love when and if your loved one pops out the other side of their addiction into clean and sober. What I wanted for Sam was he could come home to love and a healthy mom, mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically. I hope this has been helpful to you. This has been a big one for me. I’m sending you all my love and all the grace that surrounds this journey for you. Until the next episode, you’re in my heart. Thank you. See you next episode. Bye.