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62: Parenting in Recovery- Janice Johnson Down- FULL TRANSCRIPT

In this episode, Jey welcomes guest Janice to discuss the topic of recovery mixed with motherhood. Janice shares her personal story of growing up with addiction in her family and how distractions played a role in coping. They explore the genetic predisposition to addiction and the responsibility for repairing relationships. The importance of transparency, accountability, and consistency in parenting is emphasized. Janice opens up about her unresolved relationship with her biological mother and the need for forgiveness and reconciliation. The episode concludes with the YDP3 segment, where Janice shares her roots, what grounds her, and advice for struggling parents.


Distractions can be a common coping mechanism for individuals dealing with addiction and recovery.

Genetic predisposition can play a role in addiction, and it is essential to acknowledge and address this aspect.

Transparency, accountability, and consistency are vital in repairing relationships and parenting.

Forgiveness and reconciliation can bring peace, but it is essential to recognize when it is not appropriate or possible.


00:00 Introduction and New Year's Greetings

01:34 Guest Introduction and Personal Connection to Topic

03:52 Distractions as Coping Mechanism

08:28 Genetic Predisposition and Family Dysfunction

10:29 Responsibility for Repairing Relationships

16:57 Importance of Transparency and Accountability

21:50 The Role of Consistency in Parenting

22:13 Personal Experience with Biological Mother

26:57 Unresolved Relationship with Biological Mother

31:27 Cycle of Family Dysfunction and Responsibility for Repair

34:07 Importance of Forgiveness and Reconciliation

40:11 Wrap-up and Key Takeaways

41:41 YDP3: Where Are You Rooted?

43:03 YDP3: What Grounds You?

44:30 YDP3: Advice for Struggling Parents

46:16 Hope and Conclusion

48:03 Guest Contact Information

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Remember to hit our linktree for all our deals: Jey (00:08.036)

All right, big shout out to our live in studio audience. Happy to be back. Happy to be back with everybody. Happy New Year's. This is our first actual recorded episode of the new year of 2024. So I'm so excited to be with you all. It's been a wild and crazy ride. I hope you guys all had an amazing holidays listening to some of our favorite episodes and best episodes of 2024. We're so happy to be back with you with the new logo. If you haven't seen that over on Instagram or Facebook or even on the recording pages on Spotify and Apple.

We're just so excited to have new logos, all the engagement that was built into those for you guys. So super excited to be here today and happy 2024 to all. Today on the Young Dad podcast, of course, we have a guest. I'm a little rusty, so it's been a little bit since I recorded one of these podcasts. I've been so focused over on my sports side of things, on ballboy talk and doing dynasty fantasy basketball. So

Go ahead. But today I have an amazing guest. I have Janice here with me. Janice has a great story about recovery mixed in with motherhood and going through those sides. If you guys have listened to the Young Dad podcast for any amount of time, you'll know that this is a topic that's very close and personal to us as Erin and I's mother has always struggled with addiction.

and hasn't been involved in either of our lives throughout the duration of it. So it's a very near and dear topic to us. Janice is a mother of four. She's a social worker and we just have some great topics we're going to talk about today, so I'm really excited. So Janice, welcome. Great to have you. The audience is excited for you. So go ahead and tell us a little bit about you, your life story. And

Janice Johnson Dowd (01:56.644)

I'm going to go ahead and turn it off.

Jey (02:04.982)

Just a little bit about your journey.

Janice Johnson Dowd (02:09.352)

Okay, great. Well, thank you for having me. I'm very excited to be here today because I love talking about helping parents in recovery who are recovering from addiction or even some mental illness, how to help them repair their relationships with their kids. So I am a recovering alcoholic. I'm 10 years sober.

But I started out in an alcoholic dysfunctional family. My dad was a functional alcoholic and I was the baby of the family. So my role was to distract, to be cute, to help hold up the family image.

As a young kid, as a teenager, I experimented with alcohol and drugs, really didn't like their effect on me because I was too much of a codependent, even at that early stage. And alcohol and drugs made me feel out of control, paranoid. And so it took a while before I developed a taste for it. But we all have to cope as kids from that.

curious with your experience what kind of coping mechanisms you did. For me, I was an athlete. I put all my energy into sports and that worked for a long time. It got me a college scholarship, it got me away from home, and then I was naturally drawn to the helping field as a social worker. What did you do as a kid for coping? I'm curious.

Jey (03:52.148)

Yeah, so that's a great question. Thanks for asking. You know, for me, it was all about distractions. It was always distractions. And I feel that's really, really common for kids, even for adults who are going through the process of coping or getting past it or going through their own addiction and recovery. For me, it was distractions because I didn't want to think about it.

Growing up, I grew up in South Seattle for most of my childhood and then in North Seattle for a little bit before going to Hawaii for a couple of years in my early teenage years and then California after that. So those early years, it was really weird. It was really, really weird because I was raised by my maternal grandmother. So Erin and I's maternal grandmother, so our biological mother's mother.

Just to break that down for the audience in case they don't know what that means right away And it was I was a subject to a lot of like questions and a lot of like where's your mom? Where's your dad? I Don't I don't know Freaking seven dude, like what do you want me to say? so it was a lot of distractions always wanting to play games or sports or

Just be doing something, always doing something. It doesn't help that I had undiagnosed ADHD. I was great in school. I was super crazy, highly intelligent. I was always top of my class in everything. Reading level was way ahead, just because I just wanted distractions. Thinking about it now. And then sports came up.

I got into baseball, I got into basketball, got into all the sports, found some good friends to help kind of get through. But I got into a lot of pretty serious trouble growing up. I didn't cope with it well. I had a lot of anger, saw a lot of different therapists, a lot of different counselors. I had crazy anger management issues. And it was all fueled from that place with my biological mother.

Jey (06:16.948)

because I was just, I had just all this pent up rage and anger because she didn't, she wasn't there. And so, and I got bullied, I got teased, I got made fun of, all the things. So I didn't cope well, but it was a lot of distractions, much like yourself, athletics, just keeping myself busy, so busy, so.

Janice Johnson Dowd (06:40.044)

Right. Yeah, I feel for you and that you had to go through that experience. Kids of alcoholics all have different types of experiences and mine was more confusing than out and out blatant abuse. My parents really had good intentions. They made good efforts to raise us, but they both carried with them.

Janice Johnson Dowd (07:27.179)

I think that's a good thing. You know, generational trauma, me. and I think overall I've done a break that cycle of

So just to round up my story, I didn't start really drinking until my 40s, until I was done having kids, done being pregnant, breastfeeding, and I started drinking socially in my 40s with kind of like that mommy wine culture. And I was in denial during that time. I thought, you know, I'm a social worker. I know the signs and symptoms of alcoholism.

I've drank socially for 20 years and haven't crossed that line of alcoholism and that just fueled my denial. And honestly, I believe in the genetic predisposition. And I think I crossed the line in my 40s and became an alcoholic, said that there came a point where I couldn't function without drinking. Does that make sense? I like to think.

Jey (08:28.724)

No, it makes total sense and I think that's...

Jey (08:34.976)

And I think you're totally right on the whole genetic predisposition kind of thing. We see it all the time, you know, especially with in the field of like social work and mental health, like you see just kids that are just at such a disadvantage just because of who their parents are, you know, to no fault of their own, to not the parents fault, like they don't expect it or anything. Because there's not enough research out there about everything that can be passed down through genetics.

you know addiction can very much be passed down through genetics. Just like any other disease or illness can be passed through the genetic code because it's coding. It's made up in your body. It's made up in your mind. It's what you're passing through your genes. So I think that's a really interesting thing to hit on there.

Janice Johnson Dowd (09:19.874)


Yes, and I, my background's not in biology or medicine, so I have a good idea of the broken brain and what happens after you become an addict in one form or another, but, which I think is important to learn, and for addicts in early recovery to kind of understand how relapse is so prevalent and might help explain with your mom or why many,

people really struggle all their life with addiction. Because as a side net, one of the things that I did when I was the last year of my act of alcoholism was I was trying to control my drinking by using antidepressants, anti-anxiety, and sleep medication. When I was going to AA, I was going to a therapist, but what I didn't realize at the time is that the anti-anxiety and that sleep medication

still triggered the addictive cycle. Does that make sense? Like, so I would get off alcohol for a little bit, but the craving was still tremendous until I got off of all of it and treatment. So anyhow, I drank for about 10 years. I don't know at what point I went from social drinking to alcoholic, but I ended up in treatment and...

Jey (10:29.013)


Janice Johnson Dowd (10:49.452)

I thought going into treatment was going to solve all of my family problems. One of my biggest motivations for going to treatment was fear that I was going to lose my kids, that my ex would take them away from me. And so that was a big motivation. And I thought, based on my social work experience...

that I'd go to treatment for four weeks, we'd get involved in a family program, we'd do some family counseling, and we would be moving forward. But I was really wrong, and I made a lot of mistakes, and I definitely lived the example that even though I was a social worker and trained in marriage and family therapy, you can't objectively look at your own issues, you know?

you need someone outside of you to point out the things. You're shaking your head like, yes, you get that.

Jey (11:49.546)


Jey (11:58.313)

Mm-hmm. No, 100%. So I work, I have my master's degree in psychology. And so I work with, I work in what's called a WISE program. It's a wraparound with intensive services here in Washington. It's one of our state provided through state insurance programs. It's an intensive outpatient treatment for youth and families. But yeah, it's really hard for even the families to see that, oh, or like parents especially.

Janice Johnson Dowd (11:58.816)

Yeah, so...

Jey (12:26.496)

Like, oh, I'm the problem. Oh, it's me kind of thing. And I see that even in my life. Like, it takes my fiance having to tell me something about my oldest daughter. Like, oh, hey, do you know this is what's going on? Like, oh, so I just get so lost in it. I just get tangled up with her and get into a whole thing. And then here she comes, like, telling me, oh, this is what's going on over here. And I'm just like, oh, crap, that's.

Janice Johnson Dowd (12:29.225)


Jey (12:54.732)

that's really going on kind of thing. So yeah, definitely need that. No matter how much you know, even in your own field of the work, like I'm still lost with my six-year-old, but I could tell another family that's going through the same thing with their six-year-old daughter with the same behavior is exactly what to do. But for me, I'm just like, I don't know what the freak to do because I'm just so lost.

Janice Johnson Dowd (13:18.336)

Yeah, see, that's a great example, you know, of how it's hard to apply good information to yourself and that why it's really important to seek help and support, which is one of the first tenets that I say to parents who've lost their children or who have not been able to build back a relationship that you gotta, you can't do this alone. You gotta get help, gotta get support. So.

An early recovery, my four weeks of treatment evolved into 12. And then because in treatment, I finally was dealing with all those early childhood issues that I had masked and covered up through sports, through those coping mechanisms that made me look like I was a functioning adult. And I ended up

during that time focusing so much on me that I created a wall between myself and my family. My treatment center was about 200 miles away from my home and that didn't help because it made it hard for them to come to treatment and get involved in programs. And my kids at the time were 13, 15.

19 and 21, so they're all very active in sports or extracurricular activities. And it was hard to get them up there, but honestly the fault was mine because I started to like hide behind the program. Well, let me back up. My biggest problem in rebuilding relationships with my kids was denial.

not understanding how much damage I had done to them because I thought because I was mainly a stay at home at night drinker that I hadn't damaged them as badly as someone who had gotten DUIs or things like that. I just I damaged them as much it's just in different ways. So my first problem was denial. My second problem was fear of them rejecting me, which stems from my childhood.

Janice Johnson Dowd (15:37.196)

you know, always being afraid of being abandoned. We moved around a lot. I don't know if you experienced that, but by our family moving around a lot, I learned how to people please, how to be what other people wanted me to be, how to be likable and how to adapt, but at the same time, not allow myself to get close to people. And...

because I always figured like, well, we're gonna move again. No sense in making best friends here. But, and somehow that morphed into my relationships with my kids. I was like, oh, well, we'll work on this when I get home, but I'm, you know, I've been gone for four months now. We'll work on this. And then, but really it was fueled by fear of rejection that they were gonna reject me, which ultimately they were rejecting me because I was reacting to them very superficially.

not explaining to them what was going on, distancing myself more from them. So that's one of the first things I talk about when I do presentations or speaking or in the book I've written is that you've got to overcome denial, you've got to look honestly at your part of the program, I mean part of the problem, and be willing to take risks. I actually

Jey (16:57.538)


Janice Johnson Dowd (17:03.212)

I, my daughter, well, I know it's probably by the time this plays, it'll be long after the national championship, but I attended the university of Michigan. My daughter attended the university of Alabama and yesterday was the playoff game. And during halftime, we were talking about how I was preparing.

Jey (17:18.482)

And yesterday...

Jey (17:22.976)

and yesterday my dogs won. Go Huskies, let's go.

Janice Johnson Dowd (17:28.697)

Oh my gosh. So my team will be playing your team.

Jey (17:31.928)

Udub born and raised baby No, your team is gonna lose to my team. That's what you can say right now But you know, but go dogs go dogs all the way

Janice Johnson Dowd (17:35.16)

Oh my gosh. Well, well, that's, that's yeah. Well, that's, this will be fun. We'll have to stay in touch and, uh, or make a bet on it. I don't know. Um, but during that game, we talked a little bit about this and I, I asked Katie, what were the most important things that helped to repair our relationship and what was one of the things I did early on that really damaged. And.

Jey (17:49.046)



Janice Johnson Dowd (18:05.036)

to be honest, I don't remember every detail because my emotions were towards the game somewhat too, but one of the things that she said that was most helpful was consistency. So that's also one of the things I preach in the book is that, and it boils back down to, you can't repair relationships with your kids until you're sober or have an aftercare plan or a.

program for moving forward where you give them some kind of hope in you. Um, and I didn't do that when I was in treatment, I was just, I didn't involve them. I was, I was just like, well, they want to keep me 12 weeks instead of four. And they'd be like, why? I, that's their recommendation. I mean, I didn't want to tell them that I was that screwed up, that I had childhood trauma, um, or PTSD.

I was still in one sense trying to protect them from my wounds, which only, you know, keeping that secret only hurt them as much as it hurt our relationship. And the other thing that she said, which I caught on to about what damaged our relationship early on was the fact that I would hide behind the program. I would use the principles of the program.

to justify my selfishness and self-centeredness. For example, she said, it'd make me crazy when you would say, well, this is my recommendation from my therapist as an answer to something that she was questioning me about. It wasn't an answer. To her, it sounded like another excuse or diminishing my taking responsibility.

And it didn't explain why or what I was doing. If I just took a little more time to say what is it that you need to know? Where's this question coming from? What can I tell you to help explain why I prioritize going to a meeting over your brother's lacrosse game? And I didn't do that.

Janice Johnson Dowd (20:24.112)

So anyhow, to make a long story short, I made a lot of mistakes.

I hit an ACA bottom at one point where like it finally dawned on me. I was almost six months sober. My relationships with my kids were still a disaster and with my ex. And even though I was working the program really well, I wasn't, I was sober, but I wasn't getting ahead in those relationships.

And I hit kind of a bottom. And at that point, I started to actively seek help from my sponsor and my peers in the program, from my therapist. I became willing to address how my adult child of alcoholic issues impacted my parenting. And wasn't really willing to look at that so much before.

So it was probably a year, well, a year and a half probably into sobriety where I, well, it was six months where I started trying to make an effort to actively repair relationships. And it was another year before I could see progress on those relationships, because it was a lot of trial and error. It was a lot of applying my experience and what worked, what didn't, asking for help from...

Jey (21:50.125)


Janice Johnson Dowd (21:58.024)

old timers in the program, et cetera, et cetera. I'm curious, like what are some of the things that your mom has done that's helped your relationship or at least helped your acceptance or understanding?

Jey (22:13.448)

Well, I think a lot of it goes back to what you said. The first part, so everything that you've done, she's never done. We have no relationship. I haven't talked to that woman since I was about 15, 16 years old, I'm almost 30 now. She wasn't invited to my first wedding. She doesn't even know she has grandkids. So there's no relationship there, at least with me. She has a very limited relationship with my brother. She texted him on New Year's, she didn't text me. I'm like, okay, cool, whatever.

Janice Johnson Dowd (22:26.628)


Jey (22:41.596)

We were joking about it yesterday and he was like, your mom texted me. I'm like, I don't know who you're talking about. Um, kind of thing. We were just kind of laughing about it, but, um, but I really like, you know, some of the things that you said can go a really long way in repairing