October 17, 2023

One Year Sober: A Mom's Perspective on Weed and ADHD with Natalie Chien

We have a unique episode this week, covering a topic I’ve honestly never known how to approach here: cannabis use for adults with ADHD. First things first, you need to know that this episode will be only one perspective on a subject I’d never pretend to be an expert in.

Joining me is a very special guest, Natalie Chien, @Natalie.C.ADHD who is not only a member of my group coaching program FOCUSED, but she’s also completed my ADHD coaching program! Natalie was formerly addicted to recreational marijuana and is now celebrating one year of sobriety after smoking for almost two decades.

Like many everyday marijuana users, Natalie started smoking with friends at a young age, but by the time she reached college, she had developed a serious dependency and failed to learn real and beneficial coping mechanisms to deal with things like stress and family issues.

On top of that, Natalie had an underlying suspicion that she had ADHD, but it went undiagnosed and largely untreated until her thirties. Today she can look back and recognize that the marijuana numbed her of any and all real feelings, and emotional regulation was never even on her radar until she joined FOCUSED. She missed out on significant life experiences and self-development by being tied down to a plant with temporary benefits.

The biggest message both Natalie and I want to leave our listeners with in this episode is that those of us with ADHD are more susceptible to substance use and addiction. When our ADHD is left undiagnosed, unmedicated, or untreated, we will inevitably find some way or something to help us feel better. For Natalie, starting therapy, ADHD medication and joining FOCUSED opened her up mentally and physically to start making serious life changes and motivated her to step away from cannabis use entirely.

See below for an insightful article on ADHD and cannabis as well as where you can connect with Natalie. For those of you who have never tried ADHD coaching before, I invite you to come join us in FOCUSED.

ADHD and Marijuana; What’s the Attraction?



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Kristen Carder 0:05
Welcome to the I have ADHD podcast, where it’s all about education, encouragement and coaching for adults with ADHD. I’m your host, Kristen Carter and I have ADHD. Let’s chat about the frustrations, humor and challenges of adulting relationships working and achieving with this neurodevelopmental disorder. I’ll help you understand your unique brain. Unlock your potential and move from point A to point B.

Hey, what’s up? This is Kristen Carter and you are listening to the I have ADHD podcast. I am medicated. I am caffeinated and regulated and I’m ready to roll.

We are going to chat about a much requested topic today. ADHD and pot use. Oh my goodness. So many people have reached out for me to talk about this topic. And I have zero and I mean zero knowledge on it. And so I have not, I haven’t done anything with it. My guest today was a regular pot smoker and it was just recreational for a while until it just wasn’t and she overcame an addiction and then became a coach and now she helps other ADHD errs, navigate through this process.

Now, pot is often used recreationally by ADHD or is to self medicate. And Natalie, my guest and I have zero judgment, zero thoughts. All we’re bringing you today is our experience, some facts, some research. And really interestingly, like, I want to highlight the fact that people with mental health issues ADHD, especially included here, obviously that’s what we’re talking about.

We’re going to self medicate, somehow, if we are not properly diagnosed and medicated, we will find a way to feel better. This is just what humans are going to do. We are going to find a way to feel better. I found an amazing article from the Chad website chad.org. And I’m gonna link it in the show notes. But I want to read some of it as an intro here because I think it’s really poignant. So this is from that article, I’m going to link it in the show notes. It says marijuana is one of the most widely used psychoactive substances worldwide after tobacco and alcohol. Higher rates of all substance use disorders are well documented among adults with ADHD.

Compared to people who do not have ADHD, those with ADHD are at increased risk for early initiation of cannabis use for heavy use and for developing a cannabis use disorder. The National epidemiological survey on alcohol and related conditions in the United States determined that at its G adults use cannabis two to three times more than adults without ADHD. That is fascinating. Some research suggests that over their lifetime, people with ADHD are almost eight times as likely to use cannabis compared to those who do not have ADHD.

Cannabis use disorder is also more common in adults with ADHD. And studies show that they are more than twice as likely to meet the criteria than adults without ADHD. Looking at the rates from a different perspective, we learned that among individuals who seek treatment for cannabis use disorder, the rates of ADHD are estimated to be 34 to 46%.

This is very important. And so for those of you who are interested in this topic, who maybe are smoking pot recreationally, or maybe it’s kind of crossed a line in your mind where you’re like, I think some might be more than recreational. That is all we’re talking about today is going to be wonderful.

So let me tell you a little bit about my guest. My guest is Natalie and she’s a San Francisco resident and she navigates life with her loving husband and two spirited daughters ages seven and three. And these are the cutest little girls that I’ve ever seen. They are so adorable. A seasoned early childhood teacher and parent educator for 15 years, her own journey with ADHD began after her second child birth, drawn to the focus program and transformed by its impact. Natalie has since evolved into a focus ADHD coach, I got to train her she is so good. And she’s dedicated to supporting parents with ADHD. Now I want to reiterate, we’re not here to make a judgement about marijuana use, but we are going to chat about it and give some helpful skills and perspective for those of you who are interested and or might want to decrease your usage.

And hey, while you’re listening to this podcast, if you’re loving it, would you take a second to give it a five star rating? Make sure you’re subscribed share it to your socials do all the things like the You Tubers say when I listen to my kids watching YouTube and they say like, share, comment down below that would be so, so helpful so that we can get the word out and help as many people with ADHD as possible. So please help me welcome my guest, Natalie, thank you so much for being here. Hello, dear.

Natalie Chien 5:22
Hello. Thanks for having me.

Kristen Carder 5:24
I’m so glad to be chatting with you. I have loved watching your evolution. It was such an honor to train you as a coach. You are a very good, coach. I’m so glad you’re here.

Natalie Chien 5:39
I am so glad to be here and share my story with everyone.

Kristen Carder 5:42
So tell us a little bit about your ADHD journey. What has that looked like for you? So how old are you right now?

Natalie Chien 5:50
I’m 37. Okay.

Kristen Carder 5:51
When were you diagnosed with ADHD?

Natalie Chien 5:54
I was diagnosed Oh, man. So about four. It’s right before I turned 35. Yeah. Okay.

Kristen Carder 6:00
Not too long ago. No, maybe

Speaker 2 6:02
34. You know, numbers are short time. What is time? So yeah, so my, my youngest, my youngest daughter is turning four in January. So I was diagnosed right before her first birthday. So yeah, and I had some suspicion for a few months before then. Oh, therapist, and you know, that’s how the ball started to get rolling there. It was during 2020 pandemic time when everyone was home, learning a lot about themselves. Yeah, trying to survive. Yes, trying to survive. Motherhood was getting really tricky. And I was like, this seems harder than it should be. And I was really feeling stuck. And yeah, therapy has made a big difference. I didn’t have an ADHD specific therapist. So you know, we did a lot of like, past trauma and all that stuff. Really, like, formed a good, you know, core basis of like, starting the healing process. But, you know, I started listening to a lot of podcasts about ADHD, and that’s how I found you. Joint focused.

Kristen Carder 7:09
That’s awesome. And when you join focus, what was that like for you coming into the community and kind of learning about the way that I approach ADHD? Healing, like, what what was that pathway like for you,

Natalie Chien 7:24
it was really amazing, because I saw this, like, huge community of people supporting each other. And then I also was just learning so much, I was an educator I worked with, you know, mostly preschool age, early elementary school kids. And I just had a very different idea of what ADHD was, and how it just presents so differently, and adults and presents so differently, and women as well. So I was just like, hyper focus, learning, learning, researching during the courses, and definitely not showing up perfectly the first few months, two young kids, it was, you know, I didn’t make the live calls Allah, you know, wasn’t getting coached a lot. But I was, like, still seeing so much progress. It was blowing my mind, I was seeing myself change in ways I never thought were possible, realizing that these weren’t just like, character flaws. And they were real, you know, it was just my brain working differently, and then finding ways to manage that. And I was like, oh, it’s actually possible. Like, I don’t have to feel stuck in this cycle. And I was had a lot of, you know, just thoughts. And I was learning how those thoughts were really true. They were really just like opinions, stories. I’ve been telling myself for years and years, and then it was possible to change.

Kristen Carder 8:50
My gosh, it’s amazing. Give us an example. Do you mind giving us an example of some of those thoughts? What were those like judgments or opinions that kind of you always believe to be true? And then realize like, oh, it’s like, Just a thought.

Natalie Chien 9:05
Yeah, there was a lot. I think one that pops into my mind right away was this kind of like needing to be perfect. And like I had this like perfectionism thing that was always running in my head. And I think it came from also being a teacher before being a mom. So like, oh, I can do this. This is like, no problem. I’ve worked with kids forever and then hit the reality hitting that like, it’s not the same as teaching it’s so much harder and then, you know, kind of beating myself up that I wasn’t just like, perfect Instagram mom, like I wasn’t this perfect, like, like things were messy and like things were not as easy as I thought they were gonna be. And I also remember just like thinking that like, Oh, I’m just like a messy person. Like, you know, my life is just gonna be a little bit messy. I’m like, my space is kind of messy. My car is kind of I see and then kind of getting into focus and being like, Oh, I just didn’t really have the tools and systems in place to manage that. And if I keep thinking, like, Oh, I’m just messy, and beating myself up like a mom, and like, a good mom would never be like this or whatever, it was never gonna get fixed. And so like, acknowledging that and then being like, okay, like, I have steps now and support to move forward. And like, it made a huge difference. Like all of a sudden, like, it wasn’t this huge battle in my head, going back and forth. Like, I should do this, I should do that. It was just like, Oh, I I can do it. I just want to like, make time for it. I just got to like, take small steps, I got to ask for support and be really compassionate with myself.

Kristen Carder 10:45
That’s beautiful. So you’re here today to talk about your journey with smoking pot. And I’m so glad that you are willing to share your story. I’m so just proud of you for the ways that you have been able to make changes that you want to make you shared with me. Why don’t you share the news, but you shared with me when we first started rolling some really exciting news. So go ahead and share that with everybody.

Natalie Chien 11:12
So this month has been one year since I stopped smoking or using cannabis and it’s just been amazing. I if you would have told me a few years ago that I would have been like a year sober from it. I wouldn’t believe you. Like I just it wasn’t a possibility in my brain. And yeah, I feel I feel great.

Kristen Carder 11:32
That’s so great. It’s so fun. It’s so fun to hear that. So can you please walk us through your journey? So you’re in California? It’s been legal there for a long time. What was it like for you? When did you start? What do you think were like the catalysts for you? Smoking?

Natalie Chien 11:52
So yeah, I started at the end of high school. It was just really normalized, always around, pretty easy to go. And it wasn’t illegal for us, you know, in high school, but it was very easy to get probably easier than alcohol. You know, it was one of those things. Yeah, it was just always around parties, friends houses. And I you know, undiagnosed ADHD I had a mind that was always going. It’s always hard for me to fall asleep, always hard to maybe like feel comfortable in social situations, because I was like, hyper focusing on like, Oh, what do they think about me? Or what’s Oh, like, their mood change, like, and I was just always on, and it was exhausting. I couldn’t, didn’t want to go out. Because it was just exhausting. So when I first started using, I realized, like, oh, my gosh, I could fall asleep in two minutes after I smoke. That was amazing. For me. I can go to a party and like, just be in the moment and not care. And I think this happens with people with alcohol too. Like they all of a sudden, it’s like this, like the social lubricant. Right, like, you can just feel good. And that was, that was great for me. You know, I had been going through some family stuff in high school. And that was definitely a big catalyst. My, my parents were about to get divorced. My mom had gone through a cancer diagnosis. And then she was in remission. But then all of a sudden, they were divorcing. So it was like a big, heavy time. So when I could be out with my friends, and I could be even if I was alone, I didn’t want to think or feel about any of it. I didn’t want to like think about divorce, I don’t want to think about the cancer. Oh, could come back, which my mom feeling okay, now what’s gonna happen? It was just like, all the worries would go away. Um, so you know, you use and everything felt better, everything felt more manageable. And I felt like, Oh, this is great. I’ll do this for the rest of my life. And that’s pretty much what I did. For a long time. You know, I went to San Francisco for college. I same thing. It was everywhere. You know, then when I turned I think 18 You could get a, like a medical card. But there was like places on the street, you could just walk in and be like, I like the doctor would be next door to like, the place where you got the card. And you would just go to the doctor first. Say like, it’s really hard for me to sleep or have my back really hurts. I’d be like, here’s a prescription go next door. Wow, that was before like, it became legal. This was probably, you know, 2005 2006 Okay. So yeah, that’s what we would do in college. And that was when me and my friends did for fun and it was just like, very normal, natural thing that we did for fun. Yeah, and it just it really numbed me in a way I think I needed to because I couldn’t deal with things, you know, and lots of family stuff. So it was I was very removed from it. So then I would go home and be like, Wow, this is overwhelming. shininess and it was always like I need I need to I I feel very even like when only using for a few years, I felt very attached to it. Like, I didn’t want to go travel somewhere if I couldn’t bring it. And it started like limiting my ability to do things because I’m like, Oh, if I study abroad, how would I get weed? You know, I went to France with a boyfriend at the time. And we first thing we did when we got there was find weed. We didn’t go to a museum, we didn’t do anything we like found someone on the street like, and I think back to that kind of situation. I’m like, Oh, my God. Like that was addiction. You know, that wasn’t just like, trying to have fun that was like, seeking out these things that we think are going to make us feel better. But it was just like, really changing our experience of things. Yeah, so I think the only time I really stopped was when I got pregnant. And when we were trying to get pregnant, I like you know, took a big break. But in my head, I knew I would go back. So wasn’t quitting. In my mind. I was like, and I was so sick to most of my pregnancy, because I think my body was also used to, you know, feeling a certain way. And then it wasn’t. And yeah, it had like, really hard pregnancy. So as soon as like, I was done breastfeeding, I was like, perfect. Time to go. And I really did for a long time tried to use it. When my kids were little as like a glass of wine that the night like, that’s how it like, justified so I’m like, I’m not smoking all day. I’m using it and the only they’re asleep. It’s like the end of the night. I need this to go to sleep. I need this to like, unwind from like the chaos of the day, you know, but I would think about it a lot during the day. Yeah. And as like, you know, we became legal and it became so easy. I mean, there’s we clubs, like just blocks from me. So it’s just, you know, it’s interesting.

Kristen Carder 16:52
I’m really curious, can you pinpoint ADHD symptoms in your adolescence? That you were trying to kind of medicate, as you started? To use?

Natalie Chien 17:09
Yeah. Well, I mean, I almost used it as like a dopamine hit, because I would smoke and then get things done. Okay. Yeah, I was like, Oh, I gotta do this. It’s okay. If I smoke, then that will they make it so much more easier with funneling more fun to do it. And I see myself wanting to do that a lot. Where I was, like, I need to do like smoke before I do this, because it will feel better. And not having that motivation. Like, intrinsically to do it. Sure. Feeling like, oh, and you know, also like, eating at the end of the day, like, I’m not that hungry, if I don’t smoke. And same with like, sleep, like I’m gonna, my mind will just be racing, if I don’t smoke, and really told myself so many stories of like, why I needed it. Like, over like, it was just like playing a loop of like, this is just what you need. This is what your body needs. Its natural, you know, like, comes from the earth. It’s like so much better than like drinking a bottle of wine at night, which, you know, a lot of my other friends were doing so it was like, I’m like, everyone has their advice. This is totally fine. I would just justify it. And, but not realizing like how much of like a hold it had on me.

Kristen Carder 18:23
Can you talk more about that hold so I I loved your story about like, studying abroad or just going to France and being like, okay, the very first thing that we need to do here is fine wheat. That’s, that is fascinating. And I love that like, in retrospect, you can see like, okay, that’s addiction, that’s not just like recreational for fun once in a while, like, if it’s available, it’s there. It’s like, this is priority numero uno. So like, what other ways Did you see that it kind of had a hold on you?

Natalie Chien 18:54
Like, you know, if I started to see, like, I was running low anxiety, like, like, full on, like, When am I going to be able to get in more like, you know, do will I have enough for tonight? And just like, you know, thinking planning ahead, you know, even though it’s probably pretty easy to get, like, my brain would immediately go like, we need more, like we’re almost out. And so that was definitely tricky. And I guess like other times, yeah, would be, you know, going back home to LA and immediately like needing to find some Yeah. Immediately. If not bringing some with me, you know, and taking like do younger, you know, pre being married and stuff like doing risky things like bringing someone on the airplane with me. What was it you know, looking back and like, that was dumb. But I was like so set on like, it’s totally fine. I’m going through tiny airport. It’s like it’s no big deal. You’re like a pretty big deal. Pretty big deal.

Kristen Carder 20:08
I think that the point needs to be made that like, it really did help to soothe you. Yes. I think with anything that we use, including medication, there’s an A very important point, he made that like, we’re using it because there is pain, or there is something wrong. And so we’re looking for an outside source to sue that. So in what ways did you find it really soothing?

Natalie Chien 20:44
I felt just like a love and comfort for it. Like I really had this like relationship with it. I felt like like that it did so many positive things for me. And, you know, I think as I got older, those positive things just started to dwindle a little bit.

Kristen Carder 21:04
Can you talk about that? Like why? Yeah, I’m interested in that kind of line where it’s no longer helpful. It just becomes more of something that’s working against you.

Natalie Chien 21:17
Right? Well as my kids got, you know, when they had kids, and as they started to get older, I realized that I was wanting to smoke more and more during the day. And I didn’t feel good about that. I didn’t want to do that. You know, but my brain was telling me like, you can’t handle this, like, you know, you’re overwhelmed. This is like your I didn’t I don’t think I had the word like overstimulated. I was definitely overstimulated. And I didn’t know I didn’t have any other coping mechanisms. Smoking was the only thing I went to consistently for years that helped me calm down. I couldn’t, I was not in touch with I couldn’t even feel my emotions half the time, you know, and then they were just like, bad. I feel bad. I feel like, I need a nap. Like, you know, I just I couldn’t. And I think that was the thing that led me to therapy at first and trying to stop smoking weed was not the reason I started therapy. I did not that was not on my horizon of like, things I needed to change that was like, that part of me. I thought in my head was going to be part of me forever. Yeah, it was just like, this is just who I am. This is what I need. I’m not even talk to me therapists about smoking weed. Not gonna mention it. They’re gonna ask me I’m gonna say nope. And, and just,

Kristen Carder 22:40
we don’t need to discuss it. Yeah, cuz

Natalie Chien 22:42
I’m like, I got it under control. I know what works for me and my body. You know, and, and I was really scared, you know that. Like, they would tell me something I didn’t want to hear like, maybe you shouldn’t be smoking. And I was also scared as I got diagnosed for ADHD. I’m like, maybe they won’t give me medication. So what was in the ER, they don’t know, place I went, they didn’t drug test me or anything. I know, some people’s doctors do. And they specific reason why their doctor will not give them like a certain type of medication. Wow. So and I was nervous about that, because I was like, but I needed to sleep. I need it. You know, so I’m just not gonna mention and like, throw up any red flags, because I don’t want to think them. I’m like a drug addict. Right? Even though I am very addicted to age. So I started therapy, and I started coaching. And as I started doing the coach training program, and I became more coachable. Like, I think that was one of the things like the coach training program taught me like I became coachable before I was like, just like, taking in information going gay. Yeah, like that makes sense. And applying it here and there. But like when I had to learn how to like self coach, and I had to, like, talk to other coaches, like, multiple times a week about, like, what was going on in my life, I started seeing this really big shift. And I was like, yep, things are changing. I need to like, really look at something because things aren’t changing enough. And I’m seeing some of my other like peers, like really making these huge strides are being able to be super open about things. And I was like really looking my life and I’m like, Oh, the one thing I haven’t changed in years and basically 18 years is smoking. And it like hit like it was like it seems dumb like duh, like you know you you’re in it, but you don’t see it and you don’t see that there’s a way out. And all of a sudden I was like maybe I don’t want to anymore. And it was quick shocking to me because I was if you would have told me even a few months before that I would have been like, no I’m smoking forever like this. This was just me. This is this is totally fine. Like I can totally make it work like whatever and I got had that realization and And yeah, and I think my brain was so much more coachable. I immediately started just like, well, I saw a tick tock about a girl. And she had been sober for a year from lead. And she, like just spoke, just spoke to me, you know, and I was just like, that is the highest how I feel, oh my god, someone put it into words. And all of a sudden, it was like, when I listened to your podcast for the first time, I was just like, yes, someone gets it someone, like, I don’t feel shame around it anymore. I don’t like this person is making me feel like okay, like, there’s ways forward to change. And she had like a four day course of like, walk away from weed. And I said, Let’s do it. And on the fourth day, I said, That’s it no more. Well, I’m getting chills just like thinking about it. Because it was like, yeah, like you think sometimes, like, you need all these, like, you’re gonna need a big intervention are gonna be like a 30 day program or whatever. And it was just like four days, and we just like talked about that, like, it’s just a plant. You don’t have to have this like story about how like, it fixes everything for you, and the like, does this and that, like, it could just be a plant again. And like you are in control of your life. When you get an urge and a craving, you can like pause. You can take a breath, you can go on a walk, distract yourself below, there was like all these tools. And I incorporated most of them. And I just like made like made it a point in my head. I was like, you know, I don’t want to be coaching people on things about their life that they want to change and not be able to change something that I really want to change.

Kristen Carder 26:39
Wow, that’s so profound, and it shows so much integrity. I just want to point out because, you know, practicing what you preach is such a huge part of being a coach, and not that I mean, obviously we’re not perfect, but when we coach people toward change, but we are holding or withholding change from ourselves. That’s not in alignment.

Natalie Chien 27:08
Yeah. And I was feeling that I was feeling like what’s off? Like, why? And it was almost like, like this secret thing. Like I had this double life. Sometimes it’s like I would meet other parents at school. And I’m like, What, can they really get to know me that well, because I have this other part of me and like, what if I become really good friends with them, and they don’t like parents who smoke weed. That would just devastate me, right. And so I would like hold back on, like trying to make connections with people because I was like, always scared of like, twin finding out my secret, you know that I was like, this kind of mom. And I think it plays into that perfectionism that I you know, I wanted to have this certain image of myself. And like, using cannabis just like wasn’t really aligning with me anymore.

Kristen Carder 27:51
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Natalie Chien 29:42
It was about a month? That’s not very long. No. And I like and I see people who struggle with like stopping and starting back again. And I think it really has to do with like being coachable. Like I really like I keep going back to that but I was just like I understood how To take direction and how to like, implement things, and like my brain was just like, Okay, this is like, I could change my thoughts so easily about it, that like, I don’t think I would have been able to, wow, if I hadn’t had those skills, you know, that if I didn’t have those ways to, like, you know, become aware of your feeling, you know, like, feel it free through it, like instead of just being like, Oh, this doesn’t feel good. So I’m gonna go back, you know, this is hard. So, you know, and I think that made such a big difference. And I think my brain kind of hyper focused on like, the quitting like, I spent that month like researching, like, why is it that bla bla bla, you know, and a few months before I had started a medication that was really working, it was just like, felt life changing. And it was making me not want to smoke either, like, I would wake up in the morning, and I would take my medication, and all of a sudden, like, I was able to get things done, feel more like, regulated a little bit more. And that made a big difference. Dude,

Kristen Carder 31:01
you need to pause there, because I think that that is kind of the underlying theme here, where we have to feel better, we have to write like we are, we are just human. And we can only take so much pain, so much stimulation, so much effort, like we can only take so much and at some point, we have got to feel better. And if if we’re not properly diagnosed, medicated, whether it’s for ADHD or something else, we will find something else to help us feel better. So it might be overeating. It might be like a sex addiction, it might be like numbing ourselves out on social media all day long, like, we will find a way to feel better. So the fact that you were put on a medication for ADHD that was actually working has to be included in the catalyst, right for you having the ability to stop using cannabis.

Natalie Chien 32:03
And I think back and like, I don’t know, if I would have been able to stop if I hadn’t found the medication. I mean, maybe I could have. And I did end up going off the medication over summer for a little bit just took a break, just to see how, you know, little experiment. And now I’m back on but going off medication didn’t make me go back to eat. So I was like, proud of myself. And I just have so many different coping mechanisms now. And I just, I can handle so many things. And I think it is a combination of like, yes, being medicated, having support, you know, and also just having systems in place to, to know what to do when like big feelings come up, or when I’m getting like, activated by my kids who are like, they’re not emotionally regulated, there’s so little, you know, and it’s like, I can’t just like, put on earmuffs, and just like lalala like not like not deal with it, I have to be like that role model for them. Because like, I didn’t have that as a kid, like I had parents were like, You know what your feelings are a lot like time to go to your room, calm down, come back when you’re late when you’re really ready to talk to the family. And I’d just be like crying or whatever. And it’s like, I didn’t have that, you know, the model. And it’s like, I want to be that for them so badly. Because I know what it like an important skill that is. And I think I’m able to do it. I mean, not perfectly sure. Sometimes it’s just a lot. But I feel like I’m making these like big steps toward that. And that’s worth it for me.

Kristen Carder 33:37
So beautiful. I love how you keep talking about having coping skills. Because you know, when we are lacking coping skills, we choose the thing that is going to make us feel the best. And for you that was cannabis. And it was the tool in your toolkit. It was like I’ve got this toolkit, and it’s weed. That’s my toolkit, right? You talk about emotional regulation, as being in your toolkit now. What was that like for you to begin to learn how to feel your feelings?

Natalie Chien 34:15
It was super uncomfortable. I had to look at the feelings chart all the time, like the feelings we’ll have like, you know, here’s the ranges of like, sad to angry to happy to excited cuz I’m like I have three emotions. And it would be sad mad. Yeah. You know, and also I’m like, overwhelmed. I don’t have to be mad, I could be overwhelmed. I can feel you know, unregulated I can feel you know, stress like, once I can put a name to it. And like you in focus we learned how to like locate the feeling in our body. And like you know all these kind of like all these steps to like insemination ADHD brain. You’re like No, no, I just want to feel better. Like I don’t want to go faster. Yeah, I don’t want to go through all these steps. This is a lot. And it took a while like to really integrate that because it was more exciting for me at the beginning the program to like, listen to other people’s stories and like, you know, do anything else except like the work. And you had Dr. Holloway on your, I think on just the big podcast on the public on this podcast. That interview was like a two part interview. And that interview just really spoke to me in so many ways. And then it was like, you know, he was very factual about like, what ADHD can do, do you? Do you buy like, how you experience it? Sure. But also like, the importance of like medication and the importance of like having these like systems in place. And it really like kick something off, or like, the next few months, I was like, I’m diving deep, deep into the work. Because, literally, before that episode, I was like, do I need focus anymore? I had been in for a year. And I was like, you know, I mean, I’ve gotten enough out of it. And then I listened to that one. And I was like, double down. I’m like, No, I really need to, like, focus and invest on like, how to actually process these emotions, and not just like, have this like baseline understanding of ADHD?

Kristen Carder 36:10
Sure. How much do you think emotional regulation has played a part in your ability to overcome addiction?

Natalie Chien 36:21
It’s been a huge impact, being able to emotionally regulate, like, I don’t think it would have been as smooth. Like, you know, maybe I would have gone back, maybe I would have, like, you know, started using it and maybe stopped again, like, maybe had some back and forth. Because of feelings. Like, I mean, feelings are gonna drive so much they’re gonna drive, like their thoughts and our actions. And, you know, being able to, like, process the motions, made things so much, you know, wasn’t us the easier but like, it was hard, you know,

Kristen Carder 36:57
it actually makes it harder. So, but like, manageable? I don’t know. Yeah,

Natalie Chien 37:02
right. Like, and I was just like, I told myself, like, I’m willing to feel the uncomfortable feelings, right. Like, I’m, like, going to process some of these things that, like, I didn’t process, like, in high school, when, like, my parents were divorcing, you know, or I didn’t process when, like, my mom was sick. And like all these like, fear and anxiety, and like, I’m carrying them into my relationship with my husband, and with my kids, you know, and like, therapy definitely helped in some ways to kind of go back and like, look at things and talk about things. But in other ways, like, I am living right now in this moment, right. And so like, when I get a feeling of like, you know, like, I can’t do this, I really just wish I could just like, zone out. Like, I really wish I could just feel numb, I wish I could feel like nothing. Because sometimes like that feeling comes up again, where I’m just like, I have a hard day. I just like, don’t want to feel this way. But I know, I know. That, that feeling just doesn’t go away. It just like buries itself like deep into you. And so if like, I don’t feel it right now, I’m going to feel it again later. And maybe it’s actually going to feel worse, or it’s going to manifest into something that’s going to be so much worse, like it’s gonna be harder to process or it’s going to come out and like me yelling at my kids, or it’s going to come out at me like, like snapping at my husband or like getting into an argument. Like, if I can just sit and feel like today was hard. Now what feelings are coming up? Can I process this? Like, if I could do today over like, what other things can I think what other emotions can I pull from and just like grieve it makes a difference. And I’ve definitely gotten like, into breathwork more like in the past, like year or two and like being able to, like read through things and like not meditate because my brain you know, meditation now. It’s, it’s less of like some guided meditation and like a yoga class. It’s a hard no for me. But like being able to like take a moment and like do sit like a couple of really deep breaths. And then like I can feel that emotion much easier. You know, just to sit there and like, be still have an intention. Finally, awareness process, the emotion and like, kind of just look at the situation be like, Okay, have compassion for myself. It’s hard being wrong. It’s, you know, it’s hard having a seven and a three year old who like, get along, and then they don’t get along and there’s like yelling, and the days are long, you know, so.

Kristen Carder 39:35
Yeah. Wow. I’m curious what led you to decide to become a coach. So you were in focused. You’re still smoking. So what at what point did you decide like, hey, I want to learn these tools. I want to help other people. Yeah,

Natalie Chien 39:55
I was a parent educator and teacher you know? For years before I was diagnosed, and I joined focus and all that, and I, I loved working with kids. But as I had my own kids, it got harder to see myself in the classroom again. And because you know what, before you have kids, you can leave and there’s no kids at your home when you come home. And then when the pandemic hit, that was like a hard No, I’m like not going back in the classroom. It’s just, it’s not going to it’s not going to work. But right before my youngest was born, I worked as a kind of like a parent and child class like facilitator, and I loved working with the parents and like holding space for them. And especially when their kids were really little. That was just really, really nice for me. And I felt like I could offer them a lot of like, insight. And I just started moving towards, like, maybe I don’t necessarily want to work with kids, and maybe I want to work with parents. And being in focus, I saw a lot of people had kids, and they were struggling with so many of the things like I’ve been struggling with. And as I started seeing, like myself changing grow and process things. I was like, Yeah, this seems right. Like, it just felt really good. And I looked at some other coaching programs. And when you offered yours, I was like, Oh my gosh, the stars are aligning. And I think like there’s something to be said, by learning from someone who you really respect and you really like you. I knew your style of coaching, I understood what I would be learning. And I was like, if she was able to help me this much. This is the person I want to learn from, you know, and it was, it was a great decision

Kristen Carder 41:47
that makes my heart so happy. That’s awesome. So tell me about the people that you help now. So you’re a coach, you work with parents. And you know, you’ve said like, you would love to support people who are struggling with cannabis addiction as well, if that is also something that they would want to reach out to you for. So tell me about the work that you that you want to be doing now?

Natalie Chien 42:11
Yeah, I love working with parents and kind of holding that space for them. Going through the challenge of like, how do I manage my ADHD but also manage like being a parent in like, chaotic, like world? Yes. And, you know, I think there is something to be said about having someone to just talk to you about, like, the struggles that are coming up who like, like, I don’t have judgment, I’ve been there too. And I think that, you know, it’s just different than talking to a friend who is just like, you know, it was always gonna be there to support and like amp you up. But like a coach is kind of be there to kind of like shine a light on things that maybe you haven’t thought of before, or maybe asked you questions that help you come to like a deeper realization about things. And I would definitely want to help support people who are going through like a journey of like, maybe I want to stop using cannabis. Maybe this is something I can do when I didn’t think it was possible before. Because I definitely hold space for people who are like, You know what cannabis really works for me right now. Sure. And that’s great, too. Because I think there is there is people who it has like, medicinal effects for you. And like, I’m so happy you found something that worked like it but I’m just here for people who were maybe ready just explore the options of like, I am capable of maybe doing something else.

Kristen Carder 43:37
Hmm. I love the way you put that. This just reminds me so much of when I kind of had to come to Jesus moment, so to speak. When I was unmedicated not taking my ADHD seriously. I had three little kids, I was also trying to like run a business. And I remember day drinking. I would have never considered myself an alcoholic because I didn’t. I didn’t drink a lot. But I remember just like kind of sneaking into the cabinet. And like it was like two o’clock in the afternoon and everything is so chaotic and I have to like clean up and then go to work and like the kids are finally napping but I know it’s not gonna last long. And just like reaching for wine at two o’clock in the afternoon. It’s not the best. Like you don’t feel good. And you’re like, Wait a second. I know this person. But I like we’ve said so many times. I needed something. I didn’t have the tools. I was not okay. And this just goes back to the point like we are human we can only take so much we will find a way to feel better. We have to and I can still See, I had this red hatch. I was so cute. I was so proud. I painted it red, it was so cute. And in the bottom, we would keep alcohol. And I just like I wasn’t a heavy drinker. But to think of myself in that position, reaching for alcohol at 2pm on a Tuesday. That’s not which that’s not what you want.

Natalie Chien 45:22
Yeah, like you said, like, you just, you needed something to call like, this chaos that was going on, like, internally and externally. And, yeah, it’s like not having the support and not having like the way to emotionally regulate and the way to, you know, to even know that it’s possible to do something different. It’s hard.

Kristen Carder 45:44
If I had had somebody like you at the time, I just I wish I had, because I remember feeling so much shame. I didn’t ever tell anybody in my real life. Like, I can say it on the podcast here. You know, it was for 1000s of people. But it’s because it’s a good story. I mean, it was like my actual life, but it’s a good story. But I could have never said to my husband, like, Hey, I’m like, drinking at 2pm. Like, I would have never been able to say that. So to know that there are people like you out there, where you can just like, be so real and so honest, and just be like, I’m so ashamed. But like, I need other tools. Like, please give me tools.

Natalie Chien 46:29
Yeah. And I think that there is there’s not a lot of spaces for people who aren’t in like full blown addiction, like because there’s a, you know, and then there’s like rehab. But then like, what about the people who are just like, maybe not at that point to go to those kinds of like, like, you know, places, those places are so amazing for people who need that. But for other people, it’s like, I don’t know, if I need like, a, I don’t know, 12 STEP program. I don’t know if I need to go into like an inpatient or outpatient thing. Like maybe I just need someone to talk to maybe I just need to like, and it’s hard to find those people. And so I think that making myself available to those people, like I just I just want to be that support. And that kind of example, like that was like really my another driving force behind quitting was like, I do want to be this example like, because I did feel so much shame behind being that mom who needed to smoke at the end of the night, you know, the needed, like, who felt like I couldn’t manage life, really without it. And, again, if you I couldn’t have told anyone in my life, it was such like this, like behind closed doors thing that just didn’t feel good anymore. Yeah.

Kristen Carder 47:47
Such a good point, that there’s not a lot of space being held for people who like me, you know, I wasn’t necessarily an addict. But I did need something to pm on a Tuesday to reach for and that didn’t feel good. But I would have never gotten to a 12 step. I wasn’t at the point where somebody would have done an intervention and like, sent me to rehab but like, having someone out there I could be like, I don’t know what’s going on. But like, I need a little bit of support and help here to like, not do this anymore. So good. I have one last question. It’s a weird question. Are you sleeping? I’m so concerned about your sleep because you talk about cannabis to sleep and it really helped you sleep and now I’m just like you haven’t you haven’t used in a year like are you sleeping?

Natalie Chien 48:41
I have put in different systems in place that have definitely helped. Most nights I end up taking a bath, which really helps like calm my nervous system down and it helps me just feel amazing. I’m like, I tell my husband like I’m addicted to bath like don’t even thinking about the night the answers probably as I also try to do like, really don’t look at my phone an hour before bed. I try to read reading gets me like so my eyes so tired. And then as they lay in bed, and the thoughts start coming. I breathe through it. I love mice, I give myself that compassion of like, yeah, you’re not going to fall asleep in two minutes. Yeah, I don’t have that expectation of myself. And I don’t get like, I don’t start feeling anxiety about it. I don’t start feeling like I’ll never fall asleep now. Like, I just let myself I acknowledge the thoughts that come up, and I do some breathing. And I just like I’m just there. And sometimes it does take 2030 minutes to fall asleep, but I’m like, okay with that, and I like plan for that. So I don’t go to sleep at 1230 Right. I try to get into bed at like 11 like me, you might have to have that kind of late night schedule. But, you know, I try to get in bed as early as I can and just have that like, hold that space for myself and Be like, yes sleeps not gonna be as easy as it was short, like, I’m dreaming again, like when you smoke, you don’t dream, really, at least I did it. I have dreams for years. And now I have them again. And some are weird. But it just it’s a nice to have that like to know that, like, my body is recalibrating. And it’s like, my dreams are coming back online. And that’s so cool to me.

Kristen Carder 50:25
Wow, that’s so beautiful. Because it sounds like what you’re doing is just really embracing your humanity.

Natalie Chien 50:34
Right, like, oh, the Yeah.

Kristen Carder 50:37
Grow gross, but also amazing. Oh, Natalie, I just, I just love you so much. Thank you so much for being here. Tell us where we can find you. If somebody is resonating with your story. If somebody is just like, Oh, my goodness, I need some support. And I want it to be from Natalie, where can they find you?

Natalie Chien 50:55
You can find me @Natalie.C.ADHD on Instagram.

Kristen Carder 51:03
That rhymes and I love it so much.

Natalie Chien 51:05
And I’m setting up my website, it’s going to be NatalieChenCoaching.com. So find me there eventually. Yeah, hopefully in the next release of the focus coaches, I will be in that little directory, getting stuff together to be in that so you can reach out to focus and they can provide you with the directory. So yeah, that’s where you can find me, the awesome

Kristen Carder 51:30
will link all of that will link your website because somebody will be listening to this and three, six months, whatever. And it’ll be up by then. So thank you for being here. Thank you for being vulnerable. Thank you for evolving and growing and being that example so that other people can follow you and just like get support from us really appreciate ya.

Natalie Chien 51:52
Oh my gosh, no problem. Thank you. Thank you for your podcast. It’s really changed my life. 

Kristen Carder 52:00
So hey, ADHD, er, I see you. I know exactly what it’s like to feel lost, confused, frustrated and like no one out there really understand the way that your brain works. That’s why I created Focus. Focus is my monthly coaching program where I lead you through a step by step process of understanding yourself feeling better and creating the life that you know you’re meant for. You’ll study be coached, grow and make amazing changes alongside of other educated professional adults with ADHD from all over the world. Visit Ihaveadhd.com/focused to learn more

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