It's Okay to be Vulnerable as a Parent
Casie Fariello, Co-Founder & CEO of Other Parents Like Me (OPLM)
Brenda Zane is a Sky’s the Limit Fund board member, Founder of Hopestream Community, and podcast host of Hopestream
About the episode:
In this episode, Casie Fariello, discusses the vulnerability of being a parent – uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure, guilt and acceptance and overcoming societal “norms”. Through her own experience as a wilderness therapy alumni parent and what she’s learned as the Co-Founder & CEO of OPLM, she talks about managing expectations, how to be vulnerable with your children, and the importance of self-care especially during difficult times.
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Hi, welcome back to Sky’s the Limit Fund Speaker Series. I’m Brenda Zane, I am one of the lucky board members to serve on the Board of Sky’s the Limit Fund and to be able to really help families who need some assistance in getting a young person to wilderness therapy. And it’s an incredibly effective therapy for the right kids. And it’s also incredibly expensive. So we help families fund that experience. And also then wrap them with services after wilderness therapy, when your young person comes home, and to make sure that that transition is smooth. And so I get to be the host of this guest speaker series, which is fun, because I get to speak with so many amazing people. And today is no exception. Today, we’re going to be speaking with Casie Fariello. And she is the Founder and CEO of OPLM, which is Other Parents Like Me as support service for parents who have kids who are struggling with substance use with mental health who are going through different treatment programs. And so just looking forward to conversation, as we imagine most of the people listening here are parents, and so this should be really relevant to you. So welcome, Casie.
Thank you, Brenda, I’m so excited to be here.
We’re excited to have you really excited. Yes. And you are well aware of the wilderness therapy experience. And so you’re a fellow alumni, wilderness parent, like me, and know how difficult that is to go through that experience. You know, let alone our kids right. But for us as parents, so nice to have you here.
Thank you. Yeah, in fact, oh, my, I actually use sky’s the limit to be able to afford it. So they were very transformational for us to get our child to where they wanted needed needed
to go. Yes, yeah, well, it’s, it’s great to hear that, you know, I think a lot of times we, in working with an organization like Sky’s the Limit Fund, we, we don’t always get to see the output, you know, the result of some of the families that we help. So it’s great to speak with a mom who’s been there in that situation where you really need that level of treatment, and to be able to put it into action and make it happen to keep your person safe, right is really huge.
Absolutely. 100%. And it’s scary. It’s really scary when you’re in that place. And you’re thinking, how am I going to afford this? What am I going to do? And to have sky’s the limit? You know, walk me through the process and how to, you know, find the place and with my education, assault was huge was huge, right?
Yep. And it’s, you know, you’re not only dealing with the financial aspect of it, like you said, you’re also dealing with where’s the right place, which program has the right therapist or the right program or the right location, and, you know, insurance, I mean, and then you’re also dealing with your child who is struggling, so it’s just a lot to have on your plate. So we’re grateful to have you here today. And you took all this experience that you have, and you’ve really put it into motion with OPLM. So tell us a little bit about that. And then we’re going to dive into some of the kind of her parental aspects of this, this whole journey.
Yeah, so my older son is the one who took me down the path of starting to look inward at myself. When all the insurance companies stuff that they allowed us to do, didn’t work for him. It was It wasn’t a right fit for him. So we did end up sending him to wilderness therapy. Then he went to a therapeutic boarding school, and it was really transformational for us because they had family weekends. And when that was 20 Well, guess what, when he graduated to go on to the transitional living, it was 2020. So he was so excited about going to Tucson and having like a life and the world shut down and they were stuck in their little place. And I felt just like him, I felt stuck, like I lost all my families. And so I started support groups for them. That was where I started and went from one to eight and 14 my 14 families to 350 through word of mouth for for that program. And I turned to my friend, my co founder, Liz and said, okay, like this needs to be bigger. And I mean, you and I have talked Brenda, there’s just not enough places for parents to land and you don’t know what’s going to speak to them. So that’s why I love like we’re pilot both in this space and hope summit with you. So summit with us. So I think that’s amazing, because we want it to feel right. Yeah. So that we have this 15 support groups in a week. We have a speaker talk, Brent is on one of them.
No, that was so great. Like you said, it speaks to the need. And yeah, you know, when I look at the research that’s out there, I think the latest number I saw was something like 9.3 million people, young people between the age of 12 and 24, have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder, which you and I know that means there’s equally as many who have never been diagnosed. Where all those parents landing, where are they getting that support and finding a familiar face, who can relate to them and say, I get it, I really get what what this experience is, and so there could be 300 organizations like yours and mine, and it still wouldn’t be enough, right? There’s such a huge need so. And that’s also why it’s guys a little bit fun, we offer that support after somebody comes home, because as you know, it is a very tricky time when your young person comes home from treatment, and you’re trying to find local resources and all that. So yeah, it’s, there’s just a huge need. But maybe you can talk a little bit about some of the sort of key learnings that you walked away with. I know, we talked a little bit about vulnerability. And that’s really an interesting concept when you’re just getting into this because we think as parents, well, we have to have all the answers, we have to know what to do. So talk a little bit about that with us.
Yeah, the first thing that I learned and didn’t want to do was be vulnerable with my child. That was the first thing that a wilderness therapist was like, Yeah, you need to kind of talk about the stuff that you have not been talking about. And that was huge for me. And I’m so inspired by Brene Brown, and I love how she talks about the biggest myth in vulnerabilities that is weakness. And actually she talks about it as a strength and looks at it as her definition of vulnerabilities uncertainty. Hmm, what let’s say that’s normal for us. Risk and emotional exposure. Oh, boy, as a parent, do we not want to do that with our kids? And, you know, my favorite quote around that is, being a parent is less is to let your heart walk outside your body by Elizabeth Stone. And how vulnerable is that to have your heart walking outside? And now this person who I’m supposed to be protecting and caring for and saving, I’m supposed to be the strong one I’m and if I’m vulnerable, and telling them, Hey, I don’t have all the answers, or I don’t know if I’m doing this right. We feel that we’re failing them.
Yeah, definitely. And I think there’s also a level of, I don’t want to burden them with any of my stuff. I don’t want to layer that on. But if we don’t do that, we’re only sharing part of us with them. But it is a really tricky balance to know. And I like that you said that your wilderness therapist helped you with that, because that’s something that I don’t I didn’t realize when my son went to wilderness therapy that I was going to be getting a lot of therapy, like I thought he was going to be getting doing all the work. And so that’s something you know, people are listening, and maybe you’re trying to make that decision about wilderness therapy. Just to know that the family is really involved. So it’s not send your kid out, they get fixed and come back. There’s a lot of interaction, a lot of therapy that really can help you as parent as well.
Yeah, and when you’re vulnerable, you don’t know how that’s going to land with your kid either. And that’s another part of the scariness that there’s no guarantee nobody’s gonna the wilderness therapist, you or I, you know, having parents come with those are you as a parent coach, me as a parent coach? You want to guarantee that if I do this, my kid’s gonna get better. Right? And that is not how it works. I wish I can say it is.
Spoiler alert. Spoiler alert. Yes, but that having that person there to help guide you through with your child is enormously helpful because this is a this is foreign territory, it is just complete foreign territory. And so I think it’s great just to hear you don’t have to have all the answers, you get to be vulnerable, you get to say, I don’t know, let’s figure it out.
Yeah, yeah. And actually I have, I have these couple of things that I want to share that we have parents have been vulnerable since they were born. And we just don’t even see it as vulnerability. And I find that interesting, but maybe this will resonate with some people. The first time you sit with your child who is sad or disappointed and resisting the urge to fix them, that’s vulnerable. Leaving your child with a child minder for the first time babysitter, whatever, a nanny, whatever you want to call them, that’s vulnerable. Letting your kid try their first new class or activity or school. That’s vulnerable. Giving your child the permission, which I’m not from New York City, I see New York City like they let their kids go on the subway way sooner than I ever would. They are going off somewhere alone, that’s vulnerable. Watching your team for the first time make their own decisions. Oh, that’s vulnerable. And you and I think, Brenda, you’re gonna really relate to this one. setting boundaries with your kids is vulnerable.
Yes, it’s you, because we don’t know how they’re gonna respond.
Exactly. Yeah, we’ve been practicing since the day they were born. But we just don’t even realize we’re so like, stuck in like vulnerable. What that means of what vulnerability is that knowing those things that we’ve always done, it was really helpful for me to view.
Yeah, and those feel like really good stepping stones right to say, okay, as they grow, we start letting you know, we start letting them do more, we’re feeling more more vulnerable. And then, you know, not every parent gets to where you and I did with our kids. But that’s the time where you have to say, okay, I can do this. I can, I can make these big, big shifts. And you talked a little you talked, you said something there, which I wanted to just tap on, which was, you know, I thought that they were going to be fixed and having those expectations of what is going to happen, how this is going to look how this is going to go. You know, my my friend’s kid did this. And they came out in went and did this. What about the expectations that we have of ourselves and our kids? And how did that play into your experience?
Oh gosh, that’s like the I think, along with a vulnerability, that’s the hardest part. Because when I had my little boy in my arms, and he already had a heart murmur when he was born, and there was that right so Oh, already like now he’s outside of me and I can’t protect him. Well, now, I’m things have gone crazy at our house. And I’ve heard your podcast to Brenda, like we had running away holes in the walls, suicidal.
We are crazy. We know crazy.
And I thought what happened to that little baby where and what happened to what I thought like, he was going to go to college he was going to graduate from from high school, he was going to be a super soccer star. Like he went, Oh, no, now he’s gonna do that. Like, I thought that this was a person that I knew. This is what it was gonna follow. And it’s crashing. It’s it’s, it’s a grieving process of not having not having them go the way things were or thought or plans. And that’s vulnerable, because you’re having to let go of what you saw in the future. And now you’re back to that uncertainty and that risk on that emotional, you know, space.
Right. Yeah. And I understand the emotion around that because in our world that says our kids success is so much about us, or we think it does in so even though we might not be kind of consciously making that connection, when our kids are struggling and they’re not going the direction that we thought they were gonna go We somehow believe that says something about us. And that’s very difficult. That’s a very difficult break to make. And to be able to feel vulnerable enough to say, go do this, go try that, okay, you’re not going to go to college, okay, you’re not going to play soccer. Okay, your, your life’s gonna look so different than anything that I ever could have imagined. And, and how, how were you able to get there? I know, you said that you had, you know, therapy through your son’s wilderness? Are there other ways that you found to sort of reframe all of this in your mind to allow yourself to be vulnerable, and to kind of let go of those expectations? Well,
I was, I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this. But my, when my son first started to struggle, I told my husband, we’re going into couples counseling now. And we started couples counseling right away so that we could be on the same page. Because it’s very vulnerable. There’s an extra vulnerability when the co-parent is not co-parenting with you, because I heard that enough from others. And so I was so afraid that so there was also that right, there’s another point, I was afraid. So that was one of the paths, I started doing. Peer to peer support, which for me, initially was 12 steps. And then I was, as you know, exposed to the Partnership to End Addiction and a different path. And I was like, seeing other people, other parents share their vulnerability. And what was happening in their house gave me permission to push farther and to change and grow more. And to actually say to my son, hey, I did some things that I’m not proud of. And I’m sorry. Oh, it was really hard.
That is really hard. It’s really, really hard. Yeah. Well, it’s, it’s so important. I’m glad you said that about being able to use because the stigma that we feel as parents of these, I call them very special, beautiful, challenging kids. There’s that stigma that says, don’t talk about it. Don’t share, don’t, don’t let anybody know this is going on in your home. And so the more we buy into that, the less people talk, and the quieter everybody gets. And then our kids really suffer from that, because we’re not out there. Finding the resources and learning these tools. And I know that I imagined in the groups, you know that you run that people are that you’re seeing that dynamic of oh, this person shared this. And now I learned that and sort of feeding off of each other’s experience in a positive way, not in a, you know, ruminating way. Do you see those little connections and sparks happening?
Oh, my gosh, and it’s beautiful. When it happens when someone’s telling like, hey, this happens. And you see someone who’s further along. And then you have someone who’s brand new. And they see this person who’s further along, and they’re smiling, and they’re laughing. And they’re like still in this crying, hysterical. I’m never going to be able to do this. If I talk about this, I’m gonna ruin my child’s life. That’s the other part I hear. Yeah, is if I say their name. If I say that I’m here. If I say it out loud. I’m now also the reason they’re not meeting my expectations and future life. And that is hard. So yeah, there’s that that but when those sparks happen, even in anonymous, even when people keep the camera off, we see that a lot even when people give the camera off, and they don’t they don’t name themselves or they’ll just put something in a chat. Those sparks of like, Oh, I feel so heard. And nobody said like, repeated after them or any, they just felt heard because somebody else said the same thing is that’s behind their walls that’s happening in their walls and, or that’s happening with their kids and wilderness. And they’re like, oh, so your kid complained about this too. Like, it’s like, Ah, okay. There’s like a release.
Yeah, yeah. Did you besides, you know, you’d said that there were some groups that you attended, kind of what did your support system look like? And how did you start? Because I know that you’re probably like me where you’re better with self care now than you were then. But how did you You start sort of connecting and taking care of yourself through all this.
My favorite thing is that we have a hot tub outside and on a really bad day, even though like I would go in the hot tub multiple times, just to sit there for five minutes. Yeah, just to just to like, disconnect my experience in my body because it’s so attacks, everything is tax your I mean, my back was hurting, my feet were hurting, I couldn’t walk, I don’t know, if you had any of that experience, I was just felt like a broken person, because I was taking everything physically. And instead of letting it go. And so that was my first step was like going into, you know, you’d go out where I would go into a bathtub, you know, I started to do all the things that we don’t want to hear about meditate. And, and I don’t have, I don’t have pain anymore. That took a long time, just so you know, that was only been like the last couple of years, the last year I can walk, I don’t have pain in my feet. And that’s what told me that I was starting to do the right things, even when things weren’t perfect with my kid.
Hmm, it feels so counterintuitive, doesn’t it as a mother, and I’m sure as a father to to say, Wait, the house is on fire over here, and I’m gonna go sit in the hot tub like that doesn’t make any sense. But it actually does. And I know you and I are probably two that just we preach it all the time to say even when it doesn’t feel like it makes sense. Even when it feels like the wrong thing to do. It is the actual, you know, I like to say it should be part, you should think of your self care as part of your child’s treatment plan, because you are the only one that can give, you know, you’re the only one that could give your son a healthy Casie right, no one else can do that for you. And so I love hearing that I always like asking about people self care, because there’s so many unique ways that people take care of themselves, right. And like you said, it’s not just the physical like going in the hot tub or doing yoga, it’s also meditating, it’s also taking the time to take care of your own mind. Because this will do a number on you from a psychological standpoint, and getting that really in place is so important.
The other part is that I learned that, you know, talking to the you know, doing family therapy with the clinician doing group therapy with the clinician, you know, leading it, I behave differently. Differently than when I’m in a peer group. In a peer group, I feel so much more comfortable being messy. Whereas with with the therapist, I feel like I’m supposed to show up differently. I don’t. And the first time you actually talk about it in the peer group. Now you’ve let it you’ve released the valve, right, you’ve that you’ve let it out. And now I can bring it to family therapy, I can bring it to the group therapy that you know, the program provides. Because, you know, I’m sure you did the same thing had some group therapy, family groups and stuff. And I didn’t understand until I started running those peer support. And they were talking about how much they felt changed with their kid how much they felt changed with the therapy, how key that was. And when I walk away from peer support a superior support group that’s like the biggest amount of oxygen I can give myself.
It gives me the fuel to keep going right? Yeah, yeah, what are some of the things that you as a mom as a human, kind of some of the big picture takeaways that you have through this experience that you would have never kind of anticipated? When you went into it?
Um, one is, it’s okay to get creative with how your child is like, like I said, the person this is your heart walking outside your body and you do want 100% to save them. And it’s okay to get creative. We followed all the things insurance said and then we went and got we find it a GoFundMe and that’s how we got created to send him where but that doesn’t mean there’s not other ways that you can get creative to like break in and start to change the narrative of the household. And that was really important for me, like you don’t have to just follow what the therapist said, you know, it’s okay. to trust your gut, and we lose that, don’t we, when we have the chaos in our house, like we start to, like, not trust ourselves anymore.
Right? Right. I love that creativity piece because in in the gut, and I think those go together because as a parent, you know your child better than anybody. And so I think you have to bump up what you’re getting from professionals from insurance companies against that gut knowledge, to say yes or no, or maybe a combination, or maybe something different. And to be confident enough to speak that because it can be intimidating. When you are like, I don’t have any letters after my name, I don’t have a PhD, I don’t have a Master’s, I don’t have an LCSW. You know, all those. And so it can be intimidating when you’re talking to these people. And I think that’s a good reminder that you just gave to trust your gut to know not that you’re going to disregard what other what professionals say, by no means. But to really think about what works for our family, what works for this young person, and, and that that could change to right over time. It’s like, well, this worked up until last week, and then that doesn’t work anymore. So to be able to be fluid enough to keep going with it.
Yeah, that that is another part, then I’ll add, yeah, that ability to pivot is key. And that’s part of trusting your gut, like, Oh, that felt right before. I gotta pivot. That’s huge. And that’s vulnerable.
Yeah, back to the vulnerability.
It’s vulnerable, because you’re being told not to trust your gut. And you’re like, No, I need to trust my gut on this, or I know, my kid. Let’s see, can we try this? And, you know, it’s, it’s important to do that. Okay.
Yeah. Well, a I’m this is all just resonating so much, obviously, with the the shared experience that we have. And I think you gain so much insight and wisdom from hearing so many stories, right? You’re you’re sitting and listening to so many families and their experiences, and really knowing at least what I take away from doing this speaker series. And the work that I do is, there is not a cookie cutter way to get your child from a place where they’re not healthy. They’re misusing substances, and they’re struggling with their mental health. There is not a straight line to the other side. And so you really have such great a depth of knowledge about so many different ways that that can happen in so many different kinds of treatment programs. Is that something that? Did you go into this knowing that or is that something that came to you later?
That’s just I think those of us who are willing to be creative and pivot, we’re like, researchers, man,
we play for the FBI right here.
We read books, we listen to podcasts, we go, we go to like, you know, we got to find somebody who’s gonna do a webinar. Like we’re always looking for something that’s gonna say, that’s how I’m gonna pivot. That one speaks to me, or that one speaks to me. And that’s important. Yeah, we’re definitely researchers. Yes,
We can add that title to our names. Researcher. Awesome. Thank you so much for joining us. This has been such a pleasure and we will make sure and put resources OPLM in there so that people can find you in all the groups you amazing groups that you know, you can really get into a very specific group that I you know, helps you identify with the other people in there. And we’re just so thrilled that you’re Sky’s the Limit Fund alumni parent, part of our family, as as a nonprofit, and just wish you all the best.
Thank you. I was pleasure. Thanks.
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