Dr. Lycka talks with Christina Dent about her new book, “Curious.”

Below is the transcript from the FAMOUS Dr. Al’s (Dr. Allen Lycka) interview with Christina Dent, on the How to Live A Fantastic Life Show, syndicated through Brushwood Media Network with seven million listeners a month.  In this episode, the two of them talk about her new book, “Curious: A Foster Mom’s Discovery of an Unexpected Solution to Drugs and Addiction.” They discuss how the book came to be, and how it is changing lives. Christina felt it was critical to educate others when her life-changing experience with the mother of her foster son, sparked curiosity about the best way to reduce harm from drugs. With addiction touching many families and potent drugs available almost everywhere, better solutions are needed. Curious offers one. In the transcript below, Christina shares her background, how she was raised and how this all affected her on her personal journey. It is a story you won’t soon forget! Read on, or listen in hereBelow the transcripts, find Christina Dent’s bio and social media.

Dr. Allen Lycka  

Friends, we have a very special guest today. Her name is Christina Dent. And she’s the founder and president of End it for a Good, a Mississippi-based nonprofit advocating for approaches to drugs that prioritize life and the opportunity to thrive. Christina has put her heart and soul into this, and she wants to see the criminal justice system change its approach to drugs. In such a way, it will make a radical change to reduce drug-related harm. Christina’s new book, Curious, is an invitation to learn with her and decide the best path forward for yourself. Welcome, Christina.

Christina Dent 

Thank you so much. Dr. Allen, I’m just delighted to be with you.

Dr. Allen Lycka 

Now, we’ve chatted before, and I know you don’t have a personal history with drugs. Why are you so passionate and interested in this?

Christina Dent 

I don’t have any history, I don’t even drink alcohol, I just don’t have any interest in it. And really, my story of getting connected was not until my 30s; I was uninterested as I did not use drugs and never thought about problems that might be associated with them. I became a foster mom. Through that experience, I met a woman named Joanne, who had struggled with addiction for many years and was not able to overcome that during her pregnancy with her first child. So, he was taken into state custody and put in foster care when he was born, and he came to my house, so we became his foster family.

As I began to get to know her, I started really meeting her on their first visit to the local child welfare office and pulling into that parking lot. I tell this story in detail in my book, Curious, but pulling into that parking lot and popping her son’s car seat out of the car, turning around to go walk in the building. And here comes this woman running across the parking lot with tears just streaming down her face, (this is Joanne) she runs over and starts kissing her son.

For me that was so unexpected. Not at all what I thought from all the things I had picked up from the culture growing up about people who use drugs, you know, these are kind of untrustworthy people, these are bad people, it really caught me off guard, I was very suspicious of that, I wasn’t sure what her motives were. And so, I left him for his visitation with her for an hour and came back and picked him up, took him back to my house. She would call me from inpatient drug treatment where she had gone to try to be able to get custody of him back again to deal with this addiction. And she would call me from treatment. I would be sitting in my kitchen, with him sitting in this little bouncy seat and she calls me, and she says, can you put me on speakerphone? So, I do, and she sings to him over the phone. And the more that I got to know her, the more it was clear to me that I had radically misunderstood her. And the more that I leaned into that learning, the more I realized she’s not an anomaly. She is sort of, you know, we people regularly will say, well, they’re not that kind of addict. And I would say there’s not that kind of addict. People are struggling with addictions, and they’re just people like you and me. Joanne, as I got to know over time, helped me to see, and she let me in to see who she really is, which is a mom like me, who loves her son just as much as I love my three sons. And she was also struggling with this complex health crisis.

Dr. Allen Lycka 

You know, it is true Christina that we pigeonhole people. We treat them in such a way they become labeled. And I’m sure that happens a lot with the justice system. They say, you’re an addict, you’re bad. Therefore, you deserve punishment. And this is how we will treat you for the rest of your life. Is that not correct?

Christina Dent 

Yeah. And I think it really stems from this idea that we have been taught for decades that drug use and addiction are moral failures. So, if that’s true, then that means that there is a badness to people who are using drugs or who are struggling with addiction that maybe other people don’t have. And that just is not true. I think it is heartbreaking that we have believed that for so long and been told that for so long because it’s keeping us from addressing the real causes of addiction and the real reasons why people use drugs. So, we keep trying to punish them, because we think it’s because they’re bad people, when really, they’re hurting people who are trying to feel better. They’re suffering people who need to build a life they want to be present for.

Dr. Allen Lycka 

You have got a lot to say here. But we got a pause for a commercial message. But friends come right back because we’re going to search into the causes of addiction and what addicts really need.

Friends, we are back, and today we have a very special guest, Christina Dent, who’s founded a society called End It For Good. And her passion is to end the relationship people have with drugs, the relationship we have as misnomers about drugs forever. Christina, what have you found to be the root cause of addictions?

Christina Dent 

One of the stories that I tell in my new book Curious is about Dr. Bruce Alexander, who has spent his whole career over 50 years studying drug use and addiction and how to address it in helpful ways. One of the things that he did back in the early part of his career that really set the trajectory for it was this experiment with rats. He looked at some previous experiments that I even remember seeing when I was a kid, of rats being put in boxes, they’re allowed to use a drug, they just push the lever, push the lever, push the lever, and that’s all they want to do. And they eventually die from the use of drugs.

Well, Dr. Alexander looked at that. And he said, that doesn’t fit with what we know about rats, they’re highly social creatures like humans are. So, he built on the floor of his lab, something he called Rat Park along with his other colleagues, and they put a lot of rats in it, they gave them things to do. They put sawdust and cans and everything that would make a rat happy. And they also allowed them to use drug-laced water. So, they had the same opportunity; they had the same drug. And yet, when the rats were in Rat Park, they rarely chose to use the drug or laced water and never used it excessively.

And they looked at that experiment and said, have we been wrong? Have we focused so much on a drug we almost give it a life of its own the drug causes the addiction, when really, it is much more about the environment that a person finds themselves in; it’s much more about the experiences of their life that either maybe make it very difficult for them to be present in their life without something numbing the way that they feel. Or maybe they don’t have anything proactively that they feel they must live for, maybe they’re lacking a sense of purpose and direction, or connection, relationships and support. And so that really set the course of his career. And it has since been studied in lots of other ways. And we know now that one of the primary causes of addiction is abuse or neglect that people experienced earlier in their lives. But it can also happen because of grief, loneliness, isolation, mental health issues. There are all kinds of reasons. None of them though, are that we have a bad person who is just one wanting to do bad things, it is that we have someone who is finding it very difficult to be present in their life, to be fully present in their life. And so, they’re going to numbing activities.

Dr. Allen Lycka  

I find it so bad that we have this labeling theory. And then we label people, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And then that self-fulfilling prophecy carries itself on its own. Now, I’m not saying that addiction is easy to treat, certainly just getting at the root cause doesn’t necessarily treat the addiction. Addiction is such an overpowering thing that people often go through treatment repeatedly. And quite often they must hit rock bottom before they can break that cycle.

Christina Dent 

Yeah, it is very difficult. And I think that’s one of the things that I hope people take from the book. I’ve heard from family members of people struggling with addictions who have read my book Curious and have said, you know, this is so helpful, because it does hold the tension of addiction can be so incredibly damaging not just to the person but to their whole family as well. We also don’t get better outcomes from that harm unless we really dig into that root cause. And so, there’s tension there, because it’s very easy for us to just respond to kind of anger, we want to use shame and blame and anger. Instead, really, it’s a challenge. But it is the path we need to take to begin to lean into what are the real reasons somebody is using drugs.

And I loved what you say about the labeling, I tell a story in the book about a man named Peyton. And he didn’t use drugs for most of his teenage years, but he was a skateboarder. People assumed that he was using drugs because that was the stereotype, they had about kids who were riding skateboards in high school. So, he said, “You know, after a while, when you’re accused of something when people just label you as something for so long, it’s becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of like, why even try. People already think I’m just out there using drugs. And he had some painful experiences in his life he began using but it was it. It was interesting just to hear him talk about how damaging that was for him as he’s trying to grow up and trying to make wise choices to fight against this stereotypical labeling just because he liked to go out and ride a skateboard.

Dr. Allen Lycka  

That is so real, you know, we had a famous, I guess it would be called a snowboarder in Canada by the name of Ross Rebagliati, who won a gold medal during skateboarding, but the drug tests showed him positive for marijuana. So, he had to whether he had it taken it purposely or not. He said he was in a group of people where he accidentally inhaled it, which very well might have been the case. So, he was able to keep his gold medal. But he was labeled as a person that was a marijuana user. Now, you know, marijuana has been one of those bugaboos that in many countries, like Canada now is legal. So, to make it something to get your gold medal taken away is totally wrong.

Christina Dent 

Yeah, there are so many complexities that come with shifting how we approach substance use. And so I think that’s one of the things that that I try to do in the book is to bring that complexity to it, but also to really help people just try to zoom way out, try to get outside of our own personal experiences and to look really big picture at this issue and why we’re not getting better outcomes. So, we can look at what we know about what’s causing addiction and what the risk factors are for addiction. And we can say, you know, traumatizing people through criminal justice involvement is just increasing their risk of addiction. It’s giving them more trauma, more disconnection, more difficulty moving forward in their life, which is the absolute opposite of what people need to overcome addiction. For the most part, for there’s very few people who would say criminal justice involvement has improved their life and made it easier and helped them to thrive.

But then we also have these other aspects of the fentanyl overdose crisis that we have here in the United States right now. Crime from drug selling on this underground market and these bigger questions is really a bigger issue than just substance use and addiction. It really is this encompassing issue that impacts public safety in our communities, it impacts family formation and stability, it impacts how many people are passing away, drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the US. That has increased dramatically, and even just illegal drug use has increased by two times. I mean, it’s, it’s incredible.

It’s doubled in the last 20 years here in the US. So, we have these big problems that we’re facing and need better solutions, which is why I wrote the book. I’m not a policy expert. I’m not a doctor. But we regular people, we influence policy, we influence the approaches that culture takes that our faith communities take that our families take, and there are better solutions, we can reverse the overdose crisis, we can help people overcome addiction much more easily than many of them are finding it to overcome right now. We can reduce crime and violence; there are better solutions to all these things. And I wanted to, to bring those solutions to people in a way that’s very easy to read. The book is very story-driven. And every chapter starts with a story. It’s kind of my memoir. And yet it’s a memoir on a particular issue of my own learning journey as a conservative Christian who had a real-life changing experience as a foster mom and began learning that the solutions that are out there are available to all of us.

Dr. Allen Lycka  

Okay, Christina, we’re going to pause for another commercial message. But friends come right back, we have a lot more to share with Christina Dent.

Friends, we have a very special guest today, Christina Dent, who is the founder and president of End it for good. She is trying to change our relationship to our mindset on drugs and addiction. Christina, you are in the deep south Mississippi, where there are entrenched images that go on for years, for hundreds of years. How are you being perceived by your own community?

Christina Dent 

It really has been an incredible experience. So, I started kind of as a passion project in 2017, we became a nonprofit and it for good in 2019. So, we’re just a couple of years in a very young organization. But we’ve hosted events all over Mississippi, we’ve hosted about 37 events, some of them full day conferences, some of them community events on an evening all over the state. And what we found is that there is incredible interest in finding solutions, as much as we don’t like to change the way that we think, and I’m among that group, this learning journey for me was very uncomfortable, painful, I didn’t really want to have anything challenged about the way that I think. And yet I did want to find better solutions. That’s what we found with people who have engaged with our work is that people are hungry for solutions. Almost every family is touched by addiction in some way. Whether or not we want to be impacted, whether or not we want to be engaged in this, we just are. And that has been a really encouraging thing. I think people love that we are deeply committed to respectful dialogue. So, we offer some pretty tip-of-the-spear solutions. And yet we do that in a respectful way.

We invite people to consider the ideas. We allow them to come to their own conclusions, we respect the autonomy of their own intellect, that they own their own minds, and they can decide what they think is best. But people can’t make an informed decision if they don’t have all the facts. We want to provide knowledge into those root causes. So, people can make informed decisions about the path they want to take going forward. Because all of us want fewer people dying of overdose. All of us want fewer people struggling with addiction. All of us want less crime in our communities. And we think we have radically misunderstood what’s causing those problems. And once we understand what’s causing it, we can see and pursue those solutions. And it’s been very exciting to see that take off here in Mississippi and we hope that continues to take off into a nationwide and over time a global movement towards life and health and wholeness.

Dr. Allen Lycka  

Christina, this show Is called How to Live a Fantastic Life. How have you learned to live a fantastic life?

Christina Dent 

I think being open to new ideas is one of the best things we can do to unlock that door for that fantastic life, we can’t always control what happens to us so much of our lives is out of our control; it comes at us. But we can control our approach to life, which we have influence over. And so just to be able to have curiosity, that has been a big shift for me, if it sounds like I’m just somebody desperate to learn new ideas, that’s been a big shift that’s happened because of this experience, and realizing, I don’t know everything. And that’s not a bad thing, it is a wonderful thing, to be able to learn new information, to be better informed, to hear new stories to talk to people who have experiences that I don’t have to read research, I wouldn’t normally encounter. If we can develop that sense of curiosity, that desire to learn outside of our own experiences and current way of thinking, I think our world is much healthier. The fulfillment that we can find in our own lives is much greater for me, these last couple of years have just been a wonderfully fantastic life of being able to learn and grow and have compassion for myself, I can only act on what I know. And I don’t know everything. And that’s okay.

Dr. Allen Lycka  

Now, the flip side of that question is this, and it comes down to your passion? How can the world have a more fantastic life by adopting an approach that you advocate to drugs.

Christina Dent 

So I think whether or not we struggle individually with substance use, or addiction, all of us are living in a world that’s broken, we experience grief, loss, suffering, to varying degrees, but all of us that’s a human experience for every person who is alive, the more we can learn how to understand that aspect of our lives, and how to process it, and how to have healthy coping skills for the difficulties that we face, as well as compassion for other people who are facing difficulties. And maybe they didn’t get all those healthy coping skills. Maybe they’re just struggling, and they need support. To me, this issue is just such a human issue: how we approach the suffering we experience and how we approach the suffering of other people. And if we can come to that with a little more empathy, that doesn’t mean enablement, that just means a little more understanding and empathy, and can approach substance use, you know, we’ve got one in 10 people right now in the US is using an illegal drug regularly recently has used one.

That’s an awful lot of people who are changing the way they feel with drugs they’re using on the street. It impacts all of us in one way or another, and we have an opportunity to change the world. I really do believe that’s not an overstatement. Because of how deeply this issue affects us on so many levels, we really have an opportunity to change the world. If we can shift to health-centered approaches to substance use, addiction, drug markets, substances, all of that. It’s a big and complex issue. But I absolutely believe it can change the world. That’s why I’m involved in it. Even though I don’t care about drug use at all, in terms of I don’t, I don’t want people out there using drugs. This is a human issue. This is about how we can unleash opportunity, prosperity, support connection, and love and belonging for people around the world. That’s what’s at stake. And I hope that people will grab a copy of Curious.

Dr. Allen Lycka

So, let’s dive into that. Where can they get a copy of Curious?

Christina Dent 

Yes, you can get a copy of Curious on Amazon. Then, you can head over to our website at Enditforgood.com. There’s a book page on the website, you can download a discussion guide if you want to read it with a few friends. You can also hop on to a virtual discussion with us. I lead virtual discussions now and then no matter where you are in the world, let’s talk about this. It is something that we want to see a community movement towards, of talking with each other. That’s how change happens. It doesn’t happen because somebody at the top of government somewhere decides. Change comes from regular people catching a vision for something working together on it and that Change rolls up to culture change that produces a change in how even our governments will approach these things. That’s what we want to see happen. And that is just you and me working together. So, grab a copy of Curious on Amazon. The tagline for it is a foster mom’s discovery of an unexpected solution to drugs and addiction. It gives you a little sense of this is a book of stories. This is not a policy manual. This is a quick read. It’s an engaging read. And I think it will leave you thinking and inspired and hopeful. And it will improve your life and help you live a more fantastic life.

Dr. Allen Lycka

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to read this book; I’m going to endorse it, which is a very rare thing I do. Because this book is written from the heart, it is written from the soul. And it allows you to rethink your value set, and it allows you to think of things in a new way. And that’s always good.

Christina Dent 

Thank you so much. I really appreciate that. That is amazing. And I’m going to give you something back for your listeners, we would love to give some copies away. For people who are listening, if you email curious@enditforgood.com, the first 10 people to send us an email, we will send out a free copy to you, and you have to be in the United States because of how the shipping works on this. And you can grab a copy on Amazon. Otherwise, join a conversation. We would love to have you. You’re right. It is a work of my heart and soul. This is a four-year project, and I am pouring myself into telling the world because I know it will create great change.

Dr. Allen Lycka  

It can. And friends, if you want to know where you are on your journey to a fantastic life, go to: lifequalityassessment.com. Take the test, it is 25 short questions, and they’ll show you exactly where you are in the journey. And there’s a manual that’ll take you to the next level. Bye for now, and have a fantastic day!

Christina Dent Bio & Social Media Links

Bio:

Christina Dent is the Founder & President of End It For Good, a Mississippi-based nonprofit advocating for approaches to drugs that prioritize life and the opportunity to thrive. Christina supported a criminal justice approach to drugs until her experience as a foster parent prompted a radical change of mind about the best ways to reduce drug-related harm. Christina’s new book, Curious, is an invitation to learn with her and decide for yourself the best path forward.

Social Media:

Website: https://enditforgood.com/
Curious page: https://enditforgood.com/curious
Facebook: @enditforgoodms
Instagram: @enditforgoodms
X: @EndItForGoodMS