Some of us are old enough to remember the war on drugs in the 1980s. In an effort to help school children, First Lady Nancy Reagan coined the slogan, “Just Say No to Drugs.” While we appreciate the intent behind it, we wish it were that simple. In fact, if it were that simple, our prisons would be empty. Our foster care system wouldn't be overwhelmed, and parents would be raising their children instead of visiting them. There's a war for sure, but drugs are just a symptom.
We see the scourge of addiction all around us. It touches us all. It crosses all barriers, whether social, economic, race, religion, or gender. Neither does addiction discriminate based on age, reaching even into the womb. Babies are born every day addicted to drugs, especially opioids, because of their mother’s use or misuse of these substances while pregnant. This addiction can cause a newborn infant to experience withdrawal symptoms, a condition known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). For these little ones, one of their first experiences of life outside of the womb is withdrawal. Tragically, according to the most current data available from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the number of women with opioid use disorder at labor and delivery quadrupled in the fifteen years from 1999 to 2014.
There are specific programs that help pregnant women safely stop drug use and provide prenatal care. Some medications, coupled with treatment, improve outcomes. Some treatment programs for women even provide services such as childcare, parenting classes, and job training. In 2019, there were almost 16,000 drug and alcohol treatment facilities in the United States, with nearly half of those tailored to meet the specific needs of women in addiction recovery. If you are pregnant and suffering from a substance use disorder (SUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD), we beg you, ask for help. Don’t wait.
Addiction recovery has come a long way in the last few decades. As a society, we finally figured out that shaming, punishing, and disconnecting people was not a deterrent to addiction. It’s been said that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety; it is connection. You may be familiar with the reality program, “Intervention,” where an addict is confronted in a group setting by those closest to him or her. The threat is made that unless the individual shapes up, goes into treatment, and quits using, they will be completely cut off by these friends and family members. The hope is that this threat will drive the addict to treatment. They do not understand that in the darkness of addiction, the addict is already alone. They have already cut themselves off and created a reality they can no longer bear. Shouldn’t our core message be, “You are not alone. We love you”?
In Psalm 50:15, the Lord invites us to “call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” When we call upon Him in faith, He promises to answer and to bring deliverance. He promises that no matter what we have done, no matter how bad it looks, our stories will display His great power to deliver and restore and will bring Him glory as we rediscover our purpose.
Emerging from the shadows of addiction takes courage, and it requires great support. For the mother with children, if she can overcome the stigma of being a “bad mother,” she has to consider how to pay for treatment, who will care for her children while she is in treatment, will she be deemed an unfit mother and have her children taken from her? In many cases, for the children's safety, that does happen and should happen until the mother can prove she can provide a safe place for her children to live and grow. For those brave women who gather the courage to face these challenges, there is not only hope, but there is healing, restoration, and reconciliation.
The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; it is connection.
Here is one such hope-filled story...
Teresa was a single mother with three daughters, aged 2, 5, & 7 when we met. She was addicted to methamphetamine and was living the chaos-filled life of an addict. There was a point so low that she could not see past the darkness. It is very common for people with substance use disorders to have co-occurring mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Filled with hopelessness and despair, she decided that her children would be better off without her. She made the unfathomable decision to end her life. She succeeded; however, God had other plans. She was found in time and revived but only to awaken to an even darker reality. Her children had been taken from her, and she would have to do the work of recovery to have any hope of regaining custody of them, and so she began.
She was sent to a long-term residential treatment facility which happened to be faith-based and geared toward family reunification. It required residents to work the 12 Steps of Recovery with a sponsor and have a spiritual mentor. The program also required attending church. As she progressed in the program, she was allowed short, supervised visits with her children. These became short unsupervised visits, then daytime visits at the program with her. Eventually, over time, the children were allowed overnight visits, then weekend visits, and finally she regained full custody. They remained with her while she finished the program.
Teresa rode the bus each day to get her family where they needed to go. She took parenting classes and a host of other required courses. She went to college and earned a degree, and now works in the field of addiction recovery. She is a church member and has been for over ten years. Teresa leads an outreach ministry, giving back to the community. She married a wonderful man seven years ago who is now father to their beautiful daughters, so yes, we believe in recovery.
We also believe that a person can be sober but not free. Our motto at Life Recovery is, “Sobriety is good, but freedom is better.” True freedom only comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ. We once walked in darkness, but we no longer have to.
Psalm 40:1-3 (NLT) reads:
“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord”.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance or alcohol use disorder, we encourage you to reach out for help. Contact your local Community Services, Behavioral Health Services, and Recovery Resource Services to see what is available in your area. Get connected with a church offering faith-based 12 Step programs. Remember, the opposite of addiction is not sobriety; it is connection.