Guest Columnist

Listening to moms in treatment

A former resident's tile on the wall at the Area Substance Abuse Council in Cedar Rapids on Monday, December 29, 2014. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
A former resident's tile on the wall at the Area Substance Abuse Council in Cedar Rapids on Monday, December 29, 2014. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

I had the privilege to interview some brave women in our community. These women share a unique bond: they were all mothers and in treatment for a substance use disorder.

While they all come from fairly different backgrounds, currently their lives revolve around the same schedule. While living in an on-campus setting, the ladies attend classes all day at their respective treatment facilities and, on the weekends, they do chores and spend time with their kids.

There are many challenges for these women. It can be difficult to keep up with therapy appointments that come with treatment while continuing to parent through this challenging time. The ongoing struggle of insurance issues looms as they work to make not only their lives, but the lives of their children better.

For one mom, sobriety was the biggest challenge. She was newer to the program and she still felt a strong pull toward drinking alcohol. Even as we talked she mentioned ongoing triggers of simple things around her.

She is occasionally allowed to go to the gas station to purchase items and, when she enters the store, she feels sad because she knows she cannot visit the alcohol aisle. She cries over the control that alcohol has had on her. She is going through a period of loss over something that was once a priority, while her brain is literally rewiring itself.

Handling the emotional waves that come with sobriety speaks to her bravery of entering treatment.

All the women I interviewed are choosing to make themselves vulnerable by heading into sobriety. Because they have numbed past memories and emotions for so long, it is physically and emotionally exhausting for them to now experience these emotions in the raw.

Another mom discussed the difference between happiness and joy. She was once living a very fast-paced, drug-induced life where she chased bits of happiness from moment to moment. Joy, on the other hand, is something that is lasting. It is something that can be had for free, if one is willing to accept it. She now experiences joy when she sees her child do something for the first time. In fact, the simple act of getting to spend time with her kids now gives her joy.

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The Department of Human Services was present in most of the women’s lives (including when they were children). Although there were some serious concerns expressed about the system, the overall feeling was that DHS impacted their families’ lives for the better. They used words like “grateful” and “life-saving” when referring to the agency.

One of the most touching stories I heard had to do with foster parents. For a particular mom, her kids were staying with foster parents while she received treatment. She developed a close relationship with those foster parents and, today they have become Godparents to the children they took in.

The moms were incredibly encouraging and positive to each other. It was obvious they were pulling for each other’s success.

Ultimately, it’s going to take a lot of hard heart work to find a new perspective on the future. I believe this is something each and every one of the women I interviewed is capable of.

Special thanks to the moms who shared their stories.

• Lindsey Ungs is a certified prevention specialist with Area Substance Abuse Council.

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