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On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery is now on public television.
Check the Blog post for public television air dates, time, station and cities so far.

Upcoming Screenings
To host a screening in your community contact 
Support recovery and family preservation with the national launch of
On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery.

You can make a tax-deductible donation here. Thank you!

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Driven by the desire for custody of their children five mothers struggle to overcome substance use disorders in a gender responsive treatment program.  Their intimate story reveals experiences with domestic violence, prostitution, incarceration and complex inter-generational relations.  On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery interweaves the women’s three year journey to self-sufficiency and new found pride with drug laws that impact mother and child, and will inspire hope for recovery.  This documentary film will reduce the stigma by addressing the larger issues that Treatment Works and Family Preservation is Prevention, which breaks the cycle of addiction, abuse and poverty.

The Moms in the Film

Be an Advocate for Mothers in Recovery

“We enjoyed On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery very much!  We are an outpatient program.  The women talked a lot about it on our way back from the screening at the REEL Recovery Film Festival in Los Angeles and each felt it was inspirational and they could relate to it very much.  The men said they were able to see recovery from a different perspective, and as for myself and the other staff members, we really enjoyed the message and positive yet realistic outlook the film portrayed.   Congratulations on a beautiful film!”
Pamela Martin, Counselor
Pasadena Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
Social Model Recovery Systems, Inc.


Since the 1986 U.S. war on drugs mandatory sentencing law, the number of women in prison has jumped 400% and 800% for African American women.  66% of women in prison have minor children.  Most of the women incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses are suffering with substance use issues.  The underlying causes for addiction in 80% of women with substance use problems are untreated post-traumatic stress and/or depression, precipitated by sexual and domestic violence.  Fear of being prosecuted can drive pregnant moms with substance use problems away from seeking prenatal care.

Ganz was outraged and determined to make this film in 2005, when she read the story of Regina McNight.  In 1999, in South Carolina the child abuse law was applied to “viable fetuses” when McNight, a 22 year old African American mother of two, had a stillbirth.  After 15 minutes of deliberation the jury convicted her of murder, because she was using cocaine.  She was sentenced to 12 years in prison.  The U.S, Supreme Court declined to hear her case.  In 2008, the South Carolina Supreme Court unanimously reversed the decision on the grounds that her attorney failed to challenge the junk science used to convict her.

In 1991, in an effort to institute a positive solution to these personal tragedies, SAMHSA, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provided start-up funds for 35 family-centered residential treatment programs for pregnant and parenting women and their young children.  Center Point was one of them.  In 2013, there are less than 150 residential treatment programs for pregnant women with substance use issues in the United States.

When a newborn tests positive for drugs, the baby is taken away from the mother and put into foster care.  Termination of parental rights has far outrun adoption, creating a generation of legal orphans.  The children bounce from foster home to foster home.  Only 20% of mothers reunify with their children once they are removed to foster care.

The Maternal Lifestyle Study started in 1992 and funded by NIH shows that, “if children who are prenatally exposed to drugs grow up in a relatively decent environment they have a good chance of developing normally.”  Barry Lester, PhD, Brown Center for the Study of Children at Risk, Providence, RI, Principle Investigator.

On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery  will catalyze social change by stimulating a national dialogue on treatment vs. incarceration and the long term impact of breaking family ties.  Our intention for the film is to validate and inspire women and men in recovery, educate social service providers and the criminal justice system; and encourage policy makers and legislators to fund more family-centered substance use residential treatment programs.  This timely film removes the mask of stigma and stereotype to reveal the humanity of these women, and promote recovery and hope for everyone.

Differences in drug addiction for women and men

Although there are many similarities between men and women when it comes to drug use and addiction, there are also many differences.  Differences that are important to take into consideration both in understanding the addiction as well as in treating it.

Some of the differences for women center on the physical effects of addiction while others focus on how women relate to their families, their communities and their children.  All of these factors can affect how women respond to treatment.  Many of the symptoms of addiction for women tend to be “inner directed” including anxiety, shame, and depression.  For men, the symptoms tend to be more visible and external – aggressive or drunk driving, fighting and assault.  As a result, there is a need for, and benefit to, gender-specific services for women who also recognize the important role that trauma may play in her addiction and in her recovery.

If you are seeking help with substance use issues call, or go to the website for information and listings:

Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator
1-800-662-HELP (4357), 1-800-487-4889 (TDD)

Drug Rehabs and Addiction Treatment by State

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE or 1-800-799-7233

Funded in part by: Artemis Rising Foundation, Pacific Pioneer Fund, Lucius and Eva Eastman Fund, Open Meadows Foundation, Inc., Penny Harvest Roundtable and Individual Donors.

Please contact us at: (415) 564-3691 or sheila.ganz@gmail.com  @pandorasbp if you or your group would like to host a fundraising screening.

© 2015 Sheila Ganz

5 thoughts on “Home

  1. Tracy Kiesler

    Excellent work here. I am a survivor of abuse as well as a recovering alcoholic. I have four minor children. I couldn’t agree more with the fact that recovery from addiction for mothers is different than men. It it is different because of our relationships with our children and our fears of losing them. As a recovery mentor, I see frequently the experience of abuse coming into play in addiction. It’s an escape method, a coping skill when we don’t know what else to do in our situations. The key is being able to get new tools, ones that work. Also, providing support to a woman as she is going through recovery and life changes is so very important. Juggling recovery and children is very difficult. Especially considering financial issues, legal issues, and possibly the fact that she is facing leaving an abusive relationship. All of these things can be so overwhelming that relapse is common. Thank you so much for helping bring awareness and reducing stigma! Recovery IS possible!

  2. kathryn page

    I cannot wait to see this video! Mothers’ stories need to get out there, so that better support can be generated. I only have one “but” here: “if children who are prenatally exposed to drugs grow up in a relatively decent environment they have a good chance of developing normally”–applies to drugs other than alcohol. If the fetus’ developing brain was exposed to alcohol, brain cells wander off to the wrong place, slide off their destination, and die off at high rates. The child can seem fine until around the age of 3 when reasoning starts to be expected–and again around middle school time, when life gets so much more complicated we sometimes see behavior, mood, school taking a big hit. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders look a lot like AD/HD, the complicated kind. Another great video, this one for FASD, is called “Recovering Hope”, and shows five moms in recovery with their kids, all affected in different ways by prenatal alcohol. Available from SAMHSA, free, and i think also on youtube.

  3. Christie

    I truly feel for all of these moms, they have a tough road ahead of them. I am a single mom to an awesome 3-year-old little boy, and I have been sober for 2 years. It was not easy for me to get sober this last time, it took a great deal of help from the local support group and a lady calling me every hour to check in. I waited too long to get help, though, and I almost lost my son my son because of it. He nearly drowned in the family swimming pool and I had to give him CPR. Our local child protection agency took custody from me, and it took me over a year to get him back. It was the toughest year of my life. If you are a mom in active addiction, please don’t wait as long as I did to reach out to your local support group. I was given the gift of a second chance when my son came back to life, and I do not expect to receive such a blessing the next time (which is why I work hard everyday to make sure there won’t be one). Getting sober is only part of the battle for single moms in recovery, though, as being a single parent is incredibly tough, and reestablishing yourself in the work force takes time and hard work. However, it can be done! The love I have for my so, and the joy of living a healthy life keeps me going everyday, and connecting with other moms in my situation sustains me through the tough times. If you want to change your life, reach out for help, and If you would like to follow my story, you can find me at my blog: AChrisalis.com.

  4. Wendy Penner

    Congratulations on your beautiful film. I wish everyone could see this! Educational, inspiring, heartbreaking-it does a very compassionate and intimate job of telling the stories of these women and of exposing the challenges of overcoming addiction, and inspires hope for recovery.


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