On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery is currently airing on public television.
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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.
“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.
© 2016 Sheila Ganz