“On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery is a beautiful documentary that has a great impact on our families at Homeless Prenatal Program. When our moms watch the film, they instantly can identify with the other women featured in the film and their stories. They love how the film
de-stigmatizes drug use as a mom and during pregnancy. Homeless Prenatal moms are inspired by the moms in the documentary and are motivated to change their lives.”
Kelly Costello, LCSW
Program Manager of New Beginnings
Homeless Prenatal Program
San Francisco, CA
“My daughter’s father has blazed his own unconventional path to recovery and sobriety. I decided to take him with me to the May 5th screening On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery at the San Francisco Public Library. After the film was over, he told me that he has a new found respect for me and other moms who are in recovery. The film sparked a very insightful conversation about his chosen path to recovery. This has never happened before. My hubby said he wished there was more films like that.”
Heather McDonnell Haney
“On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery offers a compelling insight into the power and possibility of recovery that starts when women with children take personal responsibility for overcoming the grip of addiction. Yes, we see that treatment is integral to the process. But as the film shows, these moms make it because of their desire for self-sufficiency and well-being for themselves as well as the daughters and sons who count on them to find recovery and stay clean.”
Vice President of Public Affairs and Community Relations
Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
Author, “Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption” and “Now What? An Insider’s Guide to Addiction and Recovery”
“It was a ‘labor of love’ to put this film, On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery together — following several mothers and their children over an extended period of time, from the chaos they reported during their active addictions, to their wobbly first steps in recovery, and into their transitions to greater independence — all required a huge commitment. Kudos to Sheila Ganz for her intense advocacy-art! I thought the mothers’ heartfelt expressions of care for their children, and their determination to do better for them, were so very touching. The stirring comments of the children were even more moving, as they expressed their love and desire to remain connected with their mothers. It is easy to be judgmental about the idea of mothers who abuse substances, but when you witness the actual women’s valiant efforts to get & stay clean & sober, you just have to support their intense work in making their journeys. If you don’t do it for the humanity of these individuals and others like them, then you must do it for the cost-savings in reduced suffering for all those they touch.
I wish more funders & lawmakers could view this film, to see what dramatic differences that larger & more sustained programs would have on the lives of the families we know are on waiting lists or who don’t have such programs in their communities (or even in their states!). Others who should view this film are the social work students who will assess and serve such families in Children’s Protective Services after they graduate — I have added this film to my list of recommended resources for my incoming MSW students.”
Catharine J. Ralph, MSW, LCSW, PPSC
Title IV-E Project Coordinator; Field Consultant/ Lecturer
NASW-CA Chapter President 2015-18
Committee Member, CA Social Work Hall of Distinction
University of California, Berkeley
School of Social Welfare
“On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery is a tremendous piece of work and my students loved the film! They said it was great to see people actually recover and that it evoked a strong sense of hope for complicated and difficult issues and problems which unjustly stigmatized many women in our society. They felt the film was appropriate for our social work classes, addiction classes, and also to show those in recovery so that all can understand the challenges that are there in the recovery process. We liked the way you interspersed the facts with the film clips and the women’s voices. Wonderful piece of work. I worked on an inpatient treatment unit for pregnant women using cocaine in South Carolina when the punitive law was first passed there that unjustly criminalized drug use during pregnancy and discriminated against African American and poor women. I left the state shortly after that but have not forgotten the impact that that law had and the lack of resources to positively encourage those women. Many of those women said it was easier to get free cocaine in their rural communities than it was a glass of water on a hot day. They were trapped, without resources, in a state that would only respond punitively to their needs. I am glad for films like this and only hope that we can encourage more recovery programs like this one in California.”
Marcia Pantell, LCSW, PhD
Associate Professor and Chair
Dept. of Social Work and Addictions Counseling
By Cheryl Blankenship Kupras, MSW, LCSW
With the Academy Awards fast approaching, I was thinking about the wonderful movies I have been able to see over the past year. Not only have I seen some of the box office top bills, but have also been able to see some fabulous independent films as well as my personal favorite—documentaries. One of these documentaries was On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery, by filmmaker Sheila Ganz.
Driven by the desire for custody of their children, five mothers struggle to overcome addiction in a gender responsive residential treatment program. Their intimate story reveals experiences with domestic violence, inter-generational family issues, prostitution and incarceration. On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery interweaves the women’s three year journey to transform their lives through self-sufficiency and new found pride with drug laws that impact mother and child, and will inspire hope for recovery. For trailer and info go tohttp://www.onlifesterms.org.
Watching this film, I reflected on my 20-plus year career as a professional social worker and how policy and practice in this arena has ebbed and flowed through the decades. I started my social work career in a perinatal substance abuse program in a rural, minimum base allocation county in California in the early 1990s when “crack babies” and fetal alcohol exposure were high priorities in California and funding and support followed.
I then went to work at a large county’s public hospital where social workers were very involved in developing standards for referral of substance using mothers and exposed children to the child welfare system. Prior to moving to administration/quality improvement where I just completed a program evaluation of my county’s perinatal substance abuse program, I worked in an addiction medicine clinic that served opiate dependent, pregnant women who in some states are being prosecuted for engaging in treatment and taking a medication that is the gold standard.
This movie spoke to me as a social worker not only about the importance having quality treatment programs and treatment professionals (many of whom are hopefully social workers), but the role that social workers and advocacy can shape policy and practice. I hope that you will watch the trailer and consider how this topic is addressed in your county and what you may do to advance treatment available.
“On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery is an interesting and well done film! As a mother in recovery myself, I connected with these women and their precious children on a deeply personal level. It is challenging, at times, to balance work, relationships, education, motherhood, recovery and all the other things women have to juggle in life to be healthy and whole as individuals. I feel that what Sheila has done by making this film is to give us a voice and bring attention to something that exists behind closed doors in many households throughout the country. Everyone starts out thinking they won’t become ‘that girl’ or end up like ‘that person’ but many of us do, unfortunately, and that is when we need help. The hard part is finding that help when you have other responsibilities and when people are depending on you… We need more rehabilitation available for families that focuses on keeping them together. Not all alcoholics and addicts are bad parents, most of us just have real issues and need support to overcome things like depression, abuse, conditioning, etc. There is always hope. I applaud this film. Please watch it and please donate to the excellent cause of spreading the word about mothers in recovery.”
A New PATH, Board of Directors
(Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing)
“Being the mother of an adult child who suffers from heroin addiction, I cannot say enough about the importance of Sheila Ganz’s film with regards to its celebration of the healing that can occur when mothers have the opportunity for treatment while actively parenting.
Sheila Ganz in her own way reminds us that we would never take a child away from a mother who is suffering from breast cancer. We would always want that mother to have aggressive treatment while continuing her effort to parent. Why should mothers with addictive illness not be granted that same essential core right; to parent their children while in active recovery?
I had a unique opportunity this past week to observe mothers with addictive illness watching Sheila Ganz’s film: On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery. I was deeply moved to see these mothers weep with the understanding that someone appreciated the horrific agony of anticipating separation from one’s children because of an illness that was never wanted or invited. Addictive illness, like many tragic heritable illnesses, is not a choice. On Life’s Terms celebrates the precious indelible bond between mothers and their young children that over-powers shame-based beliefs that all those with addictive illness are amoral and antisocial.”
Caroline Ridout Stewart, MA, MSW, LCSW
A New PATH, Board of Directors
(Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing)
“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.
“Thank you so much for inviting the women in Samaritan Villages’ Young Mothers program to the screening of On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery at the REEL Recovery Film Festival in New York City. Our ladies shared in an intimate understanding of the stories of these ladies and their journey in recovery. It made such a difference for them to connect with this film, and share in the joy and pain they witnessed on the screen which is also very personal to them. I sat next to them in the movie and heard them identify with the treatment experience and the emotional roller-coaster that is early recovery, particularly because they too are in a facility with their children. It has been my experience that the more connection our clients have to the recovery community and positive experiences like this, the more success they will have in their journey. Once again, thank you and our ladies thank you.”
Laurie J. Lieberman, MPA, CASAC, CPP, CARC, CRPA
Director of Recovery Services, Access to Recovery New York SOARS
“A beautiful and heartfelt film. I was very touched by the human quality that you were able to tell of the women featured in the film. Very special – Wishing you the Best of Luck with future outreach of On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery.”
Greg Williams, Director
The Anonymous People
“Thanks for allowing me to view your wonderfully moving and informative film, On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery! I enjoyed how clearly each mother’s message and personal struggle was portrayed. Hearing their words and their unique struggles gave me insight into the challenge of recovery while parenting responsibly.”
Sharon Walchak, PHN
SA/HIV Public Health Nurse
San Francisco, CA
My recent appearance at the REEL Recovery Film Festival in San Francisco coincided with the world premier of the documentary On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery. I met filmmaker, Sheila Ganz, afterward and have nothing but the greatest admiration for the work she has done. This is a gripping one-hour that’s a MUST SEE film on women facing tough odds with an eye on reuniting their families after facing their addictions.
Sheila follows five new moms facing legal challenges and the removal of their children in a criminal justice system too often known for heavy-handedness and mistreatment, rather than compassion and treatment. The film follows the mothers through gut-wrenching stories, tears, reluctant acceptance, then growth into their “aha” moments… through the years following their program commitment and reuniting with their children. There’s also the draw of old relationships and the pull of old ways of thinking and resentments, even months and years after the moms get clean and sober. Those moments I believe were intentionally left in the final cut to prove that all of us are recovering, not cured. I covered my eyes, telling the screen, “DON’T DO IT.”
And all this is VERY well done.
I admit to not having a whole lot of experience with moms and recovery. This opened my eyes. I am glad there are resources but never realized until the film just how scarce they are. There are only 150 mom-oriented programs in the whole country?? When the outcomes are so potentially powerful??
I have strong feelings about women risking the unborn and believe they MUST be accountable. This film showed they can be without incarceration. Corrections and a punitive justice system do more harm than their (mis)treatment programs claim. This film shows the positives of diverting young families away from the hostility of a lockup, It works for the community as well as the offender and MOST IMPORTANTLY the kids.
We all have a stake in the outcomes for mother and child. This brilliantly executed documentary shows how it works when restorative justice trumps punitive justice … and left me inspired to learn more and DO MORE.
“Bravo to Sheila Ganz! I am so moved by the unspoken voices of mothers in recovery!!! On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery gives the viewer hope that women do recover with rehabilitation and support! This is a must see film for anyone working in the field of family preservation, foster care and/or adoption. We learn about women, who become mothers, despite their drug/alcohol addictions and more importantly we understand how they have struggled with untreated mental health issues, stemming from their own childhoods. It reveals real women with real stories that touch your heart. And as a clinician in the field of foster care and adoption, working with children who are placed in foster care, I wish more mothers struggling with addiction could see this movie so they can learn that it is possible to recover and live life on life’s terms with integrity. Across the country, methamphetamine use is an epidemic. This film helps us “hear the crisis and the call” for action today, that if we give mothers a second chance with loving guidance and support, they can become what they were meant to be… mothers to their children, and responsible for themselves.”
Jeanette Yoffe, M.F.T., Executive Director, Celia Center
Providing Foster Care/Adoption Psycho-education and Support
“One of our clients who attended the San Francisco screening of On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery was able to totally relate to the women in the film who endured physical abuse and loss of family and friends including any hope to ‘get out of the abusive relationship. I noticed that another client was so emotionally motivated by all of the women in the film that her intellectual side became stirred causing her not only to feel a greater sense of hope, but a greater awareness of her addiction, her ‘motherhood’ and the love of her parents.
”For all the women at the screening, following Real Live Mothers/women with the same issues from the beginning, had a huge impact. For moms struggling with addiction to make those hard and difficult decisions to change or make that ‘shift’ is to receive an Awareness, or have an Epiphany, and a film presented in the way On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery is presented is like the inner Light Bulb that is turned back on. Your film shines a light on a woman’s heart, her soul, her mind, her determination and for the world to be able to ‘see.’”
Deborah Hodges, Residential Program Supervisor/Coordinator
The Epiphany Center, gender-specific residential treatment program
“On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery is the most powerful and exciting film I’ve seen on this issue. I look forward to finding a way to incorporate this into the class on Gender, Drugs and Alcohol. What great work you have done! Thank you again for producing a film of this caliber on the most important issue of our times.”
Yasmina Katsuilis, PhD
Associate Professor, Women and Gender Studies
Arizona State University
© 2023 Sheila Ganz