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When Mom's a Drug Addict

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Celebrity mom Tatum O'Neal says getting busted for buying crack was a blessing. But what drove her to it in the first place? A mom addict tells us her story.

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According to recent reports, the stress of motherhood can make some mothers more susceptible to drug use. But is that true? We asked momlogic contributor, Shannon Fox. "Being a mom is one of the most stressful jobs in the world and it never ends--when the day is over, the stress, worry and the anxiety continues. The mere sress of being a mom could cause an addict to relapse. Make sure that you are connected and that you have a support system--someone who knows to ask the right questions to make sure that you're doing OK."

In a momlogic exlusive interview, we spoke to 33-year-old Shelley Mitchell, the mother of four boys under 9. Shelley started doing drugs when she was in high school and, by the time she was in her late 20s, had two sons, had landed in jail and was pregnant with twins.

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After getting out of jail, Shelley gave birth to her twins and within two months--not only was she back on drugs-- but she and her husband were actually making drugs. Shelley's drug use nearly killed her family when their homemade meth lab exploded, leaving her with third-degree burns over 60% of her body. Her children were unharmed but they were all placed in foster care to protect them from their parents. With a lot of hard work and determination, Shelley has been sober for five years. Three years ago she regained custody of all four of her children. She says that there is no doubt in her mind that if she hadn't been so exhausted and overwhelmed by caring for four children, she might never have relapsed.

Click on an image to see the shocking before and after photos of other addicted mothers.

Photos courtesy of Drugfree.org

Momlogic: What was your reaction when you heard that Tatum O'Neal had been arrested for buying drugs?

Shelley: When I heard about her being arrested, I felt really bad for her. Addiction is such a big problem in our society and even celebrities fall prey to it. Hopefully she will get some help and society won't bash her too much, because she's an addict.

ML: Can you relate to Tatum's near relapse?
Shelley: I can totally relate. Meth and coke are stimulants that give you a false sense of secuirity and a false sense of control. When you're doing them or going to do them, you only think about how you'll feel when you're high, not about afterwards. I haven't done any drugs since the explosion but there were a couple of times when I got out of the hospital and the kids were in foster care that I really considered it. I was in burn garments having nearly killed myself, and I was considering doing drugs again. The ONLY thing that stopped me was that I had visitation with my kids and I knew I was going to be drug-tested and I wanted them back.

ML: Do you think that moms are particularly susceptible to drug use?
Shelley: I've been clean now for about five years, but when I was using I have to say about 70% percent of the people I used with were mothers. I really do think that moms are particulary susceptible to drugs because they get stressed, tired and overwhelmed and drugs can give you the little lift you need to get through the day and get everything done.

The stress and pressure of being a mother to four kids--two of them newborns--became too much. I was always tired and I never had all the energy that I needed to be a good mom. I remember the day I relapsed. We had just moved and I had two new babies. I was stressed and I was unpacking and I think I might have had some postpartum depression. That's when a friend came by and offered me drugs. I wasn't looking to do it but I thought it would give me a lift, get me through the day and help me get things done.

ML: Why didn't you ask someone for help?

Shelley: That was part of the problem--I had four kids and I didn't want them taken away from me. There were so many times that I wanted to [ask for help], but because I'm a mother, I was afraid that if I told anyone that I had a drug problem then I would lose my kids. I think that happens with a lot of moms--you want help, but if you admit it, you won't see your children.

ML: Did you feel guilty while you were doing and making drugs around your kids?
Shelley: At the time I was addicted, I didn't have a whole lot of guilt about what I was doing. But I also felt trapped, like I knew that I couldn't stop because I knew that if I stopped, I would be sleeping for weeks on end-- and then how would I look after my kids? I tried to justify it. A lot of the guilt and shame didn't come out until I was sober. Even now, I look back and I think, "Oh my God, I wish I could go back in time." I try not to focus on all that, but it's there.

ML: What have you told your kids about your drug use?
Shelley: We were honest. We sat them down and told them the truth--that Mom and Dad were making drugs and we made bad choices and we're trying to get better. They dealt really well with the truth.


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2 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous June 3, 2008, 10:54 PM

Congratulations on your recovery, Shelley.

VZerbee June 3, 2008, 11:02 PM

Parenting is the hardest job one will ever have. I am also the mother of four and there have been many challenges as well as so many joys. What is key is for mom to take care of herself in a healthy way. There are great choices out there to make so that you feel good, manage stress, and enjoy your children. Drugs destroy and nothing good will come from using them. Moms need to have personal time, decide what they need to stay ‘good’ and then stick to that plan.


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