PDT Staff Writer
Zain was born a beautiful, healthy baby boy three weeks ago at Southern Ohio Medical Center.
“He only cries when he wants fed or needs his diaper changed. He is really a good baby,” Jacqueline H., his mother, said as she proudly held her new blessing.
One out of 10 babies born in the Maternity Department at SOMC is born addicted to drugs because, unlike Jacqueline, they didn’t take the step to get clean in the early stages of pregnancy to give their child a fighting chance. Jackie’s story didn’t start like the success it ended up. Quite the contrary.
“I was in jail for a month,” the bright-eyed 23-year old said. “So I was clean when I got here.”
“Here” is Stepping Stone, operated by the Scioto County Counseling Center.
“I detoxed in jail,” Jacqueline said. “I was in jail for a probation violation. I found out I was pregnant and I was using heroin. I was trying to get into detox, so I went to a hospital, but they wouldn’t keep me. My mom ended up calling my P.O. (probation officer) because she found out I was pregnant and knew that I was addicted to heroin. They came to the house and asked me what was going on.”
Jackie told probation officials she had been using heroin. She was pregnant, went to jail for a month and had eight months of prison time at Marysville Prison for Women, hanging over her head. She says that is when she made what may have been the most important decision of her life.
“I requested to come here (Stepping Stone House), and I came here after a month,” Jacqueline said. “It was overwhelming at first. But I got adjusted. And it has been a good experience.”
“She was referred here by probation,” Mary Irwin, Program Director at Stepping Stone House, said. “Usually they are referred by probation, Children Services, family members, or they self-refer - seek out treatment on their own, knowing they have a problem.”
Irwin said Jackie had used opiates before getting hooked on heroin. She says that is not uncommon since heroin is cheaper, and addicts often find it difficult to come up with enough money to buy pills such as OxyContin.
“What we do here is get them (patients) a comprehensive assessment, and do a treatment plan,” Irwin said. “She was 10 weeks when she got here, which is very early, which is great, because we’re going to get her signed up for her prenatal care, working with the CAO (Community Action Organization) clinic, making sure she is following doctor’s orders, multivitamins, meeting all of her appointments.”
Irwin said some of the people who come into the program are in their seventh or eighth month of pregnancy, and have never had any prenatal care. Irwin said Jackie was assigned to an individual counselor to work on her addiction. She also has a behavioral counselor and a mental health counselor.
“What they do there is work on anxiety, depression, anger issues, parenting,” Irwin said. “We like to keep the pregnant women six weeks after they have the baby, because sometimes Post-Partum depression surfaces. They may have issues with parenting skills. Out of the 40 employees, 39 are women, so there’s a lot of maternal instincts to help parent the child.”
Jacqueline said she learned a lot about herself through counseling.
“I have worked on a lot of different things with me,” Jacqueline said. “I have worked a lot on anxiety and just how to deal with it - how to deal with addiction - just what I need to do, like calling my sponsor, and going to meetings.”
There was one more thing that came through as she spoke about her situation.
“Before I came here I didn’t pray,” Jacqueline said. “I really didn’t have a relationship with God. And when I first got here I started praying even though it felt weird or foreign. And the more I did it, the more natural it became. Now I do it without even thinking twice about it. I have a lot more faith and know that everything is going to be okay.”
Jacqueline described going through the program as “a life-changing experience.”
“I was just very miserable before I came in here,” Jacqueline said. “I didn’t want to continue what I was doing. I felt awful. I had a five-year-old (Isaiah). I had him with me, but I wasn’t there for him. I’m grateful for getting to be here. If not, my other choice would have been prison. And I wouldn’t have been able to be with my son. I would have had him (Zain) in Marysville. So it has been like a blessing.”
One of the first life changes Jackie had to make was changing her circumstances, friends, and surroundings. There are several people in her life who are also addicted, meaning she had to adjust her relationships.
“It has been hard, but I have had to set boundaries with them, and keep a safe distance,” Jacqueline said. “I have also worked on my relationship with my son’s father.”
Jacqueline has been clean for six months, the longest she has been clean since she was 15 years old, except for a time during her first pregnancy. She said her biggest support comes from her mother, and she will continue to rely on her as a part of her recovery process.
“I still go to groups every day and meetings and meet with the sponsor. So it’s pretty much the same until I complete the program,” Jacqueline said. “I’m due to complete in about three weeks and I’m going back to live with my mom, and I’m going to set up aftercare, which is outpatient treatment. I’ll go to groups still, but not as many. I plan to continue to go to meetings and keep in contact with my sponsor. And I also plan on getting a job.”
Jackie, like other recovered addicts, also believes she has the ability to have empathy for other addicts, and sees herself as someone who can help from a unique perspective, if only by sharing her story with others.
Jackie remembers the moment she gave birth and was told the baby was healthy.
“After I had him I felt an overwhelming sense of gratefulness and joyfulness,” Jacqueline said. “When my mom took my five-year-old for a couple of days after I had him (Zain), and then she brought him back, I just felt so whole with both my kids there, and just grateful for having a healthy baby and being able to get off that early, and not having to use throughout my whole pregnancy. I am definitely grateful and joyful.”
Women needing information about Stepping Stone House may call 740-354-6550 or 800-577-6685, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or go online to www.thecounselingcenter.org.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at email@example.com.