Heroin Epidemic: One mother's story after giving birth while addicted
(WLOS) - It's an alarming and tragic statistic - 399 babies born intro drug addictions at Mission Health in one year.
WLOS - TV has been investigating the heroin epidemic and it's most innocent victims.
Now, we're getting perspective on the problem from a mother who lived through it.
Christine admits she was a drug addict for more than a decade. She is not proud of her past, but she wanted to share her story in order to provide hope for others.
She has been clean since 2008.
How it started
Christine said she started using pain pills around 1996 and was in school when she realized she had a problem.
"I remember sitting on the bed and I hadn't had any pills and I realized I was in a lot of pain," Christine said. "And I was like, 'what is going on?' And I realized I was having withdrawals."
She said from that moment on her drug addiction only got worse. She was living in Massachusetts at the time, with little contact with her family.
Christine said she eventually started using heroin, then crack.
"When I was using drugs, I was doing whatever I needed to do to get more drugs," she said.
The news she never expected
Christine said, during a trip to detox, she found out she was three months pregnant.
"When I got pregnant with him, I was on drugs and didn't know I was pregnant with him," she said.
Christine decided to continue with detox and convinced her doctor to lower her dosage of methdone. She said she did everything she could to give her unborn son the best chance at a good life.
It worked, and her son was born healthy.
But, Christine was not. She kept using, and her little boy was taken away when he was about six months old.
"Through all of that, I bottomed out and I was doing a lot of bad things and I become a terrible mother to a child that I desperately loved. I was a really bad mother ... at one point DSS came and they took my son and it was very painful," Christine said.
Her son stayed with relatives and then went into foster care.
For several years, Christine only saw her little boy in supervised visits.
Then, on Aug. 7, 2008, she went to a court appearance and landed in jail. She told the judge she needed help or she was going to die.
"That day, I had an abscess on my arm from using IV drugs, and I had lost everything. I had nothing. I didn't have my family, I didn't have my child," Christine said.
She said, while she was sitting in that jail cell, she said a prayer to surrender her addiction, and it worked.
She's been sober since.
"I knew that it was important that I stay clean no matter what, no matter if I got my son back or not. So, to me, that was the greatest experience of surrender that I've ever had ... was when I surrendered my child," she said.
Rebuilding her family
Christine regained custody of her son when he was 4. Seven years later, they're still rebuilding their relationship.
Christine now has a 2-year-old daughter, as well. She says her son is like most 11-year-olds. He loves video games and hockey and his younger sister.
She said they now have a great bond and is amazed by her little boy.
But, Christine said she still carries lots of guilt over the life she brought him into and the years she gave away.
"My son's gone through hell because of my addiction, and it's not fair. I'm not proud of it," Christine said.
When we told her how many other children are being born in to addictions in our area, she was shocked and emotional.
"That's a lot. I'm sorry ... That's a lot. It's really sad. It's like an epidemic. It's a huge problem," she said.
Christine said she works every day to be a better mom and tries to focus on the future of her family ... the moments she has ahead instead of the ones she lost.
"They do help me stay clean because I don't want to miss any more time. He's already 11, and time goes by so fast," Christine said.
Christine credits drug court and a 12-step program with helping her finally overcome her addiction.
She hopes her story will show other addicts that they can get better. She also hopes it helps society have more compassion for those battling addictions.
Mission Health has a hotline set up for expectant mothers struggling with an addiction: 1-800-532-6302.