Becoming a Mother and Getting Clean

May 10, 2017

300300p30275EDNmainBrittany Stern and Daughter wider canvas

By Brittany Stern

I'm a 25-year-old mother of a seven-month-old girl, but before the birth of my daughter, I was extremely addicted to IV heroin and had no life for myself. I was scared of even becoming a mother. In my head, I just knew I would fail her and myself.

Before I got clean, I was sleeping in my car in the dead of winter. My significant other at the time, and many others, had nearly convinced me if I told my OB/GYN I was using heroin, my child would be taken from me. But, I knew I had to do something. I needed help and the innocent life inside of me didn't deserve to die because of the poor choices I was making.

I began my journey to recovery by going to a different hospital until I started rehab — which took a lot of convincing and pleading from family members and friends. I was nearly five months pregnant when I got clean for the final time. I believe it’s when my life truly began, after struggling six times before.

I was in rehab two days before I was introduced to methadone, a controlled substance used in maintenance programs at Denver Health’s Outpatient Behavioral Health Services, to combat opiate addiction. I was hesitant to begin methadone treatment until I found out that if I immediately sent myself into withdrawal, I’d risk hurting or possibly killing my unborn child. So I took a leap of faith with my doctor. I was very lucky that my methadone doctor was also my new obstetrics doctor so I was taken care of by someone who truly cared, and understood my situation.

During this time I had to figure out how to break up with my significant other who was still using, and try and find the will to stay clean. I was doing well, really well actually, and I was back on track. I left rehab and began working full time to save up for maternity leave. I had the support of several nurses, counselors and Dr. Kaylin Klie and her assistant John Mills, who believed I could succeed at whatever I put my mind to. They were all very reassuring that I would do the right thing and helped me believe I’d be a great mother. The people who helped me are largely why I am still here today, and have impacted my growth in such a positive way, that I feel like I owe them for their compassion and generosity.

Recently, I made the transition from methadone to Suboxone. It was pretty rough in the beginning, but determination got me through the first week of struggle, so I could be completely off opiates altogether. You hear all the time about people being “lifers of the methadone clinic” and that was honestly enough for me to know that I couldn't handle coming downtown every day to be surrounded by people who didn't want what I wanted in life. It was sad watching a lot of the people I knew feel like slaves and not care about their lives because they had settled for living that way. I didn't want any part of that. I knew that if I did the right thing and if I could go the extra mile to get where I wanted to be, that I would fulfill my purpose at the clinic and be able to move on and put my past behind me.

Every week I come to the clinic to pick up my prescription and visit with my counselor. We are now trying Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, a psychotherapy treatment used to help with traumatic memories. Even though this is just the beginning of this type of therapy, it has impacted me in a positive way and is already healing some of my emotional wounds and correcting my behaviors. I know that if I'm having a rough time that I have all the support I need at Denver Health and that it’s OK to feel like you're failing every once in a while.

What I've learned being clean this time, is that if you want it bad enough you have to go out and get it. It’s great having others do the dirty work, but if you don’t do it yourself, it shows you don’t want to get better. “If you're willing to walk 10 miles to pick up dope, then are you willing to walk 10 miles just to stay clean?” I know I am.

My daughter deserves the best part of me and the staff at Denver Health helped give that back to me, for her. I was able to learn that there are people who will not give up on you, even if you give up on yourself and relapse repeatedly. There are people who work at Denver Health for specific reasons and whatever their reason, I'm grateful for it; because it gave me the hope I needed and had been missing for years.

Being a mom isn't easy, let alone being a single mom. But I can tell you this, every new thing she does is remarkable and beneficial. It makes everything worth it and I wouldn't change it for anything in the world.

If I could offer anything, my advice to others with drug addiction is to give yourself a break. What we go through and what we put ourselves through isn’t easy by any means. Having an addiction is hard. What I learned is if you dwell on the fact you relapsed then you won’t move on and get better. So far, that way of thinking has helped me. When someone at Denver Health asks what’s wrong, it’s because they care, they want to see you succeed and do great things. They want to watch you grow! So don’t give up on yourself.