By Jay Dow
There is an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. But at the Odyssey House’s George Rosenfeld Center for Recovery on Wards Island, the villagers are also in need of a helping hand.
Alexis is 21 years old with twins. “When I was pregnant, I smoked during my pregnancy. I smoked marijuana. When I gave birth, they came out with a small dosage of cannabis in their system. So A.C.S. told me at the hospital I could either go to court or I could voluntarily come to Odyssey House. I wanted a better life for myself and my kids. I didn’t want my kids to get taken away from me. It’s my first kids. My first time being a mother,” said Alexis.
This might be the last place you’d expect to find someone like Alexis, but she is one of 20 mothers living there full time. All of them are celebrating their first Mother’s Day this year in recovery and treatment for substance abuse disorder.
Alexis is not alone. According to 2017 data from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, nationally, there is approximately one baby diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) every 19 minutes, or nearly 80 newborns diagnosed every day. NAS covers a group of conditions caused when a baby is exposed to certain drugs while in their mother’s womb.
Between 2010 and 2017, the country experienced an 82% increase in the number of babies born with NAS. The challenge is convincing them to seek out or accept help in a safe space in order to get their lives back on track.
“Helping those ready to engage in treatment and recovery find the services they need, not just to survive but thrive,” said Odyssey House CEO Dr. Peter Provet.
At Odyssey House, that journey included honoring Alexis and the other mothers in recovery during a Mother’s Day Luncheon, held Wednesday on Wards Island.
“I’m the mother of beautiful 6-month-old twins, a beautiful son named Braylin and a daughter named Dalini. We have been here for almost seven months and it has been life-changing,” Alexis told the crowd during the luncheon.
Jeremy King is director of residential services. “Oftentimes, moms don’t come into treatment because they are given a choice between going into recovery and being a parent to their child. And we don’t think that that should be a choice,” said King.
As Alexis and the other mothers continue on their path to recovery, they are also embarking on a journey of redemption for their children’s sake.
“I don’t want to teach my kids that you can’t rely on your parents. You want to give them better. If you chose to keep your child, and you chose to go through birth and pregnancy and all of the good things that come with it – you can do it. You’re going to be alright,” said Alexis.
Alexis is speaking from experience. She just graduated from the Odyssey House Recovery Program and is preparing to move out back on her own with her babies, along with a new network of friends and advocates ready to help along the way.