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Excerpts from interviews with two graduates of the residential program

G. is a 43 year old mother of 3 children, ages 18, 10 and 5. She and the two youngest children stayed at Sunrise for one year. She has been out of the program for a year, is living with her 3 children, and attending college at a local university.

R, is a 37 year old mother who graduated from Sunrise this past November and is currently living in Chapel Hill with her two children, ages 3 and 8, and working at a local department store. Her son lived with her for the whole year in Sunrise and her daughter joined them at Sunrise after 8 months.

Q: When you were in active addiction, how did it affect your parenting?

G: I wasn’t parenting… I was just a mother. I let them stay up late and run wild and they pretty much ruled the house. I did no parenting. All I wanted them to do was have what they wanted, like a McDonald’s Happy Meal or a toy so that they could just be satisfied for the moment or whatever. So I could get high… I gave in a lot to them… Pretty much little children on their own. I thought I was being a parent but I wasn’t.

R: In my active addiction I wasn’t around. I lived with my mother. I gave one of my kids to my mom…I spent time with my daughter there. .. With my youngest child…I gave him to my cousin temporarily. So I wasn’t a parent in my active addiction. I couldn’t sit still long enough. By me being in active addiction and looking the way I was looking, I, at some point, I couldn’t look at my daughter. I didn’t want her to see me. So I wasn’t a parent….. I could not be one because the drug was calling me. It was more important to me than sitting and doing homework with my kid or reading. When I wanted to stay there and do things with them, I couldn’t, because the drug, the drug just took over parenting…Drugs were just that powerful.

Q: Each of you stayed at the residence for one year. How did your relationship with your children change over that time?

G: The most important thing is that they trust me now…I get more respect, they trust me and know I will be there for them.

R: There was a big change. I didn’t have a relationship at all. I began to look at them and see what I had and take responsibility… I use to tell her I be right back but I never would come back. She says she trusts me now because I don’t have to lie to her anymore…. She has forgiven me for all the times that I told her I was going to do things I was going to do and the times I was going to come back and I didn’t. By me not doing drugs, by me having my sobriety, it gave me a chance to have a relationship with my kids. My relationship with my children did change during this year. I was able to sit down and read to them, play games with them, help my daughter with her homework. I learned how to communicate like a parent should. I pay a lot of attention to them now. Therapy, parenting, love, wanting to change and my sobriety made our relationship change.

Q: What were the stresses and challenges that your children had during this year?

G: – Following the rules and structure, they weren’t use to no structure. So they did not know what to do. They didn’t understand it’s time to go to bed. I made dinner, so sit down and eat. I keep telling them now – life has rules, mommy has rules, you have rules. They needed it. They liked it… life wasn’t chaotic for them anymore either … they like today is shopping day, today is washing clothes day, they needed that. I needed it. .. Where I came from before I came here, it was so chaotic. I never want to live like that again. I think that’s what helped me stay clean now.

R: When my daughter first came here in June. She was so glad to get here. I had explained to her that they had rules- that you had to be in bed on time and have therapy, can’t go nowhere after curfew…. She adjusted to it. She did good when we did move out on our own. I had them on that curfew thing. …Not being able to see their grandma when they wanted to. My daughter had problems with kids at her new school. She also had a problem being overweight. As time went by we talked about each problem with our therapist. Parenting class, I asked questions on certain situations and we made it through.

Q: When moms first come to the residence, often their children are in the “driver’s seat”. Did that change over the year?

G: I know I am in the drivers seat because by me getting clean, I don’t feel guilty anymore. I am the momma and I am the parent and what I say goes. I have more, a lot of confidence in myself. My self esteem is better about me being a parent. And the whole thing is I didn’t feeling guilty anymore because I have two years (clean and sober) behind me today. I did what I did and I’m trying to do what I am doing now. When they go there (remind her of her past), I say, “I don’t want to hear it… Look at what I am doing now.” That’s what I tell them.

R: I feel the same way as G right now. I feel like I run the show now and I am capable of running the show now. .. She tests me but I put her right back on track. ….I’ve got some structure today. I m glad that my kids don’t tell me, “you can’t tell me what to do”.

Q: While you lived at Sunrise, you attended parenting groups and therapy. What parenting skills, if any, made a difference?

G: Consistency. That was a parenting skill that I learned and it made a difference because when I do it, they know I am serious and I mean what I say. I also learn to listen to my kids too. … I am not a big one for whupping. I try to talk to them. When talking just ain’t enough I go to other alternatives, like B can not watch tv or go outside. But the whole big thing is being consistent.

R: That is the thing. Consistent sticking to what you say and don’t get off it… It works because I’ve done it before while I was in here…I have also learned if I have done something or said something wrong, I go back and apologize or tell them that I’m sorry and explain to them, talk to them about why I did it … She also has came to me and told me why she did what she did… it helps when you know why somebody does something. It helps me and I’m quite sure it helps her.