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Meth Moms Learn to Connect Emotionally With Children

Meth Moms Learn to Connect Emotionally With Children

Posted - Dec. 10, 2004 at 9:25 p.m.



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Kim Johnson reportingUtah women are becoming addicted to meth in alarming numbers, and most of them are mothers. That drug is robbing them of the ability to connect emotionally with their children.

But one program is helping them reconnect.

When 25-year-old Allison Pasalich came to Salt Lake City's Odyssey House she was two and half months pregnant, and addicted to meth. After nearly two years of intense therapy, Allison says she has stayed sober, rediscovered herself, and learned how to be a mother.

Allison Pasalich/ Recovering meth addict: "I'm an excellent mom. That's one of my best qualities, I think." "She's like my little angel. I don't think I would be sober if I ended up not having a baby, and being able to connect with someone the way I've connected with her."

But she admits she didn't feel this way about her daughter at first.

Allison Pasalich: "I didn't know how to be a mom. I had no desire to be a mom. I didn't know hot to take responsibility or care for myself, so how was I going to do that for a baby?"

At Odyssey House, Allison would learn. All mothers who enter the treatment program not only have to figure out how to beat their addictions, they have to learn the day to day basics of caring for children. Then they learn how to be responsible and accountable for the lives they've helped create.

After those critical first two steps, the emotional work begins. Social workers say drug addiction stunts the emotional development of mothers and their children.

Kate Tolsma/ Director of Children's Services, Odyssey House: "So you know a thirty year old may be operating emotionally at like a seventeen or eighteen year old. And with the children it's the same thing. So, we have a lot of children who are.. say they're five years old, six years old. Emotionally, they're about two."

Tolsma says the normal bonding between mother and child is also thwarted by addiction.

Kate Tolsma: "If mom's high on meth, she's not going to be able to read her child's emotional cues. And the child is not able to read the mother's emotional cues. And the attachment process is not happening."

Tolsma says each mother and child in the program has a thorough psychological assessment and individual treatment plan. Allison says the process was difficult but life saving.

Allison Pasalich: "I struggled with post partum depression for the first few months, and I still didn't want to be a mom. I didn't want her. And then a therapist one day helped me click that she isn't anything of my past, but she's my pure, sweet, innocent baby who has everything to do with my future."

And the future is looking bright for Allison, who's about to graduate. She looks forward to going back to school, but says she wants to come back to Odyssey House to help other meth addicts on the path to becoming good parents.

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