Shannon, a self-described soccer mom, was just trying to be the perfect mother.
Shannon and Phillip have been together since high school. In the 16 years they’ve been together, they’ve had three children, ages 14, 13 and 10. Shannon is a self-described soccer mom who was trying to be perfect for her children, each of whom is involved in multiple sports and other activities. She and Phillip worked full time, but most of the childcare and transportation of the kids to their activities fell to Shannon.
It became harder and harder to keep up with everything, so Shannon started taking Ritalin and Adderall to give her extra energy. In 2014, her best friend was diagnosed with cancer and passed away shortly thereafter. In 2016, her mother died after a brief and intense illness. In response to these losses, Shannon began using the Percocet she had been prescribed for back pain to numb her emotional pain so she could keep going and “be there” for her children.
Shannon never used anything other than prescription pills, so she said she didn’t feel like an addict. But things spiraled out of control and in the fall of 2016, she was arrested and charged with having unlawful prescriptions in her car. She was sentenced to 14 days in jail and three years of probation. While on probation, she was unable to leave the pills alone. Shannon’s addiction had convinced her it wasn’t that bad and she was a better mother with pills. She said one set of pills gave her the energy she needed to work and take her kids to up to four different activities a night and the other set helped Shannon to keep her emotional pain at bay and prevent her kids from seeing her grief and sadness.
While on supervision, Shannon tested positive for drugs and as a result, she went to prison. Shannon says that day will be etched in her mind forever as the day she “was ripped out of my kids’ lives.” She also felt certain that it was the end of her relationship with Phillip.
Instead, that day became a turning point. Phillip didn’t leave. He stepped in and became a single father. He and Shannon worked together to ensure their children didn’t suffer as a result of her absence. Shannon actively participated in programs in prison to address her addiction and the pressures she put on herself to be a perfect mother.
Today, Shannon is at Alvis, participating in a transitional treatment program that consists of substance abuse treatment, cognitive behavioral treatment, parenting education, workforce development and other services that have been proven to reduce the risk that Shannon will return to the justice system. Shannon, Phillip and their children are also in the Alvis Family and Children’s program. This is a specialized program designed to help families heal from the trauma that results from having a parent in the justice system.
“I know my kids were impacted by my behavior,” says Shannon. “Before, I was there but not there. Sometimes I couldn’t remember conversations and I would nod off. I was late to some of their events because I was getting pills.” As a result of being in the program, Shannon also knows that even though her kids don’t show it, they are hurt and they need their own time and counseling to heal.
Shannon is grateful for her new perspective. “I put so much pressure on myself to be perfect. I wrapped my whole life around my kids,” she says. “I hated asking for help back then. But today I know Phillip is my partner and I don’t have to do everything on my own.”
This is the longest time Shannon has been away from her kids and she is determined never be separated from them like this ever again. When she goes home in a few weeks, she’s taking the things she’s learned at Alvis with her. “I know I have a lot of making up to do,” says Shannon. “But I also need to make a life for myself so the kids aren’t my whole world. That’s healthy for all of us.”
Thanks to Alvis, Shannon and her family have a bright future ahead of them. It won’t be perfect – but today, Shannon knows that’s okay.
Your support of the Alvis Family and Children’s Program makes stories like Shannon’s have a happy ending. Thank you.
Gloria Iannucci, Sr. Director, Communications, is the author of this blog post.