Mothers who’ve lost custody of their children because of addiction to drugs and alcohol deserve what they get. They are victims of their own bad decisions and could stop using at any time.
Nothing could be farther from the truth, said Ted Thompson, a Revolution Church member and family nurse practitioner whose employer also operates a rehabilitation center in Knox County.
“It’s easy for folks to look at these mothers — people who may have lied and stolen to support their addictions or engaged in unbelievably risky behaviors — to think children will never be safe around these women,” he said. “But how many people chose to go down this route?”
Although some see addiction as a moral failing, it’s actually a brain disease that can be affected by a person’s genetics, environment, past experiences and mental health, Thompson said. This complex disorder literally rewires the brain, particularly the brain’s reward system.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a properly operating reward system motivates a person to repeat behaviors needed to thrive, such as eating, exercising or spending time with loved ones. It does this by releasing dopamine, a naturally occurring hormone that makes people feel good.
Drugs do the same thing. They, too, release dopamine, but at even higher levels than a normally functioning brain. Research shows these substances can release two to 10 times the normal levels, which causes the rush or high that users crave. Eventually, this dopamine overload alters the way the brain functions, resulting in physical problems and an obsessive belief that little else matters in life than feeding the addiction.
The good news is that addiction, like other chronic diseases, can be treated and successfully managed, Thompson said. It can be a long-term process, but addicts can regain control over their lives and become productive members of society.
ReUnite Ministries plays a role in the process, he added. While ReUnite doesn’t offer rehabilitation or detox services, it does help mothers identify the root causes contributing to self-destructive behaviors. Through Bible-based counseling and training, ReUnite helps mothers heal from their wounds and realize that their lives matter. Through the months-long ReUnite program, mothers’ lives are transformed by the renewing of their minds.
“When I heard about ReUnite, I thought, ‘that’s exactly what the world needs,’” Thompson said. “These mothers deserve our compassion and support.”