Valley mom counsels others after battling addiction

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- "It was like I was hollow. I was just there," 29-year-old Valley mom Kelli Carpenter said as she described her battle with addiction.

It started with a simple glass of wine when Carpenter was just 11 years old.

"I remember being tipsy and falling around and just feeling like, 'Ah, this is it,' " she recalled.

That innocent sip turned into an experiment with marijuana, which then led to crystal meth.  

"Whatever you would let me try, just, I would do," Carpenter said.

One hit of meth and she says she was high on life. But soon it all came crashing down.

"It felt like I was running and running and running, and I just couldn't take it anymore," she said.

The disastrous cycle of abuse only got worse. Carpenter would get clean, then relapse. At age 19, she got pregnant.

"I did try to not do anything while I was pregnant with him. I did still drink a few times. It was a battle," she said.

As a teenage mom, Carpenter battled drugs and alcohol. With her son, Christian, an infant at the time, she was still using meth. She says it was so addicting she couldn't stop.

"I was just so worn down and had so much shame and guilt in what I was doing and not being there for my son," she said.

The pressure of trying to be the perfect mom was simply too much for Carpenter to handle at the time.

"It was definitely a way I dealt with stress. It's a way I covered it all up. I didn't know how to deal with emotions," she said.

When Christian turned 3 years old, that's when Carpenter hit rock bottom. She was arrested, and her parents stepped in to care for her son. Carpenter checked into a 12-step recovery program for alcohol and drug abuse.

"I knew I was better than that, and I knew that my son deserved better than that," she said.

One of the most respected treatment centers in the entire country is here in Arizona: The Meadows in Wickenburg.

3TV sat down with Clinical Director Nancy Bailey and talked about moms checking into treatment for addiction.

"When we realize what's going on, the guilt and shame kicks up and, 'Yes, I did do this and yes, this is part of my recovery process, and I need to make amends, but boy, it doesn't feel good,' " Bailey said.

She is not only an expert on addiction; she's also a recovering addict with more than 20 years of sobriety.

Bailey is also in the process of writing a book called "Moms In Recovery" in which she describes the pain and suffering many moms go through by simply trying to always be the best.

"Being the manager of the household and taking care of the kids and showing up at the teachers' conferences -- expectations are really high," she said.

And for some moms, the pressure to be "Supermom" becomes too much to handle.

Bailey said that includes "making sure your kids look great and your house looks great and your husband looks great."

Sometimes, Bailey says, that pressure can lead moms to drink as an escape. Some moms open the medicine cabinet and take an old prescription pain pill left over from a previous illness or injury.

But Carpenter says she is an example of how working a 12-step recovery program works.

"Life today is really good," she said.
    
Carpenter is now six years clean and sober. She's been reunited with her son, who is now 9 years old.

Once focused only on the next high, Carpenter is counseling other Valley moms who are struggling with addiction.

"That is my passion. That is my passion in life, seeing the light come on for someone else," she said. "It's just so amazing, and I really think it's one of the biggest gifts that I get in sobriety is getting to give back what I was so freely given and help others."