Mother’s triumph over addiction gives her new purpose in life

Teri knew what lay ahead if she didn’t get help and decided it was time to make a big change.

Teri Johnson works a full-time job, is a football and wrestling mom and works hard to be present for her children. While that may not seem out of the ordinary, it’s a complete 180-degree change from where she was just two years ago.

In her early 20s, Teri found herself without a job and in a bad relationship. She was using meth, moved on to heroin and then became an intravenous drug user. When she was in prison, she could only talk to her young son for 15 minutes at a time through a glass partition.

“I got out and I went right back to the same thing because I didn’t have any skills to stay sober,” Teri said. “You can be dry for long periods of time, but if you don’t have the skills to stay sober and the tools that you need, it won’t last, because you don’t know how to deal with life when it comes at you.”

Two years ago, while pregnant with her daughter, Teri knew what lay ahead if she didn’t get help and decided it was time to make a big change. She knew about the Norton Maternal Opiate and Substance Treatment (MOST) Program from a friend and made the call to (502) 559-4375.

Recovery for you and your baby’s future

“I wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t have that opportunity if it wasn’t for making that call to the MOST Program.”

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“Many feel that substance use disorder is a choice, and you are able to stop on your own,” said Tessa Wallingford, R.N., nurse navigator with the Norton MOST Program. “It is a disease of the brain that requires the same support and intervention as any other disease.”

As a nurse navigator, Tessa helps patients get started and stay with the program. She’s available to help work with insurance, share her knowledge about the condition and assist patients in getting the care they need with compassion and understanding.

“Our team recognizes the vulnerability, guilt and shame felt by patients who find themselves pregnant and struggling with substance use disorder,” Tessa said. “We’re here to provide a safe and supportive space for pregnant patients struggling with substance use disorder to receive the care they need and deserve.”

Medical providers with the Norton MOST Program seek to break the stigma and cycle of substance use disorder by serving and loving patients through their pregnancy, parenting and recovery journey.

While in the program at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital, Teri got the help she needed, including lining up a place to stay beyond her initial treatment.

“Inpatient stabilization is just the first step for our patients,” said Angie Adams, LCSW, social worker with Norton Children’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

“Patients start with medication-assisted treatment and outpatient behavioral health, but many need more support. For those patients, the team works with residential treatment centers that will treat pregnant patients and those with children.” 

“I went for 30 days, and then I realized that that wasn’t enough,” Teri said. “Angie and Tessa worked with me and found me a pregnant and parenting house in Shelbyville that I went to, and I stayed there. I turned a 90-day program into almost six months.”

2 years sober, now helping others

Now two years sober, Teri recalls feeling like she was drowning. The Norton MOST Program, according to Teri, gave her the opportunity and the skills to make it through each day.

Now, Teri has made it her mission to help others and let people know there is help available.

“In a 12-step program, the No. 1 goal is to help another person struggling. That’s how I stay sober,” Teri said. “When I see a girl who was in my situation and I just know how lost and broken she feels, I can’t help but send them to the MOST Program.”

Teri reminds herself and others that her worst day sober is better than her best day high. She now looks forward to living a life after addiction and seeing her children grow up.

“I wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t have that opportunity if it wasn’t for making that call to the MOST Program,” Teri said.

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