MotherWoman saved my life, my identity and my motherhood. MotherWoman was my missing piece, the place where I found myself and was given permission to live my truth, however many times it changed. It is the space where I have grown, grieved, laughed, and cried. It's a space where I have been held and uplifted by amazing women that I admire greatly. It is a space where I've been able to give back to other woman in need. It is love and compassion.
Years before I found MotherWoman I was parenting my four children and was in an unhealthy relationship. I began using alcohol and substances to cope with my situation. I was working hard to support my family, but I struggled to maintain our life. My relationship got worse and eventually I lost custody of my children due to domestic violence.
When I lost them, I lost everything. My home, my life, my reason to live. I went from being a mother of four to a nothing, a nobody, a loser who was not capable of pulling herself together for her children. I sunk even further in to addiction, hit the rocks at the bottom, and was forced to relinquish my parental rights to my oldest children. They were then adopted by different families. This crushed me, and if I thought rock bottom was the lowest I could go, boy was I wrong. I fell further and further, until I no longer recognized myself or my life.
By this time I had replaced alcohol with heroin, and I spent my days wishing for death. Every night I went to bed praying I wouldn't wake and the suffering I had caused myself and my family would finally be over. But then, I found out I was pregnant.
This news was devastating. How dare I have another child! Me, this broken, lost, pathetic excuse for a mother, was pregnant, again. I lay awake that night, grieving the loss of my older children, cursing myself, and crying for this precious new life that was growing in my addicted body. At that moment I decided enough was enough! I was never going to lose another child, ever again. That morning when I woke, I walked miles to the nearest methadone clinic and entered treatment.
Once in treatment I was introduced to FRESH Start, a program that works with pregnant and post-partum mothers in recovery. There I learned new skills for parenting and maintaining a sober lifestyle from other mothers in recovery themselves. I had all this amazing support, but something was still missing.
My son was born and after a traumatic run with the Department of Children and Families, I brought my baby boy home. Terrified. I still carried those negative labels I had for myself and my parenting. I held ridiculously high standards that were just not attainable, yet I thought if I could not live up to them I was somehow less-than as a woman and a mother. Then I found MotherWoman.
When I joined my first MotherWoman circle, I was parenting again for the first time since addiction had taken control of my life. MotherWoman's strength-based, safe, judgment-free model allowed me to just be me--a good mom, doing the best I could for my children. I didn't have to be Erica the addict, Erica the victim, or Erica the unfit parent. I got to be Erica the mother--no different than the other mothers in the circle. Just a mother looking for support from other women going through the same struggles of parenting an infant. Trying my very best to be the best mom I could be. I left feeling I had found that missing piece and it was my dignity, self respect, and hope.
MotherWoman had made such a positive impact on my motherhood and my recovery that I wanted nothing more than to bring this amazing support group to other moms in recovery, who so desperately needed a safe space to share their struggles.
By the time my son was a year old I had been hired by the FRESH Start Program as a Family Support Specialist. After beginning to work with women like myself, I found I was really using MotherWoman's principles in my work. Such as: Mother's cannot give from a depleted source and We have the confidence that every woman has the wisdom within to navigate her life, when she feels heard, validated and honored for who she is, as she is. These principles worked great and had an impact one on one, but what we were missing was the power of the circle. I found myself on a mission.
I introduced MotherWoman to FRESH Start and persuaded the MotherWoman program to train our entire staff. We even hosted the facilitator training and got to share the training experiences with other amazing woman and mothers in our community. Now every group FRESH Start runs is inspired by MotherWoman principles! Each one of us now brings this strength-based support and hope to our population of woman, in particular Moms in the Hood. Moms in the Hood is a self-named group of graduates and participants in the FRESH Start program who started their own group through a Women's Fund grant, with the assistance of FRESH Start. These woman are called Moms in the Hood because that is their reality. Everyday they face the struggles of parenting and living sober in the hood, walking out their doors, heads held high, taking pride in the woman they have become. MotherWoman's model has helped these woman be the best mothers they can be for their children, so their children can grow up and break they cycle of poverty and addiction. But it didn't stop there.
MotherWoman was inspired in turn by Fresh Start and Moms in the Hood and has now taken on the challenge of reaching as many mother's living in poverty and addiction as possible. They "get" that if you are a low income mom and your life is hard, than parenting is going to be harder. They "get" that every mom deserve respect and support, no matter who she is or what her circumstances are.
Today I have very different labels for myself, including "strong," "smart," "caring," "powerful," "loving," and my personal favorite: EricAWESOME! I am a single mother to two beautiful boys and have an amazing relationship with my older daughter and her adoptive family. I have over four years of sobriety and am methadone free. I'm attending college for Psychology and I currently facilitate two MotherWoman support groups weekly. I love this work! The most beautiful part of being in a MotherWoman circle as a facilitator and a participant is that there I can speak my truth and feel myself come alive! And I feel the courage and strength of the other woman doing the same. A MotherWoman group is a place to heal and evolve, together.
You see, society has taught us to stuff our truths, hide our emotions, deny ourselves, work, harder, be stronger. That asking for help or feeling frustrated is a weakness, and you're a failure if you can't do it alone. That somehow you have to figure out how to do everything perfectly, without mistakes, or you're just not a worthy mother.
MotherWoman teaches us that this type of thinking is flawed. Together we can heal, together we can make change. We do not have to live up to some unrealistic, fairytale myth of the perfect mother. We do not have to do all, be all and know all for everyone, all the time. MotherWoman teaches us that we are exactly the right mother for our children, no matter what that may look like.
MotherWoman teaches us that we are strong and powerful. That we can heal and we can change. It gives us hope for the future. That is why I support this organization and will continue to bring their message to as many mothers as I can. I am forever grateful to MotherWoman for saving my life and am honored to be a part of their mission.
Please help MotherWoman continue to change the lives of mothers and families and donate at the link below. Thank you.
Erica Asselin is a MotherWoman facilitator, and a Women's Recovery Advocate in Western Massachusetts. Additionally, she is a facilitator of the Nurturing Program for Families in Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery, a leader/facilitator of Celebrate Recovery, and a co-founder of ashleysmoms.org. Erica is an accomplished public speaker and educator who has led numerous workshops pertaining to recovery and adoption.