DARK DAYS TO LIGHT YEARS
One brave woman shares her journey through addiction.
Bree Rowe got the biggest gift on Christmas Day in 2013 - she was arrested in front of her four daughters.
“It was absolutely devastating to me to be separated from my kids, and I knew that I had to get help or risk never seeing them again," Rowe said. "I have not used a drug or consumed any alcohol since that day. This Christmas, I will be sober six years. That's an absolute miracle.”
Unfortunately, it wasn’t Rowe’s first run in with the law. Addiction started for Rowe at the ripe age of 17. What started at as a social interaction soon escalated to a full-blown addiction.
“Within a year, I was smoking crack, drinking daily and using any drug that was offered to me," Rowe said. "I realized rather quickly into my using that I had a problem. When you suppress feelings with crack and heroin, you know that life is out of control.”
With her growing addiction, the consequences began to follow – FAST!
Rowe was arrested at age 18 for underage drinking. By age 21, she received her first felony possession charge, solicitation and possession of paraphernalia. Each time the jail sentences became more severe and the rehab stays became longer.
But Rowe didn’t stop. Two years later, at age 23, she was hit with four more charges and ended up in a women’s prison, along with two years of drug court probation.
“Sobriety sounded awful to me for so long. Maybe it's because I didn’t think I would ever be able to do it," she said. "Or maybe because having to feel emotions was not something I was ready for.”
During these tumultuous years, Rowe got married and gave birth to her first daughter. She would later go on to have triplets.
“As a result of my addiction and arrests, I had all four children taken away from me and put under the guardianship of my mother," Rowe shared. "I had to stay sober for 16 months to get them back.
"It’s crazy to think that five years ago I was living in a homeless shelter with a tether on.”
Can "Happily Ever After" Happen When Rock Bottom Was So Comfortable?
Meet Bree Rowe now.
Rowe is happily married to a sober man, who was once her drug companion. She’s a loving mother, has a job, owns a home, and she’s in college pursuing a degree in social work.
Rowe also has a blog called Recovery Rowe.
It's a blog where Rowe shares her story to help other women struggling with addiction. It encompasses motherhood, sobriety, marriage, and life with raw honesty and emotion.
"I live a dynamic life – raising triplets, a recovered heroin addict, wife to another addict in recovery, college student," she said and paused. "I wanted to share my life in real-time and give hope to those who feel like giving up."
The blog has been one source of strength among many for Rowe.
“One of the best gifts I learned through sobriety is how strong and capable I really am," she said proudly. "I spent years cutting myself short and denying myself the ability to ever find happiness. I lived in a perpetual state of unworthiness.
"I also found out that so many women struggle with those thoughts and it has really encouraged me to help others find a better way to live.”
Shame is a powerful emotion. It's so powerful, it leads women back to addiction.
“I felt so much shame for so long and finding so many people that relate to me or have also been there creates a movement of support and safety," Rowe said. "Judgment-free love needs to be more available for mothers suffering with addiction.”
Tomorrow her husband celebrates six years of sobriety.
“We went through the worst together, including having four children in active addiction," Rowe shared. "Seeing him become the man and father he is today is one of sobriety's greatest blessings. I have someone who understands me and my struggles and loves me regardless of what has happened.“
I was recently watching Nightline. The topic was the dangers of mommy wine culture.
I have to say that I honestly didn’t even know what this controversial phenomenon was. As I dug deeper, I found videos of mommy’s talking about the “mommy juice.” Mommy juice turns out to be wine that helps moms cope with the stress of raising children.
I asked Rowe about it.
“Mommy wine culture is so frustrating to see how widespread it is," Rowe said. "Of course, parenting is stressful. Trust me, I had four kids in two years. But, to convince women that parenting is only doable if you put poison in your body is shameful.
"Then, to glamorize it on t-shirts, mugs, car decals, and so on, is obnoxious. An entire new group of women are reaching out for help with drinking because 'just one glass of wine after I put the kids to bed' got them into trouble. Ladies, you can parent without alcohol!
“I've had to find different ways to cope. My new coping skills include exercise, therapy, going to meetings, reading, hanging out with my daughters, and meditation," she said.
Rowe has stayed sober and she believes every addict has the opportunity to do the same.
Sobriety isn’t only for the addict, the whole family needs to be involved. My children go to meetings with me weekly, so they are very aware of what is going on. My oldest remembers living with my mom and has always been told the truth. All my friends are sober, and we talk openly in front of my kids, to an extent. It's so important for them to know their family history and why it's important for their parents to go to meetings and counseling.
Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 steps have undeniably saved my life! The steps are a tool to learn a new way of life. The fellowship has given me the ability to live life without using or drinking. I would not be anywhere near where I am in life if I wasn’t a member of AA.
Honesty and transparency help the healing process. My darkest secrets are now helping other people. I am constantly working on my healing journey and finding purpose for what I have experienced. I can be accountable and present for my loved ones.
Get help and reach out! I know this is so much easier to say than do, especially when you’re in the depths of an active addiction. But asking for help is a critical first step. There are so many people like me that are willing to help and guide you along the way.
You are not alone, you are worth it, and you deserve sobriety no matter what damage has been done. This is so hard to realize when you’re going through an addiction, but therapy, AA, MAT, and others are all great tools to find your way into recovery.
The lesson here is we need to stop giving up on people. It’s important to have healthy boundaries and not enable addicts. But when they’re ready to find help, be the person that steps in. We need to continue to champion efforts of humans when they’re trying, and stop shaming them on their journey.
Bree Rowe is a prime example of what's possible.