EVESHAM TWP. – Last Mother’s Day, Ashley Segars woke up in a rehab where she had sought treatment for substance use disorder the night before.
Then a 24-year-old single mom, she was a detox and rehab veteran. But this attempt at recovery felt different, she recalled.
“I completely changed my mindset,” Segars said, during an interview at her mother’s Marlton home.
“Instead of saying, ‘I can’t do this. I won’t do this. I’ll never be a good mom,’ … I changed all my thoughts into, ‘I will do this. I can do this. I’m going to be a great mom again.’”
On Sunday, Segars will celebrate one year of sobriety, a gift to herself and her family. Her mother, Karen Sulkin, calls her daughter’s recovery “amazing.”
“There is no greater gift or joy that I have,” said Sulkin, 45. “I have my girl back.”
As the country’s opioid epidemic deepens, the number of mothers with addiction has also seen a “dramatic” rise, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. One indicator is the number of delivering mothers who were dependent on opioids. That figure rose fivefold between 2000 and 2012.
But only a small percentage of those with a substance use disorder seek help. Of the 23 million Americans with alcohol or drug addiction, only one in 10 receives appropriate treatment, according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
Segars was just 19 when she told her mother she had a problem with addiction. Sulkin dropped her off at a rehab within a week. A few months later, Segars learned she was expecting a child. She maintained sobriety throughout the pregnancy, thinking motherhood was the key to her recovery.
She relapsed four months after she was prescribed narcotics following the C-section birth of Giavonna. By the time her daughter was a toddler, Segars cycled through several rounds of detox and rehab, 12-step programs and a year of medication-assisted treatment.
Along the way, rescuers saved her life after she overdosed on opioids twice. A close friend didn’t make it. At rehab, Segars compared herself with other patients at group therapy sessions.
This Mother’s Day marks a year of sobriety for Ashley Segars, a 25-year-old South Jersey mom, who sought treatment for opioid and alcohol use. Chris LaChall/Staff Photographer
“I just remember thinking to myself that I was never going to get this,” Segars recalled. “I was going to be the only person in a room of 25 people that was never going to get this and I really, truly thought that.”
With a year of sobriety from opioids behind her, Segars no longer thinks that way. After rehab, she entered into an intensive outpatient program and started working through a 12-step program to address the underlying issues that led her to use substances.
Every night, she thanks God for another day in recovery. Every morning, she asks for help again.
“I’m learning to show up for my daughter,” Segars said. “She didn’t deserve me (bringing) drugs around her. Now I’m able to take her to the park, and just do simple things with her. I’m so grateful for that.”
For now, Segars lives in a Cherry Hill sober living home with nine other women in recovery, six of whom are also mothers. Her daughter, now 4, lives with Sulkin, while Segars works toward independence. In the meantime, she spends as much time with Giavonna as she can between her job as a server and her daughter’s school schedule.
When Segars and her little girl are together, their faces “light up,” Sulkin said, and all is well in Sulkin’s world.
“The greatest reward right now is seeing Ashley do so great,” Sulkin said. “She’s a phenomenal mom to G.”
“At one point in this journey, I was mourning Ashley while she was alive,” Sulkin admitted. “That was probably the scariest thing for a mother to do. Many sleepless nights, many scares when the phone rang. And my heart’s at ease today.”
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