When she was 23 years old, Moriah Haught realized she needed to break free from the downward spiral of her drug addiction. She fell into the party scene in high school, continued using drugs and alcohol in college and eventually regularly used heroin and other drugs. After she was arrested in 2015, Haught acknowledged that she needed to make a change in her life.
Haught joined the Rural Women’s Recovery Program (RWRP) in June to regain control over her life. RWRP is part of Health Recovery Services, a private nonprofit corporation based in Athens. RWRP caters to its clients’ recovery needs with a gender-specific approach to care. The program, which has been serving community members for 35 years, is a tranquil healing space for women struggling with addiction. The entire staff, which consists of the program director, nurses, physicians, therapists and counselors, provides a supportive and safe environment for the women to create support networks.
“It was very relieving to work with the whole team,” Haught says. “You get to a point where you trust them more than you have ever done before. They want to help you and help you focus on that area of your life.”
According to RWRP’s website, research shows that addiction is not defined as an “island,” which means it doesn’t stand alone or isolate itself from other aspects of an individual’s life. To address that concept, the program uses a holistic approach to recovery, which includes addressing the physical, emotional and spiritual elements of addiction.
“This program is considered stabilization,” says Cathy Chalek, the RWRP program director. “That is her first step to recovery. [The program] encompasses the spirit of Athens, which is a healing community.”
The program accepts women from all 88 Ohio counties. Those who are involved in the program are there from 90 to 120 days and reside in one of the facility’s cabins throughout the duration of their stay. If a woman is pregnant when she enters the program, she will stay until the baby is born, plus an additional month following delivery.
“The time frame for the mother assures that the child is not harmed,” Chalek says. “We want to make sure that there is a structure for them to take care of their baby.”
The structural component of the program is also tied into the client’s day-to-day schedule. RWRP’s treatment plan is integrated into the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous for recovery. With that approach, the team focuses on healing a variety of areas in a woman’s life. The program provides educational groups, art and expressive groups, nutritional classes and medical attention — a treatment approach that addresses the mind, body and spirit.
“We are very involved with each client,” says Amanda Dickson, one of the RWRP’s licensed practical nurses. “I’m getting to know these women here and I am learning a whole new aspect of nursing.”
The medical team holds consultations with each woman on a daily basis for overall assessments. There are also group sessions held once a week, which are led by the program’s nurses or physicians. During those collaborative meetings, the medical team teaches each client about how drugs affect the body and types of diseases that may result from drug use. One of the most common diseases that develops among women who are addicted to opiods is hepatitis C, which is spread through the sharing of needles. Other topics that the group focuses on include safe sexual practices, coping skills and prenatal care.
The prenatal component is especially important because there can be a number of complications for children who are born with an addiction problem. Babies born with addiction face consequences including behavioral issues, as well as digestive, hearing and breathing complications.
The nurses and physicians often begin working with clients once they are out of detox, which usually occurs after three to six days. Clinical staff members work with the women to teach them how to manage their mood swings and depression and how to deter their specific addictions. Physicians also use a technique called tapping, which involves applying pressure to specific parts of the body to relieve anxiety and stress.
“The women will come to us for medical information, such as their diagnosis, what to expect and what their [bodies are] going through,” Dickson says. “Sometimes, they just come in to sit down and talk because they need someone there to listen.”
RWRP’s specialized teams work together to stabilize women’s lives. The core groups teach the women imperative life and recovery skills to help them pursue their goals. Addiction impacts women differently than men due to biological differences and societal pressures, so it’s important to integrate a gender-specific approach to care because it allows women to examine and understand the true cause of their addiction or substance abuse problem. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that women describe unique reasons for using drugs, including weight control, exhaustion, coping with pain and self- treating mental problems. They also gain life skills through their work with other women in the art therapy and community outreach programs.
“Connection with others in recovery and transformation from a state of addiction to one of openness to inner feelings is important to living drug and alcohol free,” Chalek says.
Haught spent four months as a member of RWRP, and the program helped her gain freedom from her addiction. It taught Haught how to respect others, express her feelings and overcome challenges. After graduating from RWRP, Haught became a behavioral health technician, got married and started a family. Haught will soon earn her degree in early childhood education.
“No matter where we come from, it can be good,” Haught says. “Everyone is worth saving and everyone deserves another chance. No one is ever too far gone.”