WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — After a decade of addictive drug behavior which culminated in the use of opioids, Krista Turner found herself at a crossroads–either abort her unborn baby and continue abusing opioids or carry her baby full term and get help to stop her dependence on drugs. She chose the latter.
“You can’t force anybody to get sober,” Turner said. “You have to want it for yourself and this is the first time that I actually wanted to get clean and that’s pretty much all it took was that drive to be willing to do anything that it takes.”
Dr. William Johnstone is an obstetrics and gynecology specialist at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington. Turner credits Johnstone for helping her weigh her options.
“I think her pregnancy saved her life,” he said.
Because Johnstone has counseled so many opioid-addicted mothers like Turner, he founded a nonprofit call TIDES, a collaborative community consortium of agencies in New Hanover County which aims to treat a person’s addictive behavior holistically.
Johnstone says the problem with most month-long, drug-detox programs is simple.
“When a patient leaves that program, they either go back to the same environment that they came from, they live in the same house or apartment, or go back to the same social group,” he said.
But that’s where TIDES’ approach to helping addicts is different.
“It’s a longer, more intense therapeutic program for pregnant woman or women that have just delivered or women anticipating pregnancy,” Johnstone said. “We equip them with tools to be successful once they’re done with their treatment, once they’re done with their pregnancy to give them skills to be able to exist as a productive member of society.”
One of the agencies TIDES works with is Coastal Horizons Center in Wilmington which offers substance abuse intensive outpatient programs for those trying to overcome addiction.
“We know that you can’t just treat one condition in isolation,” said Coastal Horizons Center Program Director Pamela Morrison.
“With our partnership with TIDES, we’re able to work with women who are pregnant or have small children at home so that we can provide services specific to their needs,” Morrison said. “We have a group in an intensive outpatient therapy program that is specifically designed for pregnant women and women with infants.”
When someone makes up their mind to seek help, it can have a tremendous long-term impact.
“When anybody steps into recovery, they’re not only changing their own lives but changing the lives of future generation to come,” Morrison said.
Having attained her first anniversary of sobriety, Turner meets with Johnstone regularly to let him know how she’s doing.
“To see where she was and to see where she is really in less than a year is gratifying, to see her come through and to go home with her baby and to be functioning as a mother is just beyond comparison, I don’t have words for it,” Johnstone said.
While grateful for how far she’s come, Turner admits she has some regrets.
“I am sad because these friends died during my active addiction so I wasn’t able to help them,” she said. “I have a little bit of regret for not getting sober sooner because, maybe, I could have been the difference in their lives, but I can’t spend too much time on regret because I have to look toward the future because there are so many more lives to be saved.”
Lives she hopes to impact by sharing her story.
“I know from experience how hard it is to overcome this addiction and so many people are facing this addiction today. So many people are dying and I feel like I have to show people that it’s possible to recover, that we do recover and there is a way to have a life after addiction,” Turner said.
A life she’s enjoying today with her family instead of becoming just another grim statistic in the war against opioids.
Resources and agencies working to combat opioid addiction in the Cape Fear
- Anchor Initiative Care
- Coastal Horizons Center
- Bladen County Health Department
- Brunswick County Health Department
- Coastal Horizons Center
- Columbus County Health Department
- New Hanover County Health Department
- Pender County Health Department