Decades of Drinking Behind Her, a Mother Faces a Steep Road Ahead

Drunken Moms: From Detox to Rehab

Normally, TV cameras are not permitted to see inside the walls of a rehab facility. But with Wardlow's permission, the Orchid Recovery Center allowed "20/20" unprecedented access to their treatment process.

"You don't know Lynn clean and sober," Mindy Appel, Wardlow's therapist at the Orchid, told her. "You don't know that woman."

Unlike at detox, Wardlow's days at rehab would be packed, from six in the morning until nine at night. She would have individual and group therapy sessions mixed with yoga, meditation, accupuncture and art.

An all-female facility, the Orchid is run almost exclusively by women, many of whom have been through some type of addiction recovery of their own.

The Orchid places enormous weight on the honing of life skills, encouraging women to shop and cook for themselves -- all of the things they'll have to do back home. But sometimes, even a simple trip to the grocery store can spell trouble. Once a woman from the center drank vanilla extract from the store. It's 24 percent alcohol. The woman drank five or six big bottles, staff said -- and came back reeking of alcohol and walking funny.

For recovering alcoholics, triggers to resume drinking can be anything from beer commercials on TV to the wine store they used to frequent -- anything that reminds them of drinking, said Orchid staff.

Wardlow's heavy lifting for the next 30 days would happen inside the office of Appel, her therapist.

"We want to stay really focused, and I'm going to keep you on task here," Appel told her.

During her first session, Wardlow confessed her reasons for drinking went back to her relationship with her father.

"So what was growing up like for you?" asked Appel.

"I had times of sadness," said Wardlow. "My father was an alcoholic... When I was 15 he decided it was time to go ... so he died."

Genetics may also have had a role in Wardlow's addiction. Studies show that children of alcoholics are four times more likely to develop the problem.

A week into her treatment, "20/20" co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas paid a visit to Wardlow at Orchid. She appeared more calm and focused but still struggled with her addiction.

Vargas asked her if it was hard.

"It's really hard," she said. "It is hard and it's, and it's hurtful, and you realize how many people that you've hurt. And my children are amazing. I mean, I look at them, and I know I've not been a bad mother. I'm like, I know I'm a good mother. I've mothered them well -- but how much better could it have been if these past 10 years, I hadn't been living in the bottom, in the bottom of a bottle?"

Wardlow described the cycle of her drinking.

"I wake up the next morning, you feel horrible, and you say, 'I'm gonna do better. I'm gonna do better. I'm gonna do better. So, but I don't feel very good today. So this afternoon, I'm just gonna have a beer.'" Which turns into "three or four or five or six."

Are Mothers Drinking More?

The team of therapists at the Orchid said regrets and expectations about being the perfect mother are often what push a woman deeper into her addiction.

"There's so many women that are so sophisticated at covering up and being, you know, the PTA mom and being the soccer mom and doing all things for everyone," said Appel.

But are women, particularly mothers, drinking more -- or are we just finding out about it more?

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