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

"I think we're finding out about it more," said Mindy Agler, another therapist on the Orchid team. "[It's] just not something you talk about. ... If a man walks away from a family because he needs to focus on his recovery, everybody says OK, so he needs to do that. But if a woman leaves her family to go get treatment and then decides 'You know what, I'm not ready, I got to go to a halfway house before I go back to my kids,' everybody goes, 'Oh my God.'"

That double standard and the stigma of alcoholism can keep a woman's disease under wraps. But past traumas, the therapists say, can also play a role.

In her short time at the Orchid, Wardlow opened up about not only her alcoholic father but other traumatic experiences: an abortion at 17, and a horrific gang-rape on her 18th birthday.

"She identifies, from 15 to 18, these were horrible years for her," said Appel. "That she's never, never dealt with."

The entire time, a question hung in the background: Would Wardlow make it through treatment, and would she be able to stay away from alcohol once she was back home?

"I'll be honest with you, I'm scared as hell," she said. "I'm scared, I'm scared to go home.

Wardlow left the Orchid with 30 days clean and a lifetime of hurdles in front of her. We visited Wardlow in Hattiesburg after her release. She was ready to add another day to her sobriety.

"This is my little tablet," she said, indicating a pad of paper. "And I wad up yesterday and I write today down, put my little tablet back up there, and if I drink, I have to put that tablet on zero -- and I don't want to have to do that."

The time back home had not always been easy.

"We had to relearn how to live with one another," said Wardlow. "The first week or two was pretty volatile. Not in a physical way, but there was lots of screaming and gnashing of teeth."

But there are signs of healing.

"We're all really proud of her," said Marina. "I know if she sets her mind to anything, that's what she's going to do. I'm just glad that she finally set her mind to it."

"I think she's trying to be more aware, and I think she's trying to make up for, in some aspects, everything that's happened and stuff," said Jessy. "But I think she's working on it. ... I think she'll do it. I believe in her."

Wardlow had followed her care plan closely. She had daily phone calls with her sponsor and attended support group meetings regularly.

To stay with the recovery program, Wardlow can never consume a drop of alcohol -- or take any habit-forming medication -- again.

"No mood-altering drugs, as far as any type of benzos or opiates or whatever," she said. "I was on tremizal for joint pain. Also I was taking lunesta to sleep, and I'm not taking that any more either."

Wardlow left one support meeting with a chip marking how long it had been since she'd stopped drinking.

"Ninety days! 90 Days," she said. "Big three months. Three months sober."

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