Pregnant and struggling with substance abuse: A recovery story
The road to recovery from substance use disorders is known to be long and painful, and often, children are caught in the balance — sometimes before they’re born.
Sarah Bruder, a mother in recovery, was pregnant with her fourth child when she discovered a newer resource through the Minnesota Prevention and Recovery Alliance (MnPRA) in partnership with Hennepin County Project Child. There, she found healing through peer support and help through the fight to keep custody of her now 2-year-old son, Roman.
“That is my number one blessing in my life is that little boy,” Bruder said, in between playing and giggling with Roman at Oak Hill Park in St. Louis Park.
“All my boys, I should say.”
Three years ago, Bruder’s life was headed in another direction.
“So I started with heavier drugs about age 21,” she shared. “It kind of came hand in hand with the drinking scene, and so I kind of fell in.”
Bruder got pregnant with her first child at 30 and says that prompted two years of sobriety.
“Then I had a relapse, and I just continued to fight for my life,” she said. “It was a downward spiral. I couldn’t seem to get away from my toxic relationship. I couldn’t seem to get away from the substance use.”
By age 38, and struggling with substance abuse disorder for nearly two decades, Bruder gave birth to her third son.
And in 2020, her children were taken away.
“I lost them due to a termination of my parental rights. They have been adopted,” she shared.
When Bruder found out she was pregnant again later that year, she decided she had to turn things around.
“I wanted something different. I didn’t want to be another statistic, I wanted to be able to honor my other children,” she explained.
She admitted herself into Metro Hope Ministries, where she was connected with Hennepin County Project Child and Dar Swanson of MnPRA.
“She was a self-referral, and she knew she needed help,” Swanson said.
Swanson joined Bruder and Roman at Oak Hill Park on Sunday. She works with Minnesota Prevention and Recovery Alliance, where she provides peer support as someone who’s “been there.” Every MnPRA peer recovery specialist has “been there,” Swanson said.
“It’s just such a growing need,” she added.
MnPRA formed a couple of years ago, Swanson said, and in conjunction with Project Child, that peer support became available for women who are pregnant and struggling with substance abuse.
“Sometimes that’s all you need is somebody to believe in you,” Bruder said.
With support in her corner, Bruder has been sober since November 2020, and in 2021, she delivered a beautiful, healthy, substance-free baby boy: Roman.
“There was a lot of tears, a lot of prayers. There was a lot of work that needed to be done and compiled to prove the fact that I am worthy to be a mother. I deserve the chance to be a mother,” she shared about the journey.
Now, she wants other women to know that it’s never too late for a change and that there is help out for anyone willing to open their mind to a new life free from the shackles of substance use.
For Bruder, the motivation comes from her children and the hope of reuniting with all of them one day.
“I honor them daily with the life that I live today. I know that they’ll return to me someday. I’m not sure when, but I need them to know that I honor them every single day,” she said, fighting back tears.
In 2022, Bruder’s journey came full circle. She started working — and still works — for Swanson as a peer recovery specialist at MnPRA, instilling the hope she says changed her life.
Ninety-two percent of women who have gone through the Project Child program have retained the rights to their children, Swanson said.