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tv   This Is Life With Lisa Ling  CNN  December 6, 2020 6:00pm-7:00pm PST

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he loved hockey and playing the drums s in his band. he was a husband and father two his two daughters. may they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing. two new episodes of "this is life" with lisa ling starts right now. they need to get here, man. >> 32-year-old ebony is in a bind. >> will you come on? >> i can't get high until you bring that needle. please. for real, do that for me. >> it's been eight hours since her last hit of heroin. if she doesn't get more, she
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will go into withdrawal and get very, very sick. it's hard to watch. this is what opioid addiction looks like. it has been ebony's life for 15 years. >> it's like this every [ bleep ] time. i get [ bleep ] as [ bleep ]. >> now, she's got someone else to think about. a reason why starting tomorrow, ebony will try to get clean. across town, a couple is caring for a 3-month-old infant. this is ebony's baby. not long ago, mothers like ebony didn't get second chances. in some parts of the country, things are changing. >> the state's funding for child protective services is the lowest in the nation. >> the way they had been doing it was not working. >> ohio is at the center of america's opioid crisis. thousands of parents struggling with addiction have left a
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generation of children displaced and a system overwellhelmed. >> the kids have been the collateral damage. >> now, ohioans inside and outside the system are stepping up. to give the youngest victims of the crisis a fighting chance. >> i didn't want to end up like my mom or dad. >> help parents get their kids back. >> i know for a fact that i'm going to be in a place where this isn't my life. >> who is ready to go? ♪ ♪
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america has been engulfed in an opioid epidemic for over a decade. >> americans are getting their fix from pharmacies and medicine cabinets at home. >> doctors overprescribing pain pills. drug cartels flooding small towns with cheap heroin and a seemingly endless wave of overdose deaths. >> people do desperate things once addicted. >> the path to recovery is long. sometimes seeming lly impossibl. >> opioid addiction kills people and destroys families. one of the hardest hit states in the country, ohio, is trying to deal with the fallout. we rarely hear about the youngest victims of the crisis, the kids of opioid addicts and the babies born addicted to opioids. we are currently in a state had
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a has been hit very, very hard. we are going to see what they're doing about what has become an entire generation of kids. at the height of the epidemic, ohio ranked dead last in funding for child welfare. safe places for children of addicted parents were scarce. just outside dayton, a nursery has been created for the most vulnerab vulnerable. we are at the first and only infant recovery center in the state of ohio. it's called bridges path. they essentially wean babies off of heroin and other drugs at birth. the baby behind me was born about a month ago. his mother has just been released from jail today and is coming to see her baby for the first time since she had him. just days after she gave birth to her son carter, chelsea was arrested for possession. she's been locked up for 30 out
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of the 40 days of his life. in the past, chelsea would have gone back to the streets. carter may have gone into the faster care system. today, she's headed to bridges path for an unlikely reunion. because chelsea was using while pregnant, carter was born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. >> he is perfect. >> these babies are born exposed to drugs in utero. they start to have signs of withdrawal, like adults do. >> this nurse practitioner is
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responsible for overseeing newborns as they arrive. >> a baby who is suffering from withdrawal may wake up, start screaming, get startled and then they start shaking. they will scratch. they will be frantic. unless you break that cycle, then it continues and escalates. >> when adults experience withdrawal, often they will be put on other medication. do you do that with babies as well? >> our primary medications are methadone and morphine. they get a larger dose first and then each day you decrease the dosing. >> in 2018, almost 2,000 babies exposed to opioids were delivered in the state of ohio. what makes this unit different from hospitals is that they keep moms and dads close. even if they are still struggling with addiction. >> it's never just the baby.
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it's the entiere family that needs to be cared for. >> what have the last few years been like? >> it was bad. the only way i could get clean is going to jail. >> are you saying you were happy you got arrested after you had your baby? >> mm-hmm. >> it's up to chelsea to keep up her recovery. car peter remains under the carf staff. it's still a new experiment. under the license, they can only take care of each baby for 90 days. for some parents, it's just not enough time to get clean. right now, we are on our way to meet a woman whose baby completed 90 days. the mom is apparently desperately trying to get custody of her baby. we hear that she is currently struggling. we will see how she's doing.
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>> the first memory i have of my mom, i remember going to visit this woman in prison. i was told i had to call her mom. i remember, like, being scared. no. even as i got older, i remember how it affected her, her kid didn't know her. okay. >> drugs have been a part of 32-year-old ebony's life since she was a little girl. her mother and brother have overdosed. she herself has been addicted to opioids for 15 years. during other visit, she's preparing her next dose. when did you shoot up for the first time? do you remember. >> first time i did heroin, i was 18. they put it in a needle. i remember feeling like my head just separated from my body. it was like -- i puked for days. i hated it.
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but i kept going back to it. you don't have to watch it. >> i'm not watching it. if ebony doesn't shoot up every eight hours, she will experience extreme anxiety, nausea, muscle cramps and other symptoms of withdrawal. >> i feel it. i will stay and talk to you. >> is this what every day is like, trying to figure out how you are going to get drugs into your system? ebony has been struggling with another role, motherhood. her 3-month-old daughter was born dependent on heroin. ebony faced with a choice opted into bridges path for another chance. she hasn't been able to get clean. but ebony's time has convinced her to keep trying.
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>> she saved my life. seriously. she's so cool, dude. she's got two teeth. she doesn't cry. she's not like a needy baby. you would never know she was born addicted to drugs. thank god. >> in less than 24 hours, ebony is scheduled to start detox. this time, if she doesn't stay in recovery, social services could take mercedes away for good. >> i'm not good for her right now. i know that. but i know that i will be. i know that i'm going to fight every single day, even if it's fighting with my internal self. which i'm going to have to do that for the rest of my life. >> you will go into treatment for more than a month. >> yeah. >> you ready for it? >> i am. i'm ready to not hurt anymore. i hate it. i hate feeling.
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but that's part of life. >> when you think about your future -- >> for the first time, it's hopeful. i deserve that. mercedes deserves to have me. but not this me. she's had this me her whole existence. even before she came in this world. it's like, i'm ready to stop this me. >> since 2011, there's been a 30% jump in kids entering ohio's foster care system. experts say, opioid addiction is to blame.
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in the majority of cases, kids don't go to specialized places like bridges path. they go straight to foster parents, relatives or to people like jesse and jeff. a couple who volunteer through a church program to care for mercedes. >> she's a receipretty easy bab. >> she's happy. >> how long have you had her? >> 2 1/2 years. >> given your interaction with ebony, do you think she can do it? do you think she can mother this baby? >> ebony is a smart girl. it takes a lot to admit i need help. let me get help, get myself together and then assume care of my child. >> when we went to pick her up, she sent me home with two carloads of stuff. she loves this child. i had the perspective, get your
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stuff together. but people need help. >> worst case, what if this baby's mom can't get it together? >> we don't have much say if ebony can't take care of the baby. it's hard to trust the system that she will be where she needs to go. we're sort of open to seeing where it goes at this point. >> in the past, with her history of drug abuse, ebony would have had little chance of gaining custody of mercedes. programs like this and volunteers like jesse and jeff buy these parents valuable time. across ohio, a shift is underway. >> heroin addicts don't get their kids back. they say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. you can.
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capella unversity. don't just learn. learn smarter. it's 8:30 a.m. in downtown dayton. at the montgomery county juvenile court, a war room has gathered. >> let's get started with our first client. >> here in the civil court system, they are doing something that would have been unthinkable years ago. >> baby is good. >> baby is fine. she's doing well. >> judges, social workers and health care work experts are joining forces to help recovering addicts get custody
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of their children. >> we have our hearing on the 24th. we will give kos tcustody back. >> running the hearing is this magistrate. >> i appreciate that. we know the foster system should not be parenting children. parents should be parenting children. >> would you say family treatment court is a result of a shift in culture and the way you even define what an opioid addict is? >> people go, why can't they just stop? why can't they just quit? why can't they do this? they lost their kid. it's just not how the brain works, the disease of addiction takes over somebody's life. it takes a whole community to get it back for them. >> we are close to chris and amanda. >> on the front lines of the efforts are care workers like
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mira. >> family treatment court was the first time i had ever returned a child to a heroin addict. because heroin addicts don't get their kids back. that was kind of my mindset. that's what my experience was. it changed how i look at substance abusers and how we can help them. >> today, she's taking me to visit two of her clients. a couple in recovery with a baby daughter. >> i'm the stern mom with my clients. you cannot be doing this. you have to get your crap together. if you keep this up, we can't do it. a lot of clients said, i didn't like new the beginning. but you are what i needed. >> what are you hoping to see? what are you looking for when you do the home visit? >> make sure they are on top of their services. if the child is there, i like to see interaction. you kind of try to get the vibe of what's going on in the house. >> hello. >> how are you doing?
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>> good. this is lisa. >> how are you? >> she's hanging with me today. >> who is that? >> a beautiful baby. >> it's avery. >> a cute kid. >> thank you. >> six months ago, chris and amanda were where ebony is now. their new baby was at bridges path while they battled out addiction. now they are on a path from a few visits a week to full-time parenting. >> how is miss avery today? >> she's doing really good. had a good day. had a nice nap. she's been sleeping good. eating really good. >> your mom brought her over earlier for your visit? >> for amanda and chris, this is a far cry from their old life. seven years ago, they had kids, jobs and a home. then, like so many americans, they were derailed by doctor's
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prescripti prescriptions. chris cut his hand and amanda was diagnosed with a joint disorder. they were given percocet. >> i have energy to go to work and clean and pick the kids up from day care after work and come home and do everything i needed to do. i didn't feel the physical pain at all. >> it made you feel like you could do anything. >> at what point did you start to realize, this isn't normal anymore? >> i happened to run out a few days early. i was like, i'm in trouble. you are vomiting. you feel nauseous, you can't eat. >> you are not getting high anymore. you need them to feel normal. >> consumed by the need sto stae off withdrawal, they turned to the only option they could afford. cheap, potent heroin. >> we tried to rationalize it, tell yourself whatever you need
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to. it is almost too late. >> they lost their careers. their home. and eventually, custody of their two older children. >> we literally had nowhere to go. we slept outside in bushes. >> rock bottom, aphmanmanda lea she was pregnant. she decided recovery was their only choice. >> if i could take it back and do things different, i would. but i can't. all you can do is try to fix whatever happened and move forward. >> now, eight months later, chris and amanda have climbed their way out of the abyss. >> you are seeing the doctor? >> yeah. >> like many in the family treatment court, they have been prescribed a drug that's designed to cut opioid cravings and still allow them to
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function. >> when they decrease, you worry about am i going to feel any physical affect. if you don't, don't mess around, let them know. >> what's the goal? >> to get custody of avery back. >> we want to be normal and have our family, have our baby. it's our last chance. >> i think that's it. >> it will be up to mira to make a recommendation for avery's custody to the magistrate. both chris and mamanda must proe they are capable of raising a child. >> you have to change pretty much your whole life. >> we are working towards that. >> trying to. use is amazing. great street, huge yard. there is a bit of an issue with our neighbors fencing. neighbor 1: allez! (sound from wind chimes) neighbor 2: (laughing)
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earlier this week, i met ebony, a young mom struggling with heroin addiction. the last time i saw her, she was in a dark place. this morning, she's checking into a 45-day recovery program that starts with detox. a full purge of all the drugs in her system. >> good morning. >> good morning. >> she's running behind. but she made it. >> how are you doing? >> i'm nervous a little bit, for real. >> ebony has chosen a treatmen center that allows overnight
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visitation with her baby daughter. i'm inspired you found this place. you searched for a place that would take you and here you are. you want this to be different. >> it's going to be different. the want is there. i'm past that part. i want it so bad. mercedes can't keep me clean. but that baby is definitely getting me clean. that's all i need is to get there in this process. i can take it from there. >> opioid dependency is extremely hard to break. studies have shown heroin addiction rewires the brain and cravings can last months or years. >> will you hug me? >> i will. i'm glad you are here. >> thank you. >> this will be ebony's 14th attempt to get clean. >> why don't you tell me the
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reason you are here today. >> i am tired. i'm done. i'm tapped out. i have a baby. >> that's fair. i'm glad you are here. >> a battery of tests and questions about her drug use are now a familiar part of the drill. >> do i have to pee in the cup? >> maybe. >> cheap heroin is cut with cheap additives. when they go for treatment, they might not know who they are addicted to. >> i want to see. >> you are positive for amphetamines, for mdma, for opiates, for benzo. we are about to check fentanyl. >> you might get high if you touch that. >> get your bedding going. >> this is ebony's home for the next six weeks. >> you will be in dorm e. you will have a bed. you will have this space for you
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and her. kind of private. you should have sheets and pillows and everything you need in there. we will give you a tour, help you get settled. >> thank you. >> do you have a rest room? >> showers in there. >> what kind of shower? closed? this is like jail. let me see the shower. >> sure. >> i can see ebony's resolve crumble as she begins to face what lies ahead. sgli can >> i can't bring my baby here. it's not because of me.
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my baby don't deserve -- >> it's not that bad. it's not that bad. >> hold her in the shower with me? >> i'm sure they have portable bathtubs. >> i'm not being judgmental for me. i don't give a [ bleep ]. i will lay in dirt. my baby don't deserve this. >> come on. let's get out of the bathroom. even at ebony's lowest point, it's clear to me that she's thinking about her daughter's needs first. where they go from here is up to her. detox is voluntary. like she's done before, ebony's free to walk out the door at any time. the temptation will get harder to fight as she starts to go through withdrawal. >> i will let you chill.
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i was surprised by ebony's reaction. i can understand how she wouldn't want her daughter to be in a place like this. because her daughter has been in a comfortable home. we will see if she makes it through the next 30 to 45 days. we will see if she makes it through the next few days. for parents like ebony, programs like these can be a life line. if child protection agencies aren't structured to point them in the right direction, they could fall through the cracks. >> the buckeye state is dead last when it comes to funding child welfare. >> 14,000 children are in agency custody. up 14% in five years. caseworkers are stretched to the limit. >> in 2019 when the republican state attorney general was sworn in as governor, he urged the legislature to double funding.
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>> this drug epidemic has strained ohio's chuld weild wel system with many children in foster care. the state's financial support to local children service agencies has been very small. we have to change that. >> it was met with near unanimous approval. what comes next? >> this has been unlike any drug epidemic i have ever seen. we have had a lot of different things come together for a perfect storm. >> i'm sitting down with ohio's governor who has been stubbornly outspoken about how the crisis began and who is affected the most. >> we started with this overprescribing of pain meds. drug companies were telling the doctors, this stuff is good. it's okay. they basically lied to them. now half the kids in foster care today in ohio are there because one or both parents are drug addicts. >> you have doubled the amount
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allocated to child welfare. is that enough? >> one of the things i said, i told the state legislature, i will ask you to do things, invest in things that we're not going to see the immediate results. we have to invest in these kids. >> how do you get people who have never had an issue with opioids to get invested in recovery and treatment? >> i think the perception historically is, if you are an addict, that's your problem. in ohio that's few people who have not been touched because it is so widespread. we have first started seeing it in these appalachian counties. you have had more poverty there. it became a middle class problem. it didn't happen in my community. but they welcome more real. they become more compassionate, because it's somebody they know. >> from the streets to the statehouse, ohioans are moving toward a more sympathetic approach to addiction treatment. something desperately needed for
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this is one of the poorest in the state of ohio, among the hardest hit by a flood of prescription painkillers. in this appalachian rust belt towns, opioid abuse rates have reached five times the national average, leaving a generation of children derailed and in need of new homes. >> i don't remember a lot of my childhood. i grew up really fast. >> kids like 15-year-old jocelyn, who learned a long time ago to fend for herself. how would you describe your relationship with your mom when you were little? >> sometimes i would get worried. i would look for her if she wasn't home by a certain time. if i needed money for food or something, i would go around and look for her at the spots she would be at. i did that a lot. >> jocelyn rarely saw her father
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and spend most of her childhood bouncing from house to house as her mom scored heroin. do you remember how old you were when you realized your mom was doing drugs? >> probably 8 or 9. around there. people -- different people coming in and out of the house all the time. passing out, people falling over. my mom would try to keep them away or have me in the other room. they're not thinking about any kids. it's hard to hide all that. >> jocelyn's mom's sister lived a couple miles down the road. a few years ago, she started to realize her niece was in trouble. tell me about some of the things that started happening. >> people that live in the community would say, we have seen jocelyn walking around. it's cold. it's february. she is in her track uniform. she's looking for your sister.
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that broke my heart. knowing my niece is out walking the streets looking for where her mom is at. >> sonya knew kids like jocelyn often ended up in the foster care system she took steps to intervene. when did you decide to get involved? >> i said, i can do whatever you need me to do. i will take her. whatever you need me to do. the court told my sister she was coming out here to stay with us. everybody come in. can you ask the blessing? >> thank you for this day. >> dig in. >> every week, sonya and her husband and the family gather for dinner. for jocelyn, what began as a temporary arrangement has evolved into something more. >> this has become her home. she's very much like my daughter. >> they treat me like all the other kids. i'm grateful.
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>> jocelyn found a safe home. she has a tough road ahead. last year, her father died from an overdose. we have learned from her mom that she is still battling addiction. do you see your mom now? >> i see her every, like, month probably. we talk a lot. >> you miss her? >> yeah. a lot. a lot. she is definitely one of the greatest people i have ever met. she has the biggest heart ever. she just went down the wrong path, like a lot of people. >> across ohio, over a quarter of children like jocelyn land in relative care. aunts, uncles and grant parent have become a shadow propping up local systems. without them, the system would
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collapse. are you in this for the long haul? >> absolutely. >> i cannot imagine what it's like to be in her shoes. but, you know, there are a lot of kids that are the silent victims of this drug epidemic that need help. they need somebody to talk to and to know that there is hope. that they're not alone. >> it made me feel like everything was my fault. sometimes my emotions get the best of me. >> for many years, jocelyn kept silent about her parents addiction. a few months ago, she founded directly affected, a support group for students whose families have been impacted by the opioid crisis. >> seeing people overdose in my house with heroin, needles hanging out of their home, a spoon or something. >> how old were you the first time you saw someone od?
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>> 11, 12. >> i'm not used to zach talking that much. i know our generation right now is scared to talk. >> the students who range from 9 to 18 meet up once a week to talk about what they are facing at home. kids like jobra who is in the fourth grade. >> i was at school. people were like, why are you so depressed? i'm like ishgs don, i don't wan about it. >> you don't have to talk about it. okay? >> i feel like a lot of kids think it's just, well, it's in the family. i can't do anything. you aren't your parents. you can change. you can't fix them. you can just better yourself
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is there any update regarding the lovely avery? >> yes. their apartment is very nice. grandma has agreed to be their baby-sitter. >> grandma has? >> that's a huge thing. >> all right. thank you. >> since they first began family treatment court, ahmamanda and chris have appeared every month to discuss their recovery. today, they hope they have shown enough progress to be granted permission to bring their baby home for good. >> good morning, everyone. >> first, they have to convince the court. >> we are on the record for family treatment court. >> let's get started. shall we? >> christopher smith, 2019-2945. >> hi, mr. smith. >> hello. >> don't be nervous. it's nice to see you. >> nice to see you, too. >> thank you. may i have an update? >> yes, your honor. they are having home visits.
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he is a great dad. he is cool dad. >> laid back cool dad. >> i am extremely proud. >> okay. treatment-wise, how are we doing? >> chris >> i'm really impressed with all of work you're doing, between our requirements, work, and your family unit is amazing. you keep up the good work. you're good. >> thank you. >> next case, please. may have an update, please? >> amanda continues to go to treatment, working, and visiting with avery. those are going very well. >> how does that feel? >> it's awesome to be able to
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have her there, she's a little bit grumpy, but just being together, whether just giving her a bath or watching tv, just being together as a family. >> how is everything going on your end? >> amanda is great. just the way you interact, you guys are amazing parents. >> thank you. >> and i don't think you hear that enough. so i'm going to tell you every time. you're such an amazing parent. >> congratulations. way to go. >> thank you. >> you have to be thrilled. >> just, i can't say enough good things about them. so avery is getting ready to come home. >> say that again? >> avery coming home. >> yes. excellent! [ applause ] >> the news is good. all signs point to full reunification. and while they wait for a firm date, they've been granted overnight visitation.
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>> it's obvious that chris and amanda very been working really, really hard. and it was really great to see how much support there was in the room for them. from the magistrate to the social workers, it was unlike any court proceeding i've ever experienced. >> i'm so proud of you. welcome home. >> thank you. >> you're welcome. >> i found that court proceeding today incredibly moving. but if someone relapses during their time in family treatment court, does that disqualify them? >> absolutely not. we don't focus on the relapse so much. it is important. but it's what you do after that relapse. that's where we can tell if we're making a difference. >> the people who are in disbelief that people who have had serious issues with addiction should keep their children, should keep their babies, how do you respond to that?
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>> i say, ask somebody that is struggling with addiction about their child. if you say, talk to me about your baby, you will see their whole face change. >> there we go. >> recovery is a long, long process. but i find it is much stronger than addiction. everybody needs to be given a chance. and there is hope. there is always hope. we all have our own journey ahead of us. our own hopes and dreams. we'll pass many milestones.
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make this holiday extra special [what's this?] oh, are we kicking karly out? we live with at&t. it was a lapse in judgment. at&t, we called this house meeting because you advertise gig-speed internet, but we can't sign up for that here. yeah, but i'm just like warming up to those speeds. you've lived here two years. the personal attacks aren't helping, karly. don't you have like a hot pilates class to get to or something? [ muffled scream ] stop living with at&t. xfinity can deliver gig to the most homes.
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two weeks after ebony checked herself into detox, she's reached me with a message. her withdrawal was brutal, but she's 14 days sober, and could really use a baby bathtub. hello. >> hi. >> how are you doing? >> good. how are you? >> ebony, you look amazing.
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>> i mean, i feel different, for sure. >> do you really? >> it's probably the worst detox i ever did in my life. >> why? >> i don't know. it was bad. >> how are you feeling now? >> i feel good now. i'm levelled out. i'm good. i'm nervous, but it's a good nervous. plus, i got her. she keeps me grounded. she keeps me here. yeah. >> today is the first day of a three-week visit with mercedes. she'll be closely supervised, but this will be ebony's first time taking care of her daughter. you can't stay here forever. do you feel nervous about what will happen after? >> it's not going to be pretty at all times. but as long as i don't use, and i keep myself healthy and her safe, it's doable. i got to do it for me, to do it
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for her. babies can get us into treatment, but they can't keep us clean. if that was the case, nobody that was a mother would do drugs. but that's not the case. >> you do have an opportunity to break the cycle with her. and i know you can do it if you want to do it, you know? >> i want to. i do. she's worth it. i'm worth it. i just want to be a good mom. >> for parents like ebony, amanda, and chris, they're finding something new in their recovery that is still very rare. support from agencies that normally don't give second chances. and the belief they're worthy of the children restored to their care. it's still early days, but from what i've seen so far, this could be just what we need to
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