Blazing a new path: Mother ends cycle of abuse to reunite with her childrenFARGO — Sarah Bath can’t imagine what the child protective services worker thought.
By: Tammy Swift, The Dickinson Press
FARGO — Sarah Bath can’t imagine what the child protective services worker thought.
But ever since she’d been in treatment for substance abuse, Bath felt compelled to reach out to the social worker who had taken away her children — and, in the process, forced her to reevaluate how she’d been living her life.
So after one year of sobriety, Bath found herself dialing the number of the case worker she once feared and dreaded. When she spoke the words into the phone, she meant them.
“Thank you for taking my children away. You saved my life and you made me be a better parent to my children.”
Astonished, the child protective services worker told her no one had ever thanked her before.
Today, the memory of that exchange still fills Bath’s bright blue eyes with tears. “It was a hard one,” says the pretty, dark-haired 33-year-old. “Because I didn’t want to admit that I was a bad parent.”
“You weren’t a bad parent,” Julie McCroskey of the Sister’s Path treatment program says gently. “You were just a parent.”
Thanks to Sister’s Path, a Fargo-based comprehensive recovery program, Bath has her life back.
Sister’s Path’s provides stable, long-term housing along with chemical dependency treatment to single, homeless, addicted women who wish to live clean and sober. Many of the women live in apartments with their children as they participate in 12-step groups, addiction counseling and life-management classes.
Bath graduated from Sister’s Path in August 2010. She believes the program restored her health, her family and her life.
“I feel like it was designed with me in mind,” she said. “I went from this person with this beaten, broken-down past and no structure to structure, safety and learning to be who you can be.”
Bath was born in Crookston, Minn., although she didn’t remain there long.
Whenever her mother, an alcoholic, broke up with a husband or exhausted all her resources, she would pack up her family and move them to another small community in Minnesota, Bath said.
And when her mom was in a relationship, life wasn’t much better. Bath said the adults of the household would drink too much and get in violent fights.
“Safety is not something I grew up with. There were mornings we’d wake up and there were half-full beers all over the place and blood splattered all over the phone,” Bath recalls.
Bath moved in with a boyfriend at age 16. Soon, she found herself unwittingly tracing her mother’s path. She would drink too much and pick fights with her boyfriend before blacking out.
By then, she already had several years of alcohol abuse under her belt. Her mother had let her party in their home since she was 11, saying she’d rather have the kids consume alcohol under her supervision than out drinking and driving.
Bath didn’t smoke or drink when she was pregnant. But after their two kids were born, her old drinking habits always returned.
In 2009, she began using meth. On Oct. 1, 2009, she lost custody of her children.
“That was the coldest, darkest feeling ever,” she recalls.
Nowadays, Bath approaches life with the same focus and energy that she used to channel into her addiction.
She attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings regularly, has an AA sponsor and, in turn, sponsors several young women.
She works even harder at being a good mother to Riley, now 6, and Halie, 4.
Swift is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.