Coach /Parent Advocate
Prescillia Wells, a coach and parent advocate, embodies the spirit of the Tough as a Mother campaign, which aims to combat stigma and educate our communities about substance misuse. Her story is one of immense resilience, as she overcame struggles with mental health, addiction, domestic violence and custody battles to reclaim her role as a mother.
Prescillia's journey began at the age of 13 when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, she did not receive medication until she reached adulthood. During her first pregnancy at 16, she was introduced to opiates and started using them as a way to feel good. This marked the beginning of her self-medication and experimentation with drugs and alcohol.
Despite her attempts to stay sober, a prescription for pain medication after her second childbirth derailed her progress. Unfortunately, her healthcare provider failed to discuss her family's history of addiction or the addictive nature of the prescribed medication. Feeling overwhelmed as a young mother, she turned to pills to cope with the pressures of parenting. As her dependency grew, she became unable to function or feel good without them.
Prescillia found herself in an abusive relationship while pregnant with her third child, further distracting her from addressing her addiction. Fearful of her provider discovering her substance use, she kept it a secret throughout her prenatal care. Complications during delivery and the subsequent prescription for pain medication led to her losing custody of all three children. Despite this devastating loss, Prescillia was still not ready to confront her addiction, believing she had control over it.
Throughout the custody battle, Prescillia struggled with her addiction but eventually regained custody after an eight-month fight. However, the foundation for her recovery was weak, and she relied on sheer determination to maintain sobriety. She explored a 12-step program and read daily devotionals, but a new relationship with an addicted partner resulted in another pregnancy. This time, she was honest with her OBGYN about her opiate use disorder and was introduced to Suboxone. Although the medication should have helped with cravings, she continued taking pills alongside it, only disclosing her Suboxone use to her provider.
Prescillia acknowledges her provider's support but notes the absence of discussions about recovery resources. She was informed about the potential challenges her baby would face in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) due to withdrawal but did not receive information about naloxone, relapse prevention or recovery resources upon leaving the hospital.
In 2019, while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and a custody battle, Prescillia received the devastating news that her 18-month-old daughter, Anna, had overdosed while in the care of her father, who had accidentally consumed pills that were left out. In the emergency room, Narcan was administered four times to Anna in addition to a continuous IV drip of Narcan, and thankfully, this saved Anna’s life. Despite Prescillia's inability to care for Anna at the time, she felt that Child Protective Services could have handled the situation differently.
During this period, Prescillia's addiction spiraled out of control. She experienced an overdose, endured abuse from a violent man while being trafficked, and lost custody of her children one by one. Eventually, she managed to escape and sought help from her mother, who became her savior. Prescillia detoxed at home, supported by her family.
Recognizing the need for professional help, Prescillia's family reached out to the Hornbuckle Foundation for recovery support. Due to limited availability during Thanksgiving, her only option was to go to the emergency room, where she experienced a precipitated withdrawal due to inadequate disclosure of her last substance use. Realizing the urgency of her situation, her sister immediately drove her to treatment, preventing a potentially fatal outcome.
“I spent about a week and a half there just detoxing and trying to figure out what it meant to live without a substance inside of me. And it was a really strange, hard week. I remember trying to journal, and it was just so hard to write. I was really shaky, miserable. But I had a reason, I had to fight for my babies. I had something to keep me going there.”
Prescillia completed an intensive outpatient program and joined a 12-step program. With the support of her recovery community, she gained tools to heal, grow and rebuild her life. Her family supported her through the challenges, and sadly her mother later died of an overdose which only motivated Prescillia more to get help and help others. Prescillia is now dedicated to helping others facing similar challenges as a coach at HardBeauty and has become parent advocate for Colorado’s Office of Respondent Parents’ Council (ORPC) supporting other families in their child welfare cases. She believes that early education about available resources, including Naloxone, and compassionate support from healthcare providers and Child Protective Services could have made a significant difference in her journey.
Prescillia's story highlights the importance of comprehensive support systems, early intervention and destigmatizing addiction and mental health issues. Her resilience, determination and commitment to recovery serve as an inspiration to others on their own paths to healing and motherhood. There is no doubt that Prescillia is One Tough Mother.