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Film review: On Life's Terms, Mothers in Recovery

Sheila Ganz directed the hour-long documentary, which premiered April 26.
Sheila Ganz directed the hour-long documentary, which premiered April 26., used with permission

On Life's Terms: Mothers in Recovery


My recent appearance at the REEL Recovery Film Festival´╗┐ in San Francisco coincided with the event's April 26 world premier of the documentary "On Life's Terms: Mothers in Recovery." I met filmmaker Sheila Ganz afterward, and have nothing but the greatest admiration for the work she has done. This is a gripping one-hour that's a MUST SEE film on women facing tough odds with an eye on reuniting their families after facing their addictions.

Sheila follows five new moms facing legal challenges and the removal of their children in a criminal justice system too often known for heavy-handedness and mistreatment, rather than compassion and treatment. The film follows the mothers through gut-wrenching stories, tears, reluctant acceptance, then growth into their "aha" moments... through the years following their program commitment and reuniting with their children. There's also the draw of old relationships and the pull of old ways of thinking and resentments, even months and years after the moms get clean and sober. Those moments I believe were intentionally left in the final cut to prove that all of us are recovering, not cured when it comes to addiction and alcoholism. I covered my eyes, telling the screen, "DON'T DO IT."

And all this is VERY well done.

I admit to not having a whole lot of experience with moms and recovery. This Mother's Day, I'm reminded of how this film opened my eyes. I am glad there are resources but never realized until the film just how scarce they are. There are only 150 mom-oriented programs in the whole country?? When the outcomes are so potentially powerful??

I have strong feelings about women risking the unborn and believe they MUST be accountable. This film showed they can be without incarceration. Corrections and a punitive justice system do more harm than their (mis)treatment programs claim. This film shows the positives of diverting young families away from the hostility of a lockup, It works for the community as well as the offender and MOST IMPORTANTLY the kids.

We all have a stake in the outcomes for mother and child. This brilliantly executed documentary shows how it works when restorative justice trumps punitive justice ... and left me inspired to learn more and DO MORE.

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