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Daughter's addiction journey inspires her own mom to seek help

Christina Sakran plays with her son, Tate, at a playground. Christina and her mom, Joanne Ballard, both went through an addiction recovery program through the YWCA. (WHAM photo)
Christina Sakran plays with her son, Tate, at a playground. Christina and her mom, Joanne Ballard, both went through an addiction recovery program through the YWCA. (WHAM photo)
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(WHAM) - There are few things more important in the world for Joanne Ballard than spending time with her only grandchild.

Ballard, now two years sober, spends time every week with four-year-old Tate. But there was a time earlier in Tate’s life when Ballard had no contact with him at all.

That’s because Ballard was struggling with a decades-long addiction to both drugs and alcohol. And at some point, she no longer had much contact with her only daughter and Tate’s mom, Christina Sakran.

“I was watching life pass by," Ballard said. "Everybody was going on living and I was just functioning, if I was even doing that."

She had tried many times over the years to get sober, but the sobriety wouldn’t last, and a stressful and physically violent relationship left her turning back to drugs and alcohol time and time again.

“I got lost in drugs and alcohol, and I stayed in it a long time, a long time,” said Ballard.

At the same time, Ballard’s daughter Christina was struggling with her own addictions. At first, she didn’t realize she had a problem.

“I grew up, my mom and her boyfriend owned a bar. I thought that drinking daily was normal. I didn’t know that it wasn’t,” said Christina.

Christina moved to Rochester from Syracuse to attend college at Rochester Institute of Technology. But after college, Christina realized how much she had grown dependent on drugs and alcohol to function.

When she got pregnant with her son Tate, it was a struggle to stay sober. After he was born, she says the alcohol and drugs became her way of dealing with stress and anxiety. It was how she watched her mom cope with stress growing up.

“All I knew was that I didn’t want that for Tate, but I didn’t know how to break that cycle,” said Christina.

That’s when she decided to get help, but it wasn’t easy. Christina’s biggest fear was that asking for help would mean losing Tate, and she didn’t want to take that risk.

There was a solution, however, that meant getting the help she desperately needed to get sober and keep Tate with her: the YWCA Steppingstone Supportive Living Program.

A licensed treatment provider through New York’s Office of Addiction Services and Support, the YWCA in Rochester has 29 living units to allow women 18 years and old living with addiction to seek treatment in a safe, convenient place.

In addition to helping women, the YWCA also allows mothers to keep their children with them while going through treatment.

“I didn’t ask for help for so long because I was scared, being the only parent, that he would just automatically get removed. That’s not the case,” said Christina.

As Christina worked towards sobriety through the YWCA Supportive Living Program, her mom watched her success and knew she wanted the same.

“They had something in Rochester that they didn’t have in Syracuse, and I wanted it,” said Ballard. “She (Christina) said, ‘Okay, this is what I did, and here’s the information. Let’s see what you can do.’”

So as Christina was discharged from the YWCA after successfully completing the program, her mom became an inpatient, ready to begin her recovery for good.

“I left on her birthday and she went in on her birthday,” said Christina.

It’s been three and a half years since Christina last turned to drugs or alcohol to cope. Now, she’s learned healthy ways to deal with her stress and anxiety. Ballard has been sober for two years and doesn’t take a day of sobriety for granted.

“I don’t ever want to go back. I don’t have another recovery in me,” said Ballard. “I have another relapse, but I don’t have another recovery.”

On average, clients stay anywhere from nine to fourteen months in the program. Amy Wells, director of the YWCA treatment program, has worked there for 23 years. In that time, she’s helped hundreds of women get and stay sober.

“Opioids continue to be the primary substance that we admit for,” said Wells. “But we treat all substance disorders. Cocaine and alcohol would be the next diagnosis that we see on a regular basis.”

They also help women work with CPS to help regain or maintain custody of their children in recovery.

For more information, click here.