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The women of The Magdalen House celebrating in honor of International Women's Day

Support Causes That Help Moms on North Texas Giving Day

The Magdalen House recovery community among nonprofits to benefit

While the pandemic has changed so much, everyday needs in North Texas continue. If anything, those needs have grown—and that means local nonprofits are working harder than ever to support our community. Let’s show them love on North Texas Giving Day, on Thursday, Sept. 23 (early giving is open now). The day is designed to highlight the organizations that make Dallas Fort Worth a better place to live, and to encourage North Texans to come together in their generosity.

There are so many worthy organizations out there, including groups that support the arts, provide housing assistance for veterans, rescue animals and promote safety for cyclists, among others. We especially love the nonprofits that give a helping hand to other moms. There are domestic violence shelters, organizations that help young widows, the local milk bank, addiction recovery centers—the ways you can support mothers in DFW on North Texas Giving Day are many.

We connected with Lisa Kroencke, executive director of The Magdalen House—which provides a safe place for women to achieve sobriety from alcohol, at no cost to them—to learn more about how your support makes a difference.

DFWChild: Tell us about The Magdalen House and its approach to helping women achieve sobriety.

Lisa Kroencke: The Magdalen House is a nonprofit in east Dallas offering social detox and peer recovery programs at no cost for alcoholic women and their families. Since 1987, The Magdalen House has provided a safe place for women to begin their recovery journey through its cornerstone Social Detox program, which provides acute care during a 14-day in-house stay that physically separates a woman from alcohol while simultaneously immersing her in support and education. After completing this program, women join other recovered mothers, daughters, and sisters through meetings, classes and workshops.

Magdalen House's Lisa Kroencke, photo credit Ken Drombosky
Lisa Kroencke, executive director of The Magdalen House, photo courtesy Ken Drombosky

After 30 years of serving our community, we noticed a huge gap in services for alcoholic women who may not need, or may not be able to participate in, an in-house treatment program. They may not have access to long-term childcare options required for a two-week, in-house stay, or they may simply not be able to leave their jobs. In hopes of addressing this under-served need, The Next Step program was launched in the fall of 2019, which serves as a structured alternative to traditional clinical outpatient treatment. It can serve as an aftercare program for Social Detox alumna or women who have received inpatient alcoholism treatment elsewhere, or it may serve as a stand-alone program for women who do not need to physically separate from alcohol but need a little more structure than just an AA meeting.

The programs allow women to focus on their well-being and health without compromising their role as a mother. They learn the tools needed to sustain recovery while managing the various other commitments required of women, including motherhood.

C: What percentage of women that you serve are mothers, and why do you think so many moms struggle with addiction?

LK: One in 11 women in the United States are alcohol dependent, and there are more than 250,000 alcoholic women in DFW alone. Seventy percent of the women we serve are mothers, and one of the biggest reasons we witness moms struggling is that they are afraid of being away from or of losing their children.

If children could save a mother from the deep, dark crevices of addiction, there wouldn’t be an addicted mother in the world. But that’s a huge indication of this disease’s power. We have mothers of all ages seeking help, from pregnant women to grandmothers. Alcoholism is the greatest equalizer of all time. It doesn’t care if you have one child or five; it affects everyone the same. And it often leaves families without any understanding of what’s happening, how to help or how to deal with an addicted loved one.

RELATED: The Bond That Breaks Us: Alcoholism & Parenthood

Recently, a mother who had just been through our Social Detox program described her alcoholism in a profoundly impactful way. When speaking to a group of current Social Detox participants, she said, “I have three kids, and I looked at them and thought, They are the only things I’ve done right in this world—and they were not enough to get me to stop drinking.

This is such a profound statement, particularly when you know the power of a mother’s love. But the roots of alcoholism are even deeper and more powerful than the most innate, elemental love of motherhood.

Lack of education on what it means to be an alcoholic is common with a high percentage of women who come through our program. In addition, the stigma of alcoholism is one of our most significant barriers to recovery. Most think that alcoholics live under a bridge or that they can’t hold a job. It’s viewed as a morality problem when, in fact, it’s simply a disease. This lack of understanding breeds shame. And when you feel ashamed, you hide whatever it is that you feel is shameful. So our priority is simply to remove the shame, the stigma and the darkness. When you shine a light on the real causes of addiction, it exposes the reality: that it’s a disease treated with a proven solution that’s accessible to anyone who seeks it.

C: We understand your own recovery has inspired your work. Can you share a little about what you went through and how you were able to get to the other side of addiction?

LK: Many years ago, I realized I had a problem, that I drank alcohol differently than my friends. But I was afraid to be honest about what was happening, and my drinking got worse. In the end, I wanted to stop, but I could not.

Chips, The Magdalen House

In 2007, I was first introduced to the disease of alcoholism, the allergy of the body and the obsession of the mind. This experience not only saved my life but transformed it. I learned that alcohol was not my problem and there was so much more to the solution than just not drinking. A vital part of my recovery was that I needed to find other alcoholics to work with.

So, two months sober, I walked into The Magdalen House, and I never left. I volunteered here for eight years before becoming a staff member because here is where I found the purpose for all the pain I caused. The Magdalen House is where I learned that freedom from alcoholism was given to me for a higher purpose. There’s a ripple effect when we speak up, own the disease and talk about our experiences. It quiets the insanity and gives someone else the courage to do the same. At The Magdalen House, I found that it is not about the drink; it’s about love, purpose, faith and community. I found a connection, the courage to be imperfect. 

C: Tell us more about how families benefit when a mother is able to achieve sobriety.  

LK: I recently spoke with a graduate of our Next Step program who was a third-generation alcoholic. She had several children of varying ages, but her 3-year-old son had recently been taken from her by Child Protective Services due to her alcoholism. Because of our partnership with Dallas Family Legacy Court, she completed the program, established and maintained her sobriety, and ultimately experienced reunification with her son. When visiting with her about this amazing transformation of her life and circumstances, she said something to me that I’ll never forget when talking about the best part of her new-found life: “All my son ever wanted was a birthday party with Spider-Man. I hadn’t been able to give any of my children a birthday party before now. But not only did I help plan it, but I also experienced it. I saw the joy. I saw the love. His love, with a clarity that is so much better than through the bottom of a bottle.”

It’s the simple joys that alcoholism strips away: a child’s smile, a soccer goal, a cheerleading competition, high school graduation, a wedding. And that’s the most beautiful part of what we do—we restore joy, hope and families. 

C: How will donations made through North Texas Giving Day make a difference for The Magdalen House and the women it serves?

LK: North Texas Giving Day is a huge part of successfully offering programs to so many in need, both to alcoholic women and their family members. Every dollar donated can go directly toward our program costs. Everything we have is a gift from our community of supporters. Their support not only provides the funding we need to offer lifelong care, but it allows us to educate as many as we can on the nature of alcoholism as a disease. We provide everything free of charge, from offering three meals a day for those in our Social Detox program to providing a three-month structured outpatient program to any woman who needs more support. Every single penny is directed toward helping women and those that love them. And because we offer these services free of charge to every woman that walks through our door, we take away the burden of cost or lack of insurance for the families that support them.

There are so many women in our community who don’t have a place to turn, who have been called worthless, who have been sidelined, washed up and classified as beyond help. We meet those women at our door, hug them, tell them they are loved, worthy and wonderful, and help them rise above the stigma, and that transformation is truly possible. There isn’t a greater way to love others than to show them how to love themselves.

Any amount this North Texas Giving Day is needed, from $1 to $1,000. You can go online at northtexasgivingday.org/themagdalenhouse to support these mothers, wives, sisters and friends. Your $1 donation could be the transformative transaction that allows a woman to move from living with shame to living with dignity. And there is no better gift than that.

Photos courtesy of The Magdalen House