Crystal's Story: Addiction, motherhood, and a chance at redemption

KSAT's Tiffany Huertas following mother who gave birth while addicted to heroin

By Tiffany Huertas - Video Journalist

SAN ANTONIO - KSAT 12 is addressing the opioid epidemic that is unraveling communities, like San Antonio, and destroying American lives.

Reporter Tiffany Huertas is following the story of Crystal Gutierrez, 26, who is participating in the neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) program after giving birth while addicted to heroin. Here is her incredible journey.

New mom, baby deal with heroin addiction issues

Crystal sits in a hospital bed, dehydrated, tired and sleepy.

She is surrounded by her aunt and mother. They are excited, but worried about the health of Gutierrez and her new baby.

Her pregnancy was not normal, however. She just finished doing heroin, and said she has been abusing drugs for a while.

"(I was) wild and crazy, and prostituting, and (using) drugs," Gutierrez said. "I used crack, cocaine and heroin."

Since a young age, Gutierrez also faced abuse at the hands of her relatives.

WATCH: 'Opioid Nation: An American Epidemic'

WATCH: Crystal admits mistakes, but wants to get clean for newborn

"At 9 years old, I was molested by my stepdad," Gutierrez said.

As year passed, it only became harder for Gutierrez."(I was) growing up fast, in and out of the streets.

Disrespecting my family," Gutierrez said. "At 16, I got shot. I lost my best friend."Dr. Scheel Nayar is the obstetrician gynecologist looking at the status of Gutierrez and her baby."Our primary concern is to find out if she is stable.

And at the same time, keeping a very close eye on the baby," Nayar said. Baptist Medical Center gave Gutierrez an opportunity to get better through their NAS program.

Gutierrez accepted and will now go through their methadone program first."We now found if we have the mothers rooming in with the baby, (then) there is a greater bonding with mother and baby (and) it takes less time to detox off the heroin," Nayar said.

Gutierrez admits to making mistakes, but wants change. This is not her first child that she had while abusing drugs.

Gutierrez's mother, Lucia Cortez, is taking care of her daughter's first child."When (her first) baby was born, she stayed in the NICU for over a month and a half," Cortez said. 

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Although this isn't Gutierrez's first time giving birth while addicted to drugs, her family said they will stay by her side.

"I want you to know that I love you and I've always been behind you and even though I put my foot down and I shut my doors on you, that was the only way I needed you to hit rock bottom.

So that way you can see there's nothing good out there," Cortez said. 

Gutierrez's family hopes she completes this program and gets a second chance at life. 

Recovery program helps heroin-addicted mother following birth of baby

Crystal had no idea how she would feel welcoming her new baby, Serenitee Neavez Gutierrez.

“I look at her and I thank God that she saved me because I was going down the wrong path,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez went into labor while part of the NAS program at Baptist Medical Center.

NAS occurs primarily among opioid-exposed infants shortly after birth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“I have been through the world and back,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said she had just done heroin when she arrived at the hospital, but after going into the program, she was placed into a methadone program. “I’m on 20 milligrams,” Gutierrez said.

As part of the NAS program, she went to a center to help her get better. She left the hospital and went to two recovery facilities before she felt at home, she said. 

“I love it,” Gutierrez said. “They made me feel welcomed. They made me feel like they actually care about people and their recovery.”  

A new home 

Gutierrez went to the Alpha Home, a residential rehab program dedicated to treating women.

“In Alpha Home, 50 percent of our staff are in long-term recovery, and 20 percent of those are alumni of Alpha Home,” CEO Angela White said. “So when people come here they feel like they are in a community that loves them and accepts them.” 

Alpha Home offers two homes for women to live in during treatment. 

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“We want people to be successful. Our aim is for long-term recovery for everybody,” White said. 

The average length of stay is 70 days at the Alpha Home. Gutierrez said she met a lot of women like her.

"I feel like they all have their own problems, but they don't take it out on nobody else. They deal with it their own kind of way, but a positive way,” Gutierrez said.

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