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A Sioux City woman shares her story about addiction and recovery

SIOUX CITY (KTIV) — Drug and alcohol addiction is a worldwide problem. In the U.S., the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates substance abuse costs the U.S. 740-billion dollars every year in resulting crimes, lost work productivity and health care.

However, there are success stories, including at least one here in Siouxland. One Sioux City woman, who has battled through substance abuse, appears to be winning that fight. In addition, this Sioux City woman’s daughter has stood by her mother’s side through the bad times and she remains in that same supportive position.

Mona Wanned and daughter Aja Simpson have a loving bond, but it has taken a long time to get where they are today. Life started out throwing plenty of challenging curves in Mona’s direction.

“I smoked weed all through junior high, high school and I became an adult and I was introduced to crack cocaine and I smoked crack cocaine for over 20 years,” said RaMona Wanned.

Not even motherhood could shock her into reality.

“I was a Mom, but at the same time, I didn’t grasp the whole concept of being a Mom because as she grew up, she became an inconvenience to my using, ” said Wanned.

“I was always worried about her. What she was doing, where was she, is she sick, did she overdose, did someone beat her up,” said Aja Simpson, Wanned’s daughter.

Mona’s daughter Aja, was her caretaker. Aja, now a single mother of five, thought her reality was every young person’s reality.

“I remember fabricating stories as a kid, about my perfect life, lying about stuff that wasn’t true, because I needed to be just as good as your family was over here,” said Simpson.

Mother and daughter even ended up behind bars at the same time.

“I went to prison too, adopted a different type of addiction. I had an addictive personality. I grew up in that life. I watched my Mom do drugs and sell drugs and so that’s what I did myself,” said Simpson.

Prison is where both of the women decided to turn their lives around. Mona was incarcerated four times. It took only one time for Aja. She gave her mother an ultimatum. Get clean and sober or you can’t see your grandchildren.

“I was in Woodbury County (jail) and I was reading the 12 Steps and I thought, maybe I should try this treatment thing out,” said Wanned.

With the help of Jackson Recovery Centers, 18 years later, she is clean, sober and still recovering, and one class away from getting a Masters Degree. Mona may have started as a patient, but now, she’s celebrating 14 years as a Substance Abuse Therapist at Jackson.

“I truly understand addiction. I know the damage and the disease and the destruction it brings,” said Wanned.

The tight mother-daughter bond didn’t come easily.

“I’ve said my I’m sorries a million times. I don’t want to say if I could do it over, I would do it different because I have the best bond in the world with her today,” said Wanned.

“I just want you to know I’m grateful and I am proud of you. And I appreciate you,” said Simpson.

“I like who I am. I’m a grandmother today. I have grandkids who don’t know that radical part of me. And I have a great relationship with my kid. And my parents before they passed, got to see me sober,” said Wanned.

Wanned says treatment works. She adds, it’s not easy, but the destruction that comes from substance abuse is not easy either. A spokesperson with Jackson Recovery Centers says Jackson sees 4,000 patients per year, in all 11 programs located in its four Northwest Iowa counties.

Mona says in doing the 12 steps, her daughter, Aja, finally became real to her, she finally acknowledged her role as a parent. Mona also says while at Jackson Recovery Centers, she became responsible for her actions, and now she can pass along her honest message to the patients with whom she works.

Stella Daskalakis

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