Thrive by IU Health

April 14, 2022

You can recover: The redemption of Rachel Gonzales Pinto

IU Health West Hospital

You can recover: The redemption of Rachel Gonzales Pinto

Rachel Gonzales Pinto didn’t know she was going into labor. She’d been drinking that day, and most days during her pregnancy. Seven minutes after she arrived at IU Health West Hospital, Gonzales Pinto gave birth to a baby girl, Milani.

Born premature and unresponsive, Milani was taken to the NICU. Gonzales Pinto had already lost custody of her two boys in 2019 as a result of her drinking, and she feared she might lose her daughter as well.

As she recovered alone in her hospital bed, IU Health West Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center therapists Libby King and Trisha Palencer entered the room. They’d worked with Gonzales Pinto for two years at the center.

“I didn’t expect them to be there,” Gonzales Pinto said. “It was amazing to have someone truly care about and believe in me. I will always remember that.”

Rachel Gonzales Pinto, Trisha Palencer, Libby King

A pattern is broken

Gonzales Pinto started drinking at 14 years old and had been through several treatment programs. She would stay sober for a few months, then relapse. It was a pattern that came to define her life.

But thanks to the Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center, Gonzales Pinto recently celebrated a full year of sobriety which helped her restore relationships with her family, find true love and regain custody of her sons – uniting her immediate and extended families.

The Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center help patients break the cycle of addiction through a variety of services such as group therapy, individual therapy, education, recovery coaching and skills training.

Recently, Gonzales Pinto reunited with Palencer and King, as well as Indianapolis Colts vice-chair and owner Kalen (Irsay) Jackson to talk about her progress.

Gonzales Pinto and her sons

“My oldest son hadn’t spoken to me in three years,” Gonzales Pinto shared with the group. “But now, we celebrated Christmas together as a family, and he told me it was the best Christmas he’d ever had.”

Many of the programs Gonzales Pinto participated in are thanks to the Irsay family and the Indianapolis Colts. Last year, they donated $1 million to IU Health Foundation in support of increasing access to addiction services for people in need—and this is just one of their many recent gifts to nonprofits and organizations working in mental health in Indiana and beyond.

Jackson, who leads the Colts and Irsay family’s Kicking the Stigma initiative, was moved by Gonzales Pinto‘s story.

Kalen (Irsay) Jackson

“Being from a family who suffered from addiction, I can relate to how your son may have felt,” Jackson told Gonzales Pinto. “But I also know that feeling of everything being okay. All your son wanted was you, and it’s so nice to be able to see the joy on your face.”

Expanding services and restoring lives

Thanks to the Colts and Irsay family gift, the IU Health West Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center was able to expand its services in 2021 to serve more patients like Gonzales Pinto. “I got the notice of the gift, and I was in tears telling the team that we get to help more people,” said Palencer, the center’s director.

As a result of the gift, the center doubled its patient load, hired additional staff, increased its virtual counseling capabilities and bolstered its ambulatory detox offerings—a need that increased as hospital beds were occupied by those battling COVID-19. All of this equates to the center’s 59% patient success rate, which is significantly higher than the national average.

Gonzales Pinto and her family

To understand the power of the center’s work, you need only to see Gonzales Pinto’s face light up when she talks about her sobriety. “I’m just truly grateful because so many people suffer,” Gonzales Pinto says. “But there is help, and you can recover.”

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