Moms with Secret Lives
These moms can't live a lie any longer.

Nicole, who's using a fake name and a disguise, has been addicted to painkillers for more than a year. She was prescribed the pills after a medical procedure, and she had some left over. One night, she decided to take one to help her sleep. She was surprised to find that it made her feel euphoric.

"When I take these pills, I just feel like I could go conquer the world," says Nicole, a registered nurse. She experienced severe withdrawal when she was clean for two weeks, and promised her husband she'd never go back on them.

"I'm not able to be my true self with anybody," she says. "I've become a compulsive liar ... My family has suffered, my child has suffered, this baby that's growing inside me is suffering. My worst fear is that my husband will take my child away from me and himself away from me, and I'll lose my job. I just want to get out of this cycle."

"How did you make this OK with you in the beginning?" Dr. Phil asks.

"That's the funny part," she says. "I never even imagined myself getting addicted to these things."

"What do you want from me?" Dr. Phil asks.

"I want help getting off them," she says. "I hate the grip it has on me. I don't feel any power to get off it."

Dr. Phil emphasizes that Nicole can't get off the drugs on her own. "I've dealt with this kind of thing for 30 years," he says. "I don't kind of know what you need to do; I know exactly what you need to. And coming up here and disguising yourself and keeping this a secret and using an assumed name, that's a turn in the wrong direction. Your husband may leave you, he may not, I don't know, but what you've got to do is get real about this right now."

Asked why she wants to tell her daughter now, Sheila says, "It's something she has a right to know, and that way when I die, she'll actually have a brother and a sister that she can turn to so she won't be alone in the world."

Dr. Phil pushes further: "Why do you want to tell her here with me and several million of your new best friends?"

"I respect your ethics," Sheila answers. "I need some moral support because this is not going to be something that's easy to do."

Dr. Phil tells Sheila, "I think your being afraid of what she's going to say is you underestimating your daughter. Because I think that she's not nearly as judgmental as you might fear her to be. I think she is not the kind of young woman that would ever use 'Mom' and 'slut' in the same sentence."

Though Sheila may feel shame for having three kids from three different fathers, two of whom were not her husbands, Dr. Phil tells her, quoting Maya Angelou: "You did what you knew how to do. And when you knew better, you did better."

Sheila and Erika look in each other's eyes, as Sheila tells her, "There's something about my past that I'm not very proud of. You actually have a half-brother and a half-sister. You all came from the same mom but different dads, unfortunately. I'm not proud of it, but it's something that I think you needed to know."

Sheila explains that in 1974 she gave birth to a boy, and in 1976 to a girl. She gave both of them up for adoption. She tells Erika, "I'm very proud of everything that you've ever done and I love you."

"And I love you," Erika says.

"I was afraid that I'd lose your respect," Sheila adds.

"Why, you kept me?" Erika laughs. "I think it makes you a smarter person for knowing that you wouldn't be able to take care of them on your own."


"You're obviously entertaining some fantasy in your mind that you can just kind of ease out of this and nobody will ever know the difference," Dr. Phil says. "You have a child at home and his mother is a drug addict. That is not fair to him. You owe him better than that. You owe yourself better. You are pregnant. You owe that child better."

Getting off the drugs now could cause Nicole to have a miscarriage. Dr. Phil suggests she get under the medical care of a doctor immediately. "You've got to get honest, get real, deal with this up front, and if the consequences are that you get left by your husband, well, you choose the behavior, you choose the consequences. Deal with it," he says. "You're playing with fire here, and you need all the help you can get."

Dr. Phil introduces Nicole to Kathleen Derrig-Palumbo, a licensed psychotherapist who's been trained in Dr. Phil's techniques and approaches, and can help Nicole overcome her addiction.


Angela, a 52-year-old grandmother of two, always has plenty of gifts for her grandkids. "What my family doesn't know," she writes, "is that most of those gifts, along with plenty of other things I own, I've stolen."

She's been stealing for 10 years, and for the past eight, she's stolen something almost every time she's walked into a store. "I have what I call the 'spoiled brat syndrome,'" she says. "If other people can have it, why can't I?" She's taken everything from ceiling fans and floor rugs to Dr. Phil's Self Matters book, workbook and audio cassettes!

"I've been caught once before," she says. "I know it's just a matter of time until I get caught again and my family learns my shocking secret. The shame and humiliation of them seeing me as a thief scares me to death."

She asks Dr. Phil, "How can I get over this sense of entitlement and stop all this stealing before my family finds out?"

"So why do you want to change?" Dr. Phil asks.

"I am going to get caught, and it's not right," says Angela.

"I've got a sneaking suspicion that you really don't think this is wrong. You're just afraid of getting caught," Dr. Phil says. "You are going to get caught, and when you do, you are going to go to jail ... I think you're conning yourself right and left and trying to do me with it. I don't believe for a second that you can't control this," he adds, suggesting she tell store security guards to not leave her side while she's shopping if that's necessary to put an end to it. "If you want to stop this, you step up and stop this."

To help her along, Dr. Phil sets her up with Dr. Zane, who's trained in Dr. Phil's methodology and can focus on her addictive personality. "What you need to do is you need to get very real with this woman or you're going to jail," he says. "In the meantime, you've got that Self Matters book, workbook and audio tapes?" Dr. Phil asks. "Send me my damn money."

Jodi and Charlene

Jodi was 15 when she discovered her mom was having an affair with a man she met on the Internet. "Automatically, I freaked. I thought, 'No, this isn't possible. My mom would never do this,'" she says. Jodi told her stepfather what was going on, and then she moved out of the house the very next day. "I couldn't stay there because I felt violated," she says. "You just don't leave two kids in a house and a husband for no reason."

"What I did is not full cheating," says Charlene. "We met, we played pool, we had dinner ... I came back early from my weekend because it didn't turn out like I thought it would be."

Charlene was able to work things out with her husband, but not with her daughter. "Her whole personality toward me changed," says Charlene. "I don't know her anymore, except for what we talk about on the phone."

Jodi, who hasn't been back home in nearly four years, says, "The computer is still there, and she just doesn't realize that I can't come home until it's gone."

"I'm a senior in high school and I've never been able to have her help me with homework or anything," says Jodi about her mom.

"I want my daughter back. I want what we had," says Charlene. "I don't want to hurt anymore."

If they both want to make amends and be close again, asks Dr. Phil, "What's the obstacle?"

"I don't think she can let it go," says Charlene, "and until she does, we can't move forward. I don't think she trusts me anymore."

Dr. Phil gets to the core of what Jodi perceives as Charlene's ongoing problem, asking, "Are you like one of these computer nuts that just lives on the Internet to the point that it disrupts your life?" he asks. "Because [Jodi] says when she calls she can hear you typing in the background ... that you can't even talk to her."

Charlene says she's trying to limit her time online. "I went last week and got a full-time job so I'd be off doing other things," she says. "I've told her we would do what it took to get her back."

"This just seems to be a sticking point, doesn't it? It seems to be a barrier between you and people around you," Dr. Phil continues. "Do you want to be involved with the real flesh and blood people in your life, or do you want to live in cybersapce?"

Charlene estimates that she spends 20 to 25 hours on the computer each week. "What do you suppose would happen if you took 25 hours a week and invested those in healing this relationship?" Dr. Phil asks. "I don't think problems are simple, but I think the solutions are often simple ... You need to turn the computer off. And all the time you're spending involved in that, you need to invest in your husband and your daughter ... doing anything with her where you can get to know her again."

He reiterates to Charlene, "Turn it off. Send me your mouse."

Then Dr. Phil turns to Jodi. "You need to decide that the history is history, because I get a real melodramatic flair out of you," he says, referring to Jodi's moving out the day after she discovered her mom's affair, and her remarks that her "life is so hard" all because of what her mother did.

"You're still hung up on this. You need to decide 'That's my mother, she made a mistake, I need to get busy forgiving that and trying to heal this relationship instead of self-righteously and sanctimoniously sitting in judgment,'" Dr. Phil tells Jodi. "Is it OK that she did that? No. Should you have a sense of betrayal about that? Very possibly. But you know what? That was then, this is now, and that's your mother. You either contribute to or contaminate that relationship every minute of every hour of every day. Stop contaminating and start contributing. We've got enough victims in this world."


Dear Dr. Phil,
I'm a good single mother who loves her beautiful 23-year-old daughter. Giving birth to Erika is the proudest moment of my life. She is my gift from God. But I'm afraid that I'm about to destroy our relationship. I've been keeping a secret from her and it's time to finally share it ...

When Erika was younger, she used to tell me that she wished she had brothers and sisters. Well, she does.

Almost 29 years ago, I gave up two children for adoption. I would like to tell Erika that she has a half-brother and a half-sister. But I'm afraid Erika will hate me. What if she thinks I'm a slut? I'm hoping that she'll be very understanding, but so much time has passed that it makes this even harder.

I'm not proud of what I've done. How do I come clean with my daughter without losing her respect?