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Becoming A Mother, While Loving an Addict

A story of Self-Empowerment and the Undeniable Love Between Mother and Child

I will never forget the drive home from the hospital. I was sitting in the back seat with my three day old daughter, asleep in her car seat. I couldn't hold back the tears from streaming down my face. I was overwhelmed by the attachment I felt towards this tiny human being. I thought the love I had for her might swallow me whole, drowning me and leaving her without a mother. My heart ached for the bond my husband and I once shared. In my body, I knew our marriage had been affected over the past several years as he battled his addiction and I stood by his side. As supportive as I had been, it had taken a toll on me and our marriage. I glanced up into the rearview mirror meeting his gaze for a moment. My love for him was undeniable. I looked down at my daughter with an inexplicable knowing that active addiction and the life I envisioned for her couldn’t coexist. It felt too overwhelming to process at the time, so in a reassuring whisper I said to myself, “It will be alright. He will do the right thing. Our family will be healthy and beautiful.”

I'm Katie, mom to one beautiful baby girl. Here I share the journey of coming to realize that my daughter and I could no longer live with active addiction in our lives no matter how much I loved her father, who was the struggling addict. If you would like to find out more about how addiction can impact relationships, I recommend this article. This article is my story about choosing to focus on what I could control: mine and my child's life and doing whatever it took to make sure I created a life of safety, love, peace, and well being. 

The first week home I experienced a plethora of emotions that were heightened to an abnormal degree. I was operating completely outside my threshold of feeling. My therapist had forewarned me about the "baby blues” - an increase in emotions characterized by heightened sadness due to hormonal shifts after childbirth. It can last for up to two weeks. During this time, I felt intense love and fierce protectiveness towards my daughter, knowing she was vulnerable to the world and its harsh realities. Simultaneously, I grappled with a profound sense of grief for the life I once knew and the seismic shifts that were happening in my marriage.

My husband's struggles cast a shadow over my pregnancy, resulting in a traumatic backdrop for all of us. Over time, I adjusted to motherhood quite well, but it was a process of carving out a new identity as a mother while also staying true to my core essence. Deep within, an unsettling awareness lingered. I recognized the need to confront the unprocessed emotions from my pregnancy. It was imperative going forward that I see sustained sobriety from my husband. One thing was certain: I refused to raise my daughter within the confines of addiction. 

My husband had been battling this disease for as long as I had known him, marked by fluctuating periods of stability and instability. It took a horrific turn a few months after I found out I was pregnant as new challenges arose that were completely foreign to him, myself and his entire family. It was months of relentless efforts before he stabilized, leaving little to no time for me to process what had happened prior to giving birth to our daughter. We know that prenatal stress can indirectly affect infant health and development and the notion of this haunted me. Yet, I remained determined in my mindset and hopeful that things would turn around for my family. Weekly therapy sessions aided me in processing complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) while navigating the transformative experience of becoming a mother, altering my identity, clarifying my values, and reinforcing my sense of self.

With my daughter's arrival came a newfound maturity, unwavering boundaries, and a clear purpose. I no longer had a tolerance for unhealthy behaviors, in others or in myself. I was determined to shield her from what trauma and stress I could during her formative years. My husband's addiction persisted after our daughter's birth, becoming evident shortly after her first birthday. Realizing the need for a different approach, I joined a 12-step program, a powerful peer support group for loved ones of addicts, a life altering decision that introduced me to a supportive community. These groups help individuals and their families recover from substance use disorders, behavioral addictions, and sometimes other co-occurring mental health conditions. Here, witnessing their joy and peace, I yearned for what they had and recognized it as essential for our family.

To this day, I remain dedicated to my self-healing and the 12-step program, which has enabled me to become a better woman and mother. I once believed that my husband's sobriety was a prerequisite for my own healing, but I now understand that my responsibility extends solely to myself and my 15-month-old daughter. This realization empowered me to take actionable steps toward a happier, more stable life. Although challenging, the journey has been profoundly rewarding, and I can confidently say that I am thriving in motherhood. Each day strengthens my bond with my daughter, and I continue to gain confidence as a woman and a mother. Prioritizing self-care is an invaluable gift we can give to ourselves, our loved ones, our community, and our planet.


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