“My biggest fear is my children will end up in the darkness I lived in for so long. I have this constant battle within my heart to protect them from pain while also knowing surviving pain is how we become stronger. I have seen this show up when they go from crawling to walking, those wobbly first steps make me hold my breath. Letting them step once and fall, just to encourage them to get back up again.
I find myself questioning if I am giving them the tools they need, will it be enough if they face darkness like me? When I was there, what was I missing?
I spent some time going through old bins of photos and things from my childhood recently. Photos have always been important to me because my memory hasn’t ever served me well. I think I chose to remove things I didn’t want to see, subconsciously forgetting parts of my life I didn’t want to exist. My years with drugs and alcohol helped me with that.
I watched the timeline of my life develop through these pictures as I sifted through them. I watched myself go from the pure happiness of being a child, seeing the world through lenses that aren’t yet tainted, into photos where my smiles were mostly brought on by alcohol — the key to numbing my pain.
My dependence on alcohol wasn’t something that developed overnight. I wasn’t instantly attached to the taste or the feeling. It was like a new relationship; it grew over time as I dove in deeper to see where it could take me. It was purely experimental. ‘All the other kids’ were doing it, so why shouldn’t I? It was my new best friend, a way to fit in at all the parties and my one-way ticket to numbing every feeling I’d ever felt before.
It was easy, it was accessible, and I had no reason not to drink. I didn’t wake up feeling as if I had a purpose, or really any reason to choose otherwise. I was getting attention and finally felt accepted. A part of me knew I was making choices that didn’t align with my values, but that was easily pushed away with another drink. It was my gateway into being myself, or who I thought I was.
What began as experimenting and exploring quickly turned into a necessary part of my life. There was rarely an event without alcohol and where there was alcohol, there was likely to be drugs. I was already so far in, why wouldn’t I go deeper? It was an endless cycle of having to face what I was doing and the possible consequences of my actions. However, those thoughts were easily forgotten, allowing drinking to escalate to the point where my memories were little to none.
I didn’t feel like my life was worth living on numerous occasions. The actions I took just continued to pile the shame on layer after layer until I didn’t want to look at myself in the mirror sober anymore. I drank because it was fun to not have to think about my pain; it was dependable to know that when I drank, I could rely on not having to feel anymore. It became an accepted habit.
I spent almost 10 years in this place, experimenting and exploring with the purpose of numbing, and being the loudest person in the room to hide the shame I was feeling. I experienced the loss of my virginity without giving consent, a pregnancy at the age of 15, and three arrests in four years. The third time was the charm, waking up in the medical unit of the county jail, wearing a suicide suit.
I made a choice that day in 2010: I decided I wanted to live.
The steps that followed were getting into a program, starting therapy, and life coaching. It was time to face my demons because until I figured out why I was making the choices I was making, I wouldn’t be able to choose differently. I woke up with something on my to-do list every day, found support through meetings, and continued to ask for help.
In the depths of my darkness, children weren’t a thought for me. I didn’t want them. I didn’t want to get married because the party life was for me. When I was pregnant at 15, the thought of being a young mother and making it work wasn’t an option for me. I didn’t want to be a mom.
Until I met Eric.
I’d taken my mental health journey and expanded it into my physical health. I wanted to feel better about my body and treat myself differently. It was a perfect intersection of an online dating site called Match.com and my physical journey that, after a couple of messages back and forth, we locked eyes at the gym without knowing the other would be there.
I was learning to love myself and treat myself with respect like I hadn’t before, and this allowed me to finally feel love from someone else. Eric became my best friend and I knew almost instantly I would spend the rest of my life with him. His love and the love we built were eye-opening to me. It made me realize I did want children and it wasn’t ever that I didn’t want to be a mother, it’s that I thought I wasn’t capable. In my darkness, I wasn’t. In this new light and love, I was. I wasn’t scared of failing anymore, I knew I would bring the lessons of my life to raise good humans.
The wonderful thing about my journey is I was able to get help. This allowed me to see why I made the choices I was making and gave me the ability to choose differently. I could either be ashamed of what I had been through or allow it to propel me forward, I chose the latter.
I have two children now, my little boy Cameron and my daughter Brooklyn. I couldn’t imagine life without them and growing into motherhood has helped me to learn more about myself. It’s also an opportunity to do things differently, to teach them tools I feel like I was missing and instill confidence in them that I felt I was lacking.
When I think about turning my struggles into lessons for my children and myself, it gives me a bigger sense of purpose. It makes me understand why each of those situations was necessary. It makes me a better leader, mother, and teacher. I believe because I faced so much adversity, I can navigate through things with humility and a constant reminder of where I came from. I believe I can teach my children to love themselves better than I did by forming a bond from the start that they know they can trust and depend on me always.
I will teach my children to explore different paths in order to find their own passions This will give the ability to see and try new things and to develop new skills. This exploration shows them we all start without knowing what we are doing but if we just start, we can get better, we can move forward, and the options are endless as to what we can do.
I will teach my children to be kind to others but even more, to themselves, I will lead by example with the way I treat and speak about my mind and body, so they are able to have an example of what loving yourself really looks like. This will allow them to see the power and control they must have to make their own choices. I want them to know when we treat ourselves well it allows us to make an impact on a bigger level.
I will teach my children how to communicate, and understand every feeling they have is always okay. There is no reason to be ashamed of the mistakes we make because they will serve as a lesson to us at some point down the road. When we understand ourselves, we can connect our thoughts, feelings, and actions. When we know how to express ourselves without fear of being judged, we can live the life we were meant for.
I will teach my children to always have hope and be resilient because no matter how hard the day is, we always can move forward in some way if we choose to. There is always hope, even when it’s just a glimmer and you feel like you aren’t any closer. When we keep going, one step forward is always one step forward.
My fear will remain and I will always question if I am doing a good job, but I let that drive me to be better knowing my children will lead by example one day for others just as I choose to do now.”
Courtesy of Kelsea Koenreich
This story was submitted Love What Matters by Kelsea Koenreich. You can follow her journey on Instagram and on her blog. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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