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Personal Essay: Addiction, Abuse, and a Mother's Love

There are days I simply don't understand why my son is better off with his dad, but acceptance is becoming key. When someone puts their hands on you, it doesn't matter who they are in your life or what you have done in the past, you don't have to put up with it. Walking away takes strength, especially as a mother. For me, that strength came when I realized my son wasn’t healthy for me and that I must fight for him from a distance.

Before I tell you my story, I want you to know that parental abuse by a child is a very real thing. So many people are unaware or blatantly judgemental about it because it is not something we speak about often.

I have spent the last year of my life living in a state of fear and chaos with my 11-year-old son. It wasn’t until recently that I was able to ask for help. You see, I am my own worst critic and believed that the abuse going on in my home was my fault. I just couldn't see it any other way. Asking for help meant that I couldn't control my child and that I was doing something wrong. Plain and simple; it must be my fault. I never understood why people—why women—stayed with their abusers. Until now.


The Impact of Addiction on Abuse

Let me give you a little back story. I have struggled with addiction, to the point of losing everything, including my son, on multiple occasions. I exposed him to things a child should never be exposed to. I spent a year away from him, locked up in prison because of my disease. And, yes, addiction is a disease.

I left my son. I chose drugs over him. I thought that getting out of prison and transitioning back into his life would be simple, easy even. The first two and a half years after I was released from prison were spent fighting to earn back the custody I lost while dealing with my own recovery and healing. Because of the hard work I put in, I was granted joint custody and we split our parenting time 50/50. I thought that would be the end of the pain and torment from the wreckage I caused while I was using drugs. It has now been three and a half years since I got out of prison and it has only gotten harder.

According to, “a child exposed to a parent's drug use may be more likely to exhibit behavioral problems at home and at school.” This has proven to be true with my son.

So, what do you do when the anger turns into violence and the violence turns into abuse? In a society that is so judgemental, especially of mothers, it is easiest to hide it. To not share it with anyone and just absorb it. Until you can't anymore. It took me almost a year of keeping the abuse to myself—constant fighting, bruises, bitemarks, and pain—before it was finally enough. It got so bad that my son—at 11 years old—put me in the hospital with a cervical sprain in my neck. It was at this point that I knew something had to change.

Asking for What You Need

According to the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, “the breakdown of the family unit, poor or nonexistent relationships with an absent parent and/or parental drug/alcohol abuse may all be contributing factors.”

After fighting so hard for so long to have my son back in my life, it was very humbling to have to ask his dad to take him while we try to get him the help he needs to end his abuse behavior towards me. I know that the choices I made have contributed to his anger and his pain, and I take full responsibility for that. Still, I don’t have to stand by and take abuse, even if it is from my child. There’s no excuse for anyone to become violent with another human, ever.

If you are being abused by someone, whether it is a child, parent, partner, or someone else, it’s important that you reach out and ask for help. Abuse of any kind—be it emotional, physical, or sexual—is not your fault, even if you have made mistakes in your past. Asking for what you need from a trusted friend or professional could save your life.

I miss my son. Every. Single. Day. I am coming to terms with the fact that we are not healthy for each other right now. Does that mean I am not a part of his life? Absolutely not. I still see him and I talk to him every day, but we are working towards building a healthy relationship. He is in therapy and I am using this time to work through my issues, too. I want to be an example to my son. I want to show him that it is OK to ask for help and that we don't have to live in guilt and shame for the choices we make. Instead, we get to grow and learn how to be better people.

So, for now, I accept that he is better off with his dad and I will continue to love him and fight for him. From a distance.


Steph Green is a loving mother and friend and a recovering addict who openly shares her story in the hopes that hearing it will help others heal, too.

Photo Credit: NIKOLAY OSMACHKO, Pexels

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