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For many people, pregnancy is a time of hopefulness and joy as we prepare to give life and live one of the most powerful and life altering experiences in human existence. For many others of us, we’re still battling addiction when we become pregnant and can feel especially sad, afraid and hopeless during our pregnancy. We’re not anticipating the birth of our babies with excitement. We’re feeling pessimistic, doubtful and negative. We even feel dread. We struggle with depression, anxiety, panic attacks and other mental health issues. We can later battle postpartum depression. What are some ways in which addiction can make pregnancy more difficult?

Addiction brings with it many challenging emotions, not the least of which is all the shame we carry for being addicts. We feel guilt for all the mistakes we’ve made, all our wrongdoings and regrets. We can feel ashamed about our decision to get pregnant when we were still living with addiction. We can also be ashamed that we didn’t actually make that decision, because we got pregnant by accident. Furthermore, if we are not pregnant by choice and were raped, we carry an intense shame about that. We blame ourselves for everything wrong in our lives, even the things we couldn’t possibly be to blame for. All of this shame and self-blame weighs heavily on us. It contributes to our deep unhappiness and can lead to depression. We can become self-destructive, or like in many of our cases, continue the self-destructiveness and self-sabotage that have been part of our addiction history for so much of our lives. We can try to escape this shame with the temporary relief of our addictive substances and behaviors.

That self-destructiveness has also affected our relationships, our sexual history, the choices we’ve made with our bodies, the partners we’ve been with. Everything can be tainted by our addiction, and our pregnancies especially so. We can be consumed with shame for not having been able to kick our addictive habits once we learned we were pregnant. We might still be drinking alcohol, using drugs, smoking weed or cigarettes, having unprotected casual sex, or engaging in any other risky or harmful activity, even though we know they can be dangerous to our pregnancy. As we know, any behavior or substance can become addictive, and whatever is causing us harm, mentally, emotionally or physically (and therefore spiritually) can function like an addiction and cause us more pain in your life.

What is often the catalyst for an addiction’s development is our inability to manage and process our emotions in unhealthy ways. We develop unhealthy and toxic habits as coping mechanisms to deal with our pain. Having a healthy pregnancy means not only working to shed the toxic behaviors and substances from our systems, but also finding useful and positive ways to work with our thoughts, emotions, behaviors and relationships. We want to be as happy, whole and at peace within ourselves as we can possibly be, so that we’re giving this new life we’re bringing into the world its best chance at happiness, wholeness and peace.

Riverside Recovery can provide you with the supportive, nurturing and understanding community you need to achieve recovery. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information on our treatment programs.