Sarah Ibrahim was so shocked to find she was pregnant, she went on a cocaine binge.
She went cold turkey for the rest of the pregnancy — but relapsed three months after giving birth.
She finally got sober when her son was 2. Now she helps other users quit drugs.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Sarah Ibrahim. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I'd been a party girl ever since I was a teenager. I lived for the weekend when I'd go to clubs, bars, and friends' houses to get drunk and high.
At the beginning, my preferred drug was weed, then speed and ecstasy. I tried cocaine for the first time when I was 20. By the time I was 27 — though I never acknowledged it at the time — I was fully addicted to coke.
I left my steady job at a bank to work in a series of temporary positions where it wasn't so important to show up. I'd start my 72-hour benders on a Thursday afternoon, skip work on Friday, and keep going until Sunday night. I'd wake up in a daze in the same clothes I'd worn since Thursday. My whole life revolved around coke, booze, and cigarettes.
I'd sleep off my hangovers during the day
It cost a fortune. I spent my entire paycheck and student loan on drugs. My habit got worse when I got a job in a bar that was full of dealers. It suited my lifestyle because I'd start work at 6 p.m., drink and take cocaine until the early hours of the morning, and sleep it off during the day.
It was a never-ending cycle. I missed my mom's 60th birthday because I was too wasted. My relationship with my family was terrible because I was moody and unreliable.
Next, I got a job in Spain. I loved the sunshine — and the partying. But I got pregnant in early 2018 after a one-night stand with a guy who was part of my friend group.
I had a total meltdown and decided to have an abortion. I was 36 but nowhere near ready to have a baby. I couldn't look after myself, let alone another person. "I have no responsibilities," I thought. "I'm not doing this mothering thing."
It felt like this baby had been sent to me to save my life
I found out in the early afternoon and hit the bar a few hours later. I went on another three-day bender. It was my tried-and-true technique for dealing with anything that got in my way. I needed to get shit-faced. "Nobody on God's earth is going to convince me otherwise," I thought.
But when I came down from my hangover, I had a piercing moment of clarity: I felt that this baby had been sent to me to save my life. I had a choice between raising a human being or continuing on the path to self-destruction.
I put aside how badly I felt about myself and all the mistakes I'd made. I knew I wasn't going to be able to forgive myself if I didn't make the right choice. I quit drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes right then. I was keeping my baby and needed to look after myself. I reconnected with my family and was excited to have a beautiful little boy.
My son was born healthy in October 2018. He was my joy. I loved being his mom, and we were inseparable.
But three months later, I was offered a line of coke at a friend's place. I took it. I used the excuse that I was under pressure as a single mom and needed something for myself. I wasn't breastfeeding; I thought there was no harm in getting high once a month or so.
It didn't work out like that. The drug got its claws back into me. I was getting about three hours of sleep a night. My son would wake up at 5 a.m., full of energy, and I could hardly drag myself out of bed. Almost every evening, after putting him in his crib, I'd creep out of his room and chop up lines of coke.
I felt disgusted with myself and deeply ashamed
I spent the next couple of years trying to hide it from everyone. I was terrified that one of the teachers at my son's nursery school would find out and report me. I lost a lot of weight and had dark circles under my eyes and nose. My ultimate fear was my child being taken away from me.
One day I was out shopping to get my son some pajamas. They were $10, but I didn't have $10 to spend. "You've just put $800 up your nose and owe all this money to your dealer," I thought. "But you don't have $10 to buy your son a pair of pajamas." I felt disgusted with myself and deeply ashamed. "You're sick," I thought. "There's something really, really wrong with you."
Soon afterward, during another bender, I used the steam from a kettle to try and unblock my nose with the sole intention of getting a line up there. But something inside me said, "That's it. You're done." I couldn't keep abusing drugs — for my sake and, more importantly, the sake of my little boy.
I saw a clinical hypnotherapist who specialized in addiction in May 2021. The sessions gave me the confidence to own my addiction. I posted a video on Facebook to share details about my problem and recovery process. It was terrifying to put myself out there and appear so vulnerable. But it made me feel accountable. If everyone was looking at me, I wasn't going to be able to fail quite so easily.
You can come back from a state of hell and be OK
The video attracted an engaged audience who told me about their own experiences with addiction. It was never my aim to inspire others; it was intended to help me. But since I'd lived with addiction for 20 years, I was able to meet other people where they were. I qualified as a professional recovery coach last December.
I've been clean for 2 ½ years now. I'm living proof that you can come back from a state of hell and be OK. I thank God for my son every day. I couldn't have done any of this without him. We're a team, and I'm a good mom.
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