“You’re pregnant,” the doctor said.

I cried. 

And I cried.

I was 17 years old, and three months in. Not only was I fulfilling my brother’s hate-filled prediction of my life and where it was going, but I had no money, no common sense, and I loved being drunk and high. I was the definition of a party-girlit was who I was. What would I be now? I remember thinking, My life is over.

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Fast forward nine years: I sat on a beach in Kwazulu-Natal collecting seashells with my daughter. The sand soft and molding, molding to my heaviness—my heart was breaking. It broke often back then.

Only an hour before, I had been pinned against the wall by my brother, his elbow digging into my chest. As the argument rolled around in my head, it pushed tears down my cheeks against my will. I had resolved it would be the last time; I would no longer be abused by the hands of my own family. I had also resolved that my life was definitely going nowhere. 

I picked up the shells around me, and after a quick examination of each one, threw them into the ocean.

They were broken, like me, and I couldn’t find even one I appreciated. 

“Mommy, please don’t cry.” And then, “Look at this,” my daughter opened her hand to reveal a beautiful shell. The inside was a kaleidoscope of colors, but it was not whole. 

“It’s broken, Leigh,” I said dismissively. 

Just because it’s broken, Mommy, doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful,” she said. 

I cried.

And I cried. 

To this day I remember vividly our time on that beach. The joy in her eyes, her concentration, how she found beauty in everything. 

She still does. 

I have always felt broken, but God used my brokenness, my recklessness, my teen pregnancy . . . to save my life. 

You see, I was certain to walk down a path that led only to more pain. I was a drug addict and a dark human being. I liked living on the edge of life, doing things that others considered irresponsible and dangerous. Danger was the only thing that made me feel truly alive. I was so sad then.

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After my daughter’s birth, my choices were forced to change a little. Not much, I assure youI still used drugs, still did thoughtless things, and still found myself in compromising situations. But every choice I made for the sake of my daughter, got a little better, perhaps even without realizing it at the time—I was becoming a better mom. 

Today I am in recovery, and my life does not feel broken.

I don’t cry.

And cry.

My daughter needed me, and God knew that eventually, I would find my own beauty in her eyes, and my wholeness in Him. It is true that without her, I’d be dead. I have no doubt of that.

My biggest “mistake” turned into my biggest gift. When God gave me my daughter at 17, He gave me an angel. 

Not just any angel, the exact one He knew I needed. 

Benita  Jane

Benita Jane was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. She now lives on the quaint little island of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. Benita is an advocate for mental health, substance use disorder, and domestic violence awareness. Instagram: @benitajane_author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheWriteFight