HI, I'M Anna

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How Being a Mom & Photographer Saved Me in 2023


I’ve had this post on my mind for a long time (for more than six months, actually), but haven’t had the time, or guts, to actually sit down and gather my thoughts. I’ve always been one to journal when I have something on my mind. I’ve done it since high school. There’s just something cathartic about getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper (or on a laptop) and being able to walk away from them. It’s incredibly freeing if you’ve never tried it.

In short, 2023 was the year I thought I was going to lose my family. I thought I was going to become a single mom, parenting a 1.5 year old. I felt like my life was crumbling before my eyes. It was an incredibly difficult year for me and my family. And when reflecting back on it, I think it was being a mom (and even a business owner and motherhood photographer) that truly helped me get through it. This is a deeply personal post. If you feel this resonates with you at all, I’d love to connect with you. After all, it’s our personal stories and shared experiences that bring us closer together.

A little backstory

My husband and I met when he was in law school and got married shortly after he started working at a big law firm in Atlanta. If you’ve ever heard anything about being an entry-level associate at a big law firm, it’s probably true: an incredibly fast-paced and high-stress environment, 80+ hour work weeks and late nights, unreasonable requests and timelines and an antiquated system that instills in young professionals that the more you work, the more valuable you are. In fact, you’re rewarded with money and status the more hours you put in. Golden handcuffs.

Why is this important for this story? If you don’t know my husband, he is incredibly intelligent and is the kind of person who will do whatever it takes to succeed and be the best at whatever he is trying to do, which is especially true for work. As a people pleaser and having bought into the system as a corporate M&A attorney, he did whatever it took to be the very best at his job and provide for our family. What that turned into was no boundaries, no work-life balance, and ultimately not knowing who he really was.

For the first four years of our marriage, we struggled to maintain a healthy balance. We looked happy and like we had it all together from the outside (likely thanks to social media). We got pregnant and welcomed our beautiful daughter in November of 2021. Life was good, or it should have been. But in reality, we struggled with co-parenting, investing time and energy in our marriage, finding the right balance at work and at home, and most importantly, my husband struggled with substance use disorder. Who can read through hundreds of pages of documents in a day and maintain mental clarity while running on 4 hours of sleep from the night before without struggling? I probably couldn’t.

There are a lot of personal details that I’m going to leave out from this post for the sake of my husband, myself and my family. But if you’re reading between the lines, you can probably guess where this story is headed.

Fast forward to 2023

2023 was the year that absolutely rocked us. It took us both to our knees. Some of you may be able to relate to a time when you really weren’t sure how you would survive – maybe it was the loss of a loved one, a failed marriage, or something else. For us, it was when my husband’s growing addiction hit us smack in the face until we couldn’t ignore it any longer. He was sick, and I was too. If you’ve ever dealt with addiction, you know it’s a family disease. It impacts everyone around you, even if you don’t realize it. I had no idea how much I was contributing to the illness. By trying to control every situation, I was actually making things worse. I was sick, too.

I should probably mention that my husband had gotten out of the big law world after a few years in it, and went in house with a few different companies in an effort to find the right fit and the right balance for our family. His intentions were always good. But even with that, he always found himself in a similar situation as an attorney – in an incredibly stressful environment, handling more than his fair share of work and working ridiculous hours. He was incredibly unhappy and lost. Early in 2023, he lost one of his best friends from college, and it rocked his world. Losing his friend was the icing on the cake, and things started to spiral as I was afraid they would.

Fast forward to March, and I was about ready to end my marriage. I was lost, confused, hurt and struggled daily to keep it together. We were in a horrible place, and it was absolutely exhausting dealing with the mental and emotional toll that addiction has on a marriage and family. My husband did what it took to save his life and our marriage. He went to treatment out of state for nearly 60 days. During that time, I was working a full time job, parenting a 1.5 year old and maintaining my photography business on the side. I was utterly exhausted, emotionally and physically. There were days where I could barely get out of bed. My parents would help take my daughter to school or make us dinner, anything they could do to lighten my load and support me emotionally. In God’s timing, they were actually undergoing a kitchen remodel at their home which had them staying with me for three weeks during this time, which was an incredible gift because let’s face it, I simply needed help.

Keeping it together

The theme of this post is how being both a mom, and even a photographer, saved me through last year’s trials. And it’s absolutely true. I had to get up and out of bed, I had to make dinner, I had to be there for my daughter. I had to put on a brave face and wipe away my tears. She was my light in the darkness. She was the only reason I would laugh and smile for weeks on end. I was incredibly lost, confused, and grieving the loss of what I thought was going to be my marriage and my family. Being a mom gave me more purpose during that time than anything else. I know any other moms who have struggled personally can relate. You have no choice but to show up for your family. If you’ve ever cried in the Starbucks drive-thru after dropping your daughter off at school simply because the quietness of your car left you with nothing but your thoughts, I see you. Yes, this happened to me on more than one occasion. “Rest in the Father” by Stephen Stanley was my anthem. To this day when I hear that song on the radio, it takes me right back to this time.

God was on my side throughout this process. March, April and May of last year were my lightest months for sessions, and there’s no coincidence in that. For those clients who I did see during the spring, you may not know it, but there’s a chance I thought about postponing or cancelling our session because I could barely get myself together to show up. But, I did show up. Just like I had to for my daughter. And many of my clients, especially those who knew what was going on, showed up for me too. They checked in on me and showed me a lot of grace. Many could even relate to what I was going through in one way or another, and it brought us closer together.

While my husband was gone, I could only talk to him for ten minutes on Sunday evenings (after a few initial weeks of no contact at all). Other than that, it was hand-written notes that took days to a week to arrive, resulting in broken communication and messages lost in translation. I spent a lot of time journaling, reflecting, reading books and talking to my therapist to work through my emotions, fears and confusion. I connected with other wives whose husbands were in treatment and joined Al-Anon meetings. I spent time on the phone with friends who had similar shared experiences and showed me so much support. Slowly I gained clarity, strength and the ability to picture our lives together as a family as my husband continued to work on getting himself better, too.

A happy ending

My husband returned from treatment in May, and has been sober ever since. It will be one year in March 2024! I’m incredibly proud of how he chose his life, me and our daughter over work and substances. He found God and committed to living a sober and more content life. He left his job, decided he no longer wanted to be an attorney (and realized he never really wanted to be one in the first place), and spent the summer working on himself, continuing to figure out who and what we wanted to be. He bought and continues to run a sober living business in Atlanta, and continues to help many men and women in recovery. We slowly rebuilt trust, respect and happiness in our marriage. We rebuilt our family to a better place than its ever been.

Being a mom saved me. It kept me going during my darkest days. It kept me from giving up for the sake of my daughter and our family. And being a photographer saved us. Financially, it allowed my husband to ease back into a new reality without the pressure of diving back into a job, which would have likely compromised his recovery. I would not have been able to support our family financially with my full-time job’s salary alone. My business as a photographer was one of the many things that saved us in 2023. It held me accountable, gave me places to be and other people to show up for. It gave me routine and purpose. And it goes without saying that without the support of family, friends and even my incredibly wonderful clients, I certainly would not have made it through the last year.

I’ve quickly learned how incredibly fortunate we are, and that our story is not the most common amongst those who struggle with substance use disorders. We are not in the clear yet, as it is a lifelong commitment, but I’m confident in the new version of him. I’m confident in our marriage, and I’m glad to able able to say that while 2023 may have been the worst year, it was also the year that saved us. It was the year that strengthened our family and our marriage in more ways than one. And for that, I’m grateful.

If you can relate to any of our story, or would like to know more, I’d love to connect with you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out on Instagram or by email. I’m an open book and would love to chat.


Be sure to leave your thoughts below. Cheers! 

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  1. Kelsey (Heady) Attkisson says:

    I am so humbled by your transparency, Anna. Your daughter is just as lucky to have you as you are to have her. Even without substance abuse or excessive working hours, marriage can be freaking hard! You are so strong and brave for sticking with it, even during the impossible times. Prayers coming your way for continued healing and strength!
    -Kelsey (Heady) Attkisson