RACINE, Wis. - Four years ago 34-year-old Heather Braun woke up in a hospital. She overdosed on heroin. The doctors drew her blood and found out she was pregnant. That was the moment everything changed.
"I was at my lowest point in my life four years ago," Braun said.
She got clean, raised her daughter and even won a Wisconsin state weightlifting competition.
Braun battled opioid addiction on and off for ten years. She had tried to get sober before, but it didn't stick.
She credits two things that helped her kick her addiction: her daughter and weightlifting.
"(My daughter) has no idea like how big of like the hero she is," Braun said.
She wanted to be the mother that her daughter deserved. It wasn't easy. Opioid addiction results in a severe physical dependence on the drug. Getting clean takes a lot of hard work and suffering.
"You can’t just, you know, stop, and that’s with nothing because your body goes through withdrawals which means your baby that's living inside of you, it can be fatal," she said.
Braun took suboxone, a drug that helps decrease the severity of withdrawals, for a few years to help with the dependency. She stopped taking it in 2021.
Becoming sober requires various steps, tools, and support from loved ones. For Braun, one of the tools that made a huge difference in maintaining her sobriety was weightlifting. She stepped into the Mt. Sinai Gym in Racine. From there, she persevered through the physical pain of weightlifting and the withdrawals.
Casual working out turned into a desire to compete. Her second-ever competition was the state championships. She won the meet and qualified for the national competition.
For Braun, working out is her saving grace. It's work, but so is sobriety. Weightlifting has become part of who she is and it's what gave her the strength to beat addiction.
"It's like a mixture between euphoria and death," she said about the feeling she gets while lifting.
Braun hopes her story serves as an inspiration for others.
"If (my story) just touches one person, and helps give them hope that like (sobriety) is possible. There is happiness on the other side," she said.
Braun wants to help other people beat addiction. She wouldn't mind winning a few more competitions either. But most importantly, she wants to be the best mom she can be for her daughter.
"That's the biggest thing," she said. "I want to be a good example for my daughter. I want to make her proud."
This story was originally reported by James Groh on tmj4.com.