After the arrest, “I felt terrible for my children,” Richards, 51, tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s issue. “That was the thing that bothered me most. I cried because I hurt my kids.”
The mother of Brooke, 30, Whitney, 26, Chad, 24, and Kimberly, 20, who has battled alcoholism for most of her adult life and has been in and out of rehab, says it’s painful to see the effect her struggle has had on her kids. “Sometimes I put my arms around them and I say, ‘I love you, I’m so sorry.’ I know they worried about me.”
Says daughter Kimberly, “My mom is my best friend. Watching her go through a hard time and not being able to rely on her, it was so scary for me.”
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The public arrest (Richards was also arrested for shoplifting last August) came during an incredibly difficult period for Richards, who had been sick with pneumonia and was caring for her ex husband and close friend Monty Brinson, who was dying of lung cancer. (He passed away in January).
The incident, though humiliating, may have even been a blessing in disguise. “I’m glad it happened when it did,” Brooke says. “It got her strong for [my father, Monty] did pass away. Maybe if it hadn’t happened, things would have gotten really bad. But she went through rehab and she got stronger than ever.”
Adds Kimberly: “Things were so crazy last year. There were so many things going on at one time. Everything has come to a calm. Things have never felt better.”
Richards agrees, but says for now, she’s still taking her recovery day by day. “There are no guarantees,” she says. “I’ve made mistakes, but I keep trying. I’ve never done anything intentionally to hurt my children. And I hope, for their sake and for the sake of one day my beautiful grandchildren who will come, that this is it.”
The Mother/Daughter Experiment airs Fridays (10 p.m. ET) on Lifetime.