Bethenny Frankel’s Painful Past

updated 07/07/2010 AT 10:15 AM ET

originally published 07/07/2010 AT 8:00 AM ET

As a first-time mom, Bethenny Frankel is happily focused on pampering her new baby, 8-week-old Bryn. But the reality TV star says her own childhood was far less loving.

“I never had a true childhood,” Frankel, 39 – the only child of legendary horse trainer Bobby Frankel and his first wife, Bernadette – tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. “There was a lot of destruction: alcohol abuse, eating disorders and violent fights.”

The Real Housewives star – whose new Bravo reality series, Bethenny Getting Married? chronicles her whirlwind romance with businessman Jason Hoppy and the birth of Bryn – says she has long been estranged from her mom, whom she describes as “extremely volatile. She was never a mother to me.”

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