"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."
Now, Frankel says she is grateful for the chance to create a stable home with Hoppy and their daughter: "I live for this baby."
For much more on this story, pick up this week's new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday