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                                                        The Revolving Door of Rehab

Matt,  to my surprise you are being discharged.  I’m still sitting by your side when the nurse appears with your paperwork.   She goes over your instructions looking you straight in the eye.  She doesn’t sugar coat what you have done. She explains cardiac arrest due to the hit of Cocaine.  She tells you how lucky you are to have survived another brush with death.  She tells you your body will not survive another assault.  She tells you that your addiction is no joke and that you will die if you don’t stop.

I sit there listening to another nurse trying to save my son.  A nurse just like me who can see through the demons to the person you used to be.  I wonder if hearing this from a stranger would have any more impact on what you did next instead of hearing it again from your constantly nagging Mom.  You sign the papers and start to get dressed.  Your battle scars visible.  Brushing on your chest from untrained CPR.  A new site reddened from another IV.  I sat and watched and wondered how many more times your body and my heart could handle another close call.

You tell me you are riding with Mike.  You are going back to your house.  There is no smile or I’m sorry this time.  You thank the nurse and walk out.  My face must say it all.  The nurse puts her arm around me as the tears fall.  “It’s been such a long battle” I tell her.  “I don’t know where to go from here”.

Mike finds me to tell me he’s taking you to get your truck.  Left behind at the scene of your crime.  He will try to get through to you.  To try to get you to understand the seriousness of what you have done.  He needs to talk to his brother without me crying and ranting about your addiction.  I feel nothing.  Another time I would have fought to be with you.  To once again tell you how your addiction is killing our family.  To cry and plead for you to care enough about your life.  To tell you I would not survive if you died.  This time I get into Ray’s car and allow myself to be alone with my thoughts.  Still trying to believe that you used Cocaine.  Not quite understanding how you could have been home and appearing so clear one minute than almost dead the next.  How can a non-addict ever understand how the mind of an addict works.  Every book I read and conference I attended did not prepare my heart for the actual living experience of being the mother of a man who threw all caution to the wind to chase a high.

My once calculating mind was shut down.  There was no save Matt plan forming in my brain.  I kept touching my body testing my sense of feeling as my heart and brain had gone numb.  There was nothing I could say to Ray to defend you.  I always believed your excuse of back pain for your overuse of Percocet.  Your anxiety about life for Xanax, but there was no excuse that my brain could rationalize for using Cocaine.  I realized I found excuses for everything you did.  Always trying to make sense of your life.  Denying that you were that addict I prayed you would never be.  I remember feeling so defeated.  This was a battle and your addiction was winning.  I tried to think that maybe you would learn your lesson and try to get serious help.   How many more rehab admissions would it take before you had your ‘ah ha’ moment?  Knowing that your heart had stopped should have shocked you into running for help.  For you this time, not me.  I began to realize that every admission was because of me.  Me wanting to save you.  Me begging and pleading for your life.  Me forcing you to go “or else”.  Now I wonder just exactly what my “or else” really meant.  I knew in my heart that tough love wasn’t for me.  I tried to kick you out.  Leaving you to your own devices and pretending not to care.  I remember telling myself I could be just like those tough Moms who’s books I read.  Kicking their addicted kids out of the house.  No food, no phone, no money, no contact.  Dear God, tough love was tougher on me than you.  Somehow addicts find and take care of each other.  I would drive to all your haunts hoping for a glimpse of you.  Reassuring myself this was the right and only way to save you.  I would lie awake at night and pray that you were safe.  That you wouldn’t be that addict I would read about in the paper.  The one who died in a park or fast food bathroom.  I tortured myself all the while hanging onto those books that had become my lifeline.  The books that made me believe I wasn’t a hateful, horrible mother.  I was a mother trying to play the game of saving her addicted son.  The games where there are no stead fast rules.  The game where what works for one might not work for another.  This game had two endings.  Survival or tragedy.   I couldn’t survive the tragedy of losing you forever.  So I would let you come home with the chaos packed in your bag.  The cycle would start again.  Promises made only to be broken.  Hope turned into hopelessness.  The ugliness of your addiction flowed through our home like a dirty mudslide.  Leaving nothing untouched.  Tainting everything it flowed over.  Smothering everything that stood in it’s path.

I foolishly allowed myself to believe we were making progress.  Me paying rent for you to live in what I thought was a safe place.  Living with a buddy from N.A. gave me a false sense of security that maybe you would follow the influence of another who walked your walk.  I’ve read that the best person to help an addict was another addict.  Once again your behavior shattered my illusion.

So now I am back to spy Mom.  If you won’t come to me, I”ll spy on you.  We haven’t spoken since you left the hospital.  I’m praying you have finally embarrassed yourself enough and just can’t face your broken mother.  I want to talk to you.  I need to see you.  I start a new pattern of drive by’s.   Crouched down like a spy in the front seat of my car.  My ball cap hiding my curly mop.  It’s almost funny.  Once again, I feel so proud of myself.  I’m that cool mom again.  I can do this.  I look for your truck.  I am flooded with  relief when I see it in the driveway.  This has become my new high.  At least I know where you are.  Day and night I drive by.  It’s become my addiction.  Ray looks at me like I’ve lost my mind when I grab my keys at midnight and walk out the door.  I read his thoughts.  Yup, I’m the crazy mom checking up on her adult addict son.  Oh, by the way, I lost my mind years ago.  I fight the urge to knock on your door and tell you I still love you.  I need to see you, to touch you, to hear your voice.  I fight my internal battle.  The loving mother fighting the tough love mother.

This craziness goes on for weeks.  Every morning and every night I become spy mom.  Oh how I’m loving this.  Sneaking around your place.  I’ve become bold enough to look through windows.  What I didn’t realize was you were watching me watch you.

I’m turning into your neighborhood when my phone rings.  I hit my ear piece and say hello.  “Hey Mom”.   The sound of your voice causes my heart to race.  “Hey Matt” I say trying to sound like I’m relaxing at home not getting ready for my drive by.  “You’re late tonight,” you say as you start to laugh.  “Late for what?”  I respond trying to act like I have no idea what you’re talking about.  “You usually do your house check before now”.  “I’ve been waiting”.  “What?  Matt I have no idea what you are talking about”.  Before I get my car in reverse, you are there.  Smiling that smile and pointing your finger at my face.   Ok spy Mom now what?

I get out of my car and walk to where you are standing.  “Mom, you know you’re as crazy as they come”.   You give me a much needed hug.  Your laughter is contagious and soon we are both howling in the street.  “Yup Matt, crazy I am”.  I try not to start my lecture.  I want to just be.  To just talk like we used to before the ugliness found us again.  I must admit you looked ok.  Your eyes and speech passing my scrutiny.  We sat on your steps and for a minute it felt like normal.  A mother hanging out with her son.  Just sitting and talking together.  Normal.  A word that felt foreign in our lives.  “Matt”.  “Yeah Mom”.  “Do you understand how close you came this time?”  I close my eyes and remember Ray screaming.  “Do you understand how hard this has been on all of us?”  I’m trying not to lecture.  I don’t want to start a battle.  I just want to get you to understand you crossed the line.  “Matt you need help you really do”.  “I have to stop denying how sick you are, you could have died”.  Tears start to fall as I talk.  You put your arm around me.  “Mom, I could never hurt you like that, I love you too much”.   We end the conversation with a promise.  You will work on yourself and I will stop acting crazy.  I tell you to come home any time you want.  I miss the Matt I know you can be.

We slip into a new rhythm.  Dinner twice a week.  Little by little I’m allowing a little bit of hope into my heart.  I’m sure you are still using but it doesn’t appear that you are abusing.  Mike and Ray tell you how great you look.  How nice it is to have Matt back.  We are all starting to let our guard down and allow the idea of returning to a world without chaos or demons.  I feel like I have my family back.  We have been through hell but we have somehow survived.  We laugh about how ugly we fought and try to find some humor in the roller coaster from hell that we now referred to your addiction.  Oh God, how great this was.  I continued to watch for the signs I knew too well.  I must admit you really pulled it off.  Convinced all of us you were on the road to recovery.

My phone rings and I see it’s Mike.  Ray and I were relaxing at home for once not thinking about what you were up to.  “Mom, is Ray there?”   “Yeah Mike he’s here, why?”  “Give him the phone”.  Ok now my heart is starting to race.  I don’t like the tone in your voice.  I see Rays face and know.

Matt you left Mikes and just couldn’t wait until you got home.  You were high at the scene.  Mike got there first and watched your truck get towed away.   You told him you witnessed an accident.  You had no idea you caused it.  Fell asleep at the wheel.  The only reason you were alive is because you were so relaxed.    You are taken to the police station.  Blood is drawn.  Mike brings you home.

Once again your addiction shattered my heart.  Like the bumper on your car its smashed beyond recognition.   Mike, Ray and I try to remain calm.  Ray looks defeated.  Mikes pacing and ready to pounce.  My emotions are constantly changing.  One second I want to slap some sense into you.  Lecture you once again about how close you came to dying.  The next second I want to tell it will be ok.  For now you will remain home and I once again start formulating a plan to save you.

I lay in bed that night and thank God you are still here.  I feel comforted knowing that you are downstairs and are trapped for the time being.  Now the police are involved.  Your blood work will tell the story of your addiction and I pray you will be mandated into rehab.  I ask myself what kind of mother wants her son arrested?  What kind of mother would want her addicted son to serve time and hopefully get the help he so desperately needs?   Oh God, what kind of mother have I become?

There is no getting out of it this time my sweet boy.  You have landed in a place that even supermom can’t fix for you.  “Mom, I’m sorry”.   “Matt, save it”.  “This time you will face your consequences and my hands are tied”.   “There is nothing more I can do except love you and hope this opens your eyes”. I’m surprised at my sense of relief.  For the first time I don’t feel like I have to formulate a plan to fix this.  I feel like the weight of your addiction is finally off my shoulders.  I allow myself the fantasy that finally the stars have aligned and you will get what you need.  The Mom police have been replaced by the real ones and this Mom is more than relieved.

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I am preparing my speech for your court date.   I will beg and plead for treatment.  I will spill my guts, get down on my knees and beg for your life and mine.  I picture myself visiting on weekends and watch you transform back into the Matt we lost so long ago.  I’m sitting at my computer when your phone rings.   I pretend not to overhear.  I hear you yelling and jumping for joy.  Now I’m on my feet and by your side.  “What are you talking about?”  I grab your phone and interrupt your joy.  “This is Matt”s Mom, what is happening?’  “What, you what?”  Now I’m the one yelling not out of joy but disbelief.  “You lost his blood?”  “Tell me this is a sick joke?”  “How incompetent are you people?”  At this moment in time I don’t care who is on the receiving end of my rant I am pissed.   I continue my questions watching your smile spread from ear to ear.  You look like you just won the lottery and I want to crawl through the phone and strangle the messenger.

Matt, you just can’t believe that I’m not sharing in your joy.  You look at me like What the Hell mom and proceed to dance your way downstairs.  There are no words.  My brain is screaming.  Plans to keep you safe shattered at my feet.  I am surprised at my disappointment.  I really wanted you to finally be held accountable by someone other than me.  By someone who wouldn’t be twisted by your beautiful eyes and smile.  Someone who didn’t see that tow-headed boy change into this man you have become.  Someone with the power to finally fix you.

I return to my computer.  Hold my finger on the delete button and watch my pleas for your life disappear.  I feel my familiar friend hopelessness wrap her arms around me.  I want those ruby red slippers.  Three clicks of my magic heels and I’m gone.  Why does this keep happening.  Every plan, every hope, every dream of getting you back shattered like glass at my feet.

As if by magic a pop-up appears.   The question, Are you in need of a rehab in your area?    Seriously,  I click the link and just like magic pictures and numbers dance across my screen.   Ok God, are you telling me something?   So now it’s me who’s smiling as I write down names and number and formulate my plan B.

“Mike, I need your help”.  I tell Mike the latest and prepare my ears for the onslaught of his opinion on our justice system.   “I know I couldn’t believe it either”.  “It’s like he has a Fairy Godmother of Addiction on his shoulder.   Comes out smelling like a rose every time, a very stoned rose, but a rose non the less.   I’ve called rehabs.  There are beds available.  We need to convince him to go.  I have a plan……

Mike takes you back to his house to get you out of my house under the premise of you helping with his truck.  You are still a great mechanic when you are straight and this time brother bonding was all part of my plan.   You see my sweet boy, you’ve been wanting a Harley for sometime.  I’ve got control of your money.  You want a Harley.  I want rehab.  Let’s make a deal….

Waiting for the phone call was like waiting for the stick to turn positive after years of trying.  Nothing I did would take my mind off of what was happening between my boys.  I knew Mike could be very persuasive when he needed to be, but I also had years of dealing with the I’ve got this attitude of Matts.   Finally I hear the ringing of the call that would either make or break me.   “Mom”.  I could hear it in Mike’s voice.  Yes, yes, yes.  My brain is doing the happy dance.  Matt will go.  Those three little words that meant the world to this exhausted, beaten up addicts mother.  I felt like I just won the lottery.  My heart once again feeling little pangs of hope.  I hung up and immediately started to dial the numbers that made promises to provide the best of the best and so on and so on.

I fly downstairs and pack your things.  The list in my head.  I moving like the house is on fire.  Ray walks in and looks at me like I’ve lost my mind.  “Matt’s going to rehab”.  Now Ray is flying around with me double checking my checklist.    Bags are packed and waiting in the hallway.  Now I wait for the usual suspect to make his appearance.  Finally Mike delivers my prey.  I know from everything I’ve read that you can waste no time once your addict says yes.  You walk in and I give you a hug.  “Matt, it’s really the best thing”.   “I am so proud of you for agreeing”.   You look at me with those eyes and laugh.

Ray joins us on the ride to Bowling Green.  I keep telling you how you are doing the right thing.  How you need to get clean and stay clean.  I’m silently praying that this time you will get it.  I’m so tired of the revolving door of recovery that I just want to jump off.  I continue to act light and fluffy the entire journey.  I’m so sickening sweet I make myself sick.  We pull up and I see the fear spread over your face.  Oh God, please don’t let him change his mind.  You grab a smoke and start puffing.  I start begging for your life.

Finally we enter the building.  You look around like a kid on the first day of school.   My heart is in my mouth.  My fear of you bolting is overwhelming.   Then I see a group of you.  Men and women sporting tattoos, smoking cigarettes and smiling in your direction.  They are you and you are them.  All beautiful people fighting the same battle you fight.  All looking happy and healthy.  I remember the saying I read somewhere,  The best person to help an addict is an addict.  Well my beautiful Matt you were surrounded by addicts.

Ray and I were led to the waiting room while you were taken back for the admission assessment.   I had to keep telling myself to breathe.  I remember tasting blood not realizing that I started to chew the inside of my lip.  Oh Dear God.  I prayed nothing would stop you from being here.  I wanted you to be safe.  I wanted you to get healthy.  I wanted you back.

I’m so lost in my thoughts I don’t see you enter the room.  Our eyes meet.  “It’s all good Mom I’ll stay”.    I jump out of my chair and into your arms.  “Matt, please do what you need to do this time, let’s get off the rollercoaster and back to a normal life”.  The three of us are hugging and laughing so relieved that you are on board this time.   Ray goes to get your things from the car and I sit and hold your hand.  “Matt, this is the right thing to do”.  “Please work the program”.  “Get your life back”.   “Stay as long as it takes”.   Once again I’m begging for your life.   Ray and I are given guidelines for visiting as we take time for one more hug.   I look into your beautiful eyes and silently beg you to get it right.

I praised God all the way home.  Finally letting myself have the fantasy that this would be it.  This would be your Ah ha moment just like all my books lead you to believe.  Never give up they tell you one time it will click.  Recovery will happen.  Oh how badly I needed this to be that time.

The drive home was peaceful.  I could finally take that deep breath knowing you were safe.  I felt like the weight of the world was off my weary shoulders and I allowed joy to re enter my life.   There was no communication with you until visiting on Sunday.  I allowed myself that time to remember who I was and to start working on me.  I had become so addicted to your addiction that I forgot about all the things that made me happy.  I could now spend my evenings at home with Ray enjoying a glass of wine and normal conversation that didn’t revolve around you.  I almost forgot there were other things to talk about besides my son’s addiction.  I felt so much lighter that week.  Everyone noticed.  saving babies became my focus again.  No longer worried about missing your call I could now concentrate on my tiny patients and their overwhelmed moms.

Sunday arrived and it was Mike who wanted to come with me to see you.  The rules only allowed two family members on visiting day.  Mike wanted to see for himself that you weren’t playing games but were really invested in saving yourself.  We meet in the parking lot.  Both of us feeling the same anxiety over who you would be.   Would you be that pissed off Matt, ugly and angry that you were trapped in rehab or would you finally understand that this was where you needed to be.  We must sign in and sit through a lecture by one of the counselors before we can see you.  I look around and see carbon copies of me.  Parents in all shapes and sizes.  All showing the same signs of stress, brokenness and a glimmer of hope.  We smile at each other knowing we have fought the same battle to save our kids and now we sit together as comrades, as wounded warriors.  The aftermath of our child”s addiction.

Matt, that was the longest hour of my life.  All I wanted to do was look into your eyes and see that you were back.  Finally the talk has ended.  We are lead to a large courtyard overlooking a pond.  Mike and I are like two rubber bands pulled to our snapping point.  We don’t speak but can read each others thoughts.  Then I see you.  I grab Mike’s arm and point.  There you are.  My handsome, sober son.   You look amazing.  Your gait is strong and steady.  You approach with caution.  “Hi Mom, Mike”.  Your eyes are clear.  Sparkling like pools of green sea water.   Tears start to fall as I recognize my beautiful boy is back.  You wrap Mike and I in a group hug.  Now we are relaxed and laughing.  Hugging and hugging as relief floods are bodies that you are working to save your life.  The hour flies by.  We sit on a log near the water.  My boys together like it used to be.  No screaming, no ugliness just two brothers hanging out  catching up on life.  I watch you and Mike and feel my heart fill with joy.  Oh God, thank you, thank you.   My prayers have been answered.

You are there for two more weeks.  I now live for the weekend visits.  You tell us how you hated the person you became.  You never wanted to become addicted and lose everything you worked so hard for.  You expressed such remorse my heart broke for everything you had endured.

Our last visit is forever burned in my memory.  You sitting on our log.  So handsome.  Happy and full of plans.  Staring into my eyes with so much love.  A silent thank you for never giving up.   You told me you were being discharged that week.  I remember feeling that chill run up my spine.  I managed to keep my face from showing the fear that flashed through my mind.  Questions spinning in my brain.  Had you been here long enough?  Did you have the skills needed to fight if the cravings returned?  I wanted you to stay here forever.  In this safe, protected place.  I wasn’t ready for you to face the world again.  You told me you were ready to move on.  I knew I couldn’t hold you back.  “Mom, I’m so glad I got the monkey off my back”.  I remember those words and should have known that monkey was still hanging around..

You tell me of a place your counselor has recommended.  Your eyes lit up when you mentioned Florida.  “The Boca House”.  “Mom its supposed to be  great place”.  My mind fighting to keep my face in control.  Oh God, so far away.  Keeping my thoughts quiet I force a smile.  “Mom, I’ll be near the beach again”.  “You know how I love the beach”.   You were animated like a child anticipating a visit from Santa.  How could I stop something you wanted so badly.  I read about The Boca House in one of my addiction bibles.  The authors son lived there and survived.  Why would it be any different for you?  I gave you a hug and held on tighter and longer than usual.  A thousand miles away.  Oh God,  you’ve never been that far from me.  I remember struggling with you being so far away and asking about other places close to home.  Someplace I could visit and watch for the signs I knew too well.  You had already made up your mind.  For you it was Florida or bust.   I thought about how many times I’ve heard that people in recovery do much better with different people, places and things.  Well Florida would be full of that.  Little did I know that Florida was also full of hiding demons.   If I had only known what I know now I would have held you forever.