Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: addiction destroying families (page 1 of 4)

Baby Steps & Hiding Behind Masks

Matt,   We’ve hit the three year mark.   Actually, it’s 3 years and 24 days.   That’s how life is for me now.   It’s become a count down to how long it’s been since your death.   When my brain realizes how long it’s been I find myself  breathless.   Still shocky, still unsteady.   Unlike public perception, times does not heal this wound.

January’s slap was extra harsh this year.   Not only was I trying to survive the anniversary of your death, but Ray’s father was dying.   I sat at his bedside on your anniversary holding his hand.   I told him it was ok if he needed to go on your day.   I asked him to give you a hug and tell you how much you are loved and missed.   I sat watching the life leaving his body but my heart was thinking of you.   I was thinking of what it must have been like for you.   No family at your bedside.   No one holding your hand telling you how much you were loved.   How your life was well lived and there should be no regrets.  You see Matt, that’s the hardest part for me.   Knowing that as you were taking your last breaths I was a thousand miles away totally unaware that you were gone.

Grief enveloped our home.   Me continuing to grieve you.   Ray just beginning to grieve for his dad.   I recognized that wave hitting Ray.  Seeing his face change as reality hit his heart.   Seeing him in pain filled me with shame.   I wanted to comfort him.  I wanted to be who I needed to be to support him through his loss.  I was barely surviving falling into the abyss that threatened my mind.  How could I not think of the three years since I heard your voice.

50 years separated your deaths.   Your life cut short at 37.   Rays dad living to be 87.   You see Matt, all I could think of was how many years we never had.   Your death was out of the natural order of how things are supposed to be.  Ray was experiencing death as it is supposed to be.   People grow old and then they die.   We bury our parents.   We don’t bury our children.

Planning a funeral sucks.   The ritual is too painful.   It becomes unbearable when wounds are reopened.   Watching Ray was like watching the rerun of a bad movie.   Memories of everything I crawled through being brought back to life.   Obituaries.   Pictures of happy times.   Torture.  Torture.  Torture.

I found myself reliving those first days.   The days when I survived one minute at a time.   Those first days where baby steps were the best I could do.   Dressing for this funeral brought back dressing for yours.   I dreaded the funeral scene.   I was shocked at how strong memories hit.   Closing my eyes I relived every moment.   Feelings I’d been able to suppress flooded my heart.   The profound loss.   The ugly reality of death.   I was helpless to help anyone but myself.   My mask broken beyond repair.

Rays father’s funeral remains a blur.   Memories of hugs, smells and whispers.    The cold January wind once again slapping my face with the ugly reality of loss.   Bone chilling cold reminding my heart that three years ago to the day I said goodbye to you my beautiful boy.

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Watching Ray I must admit I’m jealous.   His life returning to normal.   Back to work.   Back to life.   Oh how I wish my grief would allow my life to stabilize.   To allow me to have a day when I don’t think of you.   When I don’t think of what life could have been had you survived your addiction.

I understand our losses are different.   My heart is still shattered by your death.   It will always hold evidence of a deep, painful, unimaginable loss.   It will always dream of the what if’s, the possibilities of having you here.    Child loss is the most devastating grief known to man.   It never leaves and strikes at the most unexpected times.   Losing a child is losing yourself.   The present and future are tainted with profound confusion and denial.

I’ve heard it said that grief is not a life sentence, it’s a life passage.   I thought long and hard about that statement.   I think about this every time my phone rings and I hear an unfamiliar voice asking for me.   I hear the choking tears as another mother calls my name.   Oh this grief of child loss is a life sentence.   One with no stages or reprieve.   One we must take in slowly.   One we crawl through every day for the rest of our lives….

 

 

 

 

 

Hanging On By A Christmas Thread

Matt,   December 3rd marked the 35th month since your death.   35 months.   I still can’t believe you are really gone.   I heard the second year was tougher than the first.   Never in a million years could I ever allow my mind to believe it to be true.   It seems the protective fog has blown out to sea leaving me a clear view of the empty shoreline.

This second year has beat me to the ground.   My cocoon shredded and blown away with the wind.   My mind reminds me daily that you are dead.   I feel naked, stripped of the protection that the shock of grief provided during those first months when my mind was in complete denial.   Grief protects you from reality.   The brain builds that impenetrable wall able to withstand the assault of reality.   The second year, cracks begin to form and the wall slowly begins to crumble at your feet.   Leaving you with a clear view of life.

Last year I was numb.   Able to go through the motions of life.   My holiday mask was intact and firmly secured to my face as I navigated my way through the usual festivities.   My mind allowed me the fantasy that you were alive.   Living in Florida.  My mind allowed my heart to stay on track providing multiple distractions keeping the grief under wraps in public.  This year I’ve found the mask has dissolved from the flow of my tears.   This year my grief has gained power.   This year my grief doesn’t seem to care that this is the happiest time of the year.

Your loss continues to stun me.   I’m shocked when reality slaps me with the knowledge that you won’t be coming home for Christmas when I hear that holiday song.  Reality grabs my heart and causes me to forget to breathe.  I was told in time I would get angry.   I’M ANGRY.   I’m angry at our reality.   I’m angry at happy strangers shopping with a spring in their step and joy on their faces.   I’m angry that my grief continues to hurt so deeply.  I’m angry that I’ve just survived Thanksgiving and Christmas is being shoved down my throat.   Not everyone is merrily anticipating holiday traditions.   For some of us our holidays will never be the same.   I’m angry that the woman I see in the mirror is not who I used to be.

This second year has a power I could have never anticipated.    My mind now clear vividly remembers painful events.   My guilt has returned full force.    My double whammy.   Grief and guilt have renewed their friendship bullying me every chance they get.   My mind remembers things it buried to protect my shattered heart.   Things said and done during your addiction.   The I should haves or could haves haunt me like ghosts from Christmas past.   I look at family pictures.   You and Mike on Santa’s lap.   Childhood innocence.   A time of joy and anticipation of things to come.   Never did I see this coming.   Never did I ever think my youngest son would be gone in the blink of an eye.

I hear strangers stating what they want for Christmas.   Children rattle off a list of toys.   Adults want more money, a better job or world peace.   I cringe and feel the tears start to form.   The song,  “All I Want For Christmas Is You”,  starts playing in my head.   I close my eyes squeezing as hard as I can.   Trying desperately to balance myself on the edge of my abyss.

I want a visit from the ghost of Christmas past.   I want to see my boys squeal with delight as they rip into beautifully wrapped gifts.   I want to hear the laughter of two boys as they compare super hero capes.   I want to feel the joy and completeness of having my family intact.   I want to travel back in time.   Before you  became adults.   Before your injury led you down the path of no return.  I want to fix what is broken.   I want to close my eyes and see you walk in my door.  I want to hear “Hey Mom, Merry Christmas”.   As your wife and kids wrap me in a hug.  I want to see you and Mike standing side by side belly laughing as a childhood memory cracks you up.   I want every chair at the table full.  I want to raise a glass and toast to a future full of possibilities.

Unfortunately,  A Christmas Carol is just that.   A fantasy script written long ago addressing second chances.  Our reality is a painful reminder that death doesn’t give a redo.   There will be no second chances for us.   No more watching you and Mike standing together surrounded by your  family.   No more holiday pictures full of smiles and joy.   No more hearing a Christmas song without the punch of grief taking my breath away.

This year when everyone else is dreaming of a White Christmas, I’ll be dreaming of the family we used to be…….

 

 

 

Let The Battle Begin

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Matt,

The day has finally arrived.   The day I’ve been dreading and wanting to put behind me all mixed into a crazy bag of emotions.   My mind is spinning knowing that I will be facing the men who are defending those who feel dumping addicts while under the influence of drugs who have no sense of the imminent danger of losing their lives is an acceptable practice.   My emotions are on high alert.   Fight or flight, hot then shaking, anger then tears anticipating what is to come.   I feel like I’m being sent before the firing squad for a crime I did not commit while the criminal pulls the trigger.

I remember hearing the words he is here.   I felt the bile rise in my throat.   I had to stop the urge to run away and vomit.   How dare the man who dropped you off in a hotel when you needed help feel the need to sit in a room with your grieving mother.

Walking into the conference room, I felt as if I walked into a vacuum.    I could here those words over and over again,  “It’s Matt”.   “He’s dead”.    My mind started to scream as the pig smiled my way!   I kept telling myself to breathe,  just breathe.    I couldn’t let them know that what I really wanted to do was squeeze the life out of this smiling arrogant man.   I wanted to repeat the words he said to me when he finally found the time to call me days after he knew you were dead.    “People die here everyday”.    Yes, those were the words that came from the mouth of the man I trusted to keep you safe.   The man who cashed my checks and pretended to give a damn about your recovery.    I wanted to watch the color drain from his hideous face as I repeated those ugly words as I stared into his eyes knowing that my grieving face would be the last thing he would ever remember.

My fantasy of revenge was short lived as question after question came flying my way.   Some so absurd I wondered what these lawyers were trying to prove.   Ridiculous questions that had nothing to do with the fact that he woke you from a sound sleep and made the decision to dump you knowing you had used and were in a compromised state.   He told your roommate  to watch you.   Really, a man who professed to be an expert in the field of treating addicts dumped you off with a kid and told him to watch you!   Well, he did.   He watched as you died.

As I sat there answering those incredibly painful questions I thought of you.   The last conversation we had. The I love you Matt and I love you Mom spun around in my head.   I tried to remember what your voice sounded like.   I tried to find strength in knowing that you knew you were loved.   Then a flash back to the last time I saw you.   My heart broke silently as I remembered you lying so still on a gurney.   Your face blue.   Forever frozen in time.   Forever 37.   I remember holding onto to you, placing my head on your chest listening and praying that I would hear your beating heart.   I closed my eyes and prayed that this was a nightmare and I would soon wake up.

That familiar gut punch found it’s way to where I sat.   Once again I was being swallowed into my dark abyss.   I wanted to disappear.   My tears began to fall.   I looked across the table through blurry eyes and wondered how these men would feel if you were their son?   Would they be questioning why I am suing this man or would they be outraged that he neglected to get their son to a safe place?   It’s so easy to judge when your life has not been shattered into pieces that no longer fit together.   It’s easy to sit back and place blame on those who paid the ultimate price for a decision that was not their own.

Hours later we are done.   I gathered my strength and look directly into his eyes.   I tell him that I will forever blame him for your death.   I will forever live knowing that he is a fraud, a liar.   His decision that fateful night forever changed our lives.   I was never given the chance to hear your voice or tell you I will be there with the first available flight.   His decision tore the fabric of our family.  You are gone and I am broken.   Oh how I wanted to say so much more.   Words are useless to a man who has no conscious or ethics.   I decided not to waste my breath.

I found myself on the beach in Boca.   The beach you loved.  I walked to the spot you stood.   Your handsome, smiling face, your beautiful eyes captured in a picture days before you left.   Your image forever burned into my brain.   I closed my eyes and saw you running in the surf.   My tow headed beautiful boy jumping and laughing.   Reaching your hand toward mine.   The wind blew my hair like a gentle kiss from your lips.   For a brief second you were there and my heart felt complete.   I walked on the sand you walked.   I breathed the air you breathed.   I prayed for your peace and for strength to continue my fight for you.

As my plane climbed higher into the clouds taking me away from where you last walked the earth, I felt a piece of myself stay behind.   Almost as if I was standing by your side on your beach watching as the plane grew smaller and smaller until all that could be seen was a trace of smoke.   A piece of my soul sits and waits for you to come again.   To once again walk side by side hearing the crash of the waves whisper, I love you Matt.   I love you Mom.

Justice For My Beautiful Boy

Matt, it’s been 32 months and 27 days since you left my life.  Today I’m sitting on a plane heading into my nightmare.  My grief hitched a ride on my chest weighing me down knowing that my trip has nothing to do with joy.  This trip is to defend your life.  To sit in a room with men who believe it was fine to dump you at a hotel in a compromised state letting you die alone.

My soul is shaking as we fly closer to the reality that you won’t be picking me up as I land.   There will be no happy reunion between you and me.   No seeing your handsome face or hearing your voice.   No bear hugs while I sink into your arms feeling the warmth of your love wrap itself around my heart.

I am landing in enemy territory.   I am trying to keep my warrior mask intact but as we get closer I can feel the cracks forming as my fear of facing how you died smacks me like a brutal whip.   Grief and guilt have settled into my soul once again.   The what ifs and I should haves are dancing in my battered brain. Taunting me with what should have been and what truly is our reality.

I stare out the window into the clouds looking for you.   Looking for Jesus.   Searching for a sign on how I will survive this part of our journey.   I dreamed of returning to Florida.   I dreamed of visiting your new life.  Seeing you in recovery living life to the fullest.   I dreamed of walking on the beach side by side as we have so many times in the past.   I dreamed of what your future would hold as a husband and then a father.

These dreams now something that will never see reality.  Scattered like the ashes after a fatal fire in a fast moving wind.   I chase after the torn fragments of our life and hold them close to my heart.

Those dreams of what should have been will fuel my fight for justice.   I am here breathing where you took your last breath.   I am here letting my grief wash over me.  I am here gathering the strength to stand up to those who wronged us both.   I am here to defend my precious son.   I am here to tell the world your life was worth saving.   I’m here to let the world know I will never be silenced 💔💔💔IMG_1277

There Is No Black and White In Addiction

 

 

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Matt,   Today is my birthday.   My third without you.   I still have such a hard time believing that there will be no phone call or card signed Love Matt.  You won’t be hiding in the house to surprise me.   Once again I try to get though another milestone without you.   I’m in New York.   Funny you know I would have rather spent my day at the beach walking on the sand listening to the sea birds and the crashing of the ocean.   But my article about your addiction was featured in a magazine and I was invited to attend the reveal here in NY.  This humbling experience was something I could not miss.

Since your death, I have become an advocate for the treatment of addiction.   I write and speak about how horribly you were treated by the Insurance Industry and treatment facilities.  I speak out about the ugly stigma that follows addiction.   I work to make changes in our state laws.   It’s the only way I survive.  Your death rocked me to my core.   Everyday I struggle to find my new normal.   Everyday I pray that you are finally at peace.   Everyday I wake to this empty house.    My regrets about letting you go to Florida smack me swiftly in the face.  I feel so guilty about your death.   I still can’t believe I didn’t see how wrong it was for you to leave home and go so far away.   The thought of you being dumped in a motel to die kills me more and more each day.   My guilt beats at my soul.   My brain questions what kind of mother lets her son go so far away?

I wanted you to have a fresh start at a new life.   I was tricked into believing that new people, places and things would cure you.   All those books written about addiction by people who think they are experts in the field led us down the path of no return.   Parents who talk about tough love and disowning their kids because of addiction.   So much misinformation published by people who think they have the answers to addiction.   Don’t they know that every family is different?

There is no black and white once size fits all in this ugly disease.   Misleading parents like me that if we follow what they did our story would have the same happy ending.   Looking back I should have followed my gut.   I should have known you would never survive without your family close by to support you when you fell.   I knew you better than anyone and still I let you go.   Those books have been trashed as they should have been so long ago.

It’s ironic.   I wrote the truth about us.   The ugly, horrible, brutally honest truth about how your addiction stomped our family to death.   How your addiction shattered us to the core.   How I became addicted to your addiction and turned into a person I no longer recognized.   Funny, the editor I sent it to told me it was too ugly to publish.   That both you and I were horrible people.   That no one would want to read my work.

At first her words crushed me.   Then reality hit.  The reason this epidemic continues to have such power  killing far more than any disaster or war is because many people don’t want ugly.   People want pretty.  People want fairy tale endings.   People want to think that if we continue to ignore addiction it will go away. That it won’t affect our families.  That addiction is something that happens to others.  That addiction is something we can walk away from and never look back.   We only want to hear about beautiful children from perfect families who go on to lead successful lives.

I blame myself.   I should have never let you go.   I lived the ugliness with you.   Yes, there were a few glimpses of pretty.   The few times you came back as the Matt I knew before.   Times when the possibility of our fairy tale ending played tricks with my mind.   Your addiction was more powerful than even I could have ever imagined.   Your addiction won.

Now I live with regret.   I live with guilt.    The joke was on me.  I live knowing that birthdays, holidays and life in general will never hold the same meaning.   Oh how I wish I read how brutally ugly the true reality of addiction could be.

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