Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: Drug Addiction (page 1 of 13)

The First Year Fog

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Matt.   The professionals call it grief brain.   I call it being hit in the head by a tornado.   I used to call myself a smart girl.   Once a capable human being.   Able to care for the tiniest, sickest infant.  Functioning at my highest capacity.   Being a wife.   Being your mother and fighting your battle like it was my own.   Never missing a beat.   Being able to rattle off a diagnosis and calculate the most complicated drug dose while working in the NICU.    Today my brain is scrambled.  Like an egg thats been dropped from the counter.   My brain in pieces all over the floor.   Shattered like the town that was once whole but now nonexistent.

All I remember is being wrapped in a fog.   After hearing the words I’ve dreaded throughout your struggle with addiction.   “It’s Matt, he’s dead”.   I remember feeling like my body was no longer attached to my being.   I was in another dimension.   Unable to hear or feel anything.   I felt a protective cocoon envelope my soul and I heard the door shut with a slam.   My brain protecting itself from what would become my harsh reality.

I feel like I’m walking around in a soft, warm fog.   Everything I used to be now a distant memory.   I feel safe here.   My grief cocoon.   Surviving  the first year without you has been excruciating.    I try to break free of the fog.   In my psyche I know I must come to a place in time where I can face reality.   I just don’t know if I can survive.    I’m told the brain protects us from overwhelming, crippling grief.    I say thank God it does.    I would have lost my mind months ago if my fog hadn’t settled over me like it does over the harbor on a humid night.   Protecting my heart from the harsh reality of what has become of my life.

My nightmare keeps trying to break through.   Reality continues it attempts to seep through my fog like blood soaks through a cloth.    My brain continues to resist knowing I am consumed with disbelief and I’m struggling to accept my new reality.

There are days I feel like I’m losing my mind.   Days I just cannot allow myself to believe there will be no more you.    I’m having trouble believing I’ve survived a year without hearing your voice or seeing your smile.   I go through the motions of life.   I get up and crawl through the grief punches.   I put on my mask to face the world but in my mind I’m gone.   I’m told I made it through all the firsts.    Like I should be given that purple ribbon of grief and put your loss behind me.    It’s time to live again.    What no one understands is that living is the most painful thing I do.

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My grief has become a part of who I am.   This first year has been the hardest time of my life.   Brief memories find their way through my fog.   Memories of us on the beach.   Life before your demons took over.   Memories of a mother and her son fighting for his life.   Those struggles seem like a walk in the park when compared to the reality of my life.   I go there briefly knowing that if I stay I will be lost forever.

Everyday is a struggle.   I battle my demons now as your demons took you away.   The guilt of the what if’s and I should haves spin out of control threatening to crash into my fog with a blazing light exposing me for who I really am.

Learning how to breathe.   Learning how to pretend that I feel.   Learning that I must go on without you.   I feel like an infant needing to learn how to navigate a new life.     A broken mother searching for the pieces of her mind.   Settling back into the protective fog when grief whips her heart.

I’m told life goes on.   I’m told the grief changes.   I’m told it gets easier.   For now my fog is a welcome place.   I’m not ready to see the future without you.   My fog wraps me in the warmth of loving hug.   I will emerge when I’m ready.   Until then I will allow my mind and heart to heal at their own pace.   For now my fog is a where I need to be………

 

 

 

United By Addiction. Bonded By Grief

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Matt,

I had the amazing experience of attending The Fed Up Rally and the Unite to Face Addiction concert in Washington DC this weekend.   When I was in the midst of the battle to find you help I felt so alone.   I felt isolated.   I felt that no one cared.   I had no idea how many other mother’s knew my heartbreak.

I was having second thoughts about attending.   Every weather report dampened my spirits and made me think of staying home and staying dry.   Then I looked at your picture and felt that gut punch of knowing you were really gone.    The broken system  failed us both and you paid with your life.   As I continued to stare into your  beautiful eyes, I felt a power in my soul like I’d never experienced  before.   I’d walked through hell during your active addiction, why would I let the threat of heavy rain and wind keep me away.

I read about the Rally in the paper.   They were asking for stories of recovery and hope.   I had written a piece telling our story and included your picture.   To my surprise, It was published and I was humbled.   I also sent your picture to be included in The Addicts Mom’s quilt.   There was no way I was going to miss seeing your face being remembered at this amazing event.

I took a bus early Saturday morning with a small group from Delaware.   We knew each other’s grief, each of us losing a child.   Saturday was an emotional day for me.   It was the nine month anniversary of your death and here I was riding a bus in the rain to attend a rally for drug addiction.   My tears fell along  with the rain drops as I remembered the struggle to find you help.    Unfortunately, Delaware had no rehabs.   We have one detox unit that never had any beds when you finally agreed to get clean.    I remembered conversations begging your insurance company to approve treatment only to be told that you had no days left.   How could they treat your disease like you were not worth the time or money spent to save your life?   Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think you would die and I would be on a bus heading to Washington participating in a march to The White House.

The bus dropped our group off at the hotel.   We grabbed our rain gear and headed to the memorial.  The sky was grey with a light rain falling mimicking my mood.   The closer I got the more I could feel the atmosphere changing.   When we reached the mall, I was shocked at the size of the crowd.   People just like me.   Strangers who knew my grief and walked in my shoes.   Strangers whose faces looked just like mine.   Shock and disbelief marked us as those left behind.  Eyes swollen and empty as we wiped tears away with the sleeve of our shirt.

The stage held a memorial filled with names of those who lost their battle.  I was brought to my knees when I saw your name.  My precious son surrounded by hundreds of those who like you are gone forever.  I felt that too familiar gut punch as my tears started to fall.  I wore your picture on a lanyard around my neck.   I grabbed it and started to sob.     A complete stranger came and wrapped me in her arms.   Whispering that she understood my pain.   Here we were two mothers, strangers, holding each other up as the rain mixed with our tears.    Sharing stories of children lost.   I witnessed the kindness of strangers forever bonded by a common grief.

I was waiting outside The Addicts Mom’s tent.   They were preparing to unveil the quilt.   I remember the wind blowing  and the rain hitting my face.   My eyes searching the many squares until I saw your face.   Your beautiful smile right in the center of this beautiful handmade creation.   The sound of a wounded animal came from my lips as I stood letting the rain mix with my tears hugging myself against the heartbreaking pain.   Arms reached for me.   Another mother who got it.   We rocked each other in the rain and wind as we shared our heart breaking grief.   Another mother living my life, knowing my pain.   Angels walking among the crowd comforting strangers.

We formed groups as we prepared to walk to the White House.   I looked around in awe.   Thousands of people all here for the same reason.   The broken system failed their loved ones.   I was no longer alone.   We marched together.   We hugged each other.   We shed tears together as we shouted out against a system that must be changed.   We were empowered by the numbers.   We were heard.   I walked back to the hotel with a couple who lost their son.   We now call each other friend.   This event formed a bond never to be broken.

Sunday morning came with my familiar face in the mirror.   Puffy eyes staring back at me.   My face changed by grief.   The price of addiction is what I now call my new look.   I have forgotten how to smile.   I attended a breakfast in Arlington hosted by The Addicts Mom group.   A group no mother wants to belong to but the circumstances of life have left us no choice.   It was emotional to meet all the mothers I’ve supported and who have supported me on Facebook.   These women have walked through the same hell and get it.   Again I came face to face with the quilt.   Your smiling face staring back at me and again another mother held me as I shattered into pieces.

There really are no words to describe Sunday’s event.   The crowd tripled from Saturday.  The weather cold, and dreary.   I stood on the hill by The Monument.   In awe at the number of people from all parts of the country coming together to demand better care for the disease of addiction.   Many holding pictures and banners with names and dates.   All here to honor the ones they loved and lost.  Those in recovery were celebrating  a new sober life.   Everyone had a story to tell.   Strangers sharing their souls with strangers.  Sharing the bonds of love, loss and hope.

Sunday evening Joe Walsh and his fellow musicians held a concert to honor those lost and those struggling to survive.   A tribute to this deadly disease.   The crowd came alive.  When the music started the atmosphere became one of happiness and hope.   Rich and famous artists coming out and admitting they were once addicts.  Speeches by people who care and will fight to make changes.  Hope.   I could feel it in the air, at last there was hope.   Our new Surgeon General gets it.   Lawmakers now ready to join our fight  providing equal treatment for the disease of addiction.  Hope.   I stood with a crowd of strangers and danced to the music.  Joy I hadn’t felt for so long coursed through my soul.  We held onto each other when a  song hit a nerve and tears returned.   We sang out loud.  We were empowered.   Too many people fighting for the same cause.   Everyone remembering loved ones.   Honoring them by speaking out against the stigma.

I still get chills when I look at my pictures of all the faces lost.   Pictures of people coming together and lifting each other up in spirit.   Strangers becoming friends.   Promises of keeping in touch.  Of working together for the greater good.   I’m humbled by this experience and I know I will never be the same.   I no longer feel alone as I remember the beauty of seeing thousands of people coming together demanding change.

There is a saying, If God closes one door he opens another.   My new door has opened and I know I have thousands of people fighting the same fight.   I will be your voice.   I will remember your smiling face on that quilt surrounded by a hundred others.    No longer alone but humbled by the compassion of strangers.

Matt’s Damn Angry Mother

 

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Matt,   It’s been six months and I’m still trying to breathe.  I’ve been told that by now I should be angry at you.  Enough time has passed that the anger should come.  The well publicized stages of grief states that I am in the anger phase.  Well, I’m angry.  I’m damn angry.   I’m angry at the broken system that let you down.   I’m angry that the insurance industry  places more value on saving money than saving lives.   I’m angry that addiction is discriminated against by both the medical community and the Insurance Industry.  I’m angry that addiction is not treated like the disease it is.   I’m angry at the Lawmakers who turn a blind eye to this epidemic,  allowing scumbags to run sober living houses only caring about collecting rent from their tenants and not giving a damn about helping the addict.

I’m angry that lawmakers sat back and allowed relapsing addicts to be thrown into the streets or taken half unconscious to motels where they later died.   I’m angry that my handsome, funny, loving son died in a motel room because no one gave a damn.   I’m angry that the health care system continues to allows overprescribing physicians to practice.   Changing everyday people into addicts and destroying their lives.   I’m angry that addiction carries a stigma.

I’m angry that everyday I live with the crippling  pain knowing that I will never hear your voice or see your smiling face again.  I’m heartbroken knowing I will never dance at your wedding or hold your child in my arms.   I’m sick that you have been robbed of a beautiful life.    I’m broken when I see the pain on your brothers face and hear his voice crack when he says your name.   I’m angry that our lives have been demolished beyond repair.   I’m distressed that most of my friends have disappeared.  The ones that remain I can count on one hand.   I’m heartbroken that I can no longer spent time with you walking our dogs by the sea we both loved.  I’m so damn angry I want to scream..

There are days I get on my bike and ride like the wind.  Pushing myself to release the pain.  Crying, praying  and screaming as I petal  releasing this anger that everyone thinks should be directed at you.   Matt, please know I could never be angry at you.   I witnessed your struggle.  I felt your pain as we battled your demons together.   I know you fought your best fight.   I was there by your side with every relapse, every rehab, every struggle.   I know you did your best to fight your demons.   I am not angry at you my son.  I’m proud of the man you were.  Of the battle you fought and the life you tried to live.   You will always be my hero.   No anger, just overwhelming grief that your life is over.

Now my battle begins as I learn to  use my anger to fight for change. Your struggle gave me the education of a life time.   Witnessing the roadblocks and living the discrimination that you faced everyday gave me knowledge I never wanted to know.   It gave me a clear picture of the brokenness of the system in place that was not only responsible for your death, but the death of so many others.   My list is long.  I’ve got all the time in the world.  You are gone and I must find a new purpose or I will never recover.

Funny,  since you’ve been gone I’ve become absentminded.  I call myself the dumb girl.  I laugh and try to explain to strangers that once a long time ago I was a smart girl.  Then my son died.   I’m told it called grief brain and I’m a living example.  I started writing lists of every barrier we encountered during your journey.   I was cleaning out my desk and this is what fell to the floor.   My thoughts scribbled on a piece of balled up paper.   With this paper came a wave of grief.   Seeing my scribble hit me again that this is my reality.   This list of wrongs that needed to be made right.   Memories of your struggles sucked the breath out of my lungs and punched me in my gut.   A powerful grief punch whenever I relive our past.   A single sheet of balled up paper brought me to my knees.   I could feel my anger burning with each sentence I read.   So many things that could have saved your life helped end it.

My List………….

Pain clinics and the overprescribing pill pushers that run them must  be regulated and have their prescribing practices monitored  facing disciplinary action when their patients become addicted.   Charged with murder when they die.

The medical community needs to be held accountable for their treatment and perception of the addict.   Doctors must become expert in addiction and treat it as any other chronic, treatable disease.  Addiction needs to become part of the curriculum in medical schools educating new physicians in this misunderstood disease.

Rehab facilities and detox centers must have  beds readily available.   The window of time is brief when the addict is ready to accept help.   Precious time must not be wasted.   The Insurance Industry must recognize addiction as a disease and extend the allowable time covered in rehab giving those suffering a fighting chance at recovery.

Matt, my anger will never be aimed at you.  You had a disease that should have been treatable not terminal.    Our current model of care  allows a stigma to exist against a vulnerable population of people with a horrible disease.  My anger has given me new purpose.   My anger  will help me go on without you.   My anger will allow me to step out of my comfort zone and fight for you.  I will say your name.   I will tell our story.   I will  show other mothers that there is no shame in addiction.   I will join the fight to stop this epidemic from killing the next generation of beautiful people.

My anger will fuel my purpose.   You are gone but you will live on forever through me.   As long as I have a breath it will be yours.  Forever in my heart.  Forever in my fight.   RIP my beautiful boy your angry moms got this. ❤️💔

One Breath, One Hour, One Day At A Time……

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Matt,

Five months and two days have passed since you left me behind.  This is how I count out the days since your death.   The days before were filled with periods of uncertainty but also with hope.   The roller coaster ride of your addiction was starting to slow down allowing me to catch my breath and dream of a peaceful future for both of us.   The years of struggling had taken its toll and we needed a break.   I Look back now and realize how foolish I was in thinking we had outsmarted your demons.   Florida was supposed to be a new beginning but all we got was an ugly ending.

Spring is finally here.  My gardens are coming to life.  The days are sunny and warm.  I keep hearing that life goes on.   That it’s been and I should be.   No one seems to understand that I am living in an empty shell.   My heart remains in pieces.  The woman I was died with you that cold January morning.   The words still echo in my soul, “It’s Matt.  He’s dead”.   That memory stuns my heart and stops me in my tracks.   I close my eyes and all I see is your smiling face.

I’ve read that the loss of a child does not just destroy the parent but demolishes them.   My life has suffered from the result of that demolition.   I am no longer that smart girl.  No longer able to bounce back and be the fixer.  I am broken and even I can not fix myself.  I am no longer that NICU Nurse.  Nope.  I just couldn’t put the pieces of myself back together fast enough so the hospital let me go.  Thirty six years and all I got was a kick out the door.  I look back and wish I had spent those weekends and holidays with my family instead of taking care of another family.  How I wish I gave less to my profession and more to my family.     We have this false sense that we will always have one more.  One more birthday, one more Christmas, one more chance to say I love you.  How foolish.  So now I’m unemployed.  How ironic, I  used to dream about the day I could retire.  Oh how I looked forward to having time.   No more working weekends or missing holidays.  Just precious time all to myself.  Time to spend in my life, not running the rat race.  Now time has become something I crawl through.

There is a saying that time heals all wounds.   People tell you to give it time.   Time will help.   As if time has the magical power to help you forget your child is gone.   All time has done for me is to deepen my pain.   Time passes and I realize I haven’t heard your voice or seen your face.   Time is not my friend.   Time is a painful march of birthdays, holidays and special days that are no more.  Time deepens the grief as my new reality seeps in and I realize this emptiness will be a part of my soul forever.   Days have turned to weeks and weeks to months.   Time marches on and with each day I must learn to survive.   Knowing there will be no more phone calls, no visits to see your life in Florida.   No Matt coming home for Thanksgiving or Christmas.    Time is a painful reminder that there will be no more.   A crack that started small is now an abyss that swallowed my soul.

Before your death, I wanted time to slow down.   I complained that it was going by too quickly.   Days and months were flying by.   I wanted time to give me more moments to enjoy life.   To enjoy your recovery.   To enjoy moments between a mother and her son who survived the ultimate challenge.  To enjoy a bit of normal in our chaotic world.   I wanted the change of seasons to last longer allowing us more time to savor the beauty we had missed during your struggle.  I wanted to make up for the time we lost fighting your demons.   I wanted time to see your beautiful, clear eyes.   I wanted time to smell the roses together.   To walk by the sea laughing like we had not a care in the world.

Working and fixing you took every second of everyday.   My mind always on overdrive.    Spinning with plan A, B or C.   Always trying to be one step in front of your addiction.

Now, time can’t move fast enough.   I want the holidays to fly away and be gone.   Birthdays too.   I want time to fly making my head spin away from my reality and the pain it continues to bring.     My grief has ended a nursing career that spanned 36 years of my life.   Time is now something I have plenty of.   Something I try to fill everyday.     The void left by your absence has shattered my very core.   Your death hit me like a bucket of ice water.   Taking my breath away and putting me into a state of shock.

Time has also taught me a lesson.   I have no control over it and what it may bring.   We’ve all heard the saying, “In God’s time not ours”.   Now through my grief I understand.  Time does not belong to us.   Time, however long or short is a precious gift.

For now, I will use this time to remember you my beautiful boy.   I will let my tears flow at will.   I will scream into the wind on a cloudy beach.    I will run into the surf, close my eyes and remember.   I will continue to tell your story.   I will hold you in my heart forever.   I will have conversations with God asking questions only he can answer.   I will use this time to remember my blessings.    I will use this gift of time to start healing my heart and soul.   This gift of time is a double edge sword.   I have no choice.   You are gone and I am left behind to find my new normal.   One step, one day,  one breath at a time.

Lost in Paradise

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Matt.

We made it to the house we’ve rented in The Keys.   I listen to the excited voices of Ray and our friends.   I feel nothing except lost.  It’s been one month and eleven days since you left.   My life has become a before and after movie.   I replay the scenes over and over in my mind.  Searching for that missing piece.  Still not able to believe you are gone.  Life before you died was full of hope.  Full of promises and joy.  Dreams of your future, a wedding and grandchildren washed away with the outgoing tide.  Life now is unbearable.   This pain is constant, crushing my shattered heart.

The house is beautiful.  The perfect location.  I find myself going through the motions of living.  I find my mask and secure it to my face.  Trying desperately to hide my grief.  I listen to Ray and our friends.  Smiles and plans of sunshine filled days.   Kayaking and biking.  Everything I once loved to do in this beautiful place brings no joy.  I am numb.  The walking dead.

Sleep continues to elude me.  I toss and turn listening to the sounds of the sea.  I lay in the dark silently crying.  I wonder where you are.  I wonder if you know that you’re gone.  I wonder how I will every survive the rest of my life.

Days are spent pretending I’m ok.   I find myself drawn to the back of the house.  The turquoise sea surrounds me.  The sun kisses my cold skin with warmth.  Nothing can penetrate the ice surrounding my soul.  I stare out at the beautiful water and remember your smiling face.  I look for signs of your presence.  I think of this trip.  The planning.  The joy.  The excitement I would feel at seeing you again.  I close my eyes and see us walking together by the sea as we’ve done so many times before.   I feel like I’m trapped in a nightmare.  This did not happen.  You could not be gone.  My mind has become an enemy.   Never quiet.  Always replaying the scenes from our journey.  Forcing me to relive every moment.  Every decision, every fight.  I constantly rethink every little thing.  Hindsight continues to slap my face.   I beg for a redo.  I beg to wake up.  I beg for this to be a horrible mistake.

I sit in the warmth of the sun thinking of how things should be.  You should be spending the day at the beach enjoying your new life and I should be the happiest mom on earth.  You told me how blessed you were to be living by the sea.  I felt that blessing spread to me thinking you found your peace and I could finally take a breath.   Try to pray.   There is nothing left to pray for.   My years of prayers went unanswered.   I feel abandoned by God.

I’m surrounded by beauty but all I can think of is you.  I stare out at the sea and remember the words.   Those words that pierced my soul spoken by the man I trusted to keep you safe.  “People die here everyday”.   Those words run through my head like hot lava spitting from a volcano.   Smoldering and destroying everything in its way.   Were you not a human being?   A wonderful man with a horrible disease.   A loving son and brother or were you just a meal ticket for this man who tossed you away?  The more I remember those words, his I could care less attitude, his I’m too busy to talk about Matt when he finally returned my call, the more I want to scream.

I feel my grief changing.   I feel the hopelessness starting to fade.   An ember has started and a raging fire has erupted in my soul.   Who the hell does J think he is?   How can the state of Florida think that running sober living homes like he obviously does is acceptable?   What happened to you will never be right with me.  Florida, you pissed off the wrong mom.

My first call is to the Florida Office of the Attorney General.   I filed my complaint on the website but that is not enough for me.   I want to talk to this woman.   I want her to know what is going on in her state.  I want her to know that parasites are making a living off addicts.   I want her to know that your mother is outraged and won’t  accept your death quietly.

My next call is to The Department of Health and Human Services.   Next the Governor’s Office.   Your story is being told.   Tears and sobs escape with each phone call.   They are listening.   I feel a strength come over my being.   Like you are here rooting me on.   I owe this to you.   I let you down.  I live with regret everyday.  I had no idea you were flying into a death trap when I bought your ticket to Florida.  Now you are gone and I’m left behind.   The lone wingman.   The one Musketeer.   You and I had a bond like none other.   A bond that even your death cannot sever.   Memories of you flood my mind and break my heart.  Your laugh, your smile forever tucked safely away in my heart.

My ringing phone brings me back to reality.   Your story found it’s way to FARR.   Florida Association of Recovery Residences.   They have begun the battle against the J’s.   Those who prey on the people coming  to Florida for help.    We plan to keep in touch.

Our time here is over and I’m torn.   I want to go home and I want to stay.   A piece of my heart will remain in Florida.   Because of you I have a permanent bond with this state.  There is so much left for me to do.   I feel your spirit.  Your energy by the sea.  I close my eyes and see you standing on the beach you loved.   One of your last pictures before you died.   Joy radiating from your face.   Happiness finally found you only to be brutally ripped away.   You deserved so much more.

Its cold and grey when we land in Philly.   The weather mimics my soul.   We pull into the garage.   The house is silent.   There are no wet noses or wagging tales.   No “Hey Mom, Welcome Home”.   Just a dead silence that takes my breath away.   I drop my bags on the floor.   The memories of another homecoming flood my brain.   You were there.  The dogs on your heels.  Hugs and kisses.  Barking and wagging.  You were so proud of how you cleaned the house.  I remember your beaming smile, “Mom, everything’s done”.   “No dishes or dog hair”.   I remember your laugh.  “Bet your surprised”.

The cold slap of reality brings me back.  I am home and you are gone.

 

 

 

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