Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: heart attack (page 1 of 2)

The Revolving Door Of Rehab

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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.

Tough Love: Take two

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Matt.   I sit and allow myself the luxury of the dream.    You are that tow-headed boy again.   You are laughing and jumping in the waves.  Your laugh is so precious, like music to my ears.   The innocence of life.   The simple joy of jumping the waves.  Running into the surf, crashing into the waves, now such a treasured memory.   I look back trying to understand what happened.   How did that innocent boy change into the angry man you are today?

I sit watching that boy and his dog and allow the happy memories to wash over me with the surf.   I feel the sun on my battered body.  Feel the healing power of the warmth and light bathing my soul with a peace long forgotten.   Memories of happy times.   Summers by the sea.  Birthday parties and family barbecues.   Bike riding, football games and high school graduation.   Where did it all start to change?   Years of happiness now overshadowed by years of ugliness and pain.   I watch as the surf slams into a sandcastle and wash it away like it never existed.   That sandcastle is our life before your addiction.   So little of it resembles what it used to be.

I sit until the sun goes down and a chill fills the air.   In the past I would have walked back to our precious home.   The dogs would greet me and together we would wait until you joined us.  You would grab a bite and we would grab the leashes.  Soon we would be surrounded by yapping and jumping.  Once again headed to our favorite spot.  The dogs would run free and we would sit and share your day.  A mother and her son sitting by the sea enjoying each other.   The best of friends.  Today the harsh reality of your addiction follows me as I drive by what was once our home.   So filled with happiness, now a casualty of your demons.   I can’t help myself.  I stop my car.  I close my eyes and see you washing your boat.   I see that smile and watch as you climb down to greet me.  I can almost imagine feeling your arms wrapping around me and the whisper of your kiss on my cheek.   I break out of my fantasy and realize what I’m feeling are  tears running down my face.

I drive home leaving a piece of myself behind.   The sea is our connection, our happy place.  The changing current mimics our changing lives.   The riptide constantly pulling us farther and farther from safety.  Your addiction slowly drowning both of us.   I keep throwing the life line and you keep losing your grip.

Returning home is bittersweet.   Reality awaits me and right now I hate reality.   The last time I saw you I was cussing and shaking and spitting mad.   The words spewing out of your mouth were vicious and vulgar.   You and I reached the lowest point of our lives.  A mother and her son being torn apart by your demons.  That day I felt trapped in a hell I never want to visit again.   I’m still embarrassed at how your behavior brought out the ugliness in my soul.  Your demons stealing both my soul and my son.

I knew your call would come.   What I didn’t know was the guttural response it would produce.  The sound of your voice, once so welcome, now caused my heart to race and my throat to close like I’m being slowly strangled.  I am breathless.  Punched in my gut.   I hear the words, “I’m ready to leave, I want to come home”.   “I need a ride”.   I’m torn.   I want to be that Mom.  The one who always runs to your rescue.  Who always picks up the pieces of what you left behind and tries to put them back into a neat little package.   I’m just not that Mom.   You broke me.

“Matt, find a ride yourself, I can’t do it this time”.   “I’m not ready for you to come home”.    Your silence is deafening.   I can feel your disbelief coming through the phone.   “WTF am I supposed to do?”   “You know how far it is from home, you brought me here”.    “Yup, I did.  You cussed me out and snorted drugs off my dashboard”.   “You locked me out of my car as I made an ass out of myself in front of a police officer”.   “Oh yeah, I remember”.    “Call your friends”.

I hang up the phone and immediately feel like a piece of shit.   Addict’s Mom guilt.   It gets me every time.   Here’s my precious boy asking to come home.  I keep seeing that tow-head running toward me with arms extended.   I need to see the man, the addict.   I must find a way to stay strong and save what’s left of me.

I’m on edge.  Pacing.  Once again beating myself up.  How could I be so cold.   I keep reminding myself that you have a disease.   You are battling for your life and here’s you mom acting like some cold bitch.   Oh God, I grab my phone and dial your number.   I’m in tears as it just rings and goes to voicemail.   I leave you a pleading message.  Once again I am a mess.   My job is to save you, it’s what I do.   I’m still on the phone as the dogs start jumping at the door.   I turn to see your face.  Clean shaven.  Bright, clear beautiful eyes pierce my soul.   I am gone.   You drop your bag and I feel your arms circle me.  “God Mom,  I’m so sorry”.   “I can’t believe I treated you like I did, forgive me”.

So it begins again.   This life of chaos and helplessness that briefly turns to hope.   The rollercoaster that briefly allows you to think you have the power to get off.   I feel it again as I’m pulled back into your addiction by a mothers love.   Strapped in tightly holding my breath as we are climbing to new heights.   I allow myself to think maybe just maybe this was the “magic time”.   The one referred to in the books I’ve been reading.   Beautiful Boy and Addict in the Family have become my bibles.  My go to reference books that make me feel like I’m not a crazy, horrible mom.   This time I have a twist in the ride.

“Matt, you can stay here until you find another place”.   The words are out before I even know they are said.   You look at me like my head is spinning.  Your smile gone, your eyes dark.  I see the cloud coming in.   You are not getting your way.  I have to start to save myself.   “It’s too hard on me to watch how you live”.   “I can’t see you day after day doing nothing to better yourself”.    “You need to find a job and a place to live”.   “I will always be here for you just not under the same roof”.

You walk away and I crumble inside.   Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall and no one could put him back together again.   I’ve been Humpty.   My heart broken and shattered.   Now I am responsible for putting my pieces together.   For me to heal you must go.   I’m trying to be that parent.   The tough one who does the right thing.   That tough love, let them hit rock bottom thing that every parent in my books has been able to do.   So now in front of you I am tough.  Behind closed doors I am Humpty.

I watch as you pack.   A friend you met at NA has offered to share a house with you.   I keep telling you how great it will be for you to become independent.  You look at me like I have lost my mind.  “You are welcome here any time”.   I’m trying to stay light and positive.  Pleading for both our lives.   I know I can not continue to be slowly destroyed by your addiction.   I must save myself to continue to save you.   We need a break from the ugly, daily chaos that has slowly wrapped us up.  You are no longer you and I am broken to my core.   Inside I want to wrap my arms around you and protect you from yourself.   I am fighting my internal battle.   Enabling is what I do.  Making life comfortable for you has become second nature for me.  I am a fixer and I have spent years trying to fix you.   I am slowly realizing that the fixing can only be done by you.   At least that’s what I’ve been told.  I tell you Kahlua will be fine with me.  She has become my dog through your addiction.   She is old and needs care I know you will not provide.  She looks at me with pleading eyes.   No worries old girl, you are safe with me.

A few months pass.  Life is starting to find a routine again.   You visit and we are starting to enjoy being together.   I feel like the rollercoaster is on the up swing.   I’m allowing my heart to feel that we have finally found a way out of the grip of your demons.   The fantasy that you are becoming the Matt I so desperately need you to be and I am returning to  the sane version of me plays over and over in my head.   I need this so badly.  I continue to watch closely for signs.   I listen for those words.  I look at your beautiful eyes.   I follow after you leave to assure myself you are safe.   I am so wrapped up in my fantasy I don’t hear the demons beating on your door.

The day is sunny and warm.  No warning of the storm that is about to slam into our lives once again.   You were home.  You were happy and clear.   You walked Kahlua.   It felt like a normal Saturday afternoon in a normal family.  You hugged me as you were leaving.  “Mom, you were right to do this, I need to be a man”.   Oh how my heart soared.   Yes, yes, yes.   My brain is shouting.  I am high-fiving me, myself and I.   We did it.  We did it.   The celebration in my brain is so loud I don’t hear Ray screaming.   “Get in the car”.  “Get in the car”.   He is running to grab the keys, his phone to his ear.   What, what.   My once celebrating brain now confused and frightened.  “It’s Matt, he had a seizure”.

No, no, no!  My mind is screaming.  Disbelief flooding my body as we race to the Emergency Room.   I’m screaming at Ray for details.  He knows nothing more.   Where, when and how are questions whirling in my head.   Never once did your addiction enter my mind.  My heart is in my throat choking the life out of me.  I am shaking so uncontrollably  that Ray puts his arm out as if I’m a child trying to stop me from flying through the windshield.   I remember that sandcastle being slammed over and over again until only pieces remain.  I am that sandcastle.

I jump out of the car and run past the ambulance.   I can feel you there.  The triage nurse looks up and immediately knows I’m your mother.   She calls back.  Before she hangs up the phone a doctor is by my side.   Oh God, Oh God, Oh God.   Flashbacks of another E.D,  Of my colleague, Terry telling me I had to do this.  “Mare, you can do this”.  With me crumbling in her arms.   I can’t breath.  I follow like a lamb being led to a slaughter.  I have no idea what I will find beyond those doors.   The doctor can say very little.  You are an adult and protected by HIPAA.  I overhear seizure than cardiac arrest as I approach your room.   I feel my knees start to buckle as my breath is vaporized out of my lungs.

You are conscious.  Breathing on your own.   My Mom brain leaves as my Nurse brain takes over.   You vital signs are in normal range.  Your cardiac rhythm is slow but steady, no irregular beats for you.  Your color is pale.  You are smiling and looking at me as if this is all just a joke.  The Doctor and Nurse are at your bedside.

I grab your hand.   “Tell me what you did”.   You look away.  Ray and Mike have walked into your room together and stand beside me.   I grab your face in my hands and start to sob.  “Do you think this is a game?”   “Do you see what you are doing to me?”   “How many more times do you need to almost die before you kill me?’  You are getting red.   The embarrassment of my behavior making you uncomfortable.   “Tell them to tell me or I will walk out and never look back”

Cocaine.   I’ve just been shot in the head.   I close my eyes and see it explode into a million pieces.   Blood is everywhere.   I can’t speak or breathe.  I see myself slap your face and walk out of your room.  I leave you with Ray and Mike.   I am drowning in your addiction.  I hang onto the wall as I walk out.  My sobs are like that of a wounded animal.   The nurses look at me as I sit outside holding the pieces of my heart in my hand.   All at once it hit me.   You have crossed that line.   Being a nurse and seeing your battered body, knowing you had rods and screws holding your spine in place gave me the excuse to believe you weren’t that addict.  You were just abusing pills to combat your pain.  How naive I have become.  My love for you placed blinders over my eyes.   Denial has been my survival until this moment.   My theory now shattered at my feet along with my dream of ever returning to who we used to be.

I sit alone as the sun goes down on another day robbed of joy by your addiction.  I wonder how much more my heart can take before it stops wanting to beat.  I hear the rumble of the wheels as the roller coaster pulls up along side my bench.  I feel the pull of a force begging me to ride again.   The harness secures my place as the engine slowly starts to move.   I close my eyes.   We are on the beach.   You are laughing and jumping into the surf.   “Mommy, mommy please stay with me”.   “Don’t let me go”.   A mothers love has no boundaries.  My heart will not give up.  I say a silent prayer to Jesus for sparing your life.  I grab the bars and am whipped away once again.

Hating The Waiting

IMG_0572Matt,  the O.R. waiting room is packed.  I look around and see the faces of family members, their eyes telling the story of fear.  The anxiety is palpable in this room.  I find a seat by the door so I can make a quick exit when my own anxiety hits and I need my space to breathe.  Ray’s family files in and we claim our corner in this place where no one wants to be.  We are given name tags to be identified as family of the patient.  Ray’s sister hands me one that says Cichocki.  Put it on she says, you’re already a member we just need you to make it official.   I stick it on my shirt and start to think about the wedding.

Everything is set except the date.  We need to get through this day before we can even think of a time frame.  I have been blessed with a very flexible group of people willing to work with us to pull off this crazy wedding. For now Ray’s mom is the priority.  I sit and watch Ray.  He’s nervous.  Stress is taking the light out of his beautiful eyes.  His face is lined with worry.  It breaks my heart to see him this way.  Then it hits.  There is no relationship more precious than a mother and her son.  Oh God.  I look at this man, now a scared little boy.  I continue to watch, unobserved by Ray who is lost in his own world.  Is he thinking about his childhood.  Memories of his mom, the love they share.  The stories he’s told about his childhood always revolved around his mom.  Now I observe the man and know that the little boy lives inside that grown mans body and he wants his mom.

My thoughts drift to us.  All the great times we shared before the demons found you.  The joy and laughter.  The peace and love that filled our lives.  We shared the love of the sea, the love of dogs, the love of family and friends.  Now we share your addiction and our dirty little secret.  How did we become who we are.  You, my precious boy.  My friend.  I watched you grow from a happy go lucky young boy to a somewhat troubled adolescent to a very trouble man.  A man who found his answer in a bottle of pills.  Pills that changed who you were and turned me into a mom I never wanted to be.  Pills that made you do and say things we would have never imagined.  Pills that have allowed you to rip my heart out while I watched you start to self destruct.  Still my love for you remains unchanged.  You are my son and I am your mother.  I know you love me as much as I love you.  I know it’s the demons that make you ugly and hateful.  I know as long as there is a breath in my body I will fight the fight to keep you free from the hell and chaos your demons bring.  This bond is like no other.  The cord is never cut.  Mothers stay in connection with their sons.  The love never stops.  Hate the addiction Love the addict.

I drift back to reality.  This is crazy.  I hate hospitals, yes I know I work here.  I hate being on this side.  The waiting side, the no control side.  You know I’m always in control.  Ok, I think God is teaching me patients.  I tell Ray I need to get some air.  I need to call you.  I need to hear your voice and tell you I love you.  I need to hear that you’re ok.  No chaos today.  I couldn’t take it today.  You answer quickly.  Hey Mom, whats up.  I listen closely now not liking the greeting.  Matt, where are you, are you ok.  Fine Mom, just fine.  Oh God, not now.  Not when I need to be here, not when I’ve asked you to stay clean.  Not after the promise. Matt, what the hell.  I’m in the hospital waiting to hear about Ray’s mom.  I can’t handle this now.  I’m trying to keep my voice down as the panic is rising in my chest.  How could you do this to me now.  I’m trying to reason with you as I feel a hand on my arm.  I turn to see Ray’s face.  His eyes full of concern.  Matt stop this now.  I hang up. Breathless.  Ray looking at me waiting for an explanation.  Oh God, I can’t do this today.  Can’t dump this on him now.  Need more time to sort this out.  Maybe Matt was just tired.  Maybe just stressed.  I was going to maybe myself right out of this one.  No way was I going down this ugly road today.  Forgive me God, but I’m going to lie.  Nothing big.  Matt just being Matt.

Rays sister appears.  A smile on her face.  Mom is fine. Surgery over.  We can see her soon.  Thank you God.  Some great news.  I see Ray relax.  The worry slipping from his face.  Our conversation forgotten.  We return to our corner.  A calmness now settles around us.  I put my I’m just great mask on.  Oh God, what now.  I’m smiling and talking but my mind is spinning.  Trying to be part of this happy family, sharing the joy of a mother saved.  One day so many emotions.  I’m beat.  My heart heavy with the burden of the unknown.  My dirty little secret buried for now…..No laughter just deafening silence.

 

Shit Happens Again!

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Matt,  I couldn’t believe the turn of events.  One minute I’m on cloud nine the next I’m sitting in the hospital waiting for word on Ray’s Mom.  My mind is racing.  Thinking about you , thinking about her.  Life just wasn’t fair.  Just when I thought it would be all smooth sailing another wrench gets thrown in my face.  It felt like forever and my mind kept drifting back to you.  Were you playing me again.  Were you really being honest or just being the Matt I needed you to be to keep me off your back.  I wanted to call you to let you know what was happening or maybe it was just to ease my mind.  To push away those nagging doubts that kept creeping into my brain.   Your addiction always had a way of holding me captive no matter what situation I was going through. I Felt guilty sitting there thinking about you when Ray and his Dad were so worried about someone else.  I tried to pay attention to their questions.  Trying to keep them calm, but the longer we waited the more my nursing gut was telling me something was terribly wrong.  I’d only known Ray’s Mom for a short period of time but loved the way they cared so much for each other.  It was something I ‘d come to hope for our future.  You getting and staying clean and us having a normal mother and son relationship, not the love me, hate me, save me, one we had going on for years.

So once again here I am making deals with God.  Ok God, you let her be ok and I’ll tell the truth about Matt.  Ok God, you keep Matt clean and I’ll never lie about him again.  Ok God, before I could list my next deal the doors to the waiting room open.  My heart sinks as I look at the Cardiologists face.  Oh God, I know that look, I’ve seen it too many times only I’ve always been on the other side, the side walking with the doctor to support the family.  I wasn’t liking this side as my nursing gut was silently screaming.  A CABG, your wife, mom needs bypass surgery.  She needs it tomorrow.  Holy shit.  my brain is screaming.  Holy shit, holy shit.  This is the worst news.  I look at Ray and his Dad.  They look shell shocked. Both asking questions not really understanding what just happened.  I start questioning the doctor.  He looks at me like hey, you are educated.  You know what I’m saying and how serious this is.  Our eyes meet silently communicating.  When can we see her I ask.  Let’s get her settled in the ICU.  Wait and I’ll send someone to get you.

So we wait.  I’m trying very hard to be optimistic.  All eyes are watching my face. I can feel my throat getting  tighter and tighter.  Ok God, exactly what are you doing.  Are you postponing the wedding for a reason.  I just don’t get it.  Can’t I ever catch a break.  Now is the perfect time.  Matt is ok, he’s on board to stay clean.  He wants me to be happy, to have a life and now you have to let this happen.  You could have waited, this could have happened later.  Oh my God, listen to me.  Listen to the selfish person I’ve become.  Matt’s addiction has screwed my brain turning me into this horrible person.  This isn’t who I am.  I care about people.  I love Ray and his family.  Matt’s addiction has become mine.  I’m constantly hiding and planning, trying desperately to have a little piece of normal when I can.  Before the demons come again and drag me down with Matt.  Oh God, please let this all work out.  Let Rays Mom get well.  Help Matt to stay clean.   I will be better.  No more hiding and lying to cover for Matt.  If he uses again I’ll come clean.  I’ll tell the truth and if I end up alone so be it.

I’m so lost in my thoughts that I don’t hear the doors open.  I don’t hear Ray say we can see her now.  He grabs my arm.  Are you ok he asks.  I smile the smile that has become my mask.  I’m great, let’s go see your mom.  I’m recognized by the nurses as we walk to her bedside.  I’m trying just to say hi, but I’m looking at the monitor, BP, her color and movement.  Once a nurse always a nurse.  She opens her eyes and smiles.  Ray and his Dad are both so relieved to see her.  She grabs my hand.  I’m so glad you and Ray are getting married.  You are so good together.  I try to keep the tears from showing.  I’m supposed to be the strong one here.  The tough girl, the nurse who saves everyone.  The wedding will wait until you can dance with your son.   The wedding.  Oh God, please I’m begging now.  Let this woman be there to dance with her son and let my son be there to dance with this mother.   I stand there looking around at my familiar territory.  It hits me then just how in the blink of an eye life can change.  Illness, addiction throwing you into a spin.  Never knowing how you will land or what you will face when the spinning stops.  Plans made, promises made, lies told, secrets kept.   No demons tonight just the soft laughter of God.

Have A Heart

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Matt,  I think I floated home that night.  My heart so happy believing I finally had you back.  Instead of me, myself and I rehearsing the speech I prepared to deliver we were singing.  Oh how we were singing.  I felt so light, so happy like I’d just been handed a million dollars.  I just couldn’t believe how things worked out when we talked.  I’d come prepared for battle.  Had all the reasons ready to shoot out of my mouth and then I see you by the sea with your dogs and all the anger and frustration were washed away with the out going  tide.  I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my weary shoulders.  You were finally getting it.  I didn’t have to yell or threaten, you were on board to get your life back on track.  Now I could plan for my future without that constant nagging feeling that something would blow up in my face.  What a gift to give to your exhausted mother.

Now that I was free to focus on something other than you I started to plan my wedding.  I’d gotten used to the laughs when I told people that yes it’s this September not next and I was definitely  serious.  It turned into a game for me to find anyone who was as reckless as I was and willing to go out on a limb to help pull off my dream.  I am a beach person so of course the first place I thought about was the beach.  That was until both sets of parents looked like I’d said the F word. Yes I know.  Ray and I were both adults, but we both wanted our parents to enjoy the day so now I had to find a church.  Well how do two divorced people find a church to marry them.  We were both raised as Catholic so that was like asking a priest to shake hands with the devil.  I though for sure the church would be struck by lightning if we dare think we could set foot in the door and ask to be married.

We both loved mountain biking, yeah remember the mangled wrist that led us to this point.  Well we always passed this adorable tiny church hidden in the woods when we biked in Fairhill.  Perfect I thought.  This would satisfy the Catholic parents.  Unfortunately it was always closed whenever we passed by.  One day on a whim I stopped and looked in the windows.  It was perfect.  Just what the doctor ordered.  I took pictures and showed Ray.  He really didn’t care where we were married so off I went on my quest  to get into this church.  It just so happened that a fellow biker knew the minister.  So now we have our church.  Big enough for 70 people.  Absolutely adorable.  Plans were progressing.  You and I kept in touch and you sounded fantastic.  No sign that the demons had returned.   We made plans for you to come and stay the weekend.  We needed to get my mechanic son a suit.

Ray has been amazing.  Giving me full control over the planning.  I think he knew it would keep me busy and out of trouble.  I kept threatening to get back on my bike and conquer the hill that took me down.  He’s a smart guy.  You show up on a Friday night.  I, out of habit go through my checklist.  You pass with flying colors.  Oh God,  this is so wonderful.  We beat the demons, Matt’s back.  We shop and find you the perfect suit.  It is so wonderful to have you back.  To be able to have a conversation without your glazed eyes looking back at me.  Your head not bobbing like a broken toy.  I am flying.  On cloud nine.  I’m marrying the man of my dreams and Matt is back.  It doesn’t  get any better than this.  We spent the weekend together,  just you and me.  It felt like the old days before the demons turned our lives upside down.  I kept pinching myself.  This was truly amazing.  Once again I fought to keep the little warning voices out of my head.  Too good to be true.  He’s saying everything you need to hear.  Little voices of warning trying to steal my peace.  I beat them back and continued to believe we were the normal, happy family I so needed us to be.   Sunday came and you headed back to the sea.  I remember watching you leave, my heart begging for this new you to be the true you.  Your addiction had made you the best at pretending to be who I needed you to be.  I just couldn’t let myself believe you would do it to me again.

The  week goes by and my phone rings.  Holy S.. my boss.  Yes, I still want to come back to work.  Really, a per diem position.  Yes, I’ll take it.  Oh My Gosh.  Everything is beautiful.  I have a job,  I can save the beach house.  I am floating on air when Ray walks in.  Hey, guess what.  I’m going back to work.  Yes, as soon as I’m released from P.T.  So if you want to back out of this proposal now’s the time.  You look at me and laugh.  I wouldn’t miss this for the world, you say.   I feel like finally the planets have aligned, they are all spinning in my direction.  Life is good.  My son is good so I am absolutely wonderful.  I am laughing and dancing and you are looking at me like I’m crazy.  It’s all ok, no more dirty little secret to hide.  We are free.

In the midst of my joy your phone rings.  I stop and look at your face.  Oh God, what.  Now it is you that needs holding.  We race to the hospital, my joy with Matt forgotten.  The ED is busy.  I rush in ahead and find your Dad.  He is scared and shaky.  I brought Mom in.  She’s been sick all day and has just gotten worse.  I walk into her room and see what no nurse ever wants to see.  You bring Dad in the room.  Ray,  do you see those waves on the monitor.  Yes, they are what we refer to as Firemen.  Your Mom is having a heart attack. I ring her bell and call for help.  Ray, grab your Dad,  this room is about to go crazy.  Doctors and nurses rush in.  Papers are signed.  I grab you both and hit the hallway as your Mom is rushed to the cath lab.  Now we sit, the three of us lost in our own thoughts.  You Dad sits so still, looking so frail.  You are asking questions I really don’t want to answer.  I hate being a nurse.  I want to fix everything.  My addict son and now your ailing mother.  Ok God I think.  What are you doing.  I’m not trying to be selfish but WTH are you doing.  This is crazy.  Just when life was settling down,  just when a little piece of happy and normal came my way.  I look at you and grab your hand.  The wedding will wait.  Your eyes break my heart.  Another mother and son depending on luck and faith to keep them together.  My heart is breaking.  I remember all the times I almost lost Matt.  Ok God,  you win.  I couldn’t stop the chill that gripped my heart.  The demons were laughing as we were praying to save a mother for her son.

 

 

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