Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: the mother of an addict trying to survive (page 1 of 4)

The Space You Left Behind

Matt,   Today is Thanksgiving.   I can feel the grief stalking me as I try to keep my mask in place as I  face this bittersweet day.   That battered mask I wear hiding my true heartbreak from the world.   Today is a day to give thanks for all the blessings we have received throughout the year.   Yes, I know I have been blessed.   I have my health, my home, a loving husband.   I have your brother and a beautiful granddaughter.   I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but your loss puts my life into a different perspective.   What I long for is to have you here.

Memories of past Thanksgivings flood my brain.   I close my eyes and go back to a time when holidays were full of crazy family chaos.   I can see you and Mike standing side by side frying the turkey as your laughter surrounded your faces as frozen breaths of air.   I can still hear your voices and see your heads almost touching as you tried to keep your conversation from drifting into the house.

The rest of us inside staying warm, sipping wine as we prepared the rest of our feast.   The dogs underfoot trying to grab whatever morsel of food that fell to the floor.   My heart was full of gratitude having both my boys and my family under one roof to celebrate our blessings and each other.

Thanksgiving of 2014 would be your last Thanksgiving on earth.   If only I had known.  You were in a sober home in Florida as your addiction reared it’s ugly, unrelenting head once again.   I was celebrating with family at home, but my heart was in Florida with you.   Your absence left a void that nothing could fill.   As we sat around the table I dialed your number longing to make you a part of the family’s conversation.   Your voice sounded amazing.  Clear and strong.   I could picture your smile as you shared your holiday plans with us.

You were gathering with friends to share turkey and fellowship.   You sounded excited about life once again.   I could hear the old Matt back in your voice and although I missed you terribly I knew your recovery was priority over my wanting you home.   As I passed the phone around the table, everyone agreed how great you sounded.   We were all so proud of your recovery and looked forward to future holidays together.   If only I had known.

I remember stalking your Facebook page sitting alone in the dark Thanksgiving night.   Family gone.  The house cleaned and quiet.   I needed to see your face and convince myself that I could relax and trust that my blessings would continue along with your recovery.   You posted the best picture of you and all your friends.   Happy smiling faces all wrapped up in one big hug.   I have that picture in a frame.   I stare at your face in disbelief.  If only I had known…………

 

 

Heaven’s A Little Closer In A House By The Sea

Matt,

It’s Memorial Day weekend.   The weather is cloudy and grey.   You have been gone 3 years 4 months and I still find myself shocked when reality hits.   I remember when you lived at the beach.  You hated summers.   All the traffic and crowds.   I can still hear your voice complaining about how long it took to get from one place to another.

What I wouldn’t give to have you here complaining about summer tourists invading your paradise.   I can still see you standing in your boat. “ The only way to get anywhere around here is by boat”.   You still had that large grin on your handsome face.   I knew this was just an excuse to get you out on the water, your favorite place to be.

I dreamed about the house the other night.   I drove by and realized it was for sale.   I sat in my car calling the realtor.   I had to get inside.   I had to be where you were.   She was kind and listened as I told her this house once belonged to you.   I told her I desperately needed to walk through those rooms once again.   I had to touch where you touched.   She told me she had adult sons and couldn’t imagine what I was feeling.   Handing me the keys without any questions.  My tears started to fall as the lock turned opening the door. My mind flooding with memories of walking through this door hundreds of times before.

The house was vacant.   Eerily quiet.  Looking exactly as it was the last time we walked through these rooms together.   Both of us with tears in our eyes knowing your disease robbed us of our happy place.

I sat on the living room floor, the carpet showing signs of wear.   Familiar spills and puppy accidents marking years of our life were still apparent.   Each mark told a story.   I could picture our house the way it used to be.   Full of love and laughter.   Sandy dogs running through the kitchen after romping in the surf.   Both of us trying to shoo them outside.   Laughing as we became as sandy as the dogs.

I remembered every detail.   Every moment we shared together.   Ten years of wonderful memories flooded my brain.  My mind allowing me the gift of going back in time.   I could see you standing in the kitchen.   Khaki shorts, bare feet, sun kissed hair.   “Hey Mom, can I get you a drink?”   Your face handsome and tan. Your beautiful eyes always smiling.   You loved this house by the sea.   I loved your happiness.

I walked from room to room as precious memories washed over my shattered heart.   Memories of a time when life was perfect. Settlement day.   Moving in.   Hanging pictures.   Sandy floors.   The chaos of boxes everywhere.  The joy that living by the sea brought to both of us.   Oh how proud you were of the life you built.   I remember that beautiful smile.   “Mom, can you believe this is mine”.

How I wished I had the power to go back in time.   I wanted to open my eyes and see you standing there.   I wanted to undo the ugliness that took you away.   I wanted to wake up from the nightmare that is now my reality.

I felt a profound sadness wash over me.   Still in disbelief that you were gone.   Oh God, how did this happen?   How did life take this ugly turn?   I felt your loss like never before.   This once cozy, little home so full of life, love, and laughter now stood as empty as my soul.   Tears began again as I walked through that door for the last time.   This house now a symbol of profound loss.

Walking to my car, I allowed myself one last look.   My mind playing tricks on my heart as I see you coming through the door.   That smile on your face.   Your sun bleached hair hidden under your hat.   Kahlua bouncing at your heels.  For a brief moment you were there.  I wanted to yell out.  To reach toward you touching your face.  For a fleeting second everything returned to normal.   Life was as it used to be.    I felt joy.

I remember hearing of a saying,  “Heaven Is A Little Closer In A House By The Sea”.   Imagine my surprise finding that  print while visiting a seaside town.   I couldn’t wait to hang it in our little house that represented Heaven to both of us.   I remember standing on a chair trying to guide you.   A little to the right.  No just a smidge left.   Perfect.

That print became the centerpiece of the wall.   Surrounded by pictures we both loved.   The dogs running through the breaking waves.   You standing by your precious boat.   You and Mike swimming in the bay.   Both of you tanned and smiling.   Pictures of a life that now feels a lifetime ago.   Almost like a dream.

Those memories live protected and preserved forever in my heart.  That loved print now hangs in my home.    Seeing it tugs at my heart.    Its meaning now signifies unspeakable loss.  The casualties of addiction.   My beautiful boy and a little piece of Heaven by our beloved sea. 💜💜

Grief Lives In Paradise

Matt,   It’s February.  You remember that first year when you were living in Florida?   February was the month I planned to come for a visit.  I anticipated seeing you again after 6 long months of nothing but phone conversations.   I imagined how it would feel to see you in person.  To be able to touch you again.  To feel your hug and see your incredible smile.  I was excited to see you in a new life.  To see you living on your own in the place you loved the most.   I envisioned us walking together on your beach and making plans for a beautiful future.

As you know, my dream was shattered by your unexpected death in January.  So here we are.  The third February since your death. I’ve returned to Florida.  To the Keys.  My piece of heaven on earth.  You see that was the original plan before your death.  I was spending that first week with you in Boca then heading for the Keys.  You were planning to come for a long weekend.   Once again I anticipated showing you my paradise.   I planned on how amazing it would be to show you what draws me back year after year.   The turquoise water.  The cry of the sea birds.  The vastness of the sea that surrounds the house.  This is my heaven on earth.

You never made it.  So now my paradise is bittersweet.  I remember boarding the plane.  It was an early flight.  I remember just closing my eyes and closing off the world as my earbuds blocked out the noise.   I started to pray the Serenity Prayer,  oh please God help me to accept the things I cannot change.   You see Matt, no matter how many times I say that prayer, I will never accept that you are gone.

I’m hanging in.  Until I feel the plane start to descend.  Looking out the window I see the blue water surrounded by a scattering of homes.   I hear the pilot welcoming us to Florida.  The state you took your last breath.   I feel the slap of grief.   That familiar throat tightening.   I’m choking.  The grief lives in Florida.  I stare out the window hiding my flow of tears.  Hugging myself to stop the sobs that are escaping from my broken soul.   My therapist said, “The body remembers”.   Matt, my body is remembering and physically reacting to your loss.

The airport is full of happy people.   Families reunited.   I see a young man walk into the arms of his mother.   I allow myself the fantasy that you are here.   Waiting for us.  I see your smiling face.  I hear your “Hey Mom”.   I look for you everywhere.  I hide my tears and tell myself to breathe.

Grabbing my luggage I walk out into the welcome heat and sun.   Ray grabs my hand knowing I need to get my bearings.   That I need to allow the grief to envelope me until I can breathe again.   We reach the rental car.   The radio starts to play.   The sound of Guns and Roses, Paradise City fills the air.   Oh Matt, are you here?   Guns and Roses your favorite band singing about paradise.   My tears start to flow.   Ray grabs my hand.  Smiling he tells me it’s Matt.

The drive to the Keys is indescribable.  The salt air hitting my face.   The bridges surrounded by the most beautiful turquoise water.  The cry of the sea birds welcoming me back.   I’m surrounded by Paradise as my thoughts turn to you.

Once again I look for signs that you are here.   I wonder if you know I’m back.   I talk to you as if you are walking beside me.   Listening for your voice in the sound of the wind.  I remember all the plans we made.   Plans that have now become a grieving mothers fantasy.

Reminders of your loss are everywhere.  I see you in my mind as two little boys ride skateboards down the street.  I see you standing on yours next to your brother with that famous I can do it Mom smile on your little face.  I see you in the man carrying his child on his shoulders.   I see you in the stars shining in the night sky.

It is said that grief is a journey.   That in time the pain will lessen.   I’m finding that this journey is an endless path that neither time nor place can soften.   Even returning to Paradise has become bittersweet.   Tomorrow I head home.   Leaving both my paradise and a piece of my heart behind………

 

 

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.

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….

 

 

 

 

 

Grief, The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Matt,  today, January 3rd, marks the third year since you left me behind.   Three years have passed since I’ve heard your voice or seen your handsome face.   Three years.   It just doesn’t seem real.   How did I survive three years of carrying the unbearable weight of my grief.   I sit alone and remember the moment I learned you were gone.   Three years ago, January 3rd was a Saturday.  It was snowing here and all I could think about was how lucky you were to be spending your day at the beach.  I was working in the NICU feeling jealous of your new life in sunny Florida.   Jealous that I was freezing and you were laying in the warm sun.  Little did I know you were already lying in a morgue your body lifeless, cold and blue.

For three years I’ve lived in a fog.   Disbelief allowed me to survive.   Days I pretended you really were lying on that beach being warmed by the Florida sun.  Then there were days when reality snuck in and I had to crawl through choking quicksand.  Days the weight of my grief literally had me fighting for my own life.

As a nurse, I read about how debilitating complicated grief could be.   I learned how destructive this type of grief could be to the body and soul.   Never quite understanding it’s incredible power until I was thrown into the fire after your untimely death.   You see Matt, my grief has been complicated by my guilt.   For three years I have blamed myself for your death.   I became my own personal punching bag.  Constantly allowing that rollercoaster of emotions to chip away at my very soul.

I blamed myself for not being the “best” mother.  For working while you were young.  Not having the luxury of being one of those incredible moms who had time to make meals from scratch.   You know those moms who never had to be responsible for anything else except their kids.   My beatings continued as I rehashed everything I should have done to save you from your addiction.   My guilt would never allow me to see everything that I did do.   Guilt is ugly.   Guilt only let me see all of the wrongs and none of the rights.

I remember watching you withdrawal from your opioids.   I watched your body shake, sweat and fall apart.  I watched in horror.  Never quite understanding how your body could withstand the assault.   Now it’s my body that’s being assaulted.   I’m the one withdrawing from you.   I was addicted to your addiction.   For seven years, I fought to save you.   Never once thinking that I had no control of our fate.   I was so foolish thinking I was in control of anything, especially your addiction.   Call it nurses mentality.   Nurses save and your mom was a nurse.   I spent my life saving people and  could not accept that this wonder woman of a nurse could not save her own son.

So now it’s me thats been shaking, sweating and falling apart.   For most of the past three years my soul has lived in a constant state of high anxiety.   Your death caused a permanent withdrawal that I now have to navigate my way through.  Panic attacks,  ER trips thinking I’m having a heart attack, and my new friend migraines.   Every crazy symptom all anxiety and guilt related.

I remember being told that one day I would get angry.   Angry at you for causing such profound grief.  For causing my world to spin off its axis.  For causing me to drown in this dark, ugly abyss.   This overwhelming ocean of heartbreak.  Constantly fighting the powerful undertow that drags me down on the bad days.

I never did get angry.   I forgave you the moment you left.   The person I need to forgive is me.   Three years is a long time to fight the most powerful of emotions.   Three years of blaming myself for something I could not control.   Three years of near drownings when the guilt pulled me far away from my safe shore.

I will grieve and miss you forever.   This isn’t how our story was supposed to end.   I now realize that when the guilt starts dragging me under I must reach for a life preserver.   I must focus on getting back to shore.   I must learn to swim again…………

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