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.