Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: losing everything to addiction

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.

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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.

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.

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.

Really Rockford, Really!!!!!

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Matt,   Once again your addiction has turned our world upside down.   Mike should be home in bed, not fighting to get you admitted to a mental hospital.  I should be sound asleep not pacing like a wild animal in my darkened home.   I dial the intake number listed on their website.  No answer.  WTH.  How can a mental hospital not answer the phone in the middle of the night.  So the wait begins.  Ray has given up and gone back to bed.  Someone in this household needs to be able to function like a normal human being and right now it’s not looking too good for me.

So I wait and sit and pace until the sun starts to appear.  What the hell was going on?   How long does it take to admit someone who has attempted to end it all.   My mind is out of control.  I fight the urge to get into my car and see what the hell is happening for myself.  If this takes much longer I will have a breakdown and need one of their precious beds for myself.   Do you think we can share a room?  Do they have family suites like hotels do?   Ladies and gentlemen, this is the addicts wing.   This is where we put the addicts and their poor mothers who have now lost their minds.  I really don’t know how much more I can take.   I’m mentally and physically exhausted.   I can’t eat, barely sleep.   My face shows signs of constant stress.  I have forgotten how to smile.   Maybe I’m the one who should be admitted.  If anyone saw me beating the crap out of your dealer on my from lawn they would certainly vouch for my craziness.  I know most of my friends would.  “You’re crazy for putting up with his crap”.   “You’re crazy for letting him live with you”.   Yup just call me crazy.   Give me permission to lose my mind.   Let me find that rabbit hole and just keep sliding far, far away from here.

Headlights break into my thought.  ” Mike, what?”  I don’t even get the words out of my mouth.  “Mom, they finally admitted him”.   “Three hours, holy shit I never thought they would take him back”.    “They had me clean out his pockets”.    Pills spill out of Mike’s jacket and onto my table.   My brain screams as I see the shapes and colors all dancing across my table.   Matt, where in the hell did you get these? Enough to do the job you intended to do.   I relive beating your dealer.  My mind goes to a dark place.   If I could find him at this very moment I would force these pills down his throat and watch him die.   Yes, your honor.   I’m guilty.   I’m just the mother of an addict trying to save her son from the pusher trying to kill him.   Crazy,  yup that’s me..

So now I must wait to see you again.   There are rules to follow.   No visitors until the weekend.  No phone calls, no nothing.   I want to scream.   I’m no visitor,  my mind screams,   I’m his mother.   I try to play dumb as I once again dial the number I now have memorized in my brain.   I plead my case to deaf ears.  Please I just need to know he’s ok.  I need to know what he needs.   He is there with the clothes on his back.  I want him to be comfortable.   I need him to know I love him and I will not abandon him.   Please…..Nothing.   No information.  Thank you Federal Government for HIPPA..

My heart is in my throat as I sit in the parking lot waiting for Mike.  Never in a million years did I ever think your addiction would lead to me sitting in my car in the parking lot of a mental hospital.   In my fantasy world, you were just going to kick this, just like that.  What the hell was I thinking.   I was so lost in my thoughts that I never heard Mike until he hit the hood of my car.   “Mom, where are you.  I’ve been calling you for a few minutes, are you Ok?”   “No Mike,  I’m dreaming of a life that doesn’t exist”.   “A life free of the demons that are slowly making me crazy and killing our family.”   My tears start as Mike grabs my arm and leads me to the front door.

We have to sign in and show ID.  We sit and wait for our turn.   I stare at the enormous fish tank thinking how nice it would be to be a fish.   I hear a buzz then our name is called.   We are greeted by an attendant who leads us through a maze of doors.  He locks and unlocks doors as we follow him like rats.   I can feel that familiar throat tightening.  My heart starting to skip beats.  I feel like I’m being lead to an execution.  Last man walking.   We are left alone in a small room.  There is no air.   I can feel my guts starting to shake.   “Mike, please no confrontation,  I can’t take it.”   The door opens.   My heart drops.   You are there.  I want to run and wrap you in my arms, to tell you that I love you and it will be ok.   Your stare stops me.  Your anger is palpable.   You wear a shirt I don’t recognize.   You shoes have no laces, your pants no belt.   My mind is screaming.   Suicide precautions,   Dear God,  my son is on suicide precautions!  I felt like I’d been hit by a bat.  I feel the room spinning.  Oh no.  No you don’t.  My mind is screaming.  No passing out for you Mama.  Your demons are in the room.   Laughing.  That’s right Mama.  We almost got him this time.   We win, you lose.

Your counselor is young and naive.   You once again have used your charms to pull the wool over the eyes of those who are supposed to know.   Mike looks at me reading my mind.   He is polite but firm.   He tells the story of the last two years of the endless chaos, the nights of wondering if you were alive or dead.  The total mess our lives have become due to your using and lies.  The betrayal of everyone trying to save you.   My heart is silently breaking as I watch your brother pleading our case.   Trying to keep you in a place where you will be safe.    I watch your face.   My sweet, sweet fox.   The innocent lamb with the big bad wolf as your brother.  You once again have mastered the art of deception.   You are the victim.   I’m screaming inside my head.   I’m kicking and screaming grabbing this young, dumb so called professional and shaking the shit out of her.   Don’t you see!  Don’t you see!   He’s lying!   We are the victims.  Please, Please, don’t let him out.   You are supposed to be the expert.  Trained in the art of treating and recognizing the lying, manipulative behaviors of those in active addiction.   The hollow sound of her binder closing brings me back to the reality of the bullshit that just went down in this airless room.   I am numb.   Nothing we have said means anything.   You, my fox are an adult.   You are the one in charge.

We are escorted out through the rat maze.   I crumble into a mess when I feel the air on my face.   Mike is pissed.   “WTF, Mom, WTF”.    I sit in my car and watch Mike pull away.   Mike’s too proud to let me see his tears.   I sit in my car.   I am numb.   Did this really happen?   My mind replaying the scene over and over.   I feel the sobs racking my body.  The familiar waves of helplessness washing over and pulling me down into the abyss.   I lost track of time.   I’m now sitting in darkness, the parking lot mostly empty.   My eyes are closed as I try to formulate a plan to fix this.   A loud thumb startles me as I look into the face of a security guard.   I roll my window down knowing my eyes are swollen and red.   ‘Lady, you ok?”   I smile and shake my head.   My mind screaming.   Do I look ok you stupid, stupid man.   I’m sitting alone sobbing in my car in the empty parking lot of a mental hospital where my son is a patient.   What the hell do you think?

Driving home I’m once again accompanied by me, myself and I.   We are having a conversation about what to do.   Funny, I thought my days of talking to myself were over, but here I was once again asking questions and answering them.   I don’t even look over at the car next to me.  Yup,  whatever you’re thinking about the crazy blonde driving the car is true.   Yup, she’s lost her mind…

The letter I write details our life through your addiction.   I leave nothing out.  No more dirty little secrets, nothing but the God’s honest truth.   Ladies and gentlemen this is the true story of Matt’s life.   This is not fiction, this is the reality of the disease of addiction and how it is slowly killing my family.   I could not make this shit up.   The letter is two pages long.   I send it to the psychiatrist that you’ve met once.   Another copy to your counselor and another to the social worker.   I say a silent prayer as I hit send.   My heart is afraid.

So here it is Thanksgiving.   I sent my letter two days ago and still no response.   My heart is in my throat as I pull into this dreaded parking lot.   Once again I’m led through the maze, but this time there are parents who look just like me.   Sorrow spilling from their pores as we follow like mechanical robots all waiting to see our children.    We are taken to the gym.   A big room filled with small tables.   I see you sitting  staring at me as I approach.   I kiss the top of your head before I sit.   We are told we have one hour.   My mind is pissed.   WTH is this prison.   It’s Thanksgiving and I am generously being given an hour to see my son.   “So you wrote a letter and sent it to everybody”.   Shit, shit, shit.   Those bastards ratted me out.   I try to stay calm, putting on that mask I’ve come to hide behind when I know the shit is getting ready to fly.   “Yes, I did”.   “They need to know the truth, I’m trying to get you the help you need since you have pulled the wool right over their eyes”.    You look at me and laugh.   “Don’t matter Mom, don’t matter”.    I try to make small talk while struggling to hold back the flood of tears threatening to fly out of my eyes.   You ask if I brought smokes.   Against my better judgement I hand you a pack.   You are restless and quiet.   Oh Matt, my heart is breaking.   It’s Thanksgiving.   We should be home.   I should be making stuffing as the smell of Turkey floats through the house.   You should be watching football and hanging out with Mike.   But we are here trying to act normal in the most un- normal place.    I’ve never felt so alone in my life.   It’s as if you can’t wait to get away from me and all I want to do is hang on to you.   My fantasy is to grab you and run like the wind.   To find the rabbit hole and fall and fall holding onto each other.   Laughing and hugging and flying away from the ugly reality that is our life.   I want to run into the Queen and grab her Axe and chop off the heads of your demons,  freeing us both from the grip they have on our lives.   I want to live in Wonderland and be happily ever after.   A guard appears and calls time.   I look around and see the sad faces of parents like me.   I look at you and smile through my tears.   They have begun to fall, I have lost control.   You give me a hug and walk away.

So once again, I’m lined up and led through the maze.   One door opens while another slams shut.   I make it outside before the sobs hit like a wave I can’t pull out of.   I’m drowning in my grief.   Thanksgiving,  my son eating with strangers while I sob all the way home.    Thanksgiving, sorry Lord, there’s nothing to give thanks for.

It’s Saturday morning.   I’m finally recovering from our visit.   Trying to hope my letter made a difference.   My phone rings and your picture pops up.   I grab it on the second ring.   “Hey Mom,  I’m getting out today”.   You sound like it’s just another Saturday, not like you’re calling me from a psych hospital.   I want to vomit.   I try to mask the horror in my voice.   “What, they think you are ready to leave, seriously”.    “Thanks Mom,  glad you’re so happy to hear from me”.   “You picking me up or not”.    “Matt, who said you’re ready?”   “I want to talk to your counselor”.     “Forget it Mom,  I’m discharged.   You coming or not?”

I pull up.   You are standing in the parking lot a smoke hanging from your lips.   Your shoes are tied and your pants are belted.    Well I guess the geniuses think it’s safe. Your possessions are in a brown bag.    My heart breaks when I remember the man you were.   The owner of a beach house.   The owner of a thriving garage.   Living with a beautiful girl.   Living the life by the sea.   Now you are left with the clothes on your back and whatever you hold in that bag.   God how I hate what this disease has done to you and me.   You open the door, take a last drag and throw the butt to the ground.   I put on the mask.   The mask I hide behind.   I hear the sound of the rollercoaster pulling up.   The sound of the breaks as it stops outside my car.   I feel the bar come down to lock me in place.   I feel my stomach start flipping as the coaster pulls out of the station.    I close my eyes and hold on as we climb and climb.   I feel each level.   Higher and higher.   I look over and see your smiling face.   The face I love so dearly.   A face that has become a master at deception.   I grip the wheel and pray……….

Hey Mom, What’s Up With Matt….

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Matt,  in my mind you are safe.  Just for this night I can close my exhausted eyes and let sleep take over my brain.  I tell myself this is a start.  You were willing to finally go.  After all the screaming matches we had about you needing rehab it took your peers to convince you how messed up you really were.  At this point it really didn’t matter how you got there,  just that you were there and for tonight my heart and mind would find peace in beautiful sleep.  No laying awake worrying or constantly checking my phone.  No more jumping out of bed when I hear a car pass by.  Just for tonight I kept telling myself,  just for tonight sleep…

I woke to the phone ringing.  I couldn’t believe the time.  Almost noon.  I couldn’t believe I’d slept that long.  Ray was long gone and I never heard a sound.  Even the pups still lay beside me in lazy slumber.  Looking at the phone as if to say how dare anyone wake us.  I didn’t remember ever sleeping that deep.  Not since you came home and your addiction took over my life.   I answer.  A voice I don’t recognize introduces herself as your counselor.  Would I be interested in a family meeting.  Absolutely.  She tells me you are being detoxed and I can not visit or speak to you until the day of the meeting.  She gives me the date and I tell her I will be there.  I hang up feeling relief.  My mind once again reliving the day.  The hell you put me through.  I really didn’t want to talk to you yet.  I still had to calm myself down.  I still could not believe the ugliness that took over my sweet boy when you didn’t have your pills.  I was getting an education in addiction that I really didn’t sign up for.  I wanted my normal son.  I wanted my normal life.  My mind and body still feeling the aftermath of your fury.  I needed a mental health break.  Just a few days not consumed by your addiction was all I could think about.  You were where you needed to be and for once I could just relax and enjoy being home.

I tried to be normal.  To do normal things.  The laundry, grocery shopping,  walking the dogs, but that little voice kept breaking thru.  Go look, go look.  You don’t have to worry about him finding you in his stuff.  Go look.  Ok, so now here I am.  I want and need a break from your addiction, but with you away the time for my searching is just perfect.  Don’t have to calm my racing heart.  Don’t have to depend on the dogs barking to alert me to your return.  It’s just me, myself and I plus your demon pills.

So much for normal I tell myself as I carry the ladder and a flashlight to your space.  How convenient for me that you lived in my finished basement.  I didn’t even have to leave the house to play spy mom.  So now I take my time.  Lifting ceiling tiles and looking.  Dumping drawers and emptying boxes.  Taking my time and finding pieces of a life I had no idea you lived.  The more I searched, the more I found.  My shocked brain kept saying WTH you weren’t raised to be this kind of person.  To hang with these kind of people.  Oh my God.  I sat and realized I was pretending all along that you weren’t one of them.  The addict who hung out with the bad boys.  The addict who lied and fought for your demons.  I felt like I’d been slapped in the face.  Reality.  Addiction the four letter word.  My son is an addict.  I never found your pills but I found so much more.

I sit in stunned silence.  Finally seeing you and your addiction for what is was.  Dirty, ugly, deceitful.  My little sweet boy had grown into a man with a horrible disease that made him do horrible things.  I felt the tears and the tightness taking hold of my body.  Damn you,  my mind is screaming.  The phone startles me.  Hey Mom,  I can’t get Matt.  What’s up with him.  Something isn’t right.  Do you know where he is.   Oh God, Mike.  My mind is saying,  while you’ve been away serving our country busting the drug cartel your brother has been giving them business.  My mouth doesn’t move.  Now the all familiar heart racing, throat tightening that has become my bodies automatic response takes over.  Mike,  we need to talk.

I will never forget the look on your face.  I could feel your anger as I told you about the dirty little secret.   WTF Mom.  Why didn’t you tell me.  WTH were you doing.  I had a right to know.  Mike, my eyes are pleading with you.  I couldn’t put you at risk.  You were gone.  Out to sea dealing with your own life.  What could you have done.  I try to defend my decision.  Please Mike,  I can’t battle both my boys.  I did what I thought was the right thing to keep you safe.  You could not be worrying about your brother and do your job.  You needed a clear head.   I was pleading for my life.  Once again your addiction was the poison hurting our once close family.   Where is he Mom.  Is that why the beach house is gone.  Is that why he lives with you.  All these questions deserved answers.  I felt so guilty for keeping our secret.  No more Matt.  No more secrets in our family.  I needed all the help I could get.  Maybe your brother could get through to you.  Maybe just maybe we could work together to save you.

Mike knows everything.  No more dirty secrets.  He knows you have an addiction to pills.  He knows all the horror we have lived through these last years while he was away.  He is both shocked and saddened that you have lost so much and still use.  He knows about the family meeting.  He is coming.

Your big brother wraps me in a hug as I cry letting the years of grief, worry and uncertainty rush from my body like wave after wave hitting the sandy shore.  The release of loving a son with a horrible disease.  The relief of having someone who loves you as much as I do know our journey.  I pray you will understand my need to come clean.  The burden of your addiction has broken both my spirit and my heart.  I need backup.  I need help.  Forgive me Matt.  I need all hands on deck.  Your demons must be stopped and I’m tired.  Your brother will step up and join the fight.  He never had a fear of rollercoasters….

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