Matt.   The wait felt endless.  The four of us sitting together.  The silence is deafening.  I am praying that you will survive.  I hate being a nurse.  My knowledge is killing me.   We wait for hours.  I watch the sun go down from the window and pray this will not be your last day on earth.  I relive every moment.  I hate myself for telling you to leave.  I hate the fighting, the chaos, the destruction your addiction has thrust on our lives.  I want you to be that little towhead boy again.  The one who holds my hand and gives me hugs and kisses.  I want to close my eyes and go back in time.  Where are my ruby red slippers when I need them.

So once again I wait.  I tell everyone to go.  I will stay and call if anything changes.  Ray, Mike and Heather need to get some rest.  Everyone having to work in the morning but me.   Terri brings a pillow and blanket.  I camp out in the ICU waiting room.  My body shaking uncontrollably as I try to settle in for the night.   I curl up in a chair and let the tears come.  How many times will we go through this until you realize your demons are killing you.  Little by little, piece by piece, your body and mind are leaving me.    I try to calm my mind.  I jump with every noise.  Fearing the worst.  I give up on sleep and pace the room.  I talk to God.

The girls in the NICU have heard.  The hospital grapevine.  They come bringing coffee and soup.  They sit and let me sob covering me in their hugs.  They are mother’s and can’t believe this has happened again.   Your surgeon finds me.  You are being moved to the ICU.  No surgery for now.  Heavily drugged, your battered body covered in warm blankets.  I watch you being wheeled behind those doors.  The doors where I know you will get the best of care.  The doors that will separate us for now.  I’m told your nurse will come after you are settled.   Time is standing still.  I need to see you.  To tell you I am here.  To tell you I love you.  To let you know that no matter what I will never give up this fight.  You have taken my world and spun it out of control.  Shattering my peaceful life into a million pieces.   People tell me to walk away to save myself.  You are not worth the pain you put me through.  I remember you before the demons.  My beautiful boy.  My go to guy.  My baby.  I find a strength in my soul I never felt before.  I know that I will stand by you until I can stand no more.

Matt, your recovery is slow and steady.  I become a fixture in the waiting room.  Visiting you for 15 minutes every hour.  I obey the rules, not wanting to cause conflict with your nurses’ or the other anxious waiting parents.  I sit in scrubs or street clothes depending on my purpose for that day.  Back to saving Matt or saving babies.  I spend every free minute waiting to see your face.  To watch your reaction to your pain.  I wonder if you realize how close you came to death.   I wonder if this will be your so called rock bottom or if the pull from your demons will drag you back to the hell that landed you in this ICU.

Mike and Ray are in and out.  Both offering food and coffee.  Both knowing I can barely eat and am going nowhere until you are out of the woods.  When I visit you are quiet.  An IV hanging, giving you monitored doses of your favorite cocktail.  Your breathing is comfortable.  Your body looks like a giant eggplant with a human head sitting on top.  I sit on your bed and hold your hand.  Tears run down my face.  I can’t allow myself to think of what could have happened.  The nightmare that haunts my daily thoughts.  Losing you.  You open your eyes and smile.  I squeeze your hand and kiss your cheek.  “I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck” you say and give me a little laugh.   I allow myself a laugh, a deep breath.  You are back.

The next days are one of laughing, crying and biting my tongue.  You are moved to a step down unit and are expected to get up and move.  Yup, my spoiled boy, this party is over.   Your drugs are being weaned and you are being pushed.  I hear you before I find your room.   Your flirty eyes and sweet smile are getting you nowhere as the nurses are onto you.   I hear their whispers, drug seeker, addict.  I cringe inside when I remember being one of them.  Making judgements about people and their pain without knowing their story.  I remember and feel shame.  I continue our charade of nurse/mother to a man who survived a horrible accident.   I visit with my painted smile as you cuss and threaten when your demons are not delivered at your request.  I remain calm when inside I am dying.  You behave like an addict.  A stranger.  You scream at me and tell me I don’t understand your pain.  I don’t live in your body.  I try to reason with your abuse.   The nurse’s look at me with pity in their eyes.  They feel my pain.

Discharge day arrives.  I brace myself.  Your surgeon is taking over your pain control.  You see Matt, I have another dirty little secret.  Your surgeon and I go way back.  He has my back.  Joined my team to save Matt.  So now the fun begins.   I pick you up at the front door.  You are wheeled out by one of your nurses.  She hugs me and whispers good luck.  You see Matt, nurses have an unspoken bond.  They had my back too.  I was the one calling the shots during your recovery.  I spilled my guts the night I thought you were leaving me.  Your surgeon held me as I cried and together we formed a plan.   Detox during recovery.  I know if you ever find out I am done.    I will once again be the bitch.  The mother fu**** that gets into your business.  The enemy trying to save your life so she can save hers.  I hear your grunt as I hand you the bottle that you love more than life.  I brace myself for the reaction I have come to fear.  Your first words to me “What the F***”, when you see the dose prescribed.   Your eyes bore into my soul.  You turn your back as you say the words I pray you don’t mean.  Matt, how can you hate me when I am the one picking up your pieces.  The one who loves you more than her life.  The one slowly dying inside with you.  Your addiction no longer  belongs to you.  It has become who I am.  I’m disappearing with you.  Your demons are taking me along for the ride.  It’s not all about you.  It’s about a mother who will never give up.  A mother who will kick, scream and claw our way out of your addiction.  A mother who would rather die than see you continue to destroy her precious boy.

The house is silent.  I offer you food.  I try to let you know how blessed we are that you lived.  I wait for a response.  I get nothing.  You are in that world.  You have chosen sides.   The battle begins again.  I pray for strength.  I close my eyes and dream that I am Alice floating down the rabbit hole.  Leaving all this shit behind.   I am slowly losing myself.  Pieces of me are floating away.  I imagine myself disappearing.   Then I hear the laughter.  Your demons.  I become the Queen of Hearts.  My army chopping off their heads…….