Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: relationships (page 1 of 4)

Screaming Through The Stages Of Grief

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Matt.   I remember being a nursing student and studying the 5 stages of grief.   The book On Death & Dying written by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross became every nurses’ bible.   I studied each stage trying to understand the power of grief over our hearts and souls.   During my nursing career,  I became a witness to the grief experience as I helped many families say good bye to their loved ones.   The echo of screams and uncontrollable sobbing etched themselves forever into my brain.   I carried these experiences with me throughout my career.   Never once did I ever think I would be the one screaming.

My education consisted of the theory  that grief followed a straight path.   That we put one foot in front of the other as we climbed the steps from one stage to the next.   I always pictured grief as a linear process.   We had to pass one stage before we could emotionally handle the next.  Textbook grief was so well defined.   Like a Lego project, one step built upon the other until you reached the top and returned to the old you.   People were thought to be “returning to normal” or “getting on with life” after “surviving” all the firsts.   Grief was supposed to be a temporary place where hearts and souls healed.   Grief was like a passing ship.   The impact was felt as the wake hit the pier but soon the waters became calm again and supposedly life returned to “normal”.    I always felt grief was like an exam.   You had to start with the first question before you could get to the last question.

My grief theory was crushed on a snowy January day.   Grief found me.   You died and my world came crumbling down.   That supposedly predictable and orderly pattern that I studied made no sense now that I was the one living it.    To be honest nothing made sense.   30 months later nothing makes sense.

Your death has been such a devastating, disorienting time.   There are days I don’t know how I will ever reach that final step of Acceptance.   Really, am I supposed to just accept that your addiction killed you?   I’m just supposed to chalk it up to life.   I’m just supposed to accept that I can’t pick up the phone and hear your voice.   Accept that you left without warning.   Without a chance to hold you as you took your last breath as I did after you took your first?

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I am stuck.   Denial and Anger hold my hands.   They are my constant companions.   Denial keeps me somewhat sane.   Anger fuels my desire to fight the broken system.   The system that let us down and let you die.   I was not prepared for the power of my grief.   I was not prepared to become a stranger to who I once was.   I was not prepared for the reflection staring back at me when I glance in a mirror.   Grief has washed my face and lives in my eyes.   Grief doesn’t know its stages.   It doesn’t know that after all “the firsts” I’m supposed to keep climbing that grief staircase until I get to the top and shout Hoorah I’m done.  I survived.   I made it through and to the top!

My grief is clever.   It’s tricky.   Letting me think that today will be ok.   Today I will be “normal”.   Today I will feel joy.   Today I will not be carrying its weight on my chest.  Today will be better.   Today my grief will be predictable.

The reality of my grief is floating on a tiny raft in a big unpredictable ocean.   Waves hit hard tossing me in the frigid water.   They pull away allowing me to catch my breath before hitting again.    My grief has me floating in a fog never knowing when it will sneak up.  Grief creeps up and squeezes me from behind as a memory hits or a song plays.   I’m dry eyed one minute, a sobbing mess the next.

I have learned in my reality there are no stages of grief.   Grief is a crapshoot.   It shifts and changes.   It’s never the same minute to minute, hour to hour.    Grief ebbs and flows.   Grief has it’s own mind.   It makes you feel like you’re losing what’s left of your mind.  Grief cannot be contained or controlled.     Grief has moved into my soul and I have no idea how to evict it.

 Grief is as unique as a fingerprint.   Grief has no set pattern.  However we survive is how we survive.   The only thing I’ve learned for sure is that until you meet grief you have no imaginable idea of it’s power over your life.   The other think I know for sure is that Grief Sucks!!!!!!!

United By Addiction. Bonded By Grief

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Matt,

I had the amazing experience of attending The Fed Up Rally and the Unite to Face Addiction concert in Washington DC this weekend.   When I was in the midst of the battle to find you help I felt so alone.   I felt isolated.   I felt that no one cared.   I had no idea how many other mother’s knew my heartbreak.

I was having second thoughts about attending.   Every weather report dampened my spirits and made me think of staying home and staying dry.   Then I looked at your picture and felt that gut punch of knowing you were really gone.    The broken system  failed us both and you paid with your life.   As I continued to stare into your  beautiful eyes, I felt a power in my soul like I’d never experienced  before.   I’d walked through hell during your active addiction, why would I let the threat of heavy rain and wind keep me away.

I read about the Rally in the paper.   They were asking for stories of recovery and hope.   I had written a piece telling our story and included your picture.   To my surprise, It was published and I was humbled.   I also sent your picture to be included in The Addicts Mom’s quilt.   There was no way I was going to miss seeing your face being remembered at this amazing event.

I took a bus early Saturday morning with a small group from Delaware.   We knew each other’s grief, each of us losing a child.   Saturday was an emotional day for me.   It was the nine month anniversary of your death and here I was riding a bus in the rain to attend a rally for drug addiction.   My tears fell along  with the rain drops as I remembered the struggle to find you help.    Unfortunately, Delaware had no rehabs.   We have one detox unit that never had any beds when you finally agreed to get clean.    I remembered conversations begging your insurance company to approve treatment only to be told that you had no days left.   How could they treat your disease like you were not worth the time or money spent to save your life?   Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think you would die and I would be on a bus heading to Washington participating in a march to The White House.

The bus dropped our group off at the hotel.   We grabbed our rain gear and headed to the memorial.  The sky was grey with a light rain falling mimicking my mood.   The closer I got the more I could feel the atmosphere changing.   When we reached the mall, I was shocked at the size of the crowd.   People just like me.   Strangers who knew my grief and walked in my shoes.   Strangers whose faces looked just like mine.   Shock and disbelief marked us as those left behind.  Eyes swollen and empty as we wiped tears away with the sleeve of our shirt.

The stage held a memorial filled with names of those who lost their battle.  I was brought to my knees when I saw your name.  My precious son surrounded by hundreds of those who like you are gone forever.  I felt that too familiar gut punch as my tears started to fall.  I wore your picture on a lanyard around my neck.   I grabbed it and started to sob.     A complete stranger came and wrapped me in her arms.   Whispering that she understood my pain.   Here we were two mothers, strangers, holding each other up as the rain mixed with our tears.    Sharing stories of children lost.   I witnessed the kindness of strangers forever bonded by a common grief.

I was waiting outside The Addicts Mom’s tent.   They were preparing to unveil the quilt.   I remember the wind blowing  and the rain hitting my face.   My eyes searching the many squares until I saw your face.   Your beautiful smile right in the center of this beautiful handmade creation.   The sound of a wounded animal came from my lips as I stood letting the rain mix with my tears hugging myself against the heartbreaking pain.   Arms reached for me.   Another mother who got it.   We rocked each other in the rain and wind as we shared our heart breaking grief.   Another mother living my life, knowing my pain.   Angels walking among the crowd comforting strangers.

We formed groups as we prepared to walk to the White House.   I looked around in awe.   Thousands of people all here for the same reason.   The broken system failed their loved ones.   I was no longer alone.   We marched together.   We hugged each other.   We shed tears together as we shouted out against a system that must be changed.   We were empowered by the numbers.   We were heard.   I walked back to the hotel with a couple who lost their son.   We now call each other friend.   This event formed a bond never to be broken.

Sunday morning came with my familiar face in the mirror.   Puffy eyes staring back at me.   My face changed by grief.   The price of addiction is what I now call my new look.   I have forgotten how to smile.   I attended a breakfast in Arlington hosted by The Addicts Mom group.   A group no mother wants to belong to but the circumstances of life have left us no choice.   It was emotional to meet all the mothers I’ve supported and who have supported me on Facebook.   These women have walked through the same hell and get it.   Again I came face to face with the quilt.   Your smiling face staring back at me and again another mother held me as I shattered into pieces.

There really are no words to describe Sunday’s event.   The crowd tripled from Saturday.  The weather cold, and dreary.   I stood on the hill by The Monument.   In awe at the number of people from all parts of the country coming together to demand better care for the disease of addiction.   Many holding pictures and banners with names and dates.   All here to honor the ones they loved and lost.  Those in recovery were celebrating  a new sober life.   Everyone had a story to tell.   Strangers sharing their souls with strangers.  Sharing the bonds of love, loss and hope.

Sunday evening Joe Walsh and his fellow musicians held a concert to honor those lost and those struggling to survive.   A tribute to this deadly disease.   The crowd came alive.  When the music started the atmosphere became one of happiness and hope.   Rich and famous artists coming out and admitting they were once addicts.  Speeches by people who care and will fight to make changes.  Hope.   I could feel it in the air, at last there was hope.   Our new Surgeon General gets it.   Lawmakers now ready to join our fight  providing equal treatment for the disease of addiction.  Hope.   I stood with a crowd of strangers and danced to the music.  Joy I hadn’t felt for so long coursed through my soul.  We held onto each other when a  song hit a nerve and tears returned.   We sang out loud.  We were empowered.   Too many people fighting for the same cause.   Everyone remembering loved ones.   Honoring them by speaking out against the stigma.

I still get chills when I look at my pictures of all the faces lost.   Pictures of people coming together and lifting each other up in spirit.   Strangers becoming friends.   Promises of keeping in touch.  Of working together for the greater good.   I’m humbled by this experience and I know I will never be the same.   I no longer feel alone as I remember the beauty of seeing thousands of people coming together demanding change.

There is a saying, If God closes one door he opens another.   My new door has opened and I know I have thousands of people fighting the same fight.   I will be your voice.   I will remember your smiling face on that quilt surrounded by a hundred others.    No longer alone but humbled by the compassion of strangers.

Surviving The Reality Of Mother’s Day

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Matt.   Mother’s Day is two days away.   I can feel the dread hanging outside my heart.   Like a lost dog it’s crying to be let in.   I’ve fought all week, keeping my mind so busy hoping that I would forget what this Sunday signifies.   I’m fighting for my life.   Battling my reality against the fantasy I’ve created in my mind.   I can not allow myself to believe that you are gone.   I must protect my sanity with every ounce of my strength.   In my mind you are living at the beach.   Living life in recovery.   Working and healthy.   My fantasy is where I go when the abyss calls to me.   Threatening to take me to a place I can not allow myself to go.  Hanging on like the cat hanging from that tall tree.   Knowing if my grip loosens I will fall so deeply into grief I may never return.

My survival depends on how long I can pretend.   Reality is dark and ugly.   My legs push through quick sand trying to run from what is real.   Trying desperately to keep my mind in fantasy mode.   Knowing the mask I wear will crack and crumble if reality sinks in.   I tell myself it’s just another Sunday.   I avoid looking at Mother’s Day cards when shopping.   I stay as far away as I can from reminders that there will be no more cards signed Love Matt.

This grief can never be described.   There are no books instructing me on how to survive a day that brings such incredible pain.   A day that even Hallmark can not put into words.

I plan to run away.   Like an angry, unhappy child I am running to find my peace.   Our sea beckons me to come, to breathe and to remember.   I need to be where you were.   I need to feel you wrap around me like the ocean breeze.   I need to hear the seagulls cry your name.   I need to sit and hold onto myself while allowing my mind to go there.

I will allow myself to remember past Mother’s Days spent together by the sea.   Sitting close as the sun kissed our skin with warmth.   Walking together with the pups.   The surf soaking our pants as unexpected waves hit.   Laughing as wet, sandy dogs ran barking and biting at the surf spray hitting their noses.   A mother and her youngest son spending time together at their peaceful place.   A son, a man fighting a horrible disease.   A mother who refused to give up.   A mother now grieving your loss.   Her heart shattered into a million pieces never to be whole again.

Those days full of hope and dreams.   Sun, surf and a love shared between a mother and her son.  You were never too old to say I love you Mom.   Never too old for hugs.   A little boy in the body of a man.  My forever towhead running on the beach squealing with delight as the waves rushed to pull you in.   Reaching for me to be your anchor, pulling you safely ashore.   You and I had something special.   A truth, an honesty that few shared.   I was never afraid to tell you how much you meant to me.   How much your addiction changed my life.   How badly my heart ached for you and how helpless I felt in your battle.

This Mother’s Day,  I will allow bits of reality to find a path through my fantasy.   Memories now so painful and precious are what I have left of us.   Those precious days we shared by the sea.   Like a film projector, I will control how much my heart can handle.   I will protect my sanity while allowing those memories to keep you alive.   I will look for signs that you are there walking by my side.   I will close my eyes and hear your voice.   I will see your smile in the clouds.   I will pray that you know I’m here in our special place looking for the missing piece of my heart.   Be my anchor my beautiful boy.   I need you to keep me sane.  Until we meet again I will always look for you.

Smile, We’re All On Candid Camera

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Matt,  having you home was like living in hell.  I thought I saw all your ugliness spew from you before the accident.  Never realizing how much control your demon’s had over your brain.   I walked on eggshells holding my breath.  Choosing my words carefully.  Trying not to piss off the sleeping dragon.   I stayed home for a week.  I was emotionally battered.  I never remember feeling such joy knowing that in a few days I would be returning to saving the babies.   A touch of normal that I needed so badly.

So here we were stuck in another of you’re addiction dilemma’s.   Was it safe to leave you unsupervised.   You were instructed not to drive, but you never were one to follow instructions.  Especially  when the demons were calling.   You’re cravings were in control and there was no stopping you from leaving the house to find the love’s of your life.   I had no choice.  I had to return to work and to be honest with you, I needed to get away from your ugliness.  I called Mike to give him a head’s up. “Mom, you know he can’t be trusted.”   “Yeah Mike, I know.”  It broke my heart that after this brush with death you still thought you were invincible.  Taking your keys was a joke.  I knew you were sly like a fox and probably had another set hidden somewhere in the house.  Plus, you’re a mechanic.  I’ve heard your stories of hot wiring cars.  That familiar feeling of helplessness grabbed my heart again as we brainstormed on how to once again save you from yourself.

Your addiction was seeping through the fabric of our family.   Turning what should have been a joyous occasion into a problem that would keep us in a constant state of stress.  All the reasoning with you about being given a second chance fell on deaf ears.  You looked at me like I was the enemy, not you’re mom who once again was trying to save you.

Our house became a revolving door.  Who ever was free the day’s I worked would arrive with the pretense of “hanging out with Matt”.   At first you thought it was great.  You thought you could batter your  friends into taking you to get some extra poison.   Believe me I heard how manipulative you were becoming, but your friends were my army, the Queen’s men cutting the head off your plan of self destruction.

I guess I forget just how sly you could be when pushed to the limit.  You played the game to perfection.  I would come home to my daily verbal assaults.  Thinking my plan was working.  Little did I know you had found an old contact and now had a delivery service right to the front door.  Better than UPS or Amazon, you were the biggest shit with the perfect smile.   I knew something was up.  You were just too happy.  Back to the old Matt.   Mom’s intuition.  Ok Matt let’s dance.

The camera’s were installed in every room.  Yup even the bedrooms.  Hidden behind pictures and in plants.  I felt like James Bond.  Little devices that allowed us to watch and hear your every move.  Spying on my son.  Dear God, what I wouldn’t do to save you from yourself.  At first I felt guilty when I snuck upstairs to watch the new reality TV show that’d become my life.   I named it, “Find Matt and Guess What He’s Up To.”   I honestly had no idea what I would see.  I was scared to death.

This took the place of our old game.  You hide, I seek.  With you underfoot all day I just couldn’t picture myself carrying down my ladder and going through the ceiling tiles like the old days.  Shit, that was so much easier than playing I spy.   I soon got over my guilt as I watched your hands explore places I would have bet my life you would never go near.  Soon things began disappearing.  Little things.  Things I never would have missed had I not seen it attached to your hand.

You were right back to that Matt.  Your supply coming right to our door.  Being financed by me, Mike and Ray.  WTH was I going to do.  Stealing to buy your perc’s. My heart broke every time I saw what you were up to.   My Matt once again under the control of the devil.  There’s a saying that “An addict will steal your wallet then help you look for it”.   Well holy shit I was living that life.

I remember the day the shit hit the big ugly addiction fan.  You borrowed a Dremel kit from Mike.   You would spent your days making jewelry or so you said.  I use the word borrowed, but in reality you sold it right out from under him.  “Hey Mom, does Matt have my Dremel set?”   That question was the opening of Pandora’s box. You are both downstairs.  I hear your voices.  Louder and louder.  Brother fighting brother as the addict helps  look for something he can’t even remember selling.   In the midst of the screaming, I hear the doorbell.   A delivery for Matt.

I remember grabbing the guy by his shirt.  Words unknown to mankind fly out of my mouth.   I slap him and push him off the porch.  He was expecting Matt.  I am in such a rage I don’t hear or see anything.  I am punching and kicking and screaming at your buddy.  All the years of pent up rage flying out of my arms and fists.  Beating your demon with everything in my soul.   I am pushed aside.  Your brother shoving me to safety.    Mike is bigger.  Your demon runs dropping his delivery.   I throw myself on the bottle before he can grab his loss.   He is gone.   The pills are mine.

I am shaking, bruised and bleeding.   Mike is trying to calm me as the sobs come.   You appear.  “WTF” are the words we hear.  You’re face says it all.   Your eyes hate me.    You see the bottle.   “WTF did you do?”   I run to the bathroom.   Mike grabs you as I throw your poison away.   Your words cut my heart.   Mike is threatening to punch your face if you don’t shut your mouth.

You and Mike now going at each other.  Like panthers coming in for the kill.  Sizing each other up.   I close my eyes and remember my two little boys.   Loving, happy, the best of friends.   Addiction has changed the fabric of our family.   What started as a small tear has now ripped us wide open.   I try to come between you but I get the look to keep my distance.   This battle is between you and Mike.   I go upstairs.  I throw the camera shattering it into pieces.   Broken pieces like our family.   I see myself in the mirror.  My swollen eyes, bruised  arms.   I grab a towel cover my mouth and scream…….

 

 

 

Tough Love From A Tender Hearted Mother

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Matt.   You really did it this time.  It takes a lot to upset Ray and he is pissed.   The fact that you were going to let me go to jail and risk my nursing career just about blew his mind.  I keep telling Ray you are sick.  That you need help but your actions and attitude really aren’t helping my case.   I planned to spend this week relaxing in my garden, but now I have to put the fires caused by your addiction out and try to keep this family together.

I’m in the kitchen drinking coffee staring out the window.  I’m so lost in my thoughts that I don’t realize you are up.  I can’t even bring myself to look at your face.  I’m still having a hard time believing that after all we have been through together and everything I’ve done to help keep you safe that you would throw me to the wolves.  I’ve read about  tough love.  How parent’s throw their addicts out.  Turn their backs.  No home, no food, having nothing to do with their once loved kids.   I’ve read that the only way to save an addict is to let them hit rock bottom.   The problem with tough love is I’m not tough.  I loved you and all I cared about was getting you straight and keeping you that way.   I knew my back was against the wall.  I never though Ray would say those words.  I just didn’t know if I was strong enough to kick you out and your rock bottom scared me to death.

You brush past me without a word.  My heart is breaking.  Where are you? What happened to my funny, loving son?  Who is this stranger living in your skin?  My mind asking questions as my lips remain silent.  I’m trying not to cry.  I’m so emotionally beat up.  All I want is my son and my life to be normal.  I’ve forgotten what those days were like.  The days before the demons became your love.  When life was full of joy, before the chaos and drama starting chipping away at our lives.  I wanted it all back.  I wanted to grab you and shake you and rid your body of the poison slowly killing us all.

“Hey Matt, we need to talk”.   I wait for your response.  Nothing.  You are ignoring me.  Your demons have control.  I say it again, “Matt, we need to talk”.  You look at me with glassy eyes.  My heart sinks.  “Matt, this has to stop”.  “You need to get into a rehab or find another place to live”.   There, I’ve said it.  Those words I never thought I’d say.   Out of my mouth and floating between us like poison gas.  I hold my breath and wait for your reaction.  You look at me and smile.  “You can’t throw me out,  you have to evict me”.   “I looked it up”.   You continue to gloat as you make a cup of coffee and float downstairs.   I’m sitting there in shock.  I grab my laptop and google eviction.  I’ll be damn, you were right.  Holy shit.  How can this be.  I own this house.  You’ve never paid a dime to live here.  Just do your drugs and eat the food.  This is crazy.  Now I have to pay court costs to get you to leave.  My brain is reeling while my heart is relieved.  The perfect excuse.  No tough love.  I can’t be blamed by anyone.  For me it’s a win/win situation.  I did what Ray wanted.  Told you to leave.

Ray comes home expecting you to be gone.  I decide to play my I don’t know what you’re talking about game.  To slip into my pretend world.  I pretend we are just like any other family.  We had a misunderstanding and need to work it out.  Ray starts to question me.  I tell him we talked.  I share the information about kicking someone out that has lived at the residence for years.  I tell him this is your home.  You hear him come in and stupidly decide to come and challenge him.  Oh God, I’m looking at you willing you to shut your mouth.  My eyes pleading for your silence.  This is not the time to be cocky.   I feel the anger building.  You are high and mighty, untouchable.  Your words are ugly.  “F*** you, you can’t make me leave.  I live here”.   I hear the words and start to slowly die inside.  You are out of control and Ray is done.  I’ve never seen Ray so angry.  He pushes past you,  grabs a backpack filled with your stuff.  “Get the hell out”.  He is screaming, you are screaming and I am disappearing.   I watch in horror, tears flowing as Ray grabs you and throws you out the door.  Oh God,  I can’t do this.  You are my baby.  I have to save you.  I grab Ray and his eyes tell me to back off.   This is between you and him.  I’m sobbing and pleading for us to calm down and take a breath.  These ugly people are not who we are. Dear God, you look at me hate spewing from your eyes.  Ray slams the door and pushes past me.  I hold myself,  sobbing as you get into your truck, give me the finger and leave.

I continue looking out the window tears streaming down my face.  My mind is reeling.  How do you choose between two men you love.  One is your child.  You’ve loved him from the first moment the stick turned positive.  Dreamed of his life.  What he would look like and who he would be.  Never once did I think my beautiful boy would turn into a man capable of such turmoil.  Never did I dream that my son would grow up to be an addict.   Ray comes to me.  I cannot speak.  Just shake with the sobs racking my body.   He sits and tells me he’s sorry.  He’s trying to do the right thing.  He’s trying to save me.  “You can’t see what he is doing to you”.  “You are consumed by his addiction”.   “You aren’t tough enough, you still see the little boy,  not the grown man who is slowly killing you”.   “Let’s see what happens, Maybe this will open his eyes”.   I still can’t respond.  I need every ounce of energy to breathe.  I know Ray is trying.  I know he’s supported every decision.   Put up with Matt’s chaos and always tried to help.  Right now none of that matters.  My heart is broken.  I feel dirty and hateful.  I know I will not survive.

The first night I am once again on the couch.  Me and the pups.  A bottle of red and bones.  I try to call you.  I need to know you are alive.  Need to hear your voice.  To tell you I’m sorry and thinking of you.  And once again, your voicemail is all I get.  Hopelessness wraps me up.  In all the years of our struggle I never felt so defeated.

I am a mess.  I haven’t slept in weeks.  Laying there night after night wondering where you are.  If you’re still alive.  What have I done.  I hate myself.  I call Mike.  Ask him if he’s heard from you.  Nothing.  He’s trying to be strong, but I know he is thinking the same thing.  He will drive around and look for you.   I try to stay busy.  I check my phone constantly.  Every call sets my heart racing.   I go through your stuff.  Same old game. Searching for poison.  Hoping you have left some behind.  A reason to contact me.  Nothing.  Your demons have full control.  I sit and smell your clothes and cry.  “Mom,  Matt slept in his car last night”.   “At least he’s alive”.  “Ok Mike,  I’m going to make some calls.  Let’s put him in a motel until I can find a place”.    So Mike and I team up to find you a place to put your head.  I keep thinking about this tough love bullshit.  Well, I just can’t do.  Let them say what they want.  I don’t give a damn.  Everyone telling me to throw you out has never lived my life.   How do you handle not knowing where you’re son is.  Yes, he’s an addict.  He’s done terrible things.  He’s still my son.   All the tough hearted parents writing the advice books, well good for them I think.  Good for them.  They’re not Matt’s mom.  They haven’t watched his struggle.  They haven’t seen the glimpses of my Matt that sneak out and touch my heart.

Weeks go by.  You are now staying with a friend.  Of course I am paying rent to keep you safe.  I can finally sleep knowing you are not on the streets, cold and hungry.   People have told me I did it all wrong.  Just enabling from afar.  I say addiction is not a black and white disease.  What works for one addict doesn’t work for another.  Tough love is not all it’s cracked up to be.  It was tougher on me than you.  But you already knew that.  You played the game.  Acting hurt and hateful, killing me with your eyes as you left.   Knowing my heart was putty in your hands.   Knowing I loved you too much to be tough.  Knowing I would find a way to keep you safe.  My sweet boy knew he was loved too much by a mother who was too soft for tough love…..

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