Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: stigma of addiction

Come, Sit, Grieve…..Repeat

Matt,   I could never have imagined the impact your death would have on every aspect of my life.   Never did I ever think my grief would turn me into a leper.   It seems people are terrified of those who are grieving.   Scared to death of contact with me or have that famous opinion on how long grief should last.   I’m guessing my time is up.  Even strangers run when I bring up addiction and your death.   It’s almost that I carry a contagious disease and if they get close enough they will carry it home to their family.   Like the flu, only worse.

Unfortunately, your disease still carries an ugly stigma.   I see the look on peoples faces when they learn how you died.   They can’t get away fast enough.   Quickly changing the subject as they scurry away.   I feel like I have that huge A branded on my forehead.  Except my A stands for Addiction.    I still find it mind boggling that even today as we continue to lose people from all walks of life  Addiction is still thought of as a dirty mans disease.

Experts on grief tell you to find a support group.   Sounds easy right.  I had a better chance of being struck by lightening.  You see Matt,  my grief comes with a ton of baggage.   All those what if’s and I should have’s cling to my heart and take turns tearing little pieces away.   Death due to overdose comes with such regret.   Things said and done dance with those things not said and not done.   Until you have lived that rollercoaster with your child one could ever understand the helplessness and hopelessness parents feel as we struggle to save our kids.   Death from overdose is unlike any other loss.   Not only do we struggle with grief but the stigma continues to rear its ugly head throwing daggers in our direction.

My attempts to find that group where I would fit in was futile.   Believe me I tried for several months.   I sat next to mothers who lost their children to cancer and felt the compassion ooze around the room.   I remember sitting there feeling that all familiar tightness grip my throat.   Then it was death by car accident.   Once again compassion.   I wanted to be Alice and slide down that rabbit hole.   I wanted to be Jeannie wiggling my nose and disappearing into thin air.   I wanted to be anywhere but in that room when I said that ugly word and felt the compassion wash away with the breaths of shock and stares.

Then it was off to another group that actually dealt with addiction.   Oh I had such high hopes.   Finally a group that got it.   Imagine my surprise when I was subjected to another parent beaming with joy.   My mind whirling as I realized this group was largely made up of parents who’s kids were either in recovery or still active in their addiction.   My mind whirling, my gut revolting as I heard her voice praising God for saving her child.   I felt like I’d been slapped.   How dare God save her child and not mine.   I remember wanting to run.   Wanting once again to disappear.   I made myself sit for an hour hearing more stories of recovery.   Stories of continued struggles that I knew too well.   I left sobbing and defeated.

I hid for months, licking my wounds feeling isolated and alone.   I scoured bookstores.   My shelves now lined with books on grief and grieving.   Reading the stories of other parents whose children also died from addiction gave me the push I needed.   I once read that when God closes one door, He opens another.   As a nurse I’ve spend many years holding hands and shedding tears with people who have lost their loved ones.   As a NICU nurse I’ve also helped grieving parents say goodbye to their child.   I remember praying asking God what my purpose was now that you were gone.   I spent the last 7 years fighting to save you.   Now I had all this time to discover my new path.

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Support After Addiction Death (SAD) was born on a rainy, bitter day.   Sitting at my computer I designed a pamphlet.   Explaining how and why I was starting a support group exclusively for parents who lost a child to the misunderstood disease of addiction.   Our pastor offered our church.   The same church I said my final goodbye to you.   The same church where your ashes were scattered in the garden I tend as we celebrated your first birthday in Heaven.

Today I have a new family.   Mothers and fathers who know and live the same grief that envelopes my life.   We gather together and shed our tears.  Our eyes mirror images of unfathomable  pain.   Lifting each other on those dark days when one of us is drowning.   I look into their eyes and know no words are necessary.   We have lived the nightmare.   Our ending is not the one we dreamed of but together we find strength in the blessing of finding each other.   There is no shame, no stigma.   Sharing pieces of our broken hearts we begin to slowly heal.   Our children gone but never forgotten.   Pictures are shared.   Birthdays are remembered.   Names are spoken.   Many tears are shed.   Memories are cherished.

God did close the door for me when it came to saving you.   God also opened a new world where I can once more reach out, offer a hug and just show up.   Grief doesn’t scare this group.   Grief is a part of who we are.  Grief is the unwanted, unspeakable place that bonds us more than blood.  As long as I live I will be grateful for the people who say your name, offer a hug and stay……….

 

 

 

 

Matt’s Damn Angry Mother

 

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Matt,   It’s been six months and I’m still trying to breathe.  I’ve been told that by now I should be angry at you.  Enough time has passed that the anger should come.  The well publicized stages of grief states that I am in the anger phase.  Well, I’m angry.  I’m damn angry.   I’m angry at the broken system that let you down.   I’m angry that the insurance industry  places more value on saving money than saving lives.   I’m angry that addiction is discriminated against by both the medical community and the Insurance Industry.  I’m angry that addiction is not treated like the disease it is.   I’m angry at the Lawmakers who turn a blind eye to this epidemic,  allowing scumbags to run sober living houses only caring about collecting rent from their tenants and not giving a damn about helping the addict.

I’m angry that lawmakers sat back and allowed relapsing addicts to be thrown into the streets or taken half unconscious to motels where they later died.   I’m angry that my handsome, funny, loving son died in a motel room because no one gave a damn.   I’m angry that the health care system continues to allows overprescribing physicians to practice.   Changing everyday people into addicts and destroying their lives.   I’m angry that addiction carries a stigma.

I’m angry that everyday I live with the crippling  pain knowing that I will never hear your voice or see your smiling face again.  I’m heartbroken knowing I will never dance at your wedding or hold your child in my arms.   I’m sick that you have been robbed of a beautiful life.    I’m broken when I see the pain on your brothers face and hear his voice crack when he says your name.   I’m angry that our lives have been demolished beyond repair.   I’m distressed that most of my friends have disappeared.  The ones that remain I can count on one hand.   I’m heartbroken that I can no longer spent time with you walking our dogs by the sea we both loved.  I’m so damn angry I want to scream..

There are days I get on my bike and ride like the wind.  Pushing myself to release the pain.  Crying, praying  and screaming as I petal  releasing this anger that everyone thinks should be directed at you.   Matt, please know I could never be angry at you.   I witnessed your struggle.  I felt your pain as we battled your demons together.   I know you fought your best fight.   I was there by your side with every relapse, every rehab, every struggle.   I know you did your best to fight your demons.   I am not angry at you my son.  I’m proud of the man you were.  Of the battle you fought and the life you tried to live.   You will always be my hero.   No anger, just overwhelming grief that your life is over.

Now my battle begins as I learn to  use my anger to fight for change. Your struggle gave me the education of a life time.   Witnessing the roadblocks and living the discrimination that you faced everyday gave me knowledge I never wanted to know.   It gave me a clear picture of the brokenness of the system in place that was not only responsible for your death, but the death of so many others.   My list is long.  I’ve got all the time in the world.  You are gone and I must find a new purpose or I will never recover.

Funny,  since you’ve been gone I’ve become absentminded.  I call myself the dumb girl.  I laugh and try to explain to strangers that once a long time ago I was a smart girl.  Then my son died.   I’m told it called grief brain and I’m a living example.  I started writing lists of every barrier we encountered during your journey.   I was cleaning out my desk and this is what fell to the floor.   My thoughts scribbled on a piece of balled up paper.   With this paper came a wave of grief.   Seeing my scribble hit me again that this is my reality.   This list of wrongs that needed to be made right.   Memories of your struggles sucked the breath out of my lungs and punched me in my gut.   A powerful grief punch whenever I relive our past.   A single sheet of balled up paper brought me to my knees.   I could feel my anger burning with each sentence I read.   So many things that could have saved your life helped end it.

My List………….

Pain clinics and the overprescribing pill pushers that run them must  be regulated and have their prescribing practices monitored  facing disciplinary action when their patients become addicted.   Charged with murder when they die.

The medical community needs to be held accountable for their treatment and perception of the addict.   Doctors must become expert in addiction and treat it as any other chronic, treatable disease.  Addiction needs to become part of the curriculum in medical schools educating new physicians in this misunderstood disease.

Rehab facilities and detox centers must have  beds readily available.   The window of time is brief when the addict is ready to accept help.   Precious time must not be wasted.   The Insurance Industry must recognize addiction as a disease and extend the allowable time covered in rehab giving those suffering a fighting chance at recovery.

Matt, my anger will never be aimed at you.  You had a disease that should have been treatable not terminal.    Our current model of care  allows a stigma to exist against a vulnerable population of people with a horrible disease.  My anger has given me new purpose.   My anger  will help me go on without you.   My anger will allow me to step out of my comfort zone and fight for you.  I will say your name.   I will tell our story.   I will  show other mothers that there is no shame in addiction.   I will join the fight to stop this epidemic from killing the next generation of beautiful people.

My anger will fuel my purpose.   You are gone but you will live on forever through me.   As long as I have a breath it will be yours.  Forever in my heart.  Forever in my fight.   RIP my beautiful boy your angry moms got this. ❤️💔

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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