A Story of Addiction & Loss

Author: MaryBeth Cichocki (Page 1 of 35)

Your Legacy

Matt,  when I was made aware of how and why you died, I knew I had to do something to prevent another from suffering your fate.

Knowing that your death was preventable lit a fire in my gut and gave me the courage to fight the broken system of sober living homes that played a large part in your death. 

After finding out that the operator of your so called sober home had no license or certification to even open a sober home I was completely blow away.  So in reality he operated a boarding house, preying on the vulnerable population that you were part of.  For $200 dollars a week you got nothing.  No peer support, no meetings, no supervision, just a bed in a room you shared with other men.  

The operator did whatever he wanted.  Kicking people out in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on their back.  And with you dropping you off at a motel after you relapsed at 2:30 in the morning knowing you were in distress.  It was just too much trouble for him to call 911, take you to an Emergency Department or a treatment facility. 

He had no one to answer to as he played God with the lives of those living in his facility.  Sadly, when I did my research I found that this was the norm with sober homes.  Anyone could buy or rent a property and label it a sober home.  There were no certifications or licenses required .  Mind blowing since you have to have a license to cut hair in every state.  I’ve never known of anyone who died from a bad haircut!

During my advocacy work, I’d been involved with working on 6 bills all having to do with Substance Use Disorder and how it’s treated in Delaware.  I knew that Sober Homes needed to be licensed and regulated.  I knew the operators must be held accountable by a governing body to protect the individual’s living in the homes.

Our Bill was born in a Bob Evans restaurant after I requested a meeting with a House Representative to discuss my research.  Like me she was appalled at how Sober Homes operated and agreed that we needed to enact legislation to prevent this industry from taking advantage of vulnerable people.

This Bill was first drafted in 2019.  Being derailed by my cancer diagnosis and then Covid.  It was supported, then not supported.  Funded, then not funded.  I felt like I was back on that roller coaster like I was when you were in your active addiction.  

I knew I could never give up, so I kept advocating, reaching out to both the House and Senate telling your story and sharing my research.  I started to feel like it would never happen.  I thought it was a lost cause and I was going to have to live knowing there would be many more Matt’s who would suffer your fate.  

One day my phone rang with the news I had prayed for.  Finally, after 3 years of back and forth, the Bill had gained enough support to be brought before the House for a vote.  I remember sitting there.  I remember my heart beating so loud I could barely hear anything being said.  The vote was a unanimous yes!  I remember feeling like I was dreaming as the congratulatory hugs enveloped my heart. 

The next week we were before the Senate.  Once again my heart was racing as I sat silently praying the members would feel the passion I felt regarding my Bill.  I remember holding my breath as the voting started, closing my eyes feeling the tears run down my face.  One by one I heard yes, yes, yes.  Another unanimous vote. 

My dearest son, my beautiful boy, the Matthew D. Klosowski Act was signed into law by our Governor on August 1st, two days after your birthday.  As I stood next to the Governor and watched him sign our Bill into law, I could picture your smiling face.  As the cameras flashed and the clapping began, all I could think of was you.  

This Bill is your legacy.  Your name and story will forever be remembered.  My gift to you for all the world to see.  Until we meet again.  All my love, Mom  




The Invisible Cord From Earth to Eternity

Matt,   Today is your birthday.  You should be turning 46.  I should be buying a cake, a card, and a little something for you to enjoy.  Instead I’m spending the afternoon serving burgers and hotdogs to the hungry and homeless in the city.  

I really wanted to go to the beach.  To sit on the sand.  To drive by your house.  But I’ve done that on your past birthdays and it has always left me so broken with all the why’s and what if’s that I knew I should not do it again.  

I wanted to do something different today, so I brought your favorite foods to the Emmanuel Dining Room and spent time with amazing people who serve others every day.  When I walked in I began to feel like I made a mistake, but as people began to introduce themselves I felt like I was absolutely meant to be there.

When I told them today was your birthday but you were not here to celebrate with me, another mother came over to me and asked about you.  I was able to share your story with someone who when I looked into her eyes I knew she also knew that grief of child loss.  It was an immediate connection as she then shared her sons story. 

A feeling of peace came over me as I watched those being fed smile and look my way with gratitude.  I felt a connection to you in the eyes of strangers.  I remember you sharing your food with a homeless man and in that moment I knew you were there standing next to me rooting me on as I tried to change a sad day into something meaningful.  

I’ve read there is a permanent bond, an invisible connection between a mother and her child.  Today I felt you.  I saw your smiling face in every person we served.  Today my heart was full of joy and love.  So grateful for the years we had together.  For all the birthdays you were here to celebrate with me.  

Today I felt you smiling down on me giving me the strength to make it through this day.  You and I are connected through space and time.  I live to honor your life.  Until we meet again I wish you a beautiful birthday dancing on the stars.  Forever in my heart ♥️


A Can of Beef A Roni and So Much More


Never in a million years did I ever think I would find myself falling apart in the pasta aisle of my local grocery store after seeing a can of Beef A Roni. The gut wrenching, hit my heart hard, kind of pain left me holding onto my cart telling myself to breathe. Tears running down my face like a hose stuck in the on position with no hope of being turned off. Oh God, I think, how am I ever going to survive the rest of my life if can’t even make it through the grocery store without a major meltdown. Seeing that can and feeling those feelings has become a part of my new life. The life I never saw coming or signed up for.

Beef A Roni was my youngest son, Matt’s favorite food. I would stock up at the ten for $10 sale and hurry home to stuff his weekly care package with all his favorite foods. Sending them off with a piece of my heart to the half way house he lived in a thousand miles away from home. A can of Beef A Roni, a connection to my son who is no more.

Then there is the scent of Phoenix. This was his smell. I can still hear his voice, “Hey Mom, can you pick me up my deodorant, I’m running low”. I’ve found myself in this same store walking to the deodorant aisle and finding that familiar blue can. I remove the lid and spray a tiny bit. Closing my eyes taking a deep breath I let my mind drift back to happier times. This is what my life has become. Finding pieces of my son in everyday places trying to keep our connection alive.

I once felt that being the mother of a son suffering from addiction was the worst thing that ever happened to my life. That constant feeling of helplessness and anxiety ruled my mind. I compared his addiction to being trapped on a very fast, very high roller coaster with many twists and turns. Never knowing what each day would bring, what was coming or how some days would end.

Mothers of addicts learn to live with the crazy unpredictability that goes hand in hand with the disease of addiction. We learn to expect the unexpected and we relish the thought of a possible period of recovery. Matts addiction became mine as I held onto the roller coaster for dear life. Praying for things to somehow calm down and allow us both a little piece of normal. I’ve since learned that being the mother of an addict who suffered an accidental overdose is waking up and finding the nightmare you feared the most has now become your reality.

Be careful what you pray for they say. I prayed for peace, I prayed for quiet, I prayed for his addiction to go away. My prayers have been answered but never in the way I imagined. I now struggle to survive in this all too quiet, empty new world. I long for the days of chaos. Riding the uncertainty on the roller coaster known as addiction now feels like a walk in the park compared to being the one left behind.

Learning to navigate through my grief is a daily process. I’m now the lone rider on a different coaster. This one mimics the other but now the ups and downs belong solely to me. There are days I wake up, shed my tears, pray for strength and somehow get through. There are days the darkness overrides my heart and I crawl through my brokenness as if it is surrounded by shards of glass. Each piercing my heart with knifelike accuracy.

For now I take it one day at a time. I pray that someday that can of Beefaroni or the scent of Phoenix will warm my heart not break it. Reminding me of the connection between a mother and her son that neither time nor space can break. For now I pray for understanding and strength as I continue to put one foot in front of the other attempting to navigate my new unchartered life without my son.

I know I will never return to the person I once was. Going back to that person is not an option. She vanished when my son died. Gone with his last breath. My grief path is my own. It’s rocky and full of broken pieces of a life that used to be. I tread lightly on days I can. I crawl through the glass on days when the pain kills and I question my survival. My grief has no finish line. It’s one day, one breath, one scream at a time. My grief is the best I can do. Navigating this path is the most painful thing I’ve ever had to do. One thing I know for sure is I’m not ok. I will never be ok. And for me that just has to be ok…….

You Are The Light

Matt,   The project named IntoLight was started by a mom like me who also lost her son from an opioid overdose.  This mom is also an artist and to find her peace she began to draw her son’s pictures during different phases of his life.  I guess she felt closer to him as I do to you writing this blog.  

One day she decided to start drawing portraits of other mothers children who like her son have died from an overdose.  When I met her she told me she wanted to humanize addiction and hoped that when people visited the art exhibit they would be moved by all the beautiful faces staring back at them. 

The exhibit opened on a Thursday night.  I was amazed at how many people were attending.  Sadly so many were members of my support group and had become dear friends.  

As we gathered together in the lobby I could feel the anxiety and sadness in the crowd.  It was almost palpable.   No one really wanted to be there. What we wanted was our children to be alive and well.  We wanted more birthdays,  more adventures, more time.   But we were all robbed of those dreams and now the reality of life was upon us again.  

The exhibit was on the second floor.   I remember climbing the stairs surrounded by so many familiar faces,  those faces trying so hard to conceal the pain that flowed through our hearts as we knew that soon we would be facing those portraits of our beloved children.  

The portraits were arranged A-Z  making it easy for everyone to find their loved one’s location.  As I walked through the door I was immediately aware of my mask starting to crack.  I wear this mask in public to pretend that I’m ok.  To keep those at a distance who will look at me in pity or with shameless contempt when they hear your story. 

I slowly made my way around the room.  I was in awe of the hauntingly beautiful eyes, smiles and faces staring back at me.  So many were the children of my friends.  I recognized their faces from pictures shared during our support group, but seeing them all grouped together was an entirely different experience.  Their portraits took on an essence that a photo could never capture.

Before I knew it, I was looking directly into your eyes.  I felt my breath catch in my throat.  I wasn’t prepared for my body’s response to seeing your handsome face staring back at me.  I felt as if you were there standing next to me as I searched your face imprinting your image upon my brain.  It was as if time stood still and I could feel your soul reuniting with mine.  Although I was surrounded my many I felt enveloped in a cocoon of sadness, silence and peace.  

Leaving the exhibit, I felt as if I was leaving a piece of my heart behind.   The last thing I ever dreamed of or wanted was to have a beautiful portrait of you hanging on a wall in an art museum project that is attempting to bring awareness to and humanize the disease that would sadly end your life.  

I will continue to look to you to light my path as I continue my journey alone.  My grief brings darkness but you my beautiful boy will always be my guiding light. 


A Letter To My Son On Mother’s Day

Matt, Mothers Day is two days away. A day I once enjoyed with the women in our family. Mothers like me. I would spend weeks getting my gardens ready, giving the deck a good cleaning and preparing a feast of crabs and beer. There is no celebration for me today, no crabs, beer or company. Only a deep pain that nothing will cure. 

No card or gift has the power to fill the void left by your absence. This is my eighth Mother’s Day without you and I’m still learning how to breathe. I foolishly thought my heart was strong enough to  handle my reality.

My youngest son gone forever. Your demons more powerful than your mother’s love. I realize now that my heart will never be the same. Surviving all the firsts means nothing to me. My heart remains broken beyond repair. This day will remain as a painful reminder that our family is forever changed.

Today I will give myself a gift. I will allow myself the luxury of tears, tears that I hide from the world will be allowed on this most painful day. Tears will come as I close my eyes and remember you as a young boy. Bouncing through the door.  Your face full of pride. Your handmade gift of popsicle sticks painted the colors of beautiful flowers. Your smile filled my heart with joy. You, always so proud of what you made, found or bought for your mom.

Nothing changed as you aged. You always remembered. A card, flowers or a surprise visit. Your body now of a man, but your heart forever young. You were never afraid to hug or say those words, 

“Love you Mom”. We had a bond like no other. Our connecting cord never cut, just stretched by the distance between us.  You living your life by the sea, away from home but never away from my heart.

Now I’m left with precious memories. Cards from Mother’s Day long ago. Treasured pieces of paper signed by you. I run my finger along your words and remember teaching you how to write. 

Never thinking that one day your unique signature would be something left behind that would bring both joy and unbearable pain to my already broken heart. Mother’s Day cards now so precious, knowing that there will be no more.

Mother’s Day, once a day I loved and looked forward to has turned into a day I’d rather forget. I remember the pain of bringing you into this world, I pray I survive the pain of knowing you are gone. If my love had been enough, you would be here sitting beside me surrounded by our family. We would be laughing and hugging. Crabs and beer filling our plates. Stories would be shared as we celebrated three generations of mothers all here sharing the joys of our special day with the children we love.

But today, I will spend time alone. I will allow the memories to overflow in my mind as my tears come without shame. I will close my eyes and see your smiling face. I will talk to you as if you are next to me. I will wonder if you remember. 

I will reaffirm that I will always be your mother, wherever you now live. I pray you will let me feel you with me today. Let me feel your warmth shine down on my face. Be the rays of the sun, hugging my body with your warmth. Be a puffy white cloud or a cardinal in my garden. Be with me in spirit as I remember your love as both a child and a man. My love for you lives on forever. A mother learning to live with a broken heart on her special day. Learning how to live without her child.  One moment, one step, one heart beat at a time.

Love Forever, Mom

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