A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: aftershocks and grief (Page 1 of 3)

Broken And Blessed

Matt,   The summer has ended and Fall has begun.   Everyday the geese fly over the house honking as if to say we are here, we are home.   I stop and listen thinking of you.   How we both would stop whatever we were doing and just be still listening to their beautiful song.

Fall also reminds me of my brokenness.   My gardens need tending so badly.   Before my cancer I would be weeding and planting colorful Mums.   Digging in the dirt was always a form of therapy for me.  I look at the gardens and feel such a loss.   I can’t do the physical work to transform the summer gardens into an array of colorful fall beauty.

There are so many things I can no longer physically do.   Cleaning out closets.   Putting away summer clothing and going through my comfortable fall sweaters.  The little things I took so for granted before the back surgery.   Sadly, I now understand the difficulties you lived after your back surgery.   

I’ve learned the saying is true.  Until you walk in someone else’s shoes you can never comprehend their pain.   I remember watching you walk.  It broke my heart to see your young body ravaged by pain.   I remember thinking I would take your pain if only I could.   I wonder if you know that I now know your pain.   Do you see my body no longer capable of doing those physical things that used to bring me such joy.  Do you know I have become you.   

Do you hear me when I ask for forgiveness.   Do you know I would give anything to have a moment with you.   To hold you and tell you I understand.   I now know how it feels to be broken not just emotionally but physically.   Your death broke my heart.   My cancer broke my body and on many days it breaks my spirit.    

Through all this brokenness I also feel blessed.   After chemo, two surgeries and radiation my body remains free of cancer.   My last scan was clear of disease.   I can tell you that waiting to hear the results is maddening.   My mind goes to all the what if’s exactly as it does when I think about your death.   The unknown can become a silent torture.  

On my dark days, I remember all the things I can do.   The little blessings of walking the dogs.   Of being able to stand and make dinner.   Of being able to enjoy the beauty as I kayak through ponds and rivers.   The blessings of friends who continue to pray for me.   The blessing of my Faith.

My brokenness mixed with blessings reminds me of the Japanese art of Kintsugi.   The art of repairing broken pottery pieces using gold.   The gold creates a stronger, more beautiful piece of art.  The gold highlights the scars in the pottery transforming the piece into something new and stronger than before.   

Your death and the loss of my health has left me with many scars.   I think of my blessings as the gold that is slowly filling my cracks allowing me to change the way I think of myself as no longer completely broken but learning to embrace my strengths reframing my pain into something of collateral beauty.   

The Broken Road To Self Forgiveness

Matt,   I’ve spent the last 6 years grieving your death.   I’ve also spent the last 6 years beating myself up with guilt.   It seems my emotions swing between the two, but lately the guilt has been weighing heavily on my heart.

I continue to use my heart as a punching bag.   Blaming myself for your death.   I continue to see you as a helpless child instead of a grown man.

There are days I sit quietly and allow the film of our struggle to replay in my brain.   I feel like I’m split in two.   My brain tells me that I did everything humanly possible to save you.   My heart tells me I should have done more.

Lately I’ve been trying to forgive myself.   I had no idea how powerful the opioids really were.   Six years ago I did not have the information that is readily available today.   Had it been, you might have had a fighting chance.

I’m trying to place some responsibility on you as I have carried the full load of guilt for so long.   I’m trying to remember all the times I fought with you to get you into treatment.   I remember all the times my phone rang and you were on the other end telling me you were signing yourself out.    I remember the feeling of hopelessness and of being so angry that once again you decided what was best for you without any thought to how your decisions were impacting me.

Even though you are gone, my struggle continues.    I feel like I’m walking on a broken road.   Some days I’m able to avoid falling into those crevices where the guilt lies waiting to wrap itself around my heart.   Other days it seem like those crevices are unavoidable.    Days when a memory will surface.   Days when I hear of one of your friends having a baby.    Days when I am drowning in the what if’s or I should have.    Days I wonder how you would look 6 years older.   Days I wonder how  life would be had you lived.

So now I must find my way to forgive myself for something I could not control.    As parents we live under the illusion that we can control the behavior of our children.   I think the moment we become mothers that guilt gene takes over.

I go back to when I was your age.   I remember my mother trying to tell me how I should live.   I remember her attempts at controlling my comings and goings.   I also remember I did what I wanted to do despite her attempts to guide me.    As I look back, I now know how right she was.

Sadly for us, you will never have the opportunity to look back and understand my intentions were for your own safety.   So now I walk this new journey alone.   Learning to navigate this new road that hopefully will lead to forgiving myself.    I know this journey will somedays be nothing more than baby steps.   I know there will be days I slip into those waiting crevices.   I know this road will be long and treacherous.    I also know that I must find my way through……….

 

 

Walking On Thin Ice


Matt,   It’s 5:21 on January 2nd.   Six years ago you were still alive.   I remember our conversation.   It was Saturday evening and you were on your way home to the sober home where you were staying in Boca Raton.  I remember looking at the clock it was 6:23.   We chatted about your day and promised to catch up again later that night.

That next call never came.  Little did I know that our conversations would never take place again.   We ended our conversation with our usual I love you thinking our future would be filled with many more talks.

As I write this letter I can feel my throat tighten and tears forming in my eyes.   I can feel the shock and disbelief wrapping itself around my heart.  It’s called muscle memory as the body never forgets trauma.

Tomorrow marks the sixth anniversary of your death.    Some days it feels like it’s been forever since I’ve heard your voice.    Other days it feels like yesterday.

The New Year is always tough for me.   This year it’s full of uncertainty and grief.   Sunday is the 3rd.   Your anniversary.  The weather will be rainy and bitter.   Mimicking my heart.   Monday l have my second CT scan checking to see if my cancer treatment has been successful.  I will be holding my breath and praying until I hear what I will be facing.   More down time or more treatment.

So I now mourn your death and my health.   I sometimes wonder if the cancer was caused by years of second guessing decisions made that led to your death.   Years of grieving and guilt for what might have been.   Years of wondering about If Heaven truly exists and if you are healed living in Paradise.   Years of wondering if I will ever see you again.   Wondering what death is like and if we will be together when my time comes.

I feel like I’m walking on ice.   On a frozen pond trying to get to the other side.   Some areas are solid and stable.   As I continue my journey I find areas that are cracking beneath my feet.   I can feel the frozen water seeping through my shoes as I wonder if I will make it to the other side before I fall through.

My journey since your death has been one I could have never prepared myself for.   Parents are never prepared to say goodbye to their children.   Parents are never prepared to hear they have cancer.

So I continue to pray that God has us both in his healing hands.   I pray you have found your peace that eluded you here on earth.  I pray your body and mind are free of the demons that followed you as you struggled.  I pray for his peace and healing as I struggle with losing you and losing the woman I used to be.

 

 

 

Together Again………

Matt,   this world has gone crazy.  I wonder if you know whats happening down on earth.   I wonder what life would be like if you were here.   We’ve been hit with this deadly virus.   Our state has come to a screeching halt.   Every nonessential business has closed its doors and we are all confined to our homes.  It’s been a month and I’m feeling the stress of this new normal.

I’m still undergoing radiation everyday.   I call it groundhog day.   Ray and I drive to Penn Monday through Friday.   I wear a mask and gloves as does everyone who is venturing out of their homes.   It’s almost like being an extra in a movie.   It’s something I never thought would happen in our country.   I wonder what your reaction would be if you were alive.

Your Grandmother was more upset about them closing churches during Lent.   The Catholic girl in her just couldn’t understand the need for social distancing to stop the spread of this deadly virus.   For her going to church was part of her routine during Lent.   She was more worried about not being able to worship than she was of catching the virus.   She wanted to know how we would celebrate Easter without going to church.

I had no idea how stressed she was.   Looking back I should have seen the red flags but I’ve been so preoccupied with my cancer battle that I totally missed her distress.

I will never forget the call.    Asking if I was Marybeth.   I would get those exact same calls during your active addiction.   A stranger on the other end of the phone asking for me.   My heart started racing before another word was said.   Your grandmother was found in her car in front of the soup kitchen where she volunteered feeding the poor and homeless.   It seems even though we told her to stay home she was doing what her heart told her to do.   She suffered a massive stroke.

She remained in the hospital holding on for a week.   I was unable to visit.   The hospitals had stopped visitors and with my immune system being down I was told to stay away.   Stacey was given permission to stay with mom mom because of the gravity of her condition.   I was able to speak to her as Stacey would FaceTime with me while she was at the bedside.   I was able to say all those things we think we will have time to say.   I apologized for not understanding her distress.   For all the arguments we had since your death.   Mom Mom never lost a child and had no clue how my life had drastically changed.   We had so many arguments about my grief.   Many times I would find myself screaming into the phone as I tried to get her to understand that time did not help with my grieving.   It was a difficult relationship.   One I foolishly thought we would fix before time ran out.

I asked her to give you a hug from me and to let you know how much I love and miss you.   She left this earth the Monday after Palm Sunday.   The nurses said it was a peaceful death.

I feel like I’ve been slapped by reality once again.   There was so much left to say and now the chance is gone forever.   I mourn the relationship we should have had.   After you died she walked away from me.   I know she loved you and I thought we would mourn your death together.  I will never know why she acted the way she did.   Why she stayed away and offered no support.   That was the one question we argued about.   Now I will never have my answer.   Funny how now that she’s gone it doesn’t seem as important as I once felt it was.

I was having a bad day and opened a photo album I hadn’t touched for a year.   I wondered if you two were together again.   I prayed that she found you and would keep you safe until  my time comes to be with you for eternity.   The pages fell open to this beautiful picture of you and mom mom.   Holding each other close.   Your smiles so beautiful, radiating happiness and love.   Was this you sending me a sign?    Are you together again?

Oh Matt, I pray you are both at peace.   Mom mom was so upset about missing church during Holy Week but here she was witnessing the beauty of Easter in the most heavenly place.   I mourn what could have been for all of us.

Life has a way of teaching us difficult lessons.   I’m learning that tomorrow is not promised to anyone.   I’m learning to say what I feel and never think there will be a tomorrow to fix things.  The hardest lesson for me is that we really have no control of anything in this life.

I printed out your picture.   Every time I look at it my heart gets a warm feeling.   Knowing you are reunited with your grandmother helps my grieving heart.   Godspeed to you both.   Together again in paradise.

 

 

Looking Back Through Tears.

Matt, it’s been a while since I’ve written.  I’ve thought of you everyday but this cancer treatment and the two surgeries have really beat me down.  I don’t even have the energy to cry about everything that’s happening to me.  Your loss hits so hard every time I remember you complaining about your back pain after your surgery. 

Never in a million years could I ever have imagined that pain would one day invade my body as like you I’ve had back surgery and I’m filled with screws and rods.  

How I wish you could come back just for a few hours.  I would beg your forgiveness for not being more compassionate towards your pain.  I always thought you just wanted an excuse to use the opioids that finally got you addicted and contributed to your death.

All I wanted to do was get you off the pills so you could get your life back in order.  Little did I know how you were suffering every day of your life.  

I guess that saying is true, Until you walk in someone’s shoes keep your opinions to yourself.  I now understand why you would never sleep in your bed.  I’d always come downstairs to find you sleeping on the couch with the TV blaring.  I blamed you getting high and falling asleep in positions that looked horribly uncomfortable.  I remember waking you up and urging you to go to bed only to have you scowl at me.  

Now I get it. I can’t believe that I have such a hard time sleeping through the night.  I start out in my bed but wake after a few hours in excruciating pain.  I need to get up and walk until the pain settles and then I find myself in the recliner just like I found you.  

I’ve also been given OxyContin.  I’ll admit I had no choice but to take a few as my pain was unbearable at times.  Every time I handle that prescription bottle I flash back to you.    It is the only thing that helps with the pain but I’m terrified of becoming addicted like you did.  I can’t imagine how hard it was for you to continue to live in pain every moment of every day.  I feel like God is teaching me a very valuable lesson in empathy.  I truly had no idea what you went through until now as I’m going through the same painful journey after back surgery.  

I wish we could go back in time.  Knowing what I now know I would have treated you with compassion instead of expecting you to go to work everyday functioning like a person in perfect shape.  Telling you I understand now really makes no difference as you’ve been gone for 5 years and 2 months.  

I hope you hear my prayers for you.  I hope you know how sorry I am and most of all I hope you forgive me.  I’ve been living like this for 3 months, you lived with this for 7 years as you struggled with chronic pain and the horror of addiction.  

There are no words to describe my grief over losing you and now losing me.  I can no longer advocate the way I used to.  I can’t walk the dogs or do anything that once brought me stress relief and a slice of happiness.  This is not the life I envisioned for us.   I saw you married with children, living at your happy place by the sea.  I saw family vacations with grandkids and grand pups running and jumping in the surf as you and I sat together on the sand sharing the beauty of life.  I saw you and Mike growing older together sharing the joys of fatherhood.  I never saw you dying at 37 or me fighting cancer at 63.   I guess it’s true, we have no control over how life will twist and turn.  That for me is the hardest to accept.  I thought I could save you.  Now I’m fighting for my life not knowing what the outcome will be.   I can only hope that one day we will be together again sitting by the sea, no longer in pain but in paradise. 💜♥️

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