A Story of Addiction & Loss

Category: wedding planning

At Last I Do



Matt,  I left Ray behind at the hospital.  He really needed some family time and I really needed to get the hell out of there.  All I wanted to do was get home, let the dogs out and have the privacy I needed to continue our conversation.  I was still shaking and feeling sick when I got home.  I just couldn’t believe you would dare go back on your promise.  How stupid I was.  I really needed to believe everything you said.  I wanted to believe you could control the craving for the drugs, that you could stop the way they took over your world leaving you caring for no one else but yourself.

The dogs greeted me with wags and kisses.  I let them calm my spirit as I watched them chase each other playing like they had no care in the world.  Their Mom was home and they were happy.   I sat and watched and wished we could be like dogs.  Happy and carefree showing love like it was the most natural emotion in the world.  Why did life have to be so complicated.  Why did your addiction always find a way into my life.  All I ever wanted was normal.  How hard could it be.  Just normal.

I grab my phone and punch in your number.  I can already feel that  familiar throat tightening.  My body  automatically responding to my fear of how you will answer.  What words you choose will either make me or break me.  God, how horrible to have such fear of a phone call.    Hi Mom,  you answer.  Really, did you expect me to call.  Are you playing with me.  You sound normal.  Holy crap,  yeah,  my throat easing up, I want to jump for joy.  Matt,  what happened this afternoon.  You sounded stoned.  You pissed me off, you threw me into a tail spin.  WTH were you doing.   Mom, you need to relax, you worry way too much.  Yeah Matt, you give me so much to worry about.  Matt, you must understand I need you to keep your promise.  You must control the meds.  Mom, stop.  I got this.  I will be ok.  Please give me a break.  Trust me.  Oh God Matt, how I want to trust you…The wedding is in 4 weeks please Matt let me have a little normal.

We hang up making promises.  You will stay clean, I will stay off your back.  Now that Ray’s Mom is on the mend, I need to get back to planning our wedding.  I keep telling myself to just relax, everything will be ok. Matt won’t let you down.  Please God, just once I need to trust that life will be ok.

Finally the big day arrives.  I wake to the most beautiful, crisp Autumn morning.  The sun is shining, big puffy clouds fill the bright blue sky.  The dogs are my only companions as I step outside and pray that this beautiful day is a sign.  Soon my friends and family start piling in.  Mimosas are poured and happy toasts are made.  Normal and happy, thank you God.  I’m upstairs when you and Lisa arrive.  The house is in full swing.  My Bridesmaid and flower girls all sharing bathrooms getting ready for the big day.  My heart is so full of joy I almost forget all the hell we have survived.

You are there as I walk down the steps.  You are so handsome.  Thinner than I remember, I push the bad thoughts from my mind.  You wrap your arms around me and I relax in your hug.  You are here, your eyes clear, your perfect.  You are the best wedding gift.  Thank you God, we have normal.

I quietly watch you and Lisa.  No one would know the problems you’ve had by observing you today.  I am flying.  Maybe just maybe life will be as it should.  Pictures are taken. The house is full of joy.  We are lining up the cars for the drive to the church when we hear a loud crash.  I hear Heather scream.  I jump out of the back seat and run dragging my gown.  Holy shit, a tree fell and crushed my fence.  Thank God no one was hurt.  Oh God, everyone is shaken.  We are scrambling.  I look for you and Lisa.  Your car is gone.  My driver is yelling to get back in the car.  Everyone accounted for except you.  Now I’m shaking.  My mind over thinking what just happened.  The tree fell with no wind, no storm.  Oh God are you trying to tell me something.  We line up and pull away from the house.  Don’t look back my mind is saying, put on that happy face and pretend it’s all normal.  As we get closer to the church the sky is growing darker.  The phone is ringing.  It’s Ray, where are we he asked.  We are late.  Everyone is waiting in the church.  Is Matt there.  No. Oh God.  Now the sky opens up.  The drivers are forced to slow down.  The flower girls are singing rain, rain go away and I’m numb.  Smiling my famous practiced smile, trying to laugh as my bridesmaid is reminding me that rain is good luck on a wedding day.  Oh God, she has no idea.  She is a friend but has no idea that I live with a dirty little secret.

Where is Matt.  I call your phone.  Voice mail.  WTH, Matt, my mind is screaming.  Please don’t.  Oh Dear God.  What do you want me to do.  The day that started out so beautiful and so full of promise has turned dark and uncertain.  I know I haven’t been honest about Matt.  I’m trying to handle it myself.  I can’t take the chance today. I can’t let his addiction wreck my chance at a beautiful life with Ray.  Oh God, I promise when the time is right I will tell the story, just not today.

We finally arrive.  You are not there.  People are flocking to the cars with umbrellas.  Our friends have set up a white tent in front of the church giving us a place to stand and not get drenched.  I wait in the car as everyone lines up.  My bridesmaid and flower girls and my precious ringbearer all waiting for me.  I sit as the tears fall.  Oh Matt, I can’t walk down that aisle without you.  How could you do this again.  My heart is breaking when I see headlights coming toward me.  Oh God, it’s you.

Sorry Mom, you grab my hand.  We took a wrong turn.  You are clear. You are here.  I look around at all our friends standing here in this little church.  We look at each other.  It’s good Mom, you deserve this.  I love you so much.  We will get through this together.  I put my arm through yours and we walk in.  Ray’s face looks so relieved.  His Dad joked, I thought you changed your mind.  People laugh.  You walk me to the man of my dreams,  my mind is spinning.  It will be ok.  It will be ok.  Oh God, thank you.  Both the men I love are here together on this very special, very wet day.  The only thing missing was your brother.  Still away and unaware that he is fighting a war against the very drug you love.  Secrets have become my way of life.  Secrets from those I love.  Secrets shared between a mother and the son she loves.  Secrets too evil to think about today.  The I do’s are said.  Ray and I walk out, now Man and Wife.  A ray of sun breaks through the clouds.  I look up and say a silent prayer.  Please God, please Matt, give me just a bit of normal.

Hating The Waiting

IMG_0572Matt,  the O.R. waiting room is packed.  I look around and see the faces of family members, their eyes telling the story of fear.  The anxiety is palpable in this room.  I find a seat by the door so I can make a quick exit when my own anxiety hits and I need my space to breathe.  Ray’s family files in and we claim our corner in this place where no one wants to be.  We are given name tags to be identified as family of the patient.  Ray’s sister hands me one that says Cichocki.  Put it on she says, you’re already a member we just need you to make it official.   I stick it on my shirt and start to think about the wedding.

Everything is set except the date.  We need to get through this day before we can even think of a time frame.  I have been blessed with a very flexible group of people willing to work with us to pull off this crazy wedding. For now Ray’s mom is the priority.  I sit and watch Ray.  He’s nervous.  Stress is taking the light out of his beautiful eyes.  His face is lined with worry.  It breaks my heart to see him this way.  Then it hits.  There is no relationship more precious than a mother and her son.  Oh God.  I look at this man, now a scared little boy.  I continue to watch, unobserved by Ray who is lost in his own world.  Is he thinking about his childhood.  Memories of his mom, the love they share.  The stories he’s told about his childhood always revolved around his mom.  Now I observe the man and know that the little boy lives inside that grown mans body and he wants his mom.

My thoughts drift to us.  All the great times we shared before the demons found you.  The joy and laughter.  The peace and love that filled our lives.  We shared the love of the sea, the love of dogs, the love of family and friends.  Now we share your addiction and our dirty little secret.  How did we become who we are.  You, my precious boy.  My friend.  I watched you grow from a happy go lucky young boy to a somewhat troubled adolescent to a very trouble man.  A man who found his answer in a bottle of pills.  Pills that changed who you were and turned me into a mom I never wanted to be.  Pills that made you do and say things we would have never imagined.  Pills that have allowed you to rip my heart out while I watched you start to self destruct.  Still my love for you remains unchanged.  You are my son and I am your mother.  I know you love me as much as I love you.  I know it’s the demons that make you ugly and hateful.  I know as long as there is a breath in my body I will fight the fight to keep you free from the hell and chaos your demons bring.  This bond is like no other.  The cord is never cut.  Mothers stay in connection with their sons.  The love never stops.  Hate the addiction Love the addict.

I drift back to reality.  This is crazy.  I hate hospitals, yes I know I work here.  I hate being on this side.  The waiting side, the no control side.  You know I’m always in control.  Ok, I think God is teaching me patients.  I tell Ray I need to get some air.  I need to call you.  I need to hear your voice and tell you I love you.  I need to hear that you’re ok.  No chaos today.  I couldn’t take it today.  You answer quickly.  Hey Mom, whats up.  I listen closely now not liking the greeting.  Matt, where are you, are you ok.  Fine Mom, just fine.  Oh God, not now.  Not when I need to be here, not when I’ve asked you to stay clean.  Not after the promise. Matt, what the hell.  I’m in the hospital waiting to hear about Ray’s mom.  I can’t handle this now.  I’m trying to keep my voice down as the panic is rising in my chest.  How could you do this to me now.  I’m trying to reason with you as I feel a hand on my arm.  I turn to see Ray’s face.  His eyes full of concern.  Matt stop this now.  I hang up. Breathless.  Ray looking at me waiting for an explanation.  Oh God, I can’t do this today.  Can’t dump this on him now.  Need more time to sort this out.  Maybe Matt was just tired.  Maybe just stressed.  I was going to maybe myself right out of this one.  No way was I going down this ugly road today.  Forgive me God, but I’m going to lie.  Nothing big.  Matt just being Matt.

Rays sister appears.  A smile on her face.  Mom is fine. Surgery over.  We can see her soon.  Thank you God.  Some great news.  I see Ray relax.  The worry slipping from his face.  Our conversation forgotten.  We return to our corner.  A calmness now settles around us.  I put my I’m just great mask on.  Oh God, what now.  I’m smiling and talking but my mind is spinning.  Trying to be part of this happy family, sharing the joy of a mother saved.  One day so many emotions.  I’m beat.  My heart heavy with the burden of the unknown.  My dirty little secret buried for now…..No laughter just deafening silence.


Have A Heart


Matt,  I think I floated home that night.  My heart so happy believing I finally had you back.  Instead of me, myself and I rehearsing the speech I prepared to deliver we were singing.  Oh how we were singing.  I felt so light, so happy like I’d just been handed a million dollars.  I just couldn’t believe how things worked out when we talked.  I’d come prepared for battle.  Had all the reasons ready to shoot out of my mouth and then I see you by the sea with your dogs and all the anger and frustration were washed away with the out going  tide.  I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my weary shoulders.  You were finally getting it.  I didn’t have to yell or threaten, you were on board to get your life back on track.  Now I could plan for my future without that constant nagging feeling that something would blow up in my face.  What a gift to give to your exhausted mother.

Now that I was free to focus on something other than you I started to plan my wedding.  I’d gotten used to the laughs when I told people that yes it’s this September not next and I was definitely  serious.  It turned into a game for me to find anyone who was as reckless as I was and willing to go out on a limb to help pull off my dream.  I am a beach person so of course the first place I thought about was the beach.  That was until both sets of parents looked like I’d said the F word. Yes I know.  Ray and I were both adults, but we both wanted our parents to enjoy the day so now I had to find a church.  Well how do two divorced people find a church to marry them.  We were both raised as Catholic so that was like asking a priest to shake hands with the devil.  I though for sure the church would be struck by lightning if we dare think we could set foot in the door and ask to be married.

We both loved mountain biking, yeah remember the mangled wrist that led us to this point.  Well we always passed this adorable tiny church hidden in the woods when we biked in Fairhill.  Perfect I thought.  This would satisfy the Catholic parents.  Unfortunately it was always closed whenever we passed by.  One day on a whim I stopped and looked in the windows.  It was perfect.  Just what the doctor ordered.  I took pictures and showed Ray.  He really didn’t care where we were married so off I went on my quest  to get into this church.  It just so happened that a fellow biker knew the minister.  So now we have our church.  Big enough for 70 people.  Absolutely adorable.  Plans were progressing.  You and I kept in touch and you sounded fantastic.  No sign that the demons had returned.   We made plans for you to come and stay the weekend.  We needed to get my mechanic son a suit.

Ray has been amazing.  Giving me full control over the planning.  I think he knew it would keep me busy and out of trouble.  I kept threatening to get back on my bike and conquer the hill that took me down.  He’s a smart guy.  You show up on a Friday night.  I, out of habit go through my checklist.  You pass with flying colors.  Oh God,  this is so wonderful.  We beat the demons, Matt’s back.  We shop and find you the perfect suit.  It is so wonderful to have you back.  To be able to have a conversation without your glazed eyes looking back at me.  Your head not bobbing like a broken toy.  I am flying.  On cloud nine.  I’m marrying the man of my dreams and Matt is back.  It doesn’t  get any better than this.  We spent the weekend together,  just you and me.  It felt like the old days before the demons turned our lives upside down.  I kept pinching myself.  This was truly amazing.  Once again I fought to keep the little warning voices out of my head.  Too good to be true.  He’s saying everything you need to hear.  Little voices of warning trying to steal my peace.  I beat them back and continued to believe we were the normal, happy family I so needed us to be.   Sunday came and you headed back to the sea.  I remember watching you leave, my heart begging for this new you to be the true you.  Your addiction had made you the best at pretending to be who I needed you to be.  I just couldn’t let myself believe you would do it to me again.

The  week goes by and my phone rings.  Holy S.. my boss.  Yes, I still want to come back to work.  Really, a per diem position.  Yes, I’ll take it.  Oh My Gosh.  Everything is beautiful.  I have a job,  I can save the beach house.  I am floating on air when Ray walks in.  Hey, guess what.  I’m going back to work.  Yes, as soon as I’m released from P.T.  So if you want to back out of this proposal now’s the time.  You look at me and laugh.  I wouldn’t miss this for the world, you say.   I feel like finally the planets have aligned, they are all spinning in my direction.  Life is good.  My son is good so I am absolutely wonderful.  I am laughing and dancing and you are looking at me like I’m crazy.  It’s all ok, no more dirty little secret to hide.  We are free.

In the midst of my joy your phone rings.  I stop and look at your face.  Oh God, what.  Now it is you that needs holding.  We race to the hospital, my joy with Matt forgotten.  The ED is busy.  I rush in ahead and find your Dad.  He is scared and shaky.  I brought Mom in.  She’s been sick all day and has just gotten worse.  I walk into her room and see what no nurse ever wants to see.  You bring Dad in the room.  Ray,  do you see those waves on the monitor.  Yes, they are what we refer to as Firemen.  Your Mom is having a heart attack. I ring her bell and call for help.  Ray, grab your Dad,  this room is about to go crazy.  Doctors and nurses rush in.  Papers are signed.  I grab you both and hit the hallway as your Mom is rushed to the cath lab.  Now we sit, the three of us lost in our own thoughts.  You Dad sits so still, looking so frail.  You are asking questions I really don’t want to answer.  I hate being a nurse.  I want to fix everything.  My addict son and now your ailing mother.  Ok God I think.  What are you doing.  I’m not trying to be selfish but WTH are you doing.  This is crazy.  Just when life was settling down,  just when a little piece of happy and normal came my way.  I look at you and grab your hand.  The wedding will wait.  Your eyes break my heart.  Another mother and son depending on luck and faith to keep them together.  My heart is breaking.  I remember all the times I almost lost Matt.  Ok God,  you win.  I couldn’t stop the chill that gripped my heart.  The demons were laughing as we were praying to save a mother for her son.



Demons 1 Mom 0


Matt,  I was trained just like Pavlov’s dog.  Hearing you say Hey Mama caused such a physical reaction.  My throat tightening, heart racing, wanting to vomit reaction hit me like that wave you didn’t see knocking you to your knees.  I tried to compose myself not wanting to scream at you for your return to euphoria.   Matt, what’s going on.  What are you doing.  Relax, you tell me it’s no big deal.  I was in pain so I took some Perc’s.  I’m fine.  Matt, you’re not fine, you have a problem and you need help.  You need to find another way to manage whatever pain you have.  You keep telling me you have it all under control, that you can handle this.  You are in such denial.  You are in trouble.  Please let’s get you into rehab and finally get you to a safe place.  You pop those pills like they are candy.  You’re going to lose everything again.  Please Matt, let me help you.

Mom, all you ever do is lecture me.  Get off my back.  I’m so tired of your opinions on how I live.  I know what I’m doing and I know what I take.  I’m working, paying my bills.  Lisa doesn’t care, she understands that I need relief after working all day.  You just like to cause trouble.  Just let me be.  I’m not a little kid stop treating me like one.

You know what Matt, you’re right.  You are a grown man and if this is how you choose to live then so be it.  I’m really so tired of worrying about you every day.  Your addiction has wiped me out.  I’ve spent so much time saving you I forgot who I am.  I just really don’t get how easily you forget the nightmare we survived getting you clean.  The medical horror show as your body got rid of the poison.  How in the hell can you put that poison back into your body is beyond me.  I’m so glad Lisa understands and doesn’t mind the slurred speech and laziness that comes along with your drug use.  Maybe you two are the perfect match. 

You know what, I’m going back into my life.  I’m going to spend time with me and try to remember who I am and what I like.  I won’t be coming down this weekend.  I can’t just sit back and watch you self destruct.  It’s too painful for me when I try to help and you push me away.  You are so twisted in thinking you have control of this way of life.  Matt, you will spiral down again and maybe I won’t be there to catch you. 

I ended the conversation telling you I loved you.  I felt so defeated.  Knowing it was only a matter of time before your addiction would suck you so far away from everything you loved.  My heart was breaking not knowing what else I could or should do.  Your demons always made you a mister know it all until the shit hit the fan and you called for help.  Dear God, this is an endless battle.

The week  lasted forever.  I tried not to consume myself with worry over you.  Ray and I starting hanging out every night.  We were getting serious and it was so nice to have some normal in my life.  The weekend came and my internal struggle began.  Waking up Saturday and fighting the urge to get in my car and become the Mom police.  Breaking that pattern was difficult.  I still foolishly thought I could save you from the hell you were about to enter.  How foolish I was. 

I convinced myself that things would be ok.  I would check in with you later.  I called Ray.  I needed normal and he was just that.  We biked through the woods, enjoyed cold beers and laughed.  This is good I kept telling myself, you can do this.  You can have a life outside of Matt’s addiction.  Night fell and my panic set in.  I didn’t call, you didn’t call.  Oh God.  Did I abandon Matt.  I just need him to realize how serious his problem is.  I need him to be ok whatever that means.  I need the pills to go away.  What would happen if I pretended he wasn’t addicted.  How long would that fantasy last.  Why can’t he just stop.  Why doesn’t he see what his addiction is doing.  He lives in his chaotic, deceptive world.  I live in constant fear of what we are heading for.  On this roller coaster from hell.  Ups then downs, never knowing what ‘s coming around the next bend. 

I broke down and called.  I needed to know good or bad.  This time when you answered there was no Hey Mama. You were getting smart.  Catching on to my cues.  My checklist.  Your speech not quite clear,  just tired Mom.  Polite, too polite.  You were on guard.  Oh God,  we are going to start playing a new game.   Matt, where are you going.  I want you back.  My Matt before the pills, before the demons found your soul and starting pulling you away from me.  I just wanted to say goodnight I tell you.  I don’t let on that I know how sly your addiction has made you.  Love you Matt.  Love you, Mom.  We hang up.  Tears start falling from my eyes.  The dogs come.  We curl up and sit in the dark.  My mind wanders to happier days.  My boys playing in the surf laughing as we run down the beach together.  Matt hold on, I’m right behind you.  I can play your game.  I’m your Mom.  You’re my Matt.  I got this.  I closed my eyes.  Go to hell demons. 



Not My Son


My youngest son, Matt died on January 3rd from a drug overdose.  We had battled his addiction since high school when he started smoking weed.  Back in the 90″s Delaware had no programs for teens using drugs, so off we went to Newport News, VA.

I left him there for the allowable 28 days, God the insurance companies are so stupid to think 28 days will help with any recovery. 28 days is spitting in the ocean.  I’m a NICU nurse who has become self educated in the world of addiction.  Matt was clean for a  period of time after that first rehab, probably because he had no money and now had a mother who watched him like a hawk. Checking pupils and smelling clothes, tearing his room apart when he wasn’t home.  Little did I know this was just the start of the nightmare that would become life.

High school graduation finally came. I honestly don’t know who was happier Matt or me.  He was thrown out of St. Mark’s in his junior year for behavior that was unacceptable to their standards, so much for the Catholic forgiveness.  He finished at McKean and excelled in their automotive program.  I thought wow, this boy has finally found his niche.  I began to relax as he was accepted to Delaware Tech’s automotive program.  He worked selling auto parts during the day and went to classes at night.  I was working 12 hour shifts in the adult ICU.  He lived at home with me and life found a rhythm.  We had a different relationship than most, he was my friend, my go to guy as I was single during this time.  We were both so busy with our lives that all we had was each other.  Sharing coffee in the morning and spending free time walking our dogs through the woods. Life was good.  Matt was on his way to a productive life and I could stop being the drug police and just enjoy his company.

Years passed and Matt became an ace mechanic, making a great living.  He met Natalie, the girl I thought would become his wife.  Natalie moved into our house and we became a happy little family. The three muskateers.

Then as life evolves, changes come.  Matt and Natt as I called them were moving to the beach to start a business in Lewis.

My kids were going out on their own.  I was so proud of how far Matt had come from those dark days of addiction in high school.  I was foolish enough to think we beat those demons and life would remain as I needed it to be.

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