Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

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A Hollow Halloween

Matt,  tonight is Halloween.  I Thought after all these years I would be ok seeing the kids skipping down the street dressed in a variety of costumes.  

I did ok as the kids came up to the door yelling Trick or Treat.  It was so sweet watching them root through the candy bowl searching for their favorite treats.  Their smiling faces warmed my heart making me laugh as they politely said thank you and waved goodbye.  

Everything was good until I opened the door and two little boys stood on the steps.  Their blond hair sticking out from under their hats.  Two sets of green eyes looking into mine.  Oh God, I felt like I was looking at your children.  I felt like I was given a precious glimpse of what life could have been like had you survived your addiction.  

I stood on the steps with them drinking in every second.  Allowing them to choose as many pieces of candy as their little hands could handle.  I wanted to wrap them up in a hug.  I wanted to close my eyes and picture you standing there with your boys.  I wanted to hear you say Hi Mom.  

I fought back tears as they walked away hand in hand.  
Closing the door I let my tears flow.  I sat and allowed all those memories of you and Mike on Halloween run through my mind. How much you loved to dress up.  How you wolfed down your dinner and ran out the door as soon as darkness hit. 

Those memories of Halloweens so long ago are bittersweet.  They are heartwarming and heartbreaking all wrapped in the complicated waves of grief.  





 

 

My Reflections on Trail of Truth.

I remember being home watching the weather like a hawk scans the sky for prey.  I kept thinking how could the report of a strong nor-easter possibly be true as I sat feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin.  

The next morning I woke to a gray day.  I felt the weather was mimicking my soul as my husband said goodbye at the train station.  I could feel the wind beginning to strengthen as I stood on the platform with my friend who decided she wanted to brave the weather after hearing me try to explain the impact of the memorial ceremony to others when there really are no words that could describe the slap to your heart as you stood amongst the angels.

So here we were the three of us sitting together on the train heading to D.C. to be among those involved in bringing awareness to the pandemic that continues to destroy families and lives.  You see, Nicole lost her husband last year and is now a single mom to her beautiful daughter, Chloe.

As the train sped toward our destination, I could feel my anxiety growing.  Memories flooded my brain of my first trip to D.C. 9 months after losing my son, Matt in 2015.  How naive I was then thinking this epidemic would never continue.  I truly believed that losing 42,000 people in 2015 would be enough for those in power to shut down the Pharmaceutical Companies responsible for the carnage. That lawmakers and doctors would be punished for their part in this terrible tragedy that created a disease of massive proportions.

As we arrived at Union Station I felt a calm beginning to settle my heart.  I felt like I was where I was meant to be.  

Walking into the Yotel was like coming home after a long absence. Hearing my name and being surrounded by other mamas who’s faces were so familiar yet now they were in my space and we shared moments of joy mixed with grief as we wrapped each other up in warm, loving hugs.  

Our eyes all reflecting a similar emotion.  No one wanted to be here, but because our hearts were shattered by loss we knew we had to be here to let the country know our children continue to live through us.

The storm was kind to us on Friday allowing our activities to continue as planned.  First the DOJ rally.  The power of being among so many incredible advocates was palpable.  The energy flowed through the crowd.  Our chants stopped passerby’s who asked what we were doing.  I was proud to tell Matt’s story as they listened and offered condolences and compassion.  Sharing their lives had also been touched by this tragedy.

My friend Jen gave a powerful speech telling her story of Christopher as I listened I was moved to tears.  So many who’s stories shared similarities of hope and heartbreak.  

Friday night Susans vigil was held at Union Square.  Once again we came together as one body of broken people holding on to each other as stories were shared.  I was blessed to share Matt’s story with the crowd.  Candles were glowing in the dark representing the lives of our loved ones whose 

lights we will never allow to burn out.

I could hear the rain and wind before I got out of bed Saturday morning.  Ophelia obviously had no idea who she was dealing with as she pummeled D.C. with all her force.  A group had gathered outside our room accessing what we were up against.  We laughed out loud knowing that we had all walked through hell and survived. 

A group of us gathered for breakfast holding our rain gear and making plans to brave the storm. There was no way we were going to allow this storm to stop us from being among our angels.

I tried to prepare my friend for the impact but I knew from experience there truly are no words.  I watched her walk among the Delaware people searching for her husbands stone.  Tears falling as she held her daughter’s hand looking for Daddy.  Our eyes met and I knew she felt it.  I knew the impact found her soul ripping it apart once again.  The sky opened up as we both searched, her for Walt, me for Matt.  I knew there was no way we were giving up in spite of high winds and heavy rain.  

Finding Matt, seeing his handsome face stopped me in my tracks. I felt like the earth beneath my feet split open.  I prayed for it to swallow me, to take me to a place where grief could never find me.  To give me a reprieve from this excruciating pain that had become my life.  I heard a guttural cry escape from my soul.  I felt arms wrapping around me as another mom heard and came to hold me up.  Never could I have anticipated my response.  The rawness of the grief.  

I knew I was spent. I wanted to run.  Then I saw my friends face and knew she found her husband.  She knew. I knew.  We were both experiencing, living the impact our team had hoped for when forming the Trail of Truth.

Saying goodbye Sunday morning was tough.  I felt surrounded by those who get me.  I felt like we were all kindred spirits finding each other again. 

I still have found no words to describe the feeling when you walk among angels.  As we boarded the train to Delaware my friend leaned over and said you were right.  No words……..💔💔

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

Matt,

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…….

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