Matt, Today is my birthday. My third without you. I still have such a hard time believing that there will be no phone call or card signed Love Matt. You won’t be hiding in the house to surprise me. Once again I try to get though another milestone without you. I’m in New York. Funny you know I would have rather spent my day at the beach walking on the sand listening to the sea birds and the crashing of the ocean. But my article about your addiction was featured in a magazine and I was invited to attend the reveal here in NY. This humbling experience was something I could not miss.
Since your death, I have become an advocate for the treatment of addiction. I write and speak about how horribly you were treated by the Insurance Industry and treatment facilities. I speak out about the ugly stigma that follows addiction. I work to make changes in our state laws. It’s the only way I survive. Your death rocked me to my core. Everyday I struggle to find my new normal. Everyday I pray that you are finally at peace. Everyday I wake to this empty house. My regrets about letting you go to Florida smack me swiftly in the face. I feel so guilty about your death. I still can’t believe I didn’t see how wrong it was for you to leave home and go so far away. The thought of you being dumped in a motel to die kills me more and more each day. My guilt beats at my soul. My brain questions what kind of mother lets her son go so far away?
I wanted you to have a fresh start at a new life. I was tricked into believing that new people, places and things would cure you. All those books written about addiction by people who think they are experts in the field led us down the path of no return. Parents who talk about tough love and disowning their kids because of addiction. So much misinformation published by people who think they have the answers to addiction. Don’t they know that every family is different?
There is no black and white once size fits all in this ugly disease. Misleading parents like me that if we follow what they did our story would have the same happy ending. Looking back I should have followed my gut. I should have known you would never survive without your family close by to support you when you fell. I knew you better than anyone and still I let you go. Those books have been trashed as they should have been so long ago.
It’s ironic. I wrote the truth about us. The ugly, horrible, brutally honest truth about how your addiction stomped our family to death. How your addiction shattered us to the core. How I became addicted to your addiction and turned into a person I no longer recognized. Funny, the editor I sent it to told me it was too ugly to publish. That both you and I were horrible people. That no one would want to read my work.
At first her words crushed me. Then reality hit. The reason this epidemic continues to have such power killing far more than any disaster or war is because many people don’t want ugly. People want pretty. People want fairy tale endings. People want to think that if we continue to ignore addiction it will go away. That it won’t affect our families. That addiction is something that happens to others. That addiction is something we can walk away from and never look back. We only want to hear about beautiful children from perfect families who go on to lead successful lives.
I blame myself. I should have never let you go. I lived the ugliness with you. Yes, there were a few glimpses of pretty. The few times you came back as the Matt I knew before. Times when the possibility of our fairy tale ending played tricks with my mind. Your addiction was more powerful than even I could have ever imagined. Your addiction won.
Now I live with regret. I live with guilt. The joke was on me. I live knowing that birthdays, holidays and life in general will never hold the same meaning. Oh how I wish I read how brutally ugly the true reality of addiction could be.