Matt. You really did it this time. It takes a lot to upset Ray and he is pissed. The fact that you were going to let me go to jail and risk my nursing career just about blew his mind. I keep telling Ray you are sick. That you need help but your actions and attitude really aren’t helping my case. I planned to spend this week relaxing in my garden, but now I have to put the fires caused by your addiction out and try to keep this family together.
I’m in the kitchen drinking coffee staring out the window. I’m so lost in my thoughts that I don’t realize you are up. I can’t even bring myself to look at your face. I’m still having a hard time believing that after all we have been through together and everything I’ve done to help keep you safe that you would throw me to the wolves. I’ve read about tough love. How parent’s throw their addicts out. Turn their backs. No home, no food, having nothing to do with their once loved kids. I’ve read that the only way to save an addict is to let them hit rock bottom. The problem with tough love is I’m not tough. I loved you and all I cared about was getting you straight and keeping you that way. I knew my back was against the wall. I never though Ray would say those words. I just didn’t know if I was strong enough to kick you out and your rock bottom scared me to death.
You brush past me without a word. My heart is breaking. Where are you? What happened to my funny, loving son? Who is this stranger living in your skin? My mind asking questions as my lips remain silent. I’m trying not to cry. I’m so emotionally beat up. All I want is my son and my life to be normal. I’ve forgotten what those days were like. The days before the demons became your love. When life was full of joy, before the chaos and drama starting chipping away at our lives. I wanted it all back. I wanted to grab you and shake you and rid your body of the poison slowly killing us all.
“Hey Matt, we need to talk”. I wait for your response. Nothing. You are ignoring me. Your demons have control. I say it again, “Matt, we need to talk”. You look at me with glassy eyes. My heart sinks. “Matt, this has to stop”. “You need to get into a rehab or find another place to live”. There, I’ve said it. Those words I never thought I’d say. Out of my mouth and floating between us like poison gas. I hold my breath and wait for your reaction. You look at me and smile. “You can’t throw me out, you have to evict me”. “I looked it up”. You continue to gloat as you make a cup of coffee and float downstairs. I’m sitting there in shock. I grab my laptop and google eviction. I’ll be damn, you were right. Holy shit. How can this be. I own this house. You’ve never paid a dime to live here. Just do your drugs and eat the food. This is crazy. Now I have to pay court costs to get you to leave. My brain is reeling while my heart is relieved. The perfect excuse. No tough love. I can’t be blamed by anyone. For me it’s a win/win situation. I did what Ray wanted. Told you to leave.
Ray comes home expecting you to be gone. I decide to play my I don’t know what you’re talking about game. To slip into my pretend world. I pretend we are just like any other family. We had a misunderstanding and need to work it out. Ray starts to question me. I tell him we talked. I share the information about kicking someone out that has lived at the residence for years. I tell him this is your home. You hear him come in and stupidly decide to come and challenge him. Oh God, I’m looking at you willing you to shut your mouth. My eyes pleading for your silence. This is not the time to be cocky. I feel the anger building. You are high and mighty, untouchable. Your words are ugly. “F*** you, you can’t make me leave. I live here”. I hear the words and start to slowly die inside. You are out of control and Ray is done. I’ve never seen Ray so angry. He pushes past you, grabs a backpack filled with your stuff. “Get the hell out”. He is screaming, you are screaming and I am disappearing. I watch in horror, tears flowing as Ray grabs you and throws you out the door. Oh God, I can’t do this. You are my baby. I have to save you. I grab Ray and his eyes tell me to back off. This is between you and him. I’m sobbing and pleading for us to calm down and take a breath. These ugly people are not who we are. Dear God, you look at me hate spewing from your eyes. Ray slams the door and pushes past me. I hold myself, sobbing as you get into your truck, give me the finger and leave.
I continue looking out the window tears streaming down my face. My mind is reeling. How do you choose between two men you love. One is your child. You’ve loved him from the first moment the stick turned positive. Dreamed of his life. What he would look like and who he would be. Never once did I think my beautiful boy would turn into a man capable of such turmoil. Never did I dream that my son would grow up to be an addict. Ray comes to me. I cannot speak. Just shake with the sobs racking my body. He sits and tells me he’s sorry. He’s trying to do the right thing. He’s trying to save me. “You can’t see what he is doing to you”. “You are consumed by his addiction”. “You aren’t tough enough, you still see the little boy, not the grown man who is slowly killing you”. “Let’s see what happens, Maybe this will open his eyes”. I still can’t respond. I need every ounce of energy to breathe. I know Ray is trying. I know he’s supported every decision. Put up with Matt’s chaos and always tried to help. Right now none of that matters. My heart is broken. I feel dirty and hateful. I know I will not survive.
The first night I am once again on the couch. Me and the pups. A bottle of red and bones. I try to call you. I need to know you are alive. Need to hear your voice. To tell you I’m sorry and thinking of you. And once again, your voicemail is all I get. Hopelessness wraps me up. In all the years of our struggle I never felt so defeated.
I am a mess. I haven’t slept in weeks. Laying there night after night wondering where you are. If you’re still alive. What have I done. I hate myself. I call Mike. Ask him if he’s heard from you. Nothing. He’s trying to be strong, but I know he is thinking the same thing. He will drive around and look for you. I try to stay busy. I check my phone constantly. Every call sets my heart racing. I go through your stuff. Same old game. Searching for poison. Hoping you have left some behind. A reason to contact me. Nothing. Your demons have full control. I sit and smell your clothes and cry. “Mom, Matt slept in his car last night”. “At least he’s alive”. “Ok Mike, I’m going to make some calls. Let’s put him in a motel until I can find a place”. So Mike and I team up to find you a place to put your head. I keep thinking about this tough love bullshit. Well, I just can’t do. Let them say what they want. I don’t give a damn. Everyone telling me to throw you out has never lived my life. How do you handle not knowing where you’re son is. Yes, he’s an addict. He’s done terrible things. He’s still my son. All the tough hearted parents writing the advice books, well good for them I think. Good for them. They’re not Matt’s mom. They haven’t watched his struggle. They haven’t seen the glimpses of my Matt that sneak out and touch my heart.
Weeks go by. You are now staying with a friend. Of course I am paying rent to keep you safe. I can finally sleep knowing you are not on the streets, cold and hungry. People have told me I did it all wrong. Just enabling from afar. I say addiction is not a black and white disease. What works for one addict doesn’t work for another. Tough love is not all it’s cracked up to be. It was tougher on me than you. But you already knew that. You played the game. Acting hurt and hateful, killing me with your eyes as you left. Knowing my heart was putty in your hands. Knowing I loved you too much to be tough. Knowing I would find a way to keep you safe. My sweet boy knew he was loved too much by a mother who was too soft for tough love…..