Immortal Pain: Loving an Addict

By Janet…

There are so many ways to die.  It seems only the real death gets acknowledged but there are so many
other deaths.  That happen inside.
Like the death when you love an addict.  The not being able to live.
The death of hope.  That death when you are sick with hope, and it keeps killing you .
Everyone is still alive… but there are many deaths. Even though you are all still breathing.
You live with death.
It is in every cavity.  Your nose, your throat, your chest.

But there are no flowers, no music. The neighbors say, “Hi.”
No one knows about the death that day, and the day before.
But it is death.
People don’t know that you
don’t even know where your son is.  That he is poor and homeless and
sick and scary.
That you had to tell him not to call you.
You cannot help him.
But there are no flowers, no music, no floor, no place to put the grief.
Because the pain is wildly alive and
the addict is immortal.
It is an open anguish. An abyss where nothing lives except the
sick of death.

You die over and over again as a mother when you wonder where he is,
how he is.  How? Why?   You remember holding his shape,
and washing him.  Drying him with a towel and putting lotion on him.
Brushing back his wet hair.
You took such good care of him.

Now he prowls the streets and hurts himself over and over again.
He puts needles in his body.

That perfect precious body you took such good care of.
That precious little face.

You feel as if you are drowning.

Can’t breathe.

I tell myself  “He is strong and resourceful.  He has to figure this out
himself.”  But at night I wonder where he sleeps? What he does? Where he is?

I have no phone number for him and no address.  He is a grown man, almost 30,
and he is 6′ 5″.  He is super tall, imposing, and I have been afraid of him for a while.
He has a big physical presence and a beautiful face.  A magazine beautiful face.
I wonder if he still has that face?  That smile? I wonder is he still has that smile?
I always called my sons, the masterpieces.  Communicating with them how much
I loved and respected them, and hoping they would feel that way about themselves
as well.  To love themselves.
He was innocent for about 14 years, and
then the rampage started.
He tattooed his beautiful body starting at age 14.  The anger I felt over that first tattoo is indescribable.
I even called the police.
How was it possible for an underage child to get someone to tattoo him?
He was 6 feet tall at the time but he wasn’t even old enough to have a driver’s license.  How did
this happen?? And in Massachusetts where, at the time, tattooing wasn’t legal either.
I was going to tear the whole world apart until I got to the bottom of this.
I am going to scrape the skin off his body and then off mine.  I am going to go
crazy.  But he was unstoppable.
He wouldn’t come home when he was supposed to.  He defied us at every turn.
It was like living with a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

But he just seemed big and wild and wonderful so we were not discouraged.
Every teacher, every coach, every friend and relative, every girl and woman, everyone…
reached out to Martin.  Uncles, cousins, his brother.
“He is a walking mass of human potential,”  one teacher said.
We felt sure he would be okay.
He was the home run king in little league. He was on the All Star Team.
He was in the high school play, The Sound of Music.  He could play the guitar, and sing.
He was a great tennis player.  He spent summers poking around the harbor,
fishing, peering into tidal pools.
He had an enormous enormous physical stamina.  As a toddler he could walk for
hours and hours, no matter the weather.  Always wanting to be outside, walking the
beach, walking down to Hathaways Pond. Walking across the marsh.
“Walkies.”  His face chapped and maybe one foot frozen wet from a puddle and one
glove off and his hand bright red, but he did not want to go in.
“Are you cold?”    “Are you tired?”  “Let’s go back and rest.”
But he was not bothered by those things and never ever fussed.
We would take him back.  Feed him, bathe him, read to him, put him to bed.
He would sleep 12 hours.

School was never good and it kept getting worse.  Why was he so tall?  He was young for kindergarten
with his September birthday.  All the other kids were 5 and some were already 6.
He was 4 turning 5.  But he was the tallest by far, and with his handsome, developed
face… he looked 7.  He had the carriage and poise of a much older person.  But I think
he was very confused.  We should have waited.  The teachers kept assuring us that
he was fine.  There were no signs to hold him back and wait.  He could do all the tasks,
and he was a good reader, followed directions.   He was cooperative and agreeable but he
always seemed, to me, a little lost, in a traditional setting.

He had a little brother, a dog, two decent parents. Lots of cousins.  Cool
uncles and aunts. A close grandmother.

He played basketball, tennis, did some sailing and lots of fishing.
Fishing was a big occupation and he was good at it.
Standing Masai-like with his fishing pole.  On the beach, or in
a boat. His big hands super delicate with marine life and
I always like watching the way he handled the living creatures.
He had access to sailboats and dingys and the family boston whaler
long before he could drive. He was an excellent waterman and we trusted
him.  Along with his father and uncles, he was a founding member of the self-annointed
Back Bay Crab Club, where on weekends they would go to a local creek and wade for
blue crabs.  It was very physical, very challenging and required a great deal
of skill and endurance.
You stalked the crabs in hip deep water and then grabbed them with a net like a lacrosse player
along the murky bottom in fast moving tidal water.
He had a  floating clam basket tied to his waist and he would hold his own for hours.
He was an expert from age 5.
He was afraid of nothing, would go anywhere, taste anything,
try everything.

He was mysterious, too. I so often wondered “What is he thinking?  What goes on in his head?”

He seemed different in some way.

“The Secret Life of Martin Mitty,”  one of his Uncles would say.

He had an un-fillable center, for experiences.
It was wonderful, and it was nurtured.  He never was ready to come in, never the first to stop.
He would throw the ball until there was no light and then keep going until someone
stopped.  He could last and last and last.
When we would go on vacation he would be out on the water and on the beach all day long and into the evening and then
he would want to fish at night. He was so strong.

He was the furthest thing in the world from hyper.
He was Zen, from what we could see.
Calm, a very relaxed physique and demeanour.
Restful hands, restful countenance, restful body.
But he was insatiable.
And later, with drugs, and the drug life style, I would say, “He has no off switch.”
But when he was younger it was just that he could always always last the longest.

Still, he slept really well. Ate a lot. Did not crave or seek out junk food.  He was a great
eater and fun to have around for food.  He liked real food. Good food. He liked sushi,
clams, crabs, soups, bagels, pasta, garlic, oatmeal.  Lots and lots of good things.
Bacon and eggs. Pancakes.

He taught himself early on to make grilled cheese sandwiches.
“Good for any time of day or night,” he would say.
He could make them on the stove in a frying pan until we got a
George Forman Grill and he would make them for himself, his brother,
his Grandmother, friends.  His capable hands relaxed.  The sandwiches
delicious. He was charismatic and beautiful.

Fourteen was awful. He was bigger than most full grown men,
and he had that amazing face.  People were so drawn to him.
Especially girls.  And grown women.
One day on the beach in Florida a woman I was chatting with
was watching Martin approach from the water.
“That is your son?” she said .  “I thought he was your boyfriend.”

He had this grace and people wanted to be around him.
He seemed so refined and sensitive with his natural charm and
aristocratic face, but he loved Rap Music from an early age with
the words of hate and rape and killing.  One of our earliest
battles was the awful awful music he wanted to listen to with his
nine year old little brother exposed to the horrific lyrics.
I always thought of us a really open – minded parents. Having
grown up with rock and roll.  Suddenly we felt like Tipper and Al
Gore making rules about what kind of music was okay and what wasn’t.
It was such uncharted territory.

He was difficult.  He would just simply refuse to do something.
Not even refuse, just not do it. Not care.
I had never encountered this before in my life.
Being a very agreeable and reasonable person myself, I just couldn’t even imagine the absolute
NO of it all.  Just NO.  Not for you, and not for himself.
Often to his own detriment.   Especially in school.  He simply would NOT complete an assignment.
Even when it meant losing basketball, tennis.  Or flunking. Detentions. Groundings.
Teachers wheedled and begged and offered every good and
positive solution.  As did we.  He just simply wouldn’t.

“An inverse achievement,”  my father said.

It was maddening.

He liked to disappear with friends. He liked being up at night,
going to each other’s houses or just out.  It made no sense.  How could a
young teenager who couldn’t even drive yet have so much freedom.
He took a plane once to D. C. to visit a girlfriend who was 3 years older.
He was 15. She was 18. She was in college and paid for his ticket.  We didn’t even know
he had gone.  He had a passport and he used that as I. D.

We could barely keep him in school.  His friends would pick him up and then
they would all disappear. So we started driving him to school.  We tried public and
private school.  He was embraced by the private academy and given a partial
scholarship.  He had so much to offer… soccer, tennis, basketball, music, personality.
They rolled
out the red carpet for him.  The staff was excited, the girls where thrilled, the
guys were psyched.  We thought it would work.  It turned into a war zone.

Teachers calling. Parents callings.  Meetings. Strategies.
Promises. Plans.

We took him to Boston to one of the premier practitioners in
adolescent psychology to see if we were missing something,
doing something wrong.  When he was done with his evaluation
the Dr. met with my husband and me and said, “Well, the good news
is you son does not have a psychiatric disorder. ”  He then proceeded
to tell us that it was most likely developmental, he gave us some
new strategies, and some medicines to try.

We put out best feet forward and gave our all.  It was discouraging
to find out that Martin was not only not taking the medicine as prescribed,
but that he was trying to get some kind of misguided bang out of it
and he and his friends were grinding it up and snorting it. It had zero
recreational value and it was such a waste.  On so many levels.

We simply could not connect with him, and we turned ourselves inside out
trying to do so.

He became very powerful.  Once he started driving and his circles became larger
we were all increasingly lost.
And our home was a police state.  I never knew what rule was in place.
What he had done or not done.

Paradox paradox paradox.
a poets soul.  nonchalant.  calm.  languid. indifferent. entitled. rebellious.
Vital and restless.
Apathetic and driven.
Elegant and feral.

Disarming.

The only thing I could count on was that he would let us down.

He would deconstruct.

We knew he was smoking pot a lot and drinking some, but alcohol was not
really the draw.  Pills, total freedom, no borders, no boundaries.
Ecstasy and other pills started to show up around 17.  At this point he had repeated
a grade so he was no longer one of the youngest in his grades, but one of the oldest.
He was a legend of good looks, good manners, and complete under achievement.
He had no after school job or summer job, no structure, and a Grade Point Average of
1.75.  We were at our wits end.

He had no real sense of time, and we started to lose all sense of “normal”.
A matrix of disconnected events, hopes, happenings.

We had to pull him out of other people’s houses during high school years
at all times of day and night.
Chase him down.
He would leave for school but go elsewhere.
I would track him down, go to someone’s house.
Usually they were all crashed out, girls and boys, the place a mess.
Someone’s house. No idea who.
I know that they were using Xanax recreationally.   Xanax bars, they would call them.
Huge amounts of Xanax in a rectangular pill.
“Why?”  “Why?”  I wanted to know.   “To feel trashed?”  “To fall asleep?”
“Mix with alcohol and not even be able to move?”  “Possibly die?”
It seemed CRAZY.

Sometimes I thought this would pass, and sometimes I thought it would never ever end.
It consumed us all.
He barely graduated from high school but managed to walk with his class
looking like a million dollars and receive his diploma.
A few random low paying jobs here and there, a trial stint with a friend in Fort Lauderdale
whose parents had a condo there, and then finally…  when he was totally broke and out of options,
he decided to join the Navy.

At first this went very very well.  He was a star.  Tested in the top percentiles going in, performed
in the top percent in boot camp. Got recognition and promotions.
He was fastidious about his appearance and used as an example on how to present oneself
in uniform.  His fellow boot campers started paying him to iron their uniforms.
With his height and bearing, good looks and superb manners, he was often chosen
for special tasks and was welcomed into the higher ranks as a courier or
some other function that brought closer to the inner circles.

He was proud of his accomplishments and it seemed he had found his niche.
He spent several months in Chicago after boot camp in various schools and he
had money in his pocket for the first time and some building blocks.

He was assigned to a ship and transferred to San Diego for more training
while he awaited his orders.
While on base in San Diego he was often asked to drive higher ups to their appointments or
pick people up from the airport.  It seemed he was being groomed for
some plum spots and we were thrilled.  He was working out, taking care of himself.

At 11:00 pm one night we were woken up with a phone call and a very rambling explanation
from Martin that he was being kicked out of the Navy.
It was true that he was being kicked out of the Navy.  That part was true.
everything else was a lie.  An enormous complicated lie.  And we fell for it.
It took us weeks to understand and accept the extent of the lie.
I had never thought of Martin as a liar.  Certainly not of this caliber.
But as we sifted through this matrix it showed his true lack of consciousness
and awareness.  I understand that he was scared and ashamed.  But the lack of
honesty was the biggest hit of all.
He said that he had failed a drug test and that it was because of some work out
supplement he was taken.  He was so convincing about this that we hired a lawyer.
Calling in several favors and kindnesses from family members to get a prominent
military lawyer in California to go to the base in San Diego and assist Martin in
his righteous pursuit of fairness.  It was so humiliating to hear from this
seasoned gentleman that Martin and 3 equally valued enlisted men with promising
careers, had tested positive for cocaine use and that there had been incidents of partying
at the local universities, which had led to the “surprise” drug test to begin with.  All four of
them were released from the Navy.  It takes several weeks for this to actually transpire and so
Martin was on severe restriction on base while the process took place.   We were so
shocked and hurt with feelings of overwhelming helplessness.  The lawyer told us that Martin
would not get a dishonorable discharge because of his good record, and that he would avoid a
felony conviction, but he had to agree to the charges and successfully complete the
separation process without incident.   They would give him a one way bus ticket to Florida and that
was that.  It seemed surreal.  We told him to make plans, find a place to go, and get a job.
He was 20 years old. And we were furious and exhausted.  He went to Orlando and bunked with friends,
worked at a Pepsi plant, getting by somehow.

On his 21st birthday he got a settlement from a car accident. He had been hit by
a car when he was about 12 years old and the funds came to him at 21.  It was
not a little bit and not a lot.  It was $20,000.  He knew it was coming and sadly,
he did nothing worthwhile with it, and it was gone in a few months.
Unsavory friends, crazy living situations, fighting with girlfriends.
Some odd jobs. A trip to New Orleans to find work after Katrina.
You could chart the downslide.
Beginnings beginnings beginnings.
And more endings.
The endings always worse.  The “new beginnings”  (are there old ones?)
always more wobbly.
And the hard drugs were starting to rage.
And the lies became all pervasive.
Pain pills, cocaine. Oxycontin.  And then on the crack pipe and
then to the needle.

Multiple attempts to get him back on his feet, rehabs, clinics,
shelters. Two arrests, two stints in jail, more attempts to get him on his feet,
probations, violations of probations,disappearances.
“Is he dead?”  “Has he been murdered?”
Calls from jail. Calls from parking lots.

Living nine lives and digging a thousand graves.  We just never know
which one.

Everyone says I am doing so well.  That I am so brave.  And sometimes that is true and sometimes
I just feel as if I stagger from one nightmare to the next.
It is heavy heavy.  But I cannot live the deaths so I care for my own life.
“You cannot contact me, Martin.  Until you have a consecutive year of
sober adult living do not contact me. I love you. I have always loved you.  You have never known
anything but love from me.”

Was that the right thing to do? There seems never ever to
be a “good” choice. The value has been stripped away.
I am bare.

Al anon meetings are strengthening.  That is what I feel. Strength.
And the wonderful faces of the people there.  You would think that
people sit around and talk about their nightmare lives but that is not so.
We are there to be well.  To heal.  Not to dwell. We work to be well.

One lady said,  “Sometimes I can’t tell the difference whether it was
something I dreamed, or something that happened, or something I
imagined would happen.”

We talked about projecting “awfullism” with our thoughts. A progression of
horrors that grow and grow.  The rabbit hole. And how best to deal with that.
How to be well.  How to take care of one self.

One lady said she tries to imagine good things happening.  I have
done that and I die over and over, and that sense of death fills
my every pore like a seasickness that you cannot escape.

For me, neutral is best.

I have to want so little at this point, that it is humiliating.

What you crave is the truth, no matter how awful it might be.
You want the truth as badly as the addict wants the drug.
You would do anything to get the truth.  And you have to be
careful. This empty search, will make you sick.

The hallmark of an active addict is that they have nothing.
No address, no driver’s license, no phone, no true friends, no job.
Nothing.  And they are insatiable on every level and will
vaporize anything you give them.
If given one or two tools to build on, they will take it all apart.
My son sold his passport, his clothes, his guitar, CDs, toiletries.
EVERYTHING he could possibly get his hands on.
So you have to stop giving them things.  He called me once from
a shelter and asked me to send him a blanket, “I’m cold.” and some
money for food.  I had to say No.  I cannot describe what it is like
to tell your child no to food, clothing, and shelter.  But I had learned
that they know that, they say,  “I’m cold, I’m hungry.”  because they
know that will destabilize you completely.  And they are back in.
Even if just for a moment. If they can score drugs, cigarettes, and
alcohol… they can find food, clothing and shelter.  Plus you never know
if what they are saying is true.
It strips you to the core.

What you want, the one thing you really want, is the truth.

It is never available, and you think you will go insane searching for it.

But, what can survive is the love.  The real love, the healthy love.
Safe in your heart, safe despite the blighted landscape.
It stays safe. It is alive.
It is there.
It cannot die.
It is where I live.

54 thoughts on “Immortal Pain: Loving an Addict

  1. Marc October 29, 2012 at 11:28 am #

    Beautiful! This one made me cry…..

    • Angela January 31, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

      This is beautiful, it made me cry. I searched for something that described what it was like to love an addict, and this describes it perfectly. My boyfriend and the father of my child due in 3 months is a pill addict and is passed out half the day, and I’ve learned to let the beast sleep because when he’s awake he’s so hurtful and destructive. He’s going to die if he doesn’t stop. Anyway I really enjoyed your blog and it really hits home. I just like knowing I’m not alone. I die every day and I’ve tried everything. Empty promises, broken dreams, and he doesn’t care. I can’t take it. God bless.

      • Marc February 1, 2014 at 1:39 am #

        Angela, Thank you for sharing your pain with us. Your situation sounds really awful. I think you’re going to have to do something about it because you can’t go on living like this. If your boyfriend does not wake up on his own, you may simply have to get away from him. (not simple, right?) For now, reaching out to others may be all you can do, and it’s a good start. Indeed you are not alone.

      • Janet February 1, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

        Dear Angela,

        I wrap my arms around you. You are doing the right thing in caring for yourself and your baby and reaching out to heal. And you are not alone. I promise you this. There is light and as you take care of yourself that light will grow. You cannot fix the addict with love or money or words or anger or any of the things that should work and never do. But you can heal your own pain little by little. Those of us who love addicts are as sick as they are. Just in a different way. We have lost ourselves in the pain and the horror of the addiction. All we can see is the addict and ourselves in relation to the addict. Once I acknowledged my own true pain and my own addiction to wanting to fix the addict, I started my road to recovery. I found little patches of light to stand in. I was no longer as afraid of the pain as I had been. I could stand with the pain. It would move through me, I would remain. It took a long time. It took a long time. It was not a straight line.
        I am not you, you are not me. But I know that you can heal in a way that will be yours. I admire you. The loss and the pain you feel will not destroy you. The human spirit knows well the way to healing. I am with you. Janet

      • Tee January 21, 2017 at 9:30 am #

        I just read this and I can’t stop my tears…I’ve been crying for the last 5 years it seems. My boyfriend is an addict. He is an active, hustling, charming, beautiful, tornado of a man. And it hurts to love him. I’m learning that my love can’t save him and I won’t have any love left for myself eventually… Living moment to moment has left me restless and jittery. I don’t sleep for several reasons… lately it’s so I don’t miss a phone call or text from him because he’s out until it’s time for me to go to work in the morning. I used to just want him home, now I just want my car. Sometimes I don’t sleep from the nightmares… and other times my heart and head just keep me up – cleaning incessantly, rearranging things, anything to stop my thoughts. I’ve given up on promises…I know they’re lies when he’s saying them – but sometimes I even surprise myself at how desperate I am to have peace that I fully relinquish my right to require honesty from him. Just to have peace for a moment, I will let myself believe him… Every day there is a death in my home, every single day. We’ve done the rehab, the meetings, the books, the journeling and you know what? I learned a very valuable lesson…you can defeat the demons you enjoy playing with. And so I live…to die another day.

  2. Marc October 30, 2012 at 5:18 am #

    Janet, this memoir speaks to me loud and clear. Many of the blog community are addicts, as you know, most in recovery, a few not. I can imagine that many of them will feel what I felt while reading this: guilt and horror at what we have caused our parents. Not that this is new information, exactly, but the clarity and gut-wrenching detail and honesty of your memoir is what puts it over the top.

    I was never in as bad shape as your son. But I certainly lied to my parents a great deal. I was older, more independent, and doing my own nasty deeds. And I often did “confess” to my mom that I was still “doing it,” but never the full story. I just never wanted them to SEE and FEEL what it was really like and how long it was lasting.

    I only took money from my parents dishonestly (i.e., lied about what I needed it for) once, that I can remember, although I certainly stole drugs from their medicine chest many times. I tell about the lying episode in the book, in the chapter called “Getting Down”. Later I was on my own and not financially dependent in that way….but I was very rarely honest about my addiction when communicating or visiting with them. Until it was finished.

    Your statement, that all you really end up craving is the truth, and it’s the one thing you never get, really knocked me over. I can certainly remember what that was like — from the other side.

    • Janet October 30, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

      Marc, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate and embrace your voice. What a great gift you have and one that you are very generous with.
      Guilt was never my intention when I wrote this piece, but I understand. I have never shared this piece with my son.
      I have shared it with a few friends but very few. Sending it to you
      was a huge leap but I felt a tremendous sense of faith. Not isolating myself has been a huge part of my recovery and thank you so much for caring for my story.
      I wrote this to find my own voice and it grew over a period of time as I would come to the page and write without any agenda.
      I have come a long way in my recovery. I am desperately sad sometimes, but I am not the broken, hair on fire, frantic for a solution, lost person I was.
      Yes, the truth. I thought I couldn’t live without it, but a wholly new kind of
      truth has come into my life. I wish I could articulate that. Maybe someday I can.
      Again, always… thank you.
      Your book is incredible. Still reading. Janet

      • Charlie November 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

        Janet, I’ve rarely read such a moving story. It made me cry too. I’m so grateful that you shared it here, and I’m so sorry for all your loss. My heart goes out to you. It’s true — you can only heal yourself at this point. Keep healing, and keep sharing.

  3. Marc October 31, 2012 at 8:59 am #

    Thanks, Janet. I hope that others will also find — and exercise — their voices through writing and sharing their memoirs.

  4. Janet November 15, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    Thank you, Charlie. It is always so uplifting to connect and hear such kind words. Yes, it really is all about loss, as you said. This disease has robbed so many of us of so much in so many ways. But it can’t take away my love! And I do so believe in healing. The mind and the body are endlessly healing when treated with love and respect. I thank you so much for your understanding. That helps me enormously.
    Did you write the wonderful piece about “Booze” in the guest memoirs? Are you that Charlie? I have read it several times and would like to reply as well. I will do that soon.
    Again, thank you so much for reaching out. Janet

  5. Jaliya November 19, 2012 at 4:55 am #

    Janet … thank you.

    “The hallmark of an active addict is that they have nothing …” ~ That whole paragraph broke my heart … Someone I’ve long known and loved is in exactly that place. Like you, I had to say ‘No’ to this person under what may have been dire circumstances … but I could not risk the chance that his reaching out to me was really a reaching out to *grab* again.

    It’s a harrowing experience of liberation to say that kind of ‘No.’ It never feels good to the heart … but for integrity, health, and sanity to remain intact, we sometimes have to close a door in the face of someone we love.

    It does seem that some people have (as you wrote of your son), no ‘off switch.’

    You’ve validated so much of what I feel … and I’m going to send this post to a dear friend of mine who also has an adult child as lost as yours …

    Much peace to you, dear lady.

  6. Diana November 21, 2012 at 2:17 am #

    WoW

    This is so well said. You have put into words the story of my love for my son, words that have echoed in my heart for so long but like you say, this is a funeral nobody acknowledges.

    My beautiful boy who ran laughing through the fields his blonde hair blowing so freely in the wind. I remember feeling so blessed.

    I am a recovered addict. I had been clean and on the rise for many years before his birth. I thought this would give me an advantage because I’d been there to see it was nowhere. My son would be spared! How odd to look back now and wonder how it all went wrong.

    In his early years he witnessed a murder. I actually watched my little boy disappear. The system took him and handed him back more damaged.

    I have often wondered if this did not happen would he have been okay but the fact is we don’t get to choose that. Things do happen and it does not always end up like this. I sought the best of help. I loved him well.

    He has not been a helpless child for a very long time but he can play my heart strings like that child.

    That simple “I love you mommy”, the one I’ve been hearing since he could speak those words, that is his key and I have changed the locks.

    All the family gatherings where the grandchildren are doing so great and planning futures, where grandchildren and new jobs are being celebrated , I choke on my turkey at those festive dinners with a ghost in my throat, and smile.

    The lies, oh the lies, and I want to believe all of them. They speak of hope, but as you say, there is nothing real in this hope and the drop is so steep. The fact is I wait for the call that tells me he’s dead, or he’s in jail or he has taken his own life.

    They ask, “How is your son Diana?” and I see hope in their faces sometimes, other times I know it’s just a courtesy, an acknowledgement of birth and love and most likely they have seen him in some horrid place in his own vomit and really want to know if I know. I say we are not on speaking terms at the moment and heads nod knowingly.

    I live in a small town.

    The crazy thing is I was going to do it all different. I was going to be that mother, the one who didn’t just give him things but gave him moments. I tried my best to give him the most amazing childhood memories in the hopes that when he got older and if life ever got rough he’d have all those wonderful experiences to fall back on.
    He was no great scholar or athlete but he loved the outdoors. I trudged up muddy rivers with him and a few of his friends. We built teepee’s and stayed out all night in them. We ran in the rain, puddle jumped, walked the railway tracks and picked up stuff we later built collages with.

    I can’t count the ways I tried.

    He has very little memory of this or chooses not to tell me he does.

    I have sat in surgery waiting rooms after he has been cut up to give him his cab fare to wherever it is he goes next. I’ve stopped doing that. I still get the calls.

    I’ve stopped bringing him food and stopped giving him shelter as well.

    A wise lady once told me that it’s not my son I’m talking to. My son is long gone. The person talking to me is the monkey on his back. Stop talking or dealing with monkeys.

    I have to say….even though I have cut him out of my life…every once in awhile he texts me and says “I love you mommy” and sometimes I say…”I love you too”…just in case my son can hear over the monkey…not because I believe he does.

    Thank you for this…on so many levels thank you.
    Stay strong,
    Diana.

    • Jaliya November 21, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

      Diana 🙂

      Your son is long gone … and will he ever return? We cannot know … and somehow we must make peace, or at least a truce, with the ‘ghost in the throat’ that you write of. How beautifully you write of such agony. Thank you.

      Sometimes I simply think that there’s an ‘X-factor’ that both makes and unmakes an addict … and X-factors are notoriously elusive, like butterflies …

      Love has to do with it (*A General Theory of Love*, by Thomas Lewis, MD, et al.), and memory … I am finding now, 32 years after I started to do inner work, that I am finally experiencing the spontaneous arisal of *joyful* memories, even and (!) especially in relation with people who have done great harm. Sometimes I feel that I am holding those memories — *our* memories, that person’s and mine — as a way of showing a beacon, a homing signal, to what is still whole in them … Other than that, we must sometimes break our part of the bond in order to stay sane and alive ourselves.

      I think some of it is in the fact that so many of my beloveds have died … My mind is filling with moments of them … and I don’t think any of us can reach our 50s without having experienced at least a few relational ruptures …

      The love I’ve shared with my loved ones who are gone … it is constantly there now, inside me, no matter what has occured to tear us apart. I’ve had to draw it forth — hard work, like pulling a plough — and remember it consciously … think about it … write the stories of those moments that are knit into my bones … Somehow now, at this moment in my life, these memories are superceding the awful ones. What a gift … because in part, I share your sense of awaiting a phone call. My intact memories of love will shore me up if such a call ever comes …

      Hold those memories of rivers and teepees, puddles and collages. Your blonde baby boy. No matter what happens to your son, you have those memories; you have shared those moments … and somewhere inside him, may he recall them too, enough to want to be fully alive again.

  7. Janet November 23, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    Diana and Jaliya,

    Thank you both for coming here and meeting me in this place. Your words, both of you, speak to the strength and the love.

    I cried so, Diana, when I read your piece.

    “The funeral no one acknowledges.” “The ghost in your throat” . Unforgettable words. That is truly how we feel. And further on you stood with me as we both have in that dark dark place were we find our sons and we cannot help. I stand with you Diana and Jaliya. You are not alone. We are not alone.

    And I see your beautiful son, too. As mothers, we cannot rest with this pain but we can stand together alongside of it. I have accepted that. So keep coming here, where others meet and where our sad and sore hearts can let some healing in.

    I do not think that our sons are dead. But the addict is too alive. I wish I could express that better. Maybe one of you can.

    As long as there is breath in our bodies, the love is alive.

    Keep breathing. Stay strong. And thank you so very much for hearing my love.

    Janet

    • Jaliya November 29, 2012 at 9:33 am #

      Janet … keep writing 🙂 You express such clarity of thought … you’ve been through the fire with this, haven’t you …

      “… we cannot help.” That’s the nth degree of realization for we who have been to the edge of an addictive abyss with someone we love. We *have* to turn back from this and walk away … and perhaps this touches on what you meant when you wrote that “the addict is too alive.” Yes … I think, “ferally alive”, when a person addicted WILL do anything to score that next hit. That’s where I had to disengage from my loved one …

      My own life was starting to come under real harm.

      Agony to turn away from someone you really, really love … but as you write, “As long as there is breath in our bodies, the love is alive.”

      Bless you ~

  8. Donna Gore November 24, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    This is very moving and I can relate to it on a slightly different level. My sober partner of nearly 20 years decided to start drinking again about four years ago. I held on as long as I could. I tried anything and everything I could to help him but to no avail. Nothing I say or do seems to have any effect on him whatsoever. I finally had to admit that it was time to move on. It was all the same bullshit over and over again, the same line about how he’s back on track “for good this time.” It’s the lying that hurts the worst. The drinking and the lying go hand in hand. I can’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth any more. How sad. If you don’t have TRUST, you have nothing. I give him credit for the 17 years he stayed sober. I guess maybe that’s why I held on for so long, because I knew he could do it IF HE WANTED TO. But there’s the rub. He just doesn’t want to. He’d rather be drunk. And you can’t have a relationship between two alcoholics where one of them wants to be sober and the other one wants to be drunk. It just doesn’t work. These last four years have been hell. HE’s been in the hospital numerous times and nearly died. Yet he still wants to drink.
    In some ways I wonder if I enabled him when I thought I was “helping.” I don’t know. I finally got tired of the drama, the bedside vigils, the constant worry. I finally gave up on him. It’s so sad. I hate to think there is such a thing as a “helpless alcoholic” but that is how I’ve come to see him. The man I fell in love with was sober, focused, dedicated, hard working. That was the person I wanted to grow old with. That was the plan, we would grow old together and take care of one another. But that person no longer exists. I don’t even know this other person. He’s a stranger to me. He’s just a drunk asshole. And the thing is, when he was sober, he treated me like a queen. He gave me the happiest years of my life. And now he just throws it all away for a beer. He says he still loves me – but not as much as he loves BEER. The fact that he would even consider drinking again, after he almost died….something inside me said, “He’s just bat shit crazy. Hopelessly insane. There’s nothing more you can do. Just get on with your life.”
    My favorite comedian said, “There’s no such thing as addiction. There’s just some things some people like doing more than life itself.” I think he hit the nail on the head.

  9. Janet November 25, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    Unfortunately, sadly, perplexingly, maddeningly… love does not fix this “disease”. If it did… addiction would no longer exist. I’m sorry, Donna, that you had to have this pain in your life. But as we accept this, a new kind of truth emerges… the truth that we cannot fix this and must step aside. It certainly isn’t the truth we were seeking, but it is true, none the less.
    You are not alone… Thank you for writing. Janet

  10. Janet November 25, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    I needed to add: I put “disease” in quotes not as any sort of double meaning of my thoughts on this. It is a disease, and it is called addiction. Pure, but not simple. I truly believe that. I think I put the quotes around the word when I wrote my reply above because addiction has so many names and so many faces. Some people are more comfortable with the word “disorder”, or “condition. I usually call it by it’s most straightforward name, “addiction”, thereby avoiding any sort of labeling or misunderstood implication on my part. Thank you… Peace. Janet

    • Janet February 1, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

      Since I worte this over two years ago I have come to change my thinking about addiction as a medical “disease”. Components of it are certainly medical… but many are not. Like everyone else, I am always learning. I believe we have to keep our hearts and minds open. Compassionate healing. Especially that which we, admittedly, do not understand. For all of us.

  11. jacqueline February 10, 2013 at 12:52 am #

    it was so cold. it was snowing. as this was a few years ago, as i have “memory troubles,” i can’t really speak to the specifics. i remember that it was snowing. it was cold. i bundled myself up in layers of clothes (some of which belonged to me, some of which i picked up off a clothing heap in the heroin den in which i was staying). i bundled up and walked to a pay phone. i think this was the phone call where i was trying to convince her to give me he key to my storage unit (the storage unit that she was paying for), so that i could have access to something of value. something that i could sell or trade for dope (ha. what was i planning on doing? asking my dealer to trade me a 20 for my refrigerator?). it was, after all, my storage unit. my stuff. she HAD to give me the key, right? she said no. i told her that i was cold. she said no. i told her that i was hungry. she said no. i cried. she said i will pay for a hotel room. i said no. what good is a hotel room with no drugs? then i hung up the phone.

    as it type this, as i recall this, i shake my head. so delusional. the stories i tell myself. so selfish. look what i put my mother through. my sweet mother who loves me so.
    my mother who was afraid of a ringing phone. afraid that it was finally the call that comes before the identifying of the body. the body of her child. ugh. shame.

    anyhow . . . today the phone calls between me and my mother are quite different. we’ve reached a new level of honesty, where i no longer lie about being clean. where i admit that though i am gainfully employed and pay my own way, i still “struggle.” she has accepted that she can’t help me. she says”you know what you need to do.”

    i hate that i have caused anyone such pain. especially the one person who has always been my biggest champion. but i love that living with my monkey has given her a perspective shift that allows her to share her experience with others who love addicts. reaching out makes her feel like she is doing something that might make a difference. and it does. i know it does.

    thank you all so much for sharing what is most likely the most painful experiences of your lives.

  12. Janet February 12, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    Dear Jacqueline,
    Your post swept me with you to that place where there is so much sadness. I am so sorry that you and your mother have shared this pain. Writing about it strong, and honest. We are all together and help each other. I’m so glad that you found the warmth and that you are doing better. Keep coming in from the cold. Our hearts are open, the light is on. With love towards you and your mother. Janet

  13. jacqueline February 12, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    thank you for the kind words, janet. though i would wish this certain agony upon no one, i treasure the experience in a way, for it’s brought my relationship with my mother to a new level of honesty and acceptance that we hadn’t known before.

    today the cold from which i often seek refuge comes from within. i’ve got this inkling that warmth will come with forgiveness and acceptance and a more mindful existence. that’s what i am working on today.

    • Janet February 12, 2013 at 11:06 am #

      Jacqueline,
      Beautiful. I read something the other day which you may have heard but I really
      liked it: “Forgiveness does not change the past, it changes the future.”
      Stay in touch. I admire you. Janet

  14. Megan February 12, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    I just sent this to my mother. I am 26 and have been in recovery for almost 5 years now, but I am still haunted by what I put my family through…specifically my mother and my younger sister.

    I know they wanted to help me, but in turn they enabled me. I manipulated them. I lied to them. I distorted the truth to get what I wanted, and I tried to turn a blind eye to their feelings. But I felt them. I saw the pain in their eyes. They wanted me to tell them they truth, but they didn’t ask because they knew I would only tell them lies.

    I desperately wanted to tell them the truth, but I was stuck between the fear of disappointing them and the fear of getting clean. I wanted help, but I didn’t want anyone to know how far gone I was…and I was terrified of the long road back to recovery. I could barely handle a few hours without drugs, how was I going to go through a detox and then live the rest of my life sober?

    I got arrested and my mom finally got it. She turned on the tough love when I needed my mom the most…and I am so grateful she did. She would accept me & forgive me if I got my life together, but if I messed up I was gone. She didn’t come visit me for the first month I was in jail. I called her every day and I cried to her…begging her to come see me…but she didn’t. She didn’t want to see me there & she wasn’t sure if I was serious about staying clean. A month may not seem like a long time, but it was an eternity to me. I was hurting to the core, both physically and emotionally…and I finally saw the light. I am so grateful she didn’t come to see me.

    I hope your families can find the peace that mine has. And I’m so sorry for the pain you are feeling. I know I didn’t cause the pain you’re feeling, but I can’t help but feel like I am responsible. Even at my darkest points, I still knew I was hurting my mom and sister. I wanted to not hurt them, but I was not myself. The devil was deep inside of me, and even though I was internally screaming for help…the devil silenced my cries. I pray that the light can break through for your son.

  15. Janet February 13, 2013 at 8:53 am #

    Oh Megan, I cried when I read this. You describe so well what it is like to be in the ring with this horrific opponent. And the pain and confusion with those who love you, and you love, too. I am so glad to hear that you, and your family, are doing well. Be ever so good to yourself. I like the word “loving detachment”. That is what I had to do. I could never get the “tough love” but I had to “detach”… and not just detach emotionally as I used to when I would shut down. I detached from the “monster”, not from my son. I detached from the problem, not from the love. I wanted to keep living and find my own health… and for him to keep living and find his… I had become part of the horrible landscape. I knew that I was not helping. He was not in jail when I told him on the phone, “You cannot contact me again, until you have a year of sober adult living.” But he was really really deep in his addiction, living alternately on the streets and in motel rooms. And on a huge rampage. That rampage continued until he did get arrested (for the 4th time) and spent 6 months in jail. It was awful, but it got him off the streets. He turned 30 in jail. He had a health crisis. All that time, I stayed strong and tended to my heart and my love. I am happy to tell you that since November of 2012, when he was released from jail, he has been is a really really good sober living home (that the amazing social worker at the jail helped him find) and he is in his fourth month there with true success.
    We are four months into our healthy year. I am incredibly proud of both of us. And in November of this year, I imagine our reunion. We are getting better and we have both made enormous sacrifices. It has been 2 1/2 years since I saw my beautiful son. It has been over a year since I spoke to him on the phone. I miss him so much sometimes that I think I will break in half. But I know that we are building a really strong and healthy bond. A new relationship. Of infinite value.
    Please keep sharing with your mother and your sister so that you will never lose this precious gift. I feel connected to them, and to you.
    Thank you so much for writing. Janet

    • Megan February 13, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

      Janet,

      You should really keep copies of this blog & the comments for your reunion. Showing these to your son will show him that your love never faltered.

      Even though my mom and my sister have forgiven me, I have not forgiven myself for what I have put them through. Five years later and I feel like I’m still not above water. Well, I’m above water regarding my addiction. I do not struggle with my addiction, but I struggle with the repercussions of my addiction. I hurt so many people, and it is hard to live with some of the things I’ve done. I am working on this every day. I went back to school, and I’m studying Psychology with hopes of becoming a certified drug and alcohol counselor. I feel like arming myself with all the knowledge I can acquire will help me with my battle, and hopefully it will allow me to help others deal with their addictions.

      I look forward to your reunion in November, and I will be thinking of you when the time comes!

      Megan

      • Janet February 13, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

        Megan, please forgive yourself. I know you can do it. Actually, it sounds as if you are doing it.
        And thank you for cheering on my reunion. Reading Marc’s book, and then finding his blog has truly changed my life. What a garden we are all growing. !! It’s beautiful. Keep blooming! Janet

    • Jaliya March 12, 2013 at 3:17 am #

      Janet, I’ve come back to your post and just read this new chapter in your story of you and your son … I am thrilled for you, for every precious *second* of goodness that is emerging in your son and in your relation with him. May he continue to bloom.

      The loved one I wrote of in my earlier response to your post was my brother … and he died in early December. Very sudden … his heart. I can still barely touch on the pain of this loss without flinging my awareness away.

      I re-read your original post many times in the first weeks after my brother died. It’s been a source of sanity, of reality, of respect and remembrance. Your story has been a real gift. Love remains alongside the agony.

      bless you xoxo

      • Janet March 12, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

        Dear Jaliya, Thank you so very much for coming back here, and for the trust and courage of sharing your almost unspeakable loss. Thank you for that trust. When I read your words I was stunned into a deep deep silence and all I could feel was your agony. I wish there was something I could say or do for you. But I stand with you and I pray that you can feel the comfort that I wish for you. I am sure that your love still blooms strong and that someday it will brighten your days. Again, I am beside you in your grief. And beside you on the long road of sadness that must have proceeded this loss. Please believe that your brother is forever alive in your love.
        I am so deeply touched that you wrote.
        Peace… in every way. For you and your beloved brother. Janet

  16. Jaliya March 13, 2013 at 3:42 am #

    Janet xoxo Thank you for your words, the heart you convey with them, your presence…

    I can tell you something good about my brother’s death … relatively speaking, in relation to his addiction: his death was uncomplicated — a massive heart attack; no drugs or alchol involved. He was in a program, sharing a space with another man, and he’d been working so hard: he had about two months’ sobriety when he died. His heart simply gave out — too much damage already done over many years, but it was a very fast death, and he was not alone. That gives me some small comfort. He was making another attempt to arise from the monkey on his back … and he’d pretty much cut himself off from family and other cherished ones during this period. There have been so many times when he would be…gone…and no one knew where he was. He usually made himself evident when he wanted to try again and/or was desperate, at wits’ end … I, and the last of his oldest friends, were the last two people to try reaching him. The last time my brother contacted me, he wanted to come to my home and I had to say ‘No’…it was agony to do so…and it was the first time in my life I had to say ‘No’ to him in that kind of way…it just about killed me to say it. I was as good as turning my brother out to the street. The guilt I felt about this after he died flayed me…but I learned, from people who met and helped him after that night, that that ‘No’ was one of the forces that led him into another attempt at sobriety and coherence … to a place of refuge, support and understanding, good food, a roof over his head. It was his last … AND HE DID IT — he did it. When he was more himself, he was a sweet, goofy, smart soul who could make *anyone* laugh, or at least smile 🙂 ~ Among the people who were around him in his last months, he was most often described to me as “full of delight.” This was the last ‘road’ he was on in his life. ~ He had one of the sweetest souls I’ve ever known in a man; he went through several shattering losses in the last decade of his life; I think their effects, the unrelenting losses and bereavement, along with what I’m calling “terminal alcoholism”, broke him and took his life. (I am convinced that shattered relation/devastating loss is one of many pivotal factors in the genesis of addiction.)

    My deepest comfort comes in knowing that for a few years in his adult life, he “had it all” according to his standards — a funky little beachside cottage, a truck and a dog to be his right-seater, a lady to love who was mad about him, oodles of friends and spontaneous BBQs and ‘festas’ with those friends. He had good, simple work in a temperate climate by the sea. He was *happy* through and through; at home. One night when I was visiting him there, I awoke hungry (that sea air!!) and padded through the house to find him asleep like a baby in his hammock on the porch. ~ I expanded on this story as I spoke his eulogy; I told my fellow mourners, “He *did* experience heaven on earth; he *did* have it all for those years.” I so wanted everyone to know that, to feel some visceral comfort in knowing that.

    Your son…your son. May we know his first name? I will hold him and you in my meditations, intentions, and prayers. Every such day you are experiencing of coming back into relation with your son, whatever the distance (after the very real loving detachment you *had* to give to yourself, for your own sanity and ability to carry on), is a gift. May his heart continue to open.

    I will love my brother forever. It still feels like my heart will blow apart if I think on him for more than a minute or two … but this will eventually pass … and I know that before he died, he was up on his feet again, making another attempt … up after another fall. Then he was felled by his heart, and he couldn’t get up again … I can still barely write words like “I miss him.” (Coming out of the shock of a sudden death is like having shrapnel cut out of you one. piece. at. a. time.) He was my baby brother, my playmate way back when, and someone I could laugh like a maniac with. He was the funniest person I ever knew. In his sweetness, he was like sunshine …

  17. Janet March 13, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    Dear Jaliya,
    I awake this morning and find this exquisite and tender tribute to your brother. I sit and read it. And I cry. And I read it again. Your writing is so pure. Thank you for letting me know him better, and you, too. I will read this many times and cherish it.
    Death is so final, and you were not ready to have this be what feels like the end. For that, you have my deepest understanding. The journey through such grief is so deep, and so difficult. Maybe your heart has blow apart. Why wouldn’t it? But breath by breath, you will heal again.
    I am so grateful to hear that your brother was in a safe and loving place when he died. I imagine he wanted that not just for himself, but for you, too.
    Please keep writing. And thank you for helping me, too. Janet

  18. Kiffin March 22, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    This is a very powerful and insightful memoir. I could recognize much of the despair and it is heart-breaking to hear all you have gone through.

    There is purpose in all of this, somewhere hidden in all of that chaos. It is there somewhere, if you look hard and long enough.

    Maybe the purpose is just the fact that you are looking very hard and trying to find some answer. The true purpose might not be actually finding something in particular, something you can hold and understand, but rather becoming more insightful through thinking and living your own life.

    The way I see it, this is not so much about understanding the craziness of the external world, but more coming to terms better with the person you were always meant to be.

    • Janet March 25, 2013 at 10:03 am #

      Thank you, Kiffin. You are correct for sure. The fear (the terror) that used to rule my life has subsided greatly as this truth and peace about my own life continues to grow. I am not the outwardly seeking, crisis driven person I was. Thank you again for writing. It is calm and reassuring. It helps so much to hear the voices of others. Such wisdom, and the tools and support, to build your own life, and live the life you were meant to life, is also what I have gotten out of Alanon. Plus
      reading and listening and sharing with others in ways that are grounded and calm. Thank you again for being a part of this. Uplifting and positive.

    • Marc April 3, 2013 at 4:33 am #

      Thanks for your comment, Kiffin. Very insightful. Suffering is one thing humans are exceptionally good at. And while I don’t think everything has a “purpose”, it is certainly worthwhile to use our suffering simply to get to know ourselves and to learn to accept ourselves.

      • Janet April 9, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

        Thank you, Marc. I, too, don’t believe there is “purpose” in everything. There is chaos and sadness and loss and all kinds of things that just are.
        Not the phrase… “it is what it is” …. I don’t care for that phrase…but rather… “It just is.” Like the rain. It just IS.
        And we must cope… as best possible. Today was a difficult day for me, I learned that my son left the sober living home he has been in since November. It is another “death” today… another leap off the cliff.
        I want to find him and take him someplace safe and make him stay there. I want him to stay in one place and do well. I want him to stay near people who care about his recovery. I want him to have something to show for himself. His addict is rattling and saying, “Time to move on. Time for change.” The addict inside says, “Don’t form attachments with anyone but me.”

        • Marc April 12, 2013 at 4:38 am #

          I’m very sorry to hear this, Janet. Things looked so hopeful for a few months! I fully agree that life is full of outrageous amounts of randomness, some of which is good and much of which is not. So we feel sad, and lost, and hopeless. It is inevitable.

          I’m also feeling some grief right now. Someone very close to me seems to be in the throes of an addiction and there’s really nothing I can do to help. I’ll spare the details, for reasons of confidentiality. And though my issue may not be as grave as yours, I sure do get a taste of what you’re feeling.

          Good luck. I say that with some consideration, as luck seems to be able to swing both ways.

          • Janet April 12, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

            Thank you, Marc. You have healing words. And honestly, we don’t know. We just don’t know. We can’t judge, and we can’t control. We just don’t know. That is what we share… this great unknowing. Very difficult.

  19. Wendy Snyder October 22, 2013 at 9:51 am #

    Janet,
    This is the second time I’ve come back to this blog. I keep coming back to your memoir. I sent it to my parents, not sure if they can really take it in yet. We are in the thick of it as sounds you are too.

    Your memoir and this blog as a whole has helped me a lot.
    Here’s what I wrote and I’m going to read to my sister this morning:

    As my sister prepares to run off again..to get more drugs probably to deal with her pain and now that my niece is safe with my parents. I want to tell her:

    My sister

    Please stay where you are.
    Please stay with the people who love you.

    Stay, where there are resources – food, clothing and shelter.
    Doctors who can heal.
    Parents who want to see you well.
    A sister who loves you.

    You yourself, your beautiful self has said you want help.
    You have been struggling for so long.
    I know you are tired of struggling, tired of never feeling good, tired of feeling bad all the time.

    Just stop, see a doctor, a chiropractor, a masseuse, a physical therapist, any healing you could possibly want to see is here for you. Stay and get what you need.

    Love your sis

    • Janet February 1, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

      Dear Wendy,

      I’m sorry I did not see this back when you wrote it. Somehow I missed it. I hope things are better now for you, your family, and your sister. What you wrote is so close to the pain. So real. We beg and we plead and we want this so badly for the ones we love. We want them to come in from the cold so badly. If there were magic words… they would have been spoken long ago. And the only thing left to us, who love the addict, is to let them go which seems so wrong. Why are there no good choices? Why doesn’t love work? Why can’t we help? I could hear all of this anguish in your words and I am sure it is what your parents are feeling as well. It is so awful. We would do anything to make this better. And, believe me, you are doing what works… you are reaching out, you are communicating, you are expressing the loss and pain. And it sounds as if you have a little niece who is being cared for. All of this keeps the love alive. Never stop believing. I am watching a miracle unfold with my son… who has come in from the cold. He is the beautiful self we all know and love. Never give up the love. It heals. Especially when you are kind to yourself. I walk this path with you. Janet

  20. Janet February 1, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

    I saw my son last week. Impossible to describe except that it was breathtaking. Real. Powerful. Divine. Everything. But most important.. it was LOVE!. He has changed so much. Almost translucent in his affect. Very very thin. Quiet. Living with nothing. But he smiles a true smile. A beautiful smile. He is brave. I am brave. He is living in a derelict house he has fixed up with the landlord ‘s permission. His living situation is very humble, but it is safe and he is healing. He has been off the streets for over a year.

    It was amazing to see him. It had been three and a half years since I had seen him. I cried so hard. We both did.
    Everything fell away. I felt as if you could have walked right through us. We were without agenda. Completely at peace. We sat and held each other’s hands. Our hearts were wide open. I brought him some food and will do so again. He asked for nothing. He is calm. Kind. Accepting.
    Two dogs have found their way into his life, he takes good care of them.
    He has access to some medical care and some other resources. He has done this all himself.

    I was able to just BE… to sit and just be and listen and cry and admire his journey and be his mother.

    He’s got a lot to handle… but I am allowing this miracle to unfold.
    I could not have done this without the work and the love and the support I have received.

    Thank you for being a part of this miracle. And the journey we all share.

    • Wendy July 8, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

      I’m so happy for you, Janet. How wonderful that must have been. You are a wonderful mother! I wish my sister would have gotten to this point. I dreamed of having a reunion like this. Wanted so much for her to climb out from her rock bottom. She died of a drug overdose in January of this year at the age of 25. She died on a Friday and was signed up to go to rehab on Monday.

      • Janet July 8, 2015 at 10:48 pm #

        Dear Wendy, I am so very, very sorry to hear about the death of your sister. I remember you and I remember your sister. Because you wrote so beautifully about the love and the suffering you were all experiencing. I remember when you wrote here on this blog about yourself, your family, and the struggle you were all in. Now I read your words and I am so deeply sorry, beyond words, to learn that your sister is gone. This is a loss beyond us. And we are stunned. I am deeply touched that you have come back here to share this loss so that I may, in some small way, along with others, offer you and your family some comfort. I will continue to remember you and the life of your sister. I hope that you know that you did not fail. Love your way back … Thank you for writing to me. My heart is sad. Wishing you Peace. Janet

  21. Chris January 22, 2015 at 8:13 am #

    Wow, what an incredible piece. This describes my life with my daughter in words I couldn’t put together this succinctly. Unfortunately, I lost my 18 year old daughter a year ago from an overdose. Our life from 14 until she passed is exactly as you described. She was beautiful, funny, smart, had the whole world at her feet. Then something changed, she became defiant, belligerent, risk taking. Now I’m left with those miserable memories of her, they’re the freshest, and honestly, thinking of how she used to be makes me so sad I crumble into soggy mess. I want to print this so I can refer to it occasionally….my daughter is gone, but if I can just remember there are other wonderful parents out there as bewildered as to what
    their life has become as we are with how ours turned out, I wont feel so alone.

    • Janet January 22, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

      Dear Chris,

      I hope that this reaches you and you will know that you are not alone. Although there are no words for the loss you have experienced, I hope that you can feel that I stand with you as do many others. May the joy of your daughter’s early life grow stronger in your memories as that is her true spirit. May the broken pieces of the hurt, the disappointment, the sense of failure gently start to shift and float away, freeing up your heart and your mind. Although I did not lose my son physically, and he is now alive and well, when we were lost in the hell of addiction I was entombed in shame, loss, and the overwhelming feelings that I had failed. Nothing was alive in that place, it was all bad.
      I would like to be so forward as to say to you that that is not where your daughter is now. She is not the person who was the addict.
      Imagine her beautiful spirit, the one you described… and nurture that. That is what lives forever.
      I wrap my arms around you and I will not forget you or your child.
      Thank you for your courage and for writing to me.
      with love, Janet

    • Marc January 26, 2015 at 3:08 am #

      Chris, Janet said it all. Your story makes me very sad too. I have a daughter who has had her struggles as well.

      There is a documentary I recently watched called “The Anonymous People”. It was actually quite heartening. You might want to check it out. You can use Vimeo or whatever.

      Because I don’t define addiction as a disease, I sometimes get into debates as to how serious it is. Yes, very very serious. I sometimes need that reminder.

      • Janet January 26, 2015 at 10:54 am #

        Thank you, Marc. I hope that Chris sees your words as well. I wrote once that the unknowing and the loss are so unbearable, and yet.. that becomes the place where we must find peace. No one should be asked to suffer like this… not the addict, not those who love the addict. There is peace. It is alive. So is the love. I stand with you in that place. You are not alone.

  22. Mindy October 4, 2015 at 6:02 pm #

    Janet, I came across this and reading it left me unable to breathe and in tears. This is where I am right now.
    He is gone and texts me to ask if he can come take a shower and I have to say no because he is slowly killing me and I don’t know how to live without him but I know I can’t keep living with him and all that is left is the love.
    Thank you for sharing what I didn’t have the words to and for the reminder that it’s not just my life it’s so many parents.
    I’m holding out hope for all of us……………

    • Janet November 10, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

      Mindy, You capture the deepest of heartache. I’m so sorry. I am back in this broken place as well after a few years of good recovery with my son. I keep reminding my aching heart that only he can save himself but it is, as you know, almost impossible to bear. We can’t be responsible for them. And for their lives. So sorry. I am hoping with you… Thank you so much for writing. Janet

  23. Lee August 20, 2016 at 4:02 pm #

    Janet, Hope you and your son are well. I miss my nephew so much, gone for 5 months. Thank you for your story, it helped me tonight.

    • Janet January 12, 2017 at 1:31 am #

      Hello Lee, My son and I are well, but not as I would have imagined. Not yet, anyway. He continues to walk with his addiction. I continue to accept that this is his life. My love for him is strong. I am the mother of an addict. He is alive.
      I am so sorry that your nephew is gone. This is a loss that I still cannot imagine.
      Thank you for letting me know that my story helped you. That was the purpose of writing… to find strength in the loss and in the pain…that we live with.
      Be well. Janet

  24. Elaine January 4, 2017 at 9:27 am #

    Hi janet. Your words and your honesty gives me solace in the most painful time of my life. My children are well, healthy, happy, and completely unaware of the devastation their father has left us with. That is my biggest burden, to carry the pain all alone. I have to continue to project in their minds a strong and kind father that they have always known loved, and not this addict that has taken over. I also need to continue on this facade that all is well, in the hopes that he will recover, and we might regain the happy life we used to have. He has been using for 2 years now, and i must have been a lousy wife for never knowing, not even suspecting anything. I remained to think of him as the honest responsible husband he always was even when the lies started to unravel. I believed his lies even if my father in law had his suspicions and gave fair warning. I came to know everything: the empty bank accounts, the staggering built loan after loan, the lost (pawned) possessions, the unpaid bills, when his lies and manipulation couldn’t keep the collectors from finally contacting me. It came crashing down on me all at once, the ruins of our future we used to build together and which he secretly destroyed in the past year, and the fact that he has been an addict behind closed doors, locked closets and comfort rooms, in our house, in my pare ts house, in the car, under the same roof with the kids. I have unkowingly welcomed in our own house his friends who used with him, making a stupid spectacle of me. I have come to know all these things all at once, and i feel like i can not recover from the blow. But i have to, i have to keep the family together, for the kids, keep us afloat, work harder to pay for the bills i never knew about until now. And so i suffer this pain, this pain of betrayal, this pain of abandonment, while i rebuild and put back together the ruins he has left us with.
    I can not stop to cry, wallow in self pity even for just a day. He did not give me that luxury.
    My only solace is that i finally have a solid reason that would explain the mood swings, uncharacteristic irresponsibility and carelessness, the violent anger that subjected our marriage in the recent years. I attributed it to stress and work, and made up so many reasons why he became less of a father and husband that he used to be. Now i know why.
    Presently, he is in rehab. While i am in the real world, fighting for a normal life, wounded, used and betrayed, and in fear of what our future would be.

    • Janet January 12, 2017 at 1:24 am #

      Dear Elaine,
      It takes great courage to speak this unspeakable pain that you are going through. To have everything you believe in and hold dear be so damaged is absolutely a living nightmare, thank you for writing and please know that your words are very powerful. I admire you so much for the brave and truthful way that you are able to see things, and to express it. As awful as it is, this is now the place from where all possible healing will begin. It starts with the truth, and our ability to accept it.
      And then comes the even harder part… learning to live with it. To live and not let this consume you, and your children, and your lives. It sounds as if you are grounded with some very strong insights, and the power to survive this. You are right, this is not the man you know and trust, the great father and partner. Hold a sacred space in your heart for that person. And hold an equally sacred space for yourself. You did not cause this, nor could you have stopped it. You could never have stopped this from happening. Addiction doesn’t work that way.
      The pain you write about is so real. I experienced each word with you, and it will be a long road out of the “ruins” as you say. Personally, ALANON helped me a lot. I was able to do something that felt therapeudic just by getting in my car and driving to a meeting. I went and I sat and I went and I sat. And it became a place of healing for me. It was very personal, it was my time, my space, I took what helped me from the hour I was there, and it was almost always helpful. I didn’t challenge myself to “get it” right away, or do all the steps. I just went and went and went. Usually on a Thursday evening which was my favorite small group. I went once a week. When I look back I was just this shell of a person, but I learned to let the waters wash over me, the pain, the fear, the helplessness, the rage, the disbelief. And as I lived with my pain it began to take a shape that I could work with. I got better. I truly did. And you will as well. And the life that you want can be dreamed again.
      Thank you again for writing. I am profoundly touched when someone finds comfort and understanding and reaches out. There is hope. We are all here to help each other. Janet

  25. Elaine February 9, 2017 at 9:00 am #

    Hi janet. I checked everyday for a reply to my comment on your story. And finally when you replied so kindly and lovingly, i chickened out and left this site entirely. It’s difficult to acknowledge this reality and actually admit that it’s my life that it’s happening in.
    We have seen each other since starting rehab, and i see bits of his old self here and there. But now i have to realize that- to be very honest- i guess it was never the drugs’ fault alone and entirely. He has always been a jealous husband, drugs just blew it to giant proportions. Now, with out the drugs for almost 2 months, he still retains that irrational suspicion of infidelity. It hurts me and insults me as a woman who has actively and consciously commited herself wholeheartedly to be a faithful wife to her husband and before God. I don’t know where problems of drug addiction end and marital problems begin.
    The 12 steps help the addicts acknowledge the benevolence of a higher being, i’ve tried to adapt it to my situation, and correlate it to God. This is what i’m sure of: i can’t abandon him despite all the bad that has happened. I feel hurt and used and abandoned, but i also feel that this is the biggest challenge God has given me as a wife, and i need to measure up in His eyes.
    In my country, addiction is still a big taboo. And being in a profession that garners such high respect in my culture, i am furthur pushed into isolation and secrecy.
    I am burdened not only by the sickness of my lost love-of-my-life, i am also trying all my might to do damage control from all the accumulated repercussions his actions has caused, at the same time protecting my children from the hard truth.
    I’ve never prayed harder in my entire life.

  26. Janet February 9, 2017 at 6:48 pm #

    Dear Elaine,

    I am so glad that you came back and I know that as you write these very difficult words you are actually helping yourself. The isolation that this situation causes is terrifying, so as you compose your words and your thoughts and share them here, you are healing. My first thought is, we must love ourselves the most. Keep loving yourself. Keep finding those moments of time. Keep breathing.
    The pain you are experiencing is so enormous. When you write that your newly sober husband is not the person you hoped to see, that is the piercing, difficult truth. It is the nightmare of addiction. It is true, that in time, without the primary relationship with drugs, that your husband could restore the humanity that is lacking, but it is also true that this is not possible. At some point, you will no longer be caught in the hall of mirrors and you will be able to know with your own healed heart who this person is, and find a place for this. It is much too early in your husband’s recovery to know. And you yourself are in the throes of this unknown world.
    I heard once that “Your higher power can be anything you want it to be as long as it is not the drugs, or yourself.” Right now, your husband has a primary relationship and that is with his substance abuse and all that it demands of him. Even when he is not using. You, as well, as the person who loves the addict, worships the end of this nightmare above all else. What I found is that I had to let go of all the wanting, all the hoping, all the trying to fix it and have the faith that I would make it not matter what. I had to love myself first. The rest was out of my control.
    I started to believe that something higher than my desire for my loved one to stop using was possible. And it happened slowly but it happened. It happened with each breath I took.
    It is beautiful that your children have a parent such as you who is able to take care of herself. There is no doubt you will be able to take care of them. Just as you are strong, they will take comfort in that, and they are stronger than you think.
    Please write again. You are truly not alone.
    Janet

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