He’s gone. He’s dead. He died. Somehow, those words just don’t gel. There is no logic behind them. They make no sense. He was 32. He was the love of my life. I know that this is the worst thing that will ever happen to me. My son is gone. He died from addiction. His body could take no more abuse, and his heart stopped beating on January 22, 2016, at 5:55 p.m. The worst day of my life.
I begged. I screamed. I cried. I bargained for his life. I prayed that his pain would be removed, that he would find a way to kick heroin, give up alcohol, that he would find a way to love himself and life, that he would have quality of life before he transitioned from this life into the mystic, that he would outlive me. None of those things happened. He is gone.
I am angry. I am utterly bereft. Sometimes I am angry with him for not getting better, for not trying harder, for leaving me with all of this overwhelming grief. He certainly tried to get better. He went to rehab twice, detox twice, meetings a few times. He didn’t want the disease of addiction any more than one would want cancer or AIDS. He was sick. The disease is powerful, and it rips out the hearts of loved ones who watch their kids spiral out of control. I did everything I could to save his life. I loved him and I worked hard to show him that. With addiction, love is never enough.
All of his pre-addiction friends, the family members who adored him, were no longer “family” to him. His fellow junkies and alcoholics were where he felt most loved. I simply could not reach him. He was slowly committing suicide. He was successful. I saw it coming, and the sicker he got, the more powerless I became.
It’s never a dull moment loving an addict. Your sanity is always on the line, as they lie to you without any remorse. He lied to me over and over again, even as I watched him nod out mid-sentence. He would say, “Mom, I’m just really tired. I know what you’re thinking though. You’re always judging me. You have no faith in me.” I would question my own sanity, and wonder if he was right, and maybe I wasn’t giving him the benefit of the doubt. Addicts deal with the judgment of their loved ones forever and a day, even when they are doing well, there’s always their loved one’s responses to history. “I’ve been here before with you. Why should I trust you?” I hoped against the evidence that stared me square in the face that he was making progress. I knew, but I didn’t want to know. Denial’s tentacles reach deep into the most logical of us. Certainly, I was the crazy one. Crazy meant that there was still hope for him, I was wrong about him, he was going to kick it this time. He was going to be fine.
My son was well-versed in the 12-step language. He was manipulative. He was sometimes cruel in his counterattacks during our fights when I tried calling him on his shit. He was like a child who clings tightly to his filthy shreds of his favorite blanket. My son was strung out on dope, always holding on tightly to the promise of his next dance with it.
I watched him get sicker and sicker. I tried to prepare myself for the eventuality of his death. Note to self: You can never prepare yourself for the death of your child. It’s not supposed to happen this way. I used to lie in bed at night wondering where he was, wondering whom he was with, wondering if he was alive, and praying that he would have a moment of clarity and he would wake up from his heroin haze and want better for himself, but my dream for him has ended, and as I work out the details of where he is post self-destruction, I know this, he’s no longer in pain. I am trying to let that be enough, in between numbness and utter despair.
I’ve spent so many years with him as the center of my universe, I’ve forgotten how to be me without him. I did not know that it was possible to survive this kind of pain. I miss my son when he was happy, when he was whole. It’d been a long time since those days. My heart is broken. In the twilight of my dreams, I see him lying dead in the hospital bed, and in the final hour, his heart starts beating again, and he awakens from death with a new lease on life. And then I awaken, and he is still gone.