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There are days when I sit and think about my son’s addiction. I think about everything I did do, didn’t do or should have done. I start to disassemble his entire journey in my mind trying to find the missing piece. That piece that somehow I overlooked during our struggle for recovery. You see, my son had the worst outcome. The one every parent dreads but would never allow the thought to even cross their lips. My son overdosed and died of the very pills he was given to manage his post op pain.

His addiction snuck up on us like a thief in the night. Carefully and quietly taking us by surprise. Like the elephant in the room, we all knew there was a problem but no one had the guts to say the words. I called it our dirty little secret. Keeping it safe and sound between me and my addict son. Protecting both of us from the ugliness of the stigma attached to this most misunderstood disease. We had brief periods when we were given a glimpse of normal, tricking us into believing the demons had lost their grip and moved on. Then reality would hit as my son returned to his world of darkness and chaos dragging me along for the ride of my life.

His addiction consumed me as I struggled to find places where he would stay safe and I would get a much needed break from the endless worry constantly dancing in my mind. Finding the right fit of rehab was like finding a rose in six feet of snow. I fought to get him in and he fought to get out. Never feeling like the help and support he needed was available wherever he was staying at the time. I’ve learned that helping the addict is like matching fingerprints. Almost impossible. Hindsight is such a great gift if only it arrived before things were said and done, people were trusted and money was wasted on places that made promises that could never be kept.

There are days I feel like I failed him. After all as mothers our job is to keep our children safe. I have a double whammy. I’m not just a mom but also a nurse, a fixer. The very idea that I could not fix my son horrifies me. I allowed myself the sick illusion that I was in control of his addiction and I had the power to fix him. Even when that little voice of reason resonated through my brain, and was echoed by close friends and family, “you didn’t cause it and you can’t cure it” I still continued to beat myself up dissecting every fight, every rehab, tough love, no love or tons of love that we lived during his battle. Being the lone survivor of my sons addiction is a life sentence. I’m still shocked that he is gone. It feels like the beginning of my end. I have become my own personal punching bag. I have a million reasons why his death is my fault. I should have… begins my sentence when close friends try to set me straight.

There is nothing that can change my mind. I should have been able to save him. I had years of practice. So now my painful reality is every parents nightmare. Now, I must figure out a way to go on without him. I have become a sounding board for other mothers living the nightmare of addiction. In the midst of my struggle for survival and my fighting back at the broken system, I have made many contacts. By channeling my anger to make a difference I have stumbled upon people who have started the walk of grief before I joined this club. Together we find strength and hope that the bigger we grow and the louder we become the harder we will be to ignore. Parents whose prior struggle was to save their children. Working together to fix the breaks in the system we have come to know too well. A system that fought us when we were begging for help, a system that turned its back on a generation of addicts pleading for their lives. My son’s struggle has ended. Mine has begun. Everyday is a struggle. Trying to ease the pain that grips my heart and fighting to find joy in a world that has turned upside down. My new normal is just that, so new that even I have trouble adjusting. I pray for acceptance. I pray for peace. Until then I survive one day at a time.