I’ve contemplated writing this post for months, but fear has kept me from doing so. It’s not an easy thing to discuss with anyone, much less the entire internet world. You see, what I have to reveal has a stigma attached to it…one of shame, guilt, blame, and judgment. Why is it that we humans are so quick to point out the flaws of others, to judge their vices, and to point fingers as if we have no shortcomings of our own? Sadly, the pride in our human nature elevates our image of ourselves to be above others. We cast our eyes downward and snub our noses to heaven on the “heathen” and “lowly” while boosting the flawless image of ourselves. It’s a sad reality of the human spirit…one that stifles truth and honesty. We’ve all been guilty of it…it’s something we all do, but it surely isn’t one of our most redeeming qualities. Even as I sit and type these words, my heart races, my palms sweat, and my hands tremble with anxiety and fear. You see, it’s not only others that I worry about. I also fear the reaction and judgment of family members who seem to have such perfect lives. In one of my earlier blogs, I mentioned that I had something to share about Aaron, but I wasn’t quite ready to do so….And I’m still not quite sure that I’m ready. But, I’m going to follow through with it in hopes that it can help others and their families.
I know many people have wondered why Aaron died at such a young age, and I’m sure there have been many speculations and whispers about the cause and what happened. There’s no more need to question or whisper, because I’m going to tell you what happened. Aaron had a good life on this earth, but he also had a troubled life. He struggled with severe anxiety and suffered with a racing mind swirling with a cyclone of of thoughts, feelings, and ideas. He often explained it as, “When a door opens, my mind goes down the hallway. It’s focused on all the other sounds and things that are going on.” We tried medication for his ADD, but they drastically changed his personality. He even told me once that he had started hiding the pills anywhere that he could, but would act like he had taken it. He said that he hated the way they made him feel. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Aaron wasn’t happy. He was often very happy, but his moods could shift rapidly. Aaron was a person that felt every emotion to the extreme…when he was happy, he wasn’t just happy…he was elated. When he was down, he wasn’t just down…he was very depressed. It seemed that there was no in between. He was also very impulsive and most often didn’t think about consequences until after the fact. I tell you all of this, just to give you some of his history.
As Aaron got older, he took a turn down a road that eventually led to his death. You see, Aaron struggled with addiction, and it was that addiction that took his life….more specifically, heroin. See why I’m so scared to share? I know that many people that read this will judge Aaron and me. They will judge my parenting skills and decisions…they will judge his actions and his choices. They will point fingers and whisper behind my back about the cause of my son’s death. But on the other hand, I know that there are many out there who understand what our family has been through, and there are others who directly understand Aaron’s struggle. I know that for every whisper uttered, that there are many shouts of support. If you have never dealt with a direct family member that suffers from addiction, you have no idea what the addict goes through and what the family members experience. And it’s even worse if it’s your child. Everyone seems to have the answers for you and seems to know the decisions you need to make, while they have no idea what hell it is to watch your child spiral down the path of addiction….knowing you have no control. And the addiction just doesn’t affect the parents and the addict…it affects the entire family. Siblings have to watch in helplessness as they see their brother or sister morph into someone they don’t know. They suffer just as much, because they want to fix it for their parents and they want to fix it for their sibling. The entire family lives in hell on earth. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
Addicts have often been viewed as lowlife humans that came from bad homes with no parenting or direction. They were and still are called “junkies”, “drug heads”, or “druggies”. What most people don’t understand is that addiction is no respecter of persons. It reaches across all social circles and affects both the rich and the poor…the educated and the uneducated…those who come from good homes and those who come from poor homes. If you had told me when Aaron was little that he would some day he would be an addict, I would have vehemently rejected the mere possibility. And I know that Aaron never had the goal of growing up and be an addict. No one ever says that they want to be a drug addict when they grow up…my child didn’t want that anymore than your child. Yes, I know that he made a choice in the beginning, but what most people don’t understand is that their brain changes after they become addicted. It no longer functions as it once did…and the rational decisions that you and I can make with ease are a daily battle for them. See, the brain of an addict is different from mine and yours. The drugs take over everything and your child does become someone you don’t know. It’s almost like a Jekyll and Hide. I’ve heard other addicts explain it that way. And it’s easy for me and you to sit on the outside and to say, “Just don’t do it…Just make the right choice.” The difference is that you and I don’t struggle with that demon. We have no clue the pull addiction has on their mind and on their bodies. Addiction does things to good people that are mind boggling. It’s a powerful vice that is displayed in their loss of control over using, in the physical effects of the cravings that wreak havoc on their mind and body, and in the continued use of drugs despite the disastrous consequences. We have no idea of the battle they face on a daily basis…or on a moment to moment basis.
Aaron when to rehab several times, and sometimes he didn’t try to stay sober. But after several rehab visits, he became more intent on coming out and staying sober. But the pull was too strong…it was more than he could handle. And I was oblivious to the magnitude of the situation when he told me that he was addicted to heroin. An overdose death didn’t even seem possible to me, because you know…It never happens to you or your family. As Aaron was released from rehab the last time, he was the happiest I had ever seen him in his adult life. And he was more intent on staying sober than he ever had been. He told me after he got out of rehab that he knew that if he didn’t quit, that it was going to kill him. Aaron was released from rehab Jan. 12, 2016. Less than a month later, he was dead from an overdose.
I tell you this to bring awareness to others…to help parents see that it can happen to anyone. It could, just as easily be you or me. I know that some of you are saying in your mind…”Not me or my family”. Well, that’s what I said too…and it did happen to me and my family. It can touch anyone and I would venture to say that it affects more people than we know.
So, remember the next time you call an addict a junkie, a low life, or a druggie…remember that they are someone’s son or daughter….someone’s mom or dad….someone’s sister or brother…someone’s cousin…someone’s aunt or uncle. They are a human being, and they are loved deeply by their family. And it could be your child that is the junkie, and it could be you feeling the judging stares of the righteous.
And remember this…just because my child died from an overdose, doesn’t mean he chose to die. It was accidental…and I refuse to be ashamed of my son because of a problem he couldn’t beat. I refuse to let the judgmental words of others shatter the beautiful person that my son was.
Remember this…his addiction didn’t define his life and it wasn’t his legacy. His legacy lives on in the love he shared for others and the passion he had for life. His legacy is shown in the way his friends speak about him. He was a good soul with a fault…just like you and me.