I’ve written 64 blog posts since I began this journey through grief and what’s so funny is that I never considered myself a writer. When I was in my first year of college, I had to take a creative writing course, and I absolutely HATED it. I struggled with the creative part of the writing…and I made horrible grades in that class. But this experience has spurred something in my mind, my heart, and my soul.
Monday, February 10th is the 4th year and that day is looming over my head like a black cloud…permanently suspended in my mind, heart, and soul. My grief story didn’t start on February 10, 2016. It actually started many years before Aaron’s death. As most of you know, Aaron was an addict. His journey through addiction began when he was in high school. I’m not sure exactly when it started, but it all came out his senior year (2010) that he was addicted to pain pills. My grief journey actually started the day I found out he was addicted to those pills. But, just as many parents, I didn’t think that it was going to turn out like it did. I didn’t know or understand how addiction affected the mind and I had no understanding of how hard that fight would be not only for Aaron, but for us..his family. However, it didn’t take too long for me to realize that this was a fight for life…a fight for who Aaron was…a battle that was waged in his heart and mind.
I hate addiction and what it does to people. Addiction takes our loved ones and turns them into someone we don’t know. They say and do things that they normally would have never said or done. Ironically, I began writing a book about our experiences through Aaron’s addiction the night before he passed away from the overdose. But, the ending I had in mind was not the ending that was getting ready to take place. I had no idea that I was getting ready to get the worst news of my life. To this day, I find it uncanny that I decided to start it that night.
Here is the introduction to the book I started that night.
It sounds cliché to say…but life IS a journey. The voyage begins at an early age with a myriad of small trips that make up one long, continuous journey. My journey, at times, has been smooth sailing with a sea of experiences before me that were as smooth as glass; comforting. At other points in my life, the journey has taken me to an abyss of loneliness and hopelessness…A place so dark with not even a glimmer of light to guide my way. It was at this stage in the journey that I lost my way with no visible way out. So, I just sat and spun in circles, unsure of my direction and unsure if I was making any progress. Although I was lost, I was completely aware of what had brought me to this point…my son’s addiction.
If you had told me when my kids were young, that one of them would someday battle drug addiction, I would have thought you were crazy. I would have said, “No….not my family. Not my son or daughter.” See, I felt like my family was immune to the ravages of drugs and addiction. I didn’t even think that it was a possibility for either one of my kids. I never imagined that my journey would take me down this destructive path. I thought I had done everything right. I didn’t expose my kids to “those” kinds of situations…I thought. I talked with them about drugs and “how BAD” they were…I thought. I tried to make sure that they were hanging around “good” people….I thought. All of the efforts I took to ensure that either of my children did not go down this path were well-intentioned and sometimes they work…for some families. For mine, it did not.
How many of you that have walked this path ever thought that drugs couldn’t touch your family? I would guess that quite a few of you probably thought the same thing I did. I felt that my family was invincible. That was a tragic way of thinking because what I now know is that NO ONE is above the allure of drugs. You see, drugs bewitch our kids by offering them counterfeit acceptance, love, and belonging. They woo them by helping them escape their reality or by helping them become someone they aren’t…they flood their senses with a rush of dopamine that produces a euphoric existence. Once the brain becomes accustomed to this drug-induced rush, it halts the natural production of dopamine. As a result, in order to experience that dopamine rush that once occurred from something as small as a warm and fuzzy feeling, the addict must use in order to “feel good”.
I knew NOTHING about the specifics of addiction, the science behind how it works, or the devastation it wreaks on the addict and their family…until it happened to my family. It’s something that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Watching your child go through the hell of living an addicted life is one of the worst things a parent can experience. It’s a life of highs and lows for both the addict and the family. You watch them do things they would have never done before. You see their battle in rehab when they are working to get clean. You see a sliver of light as they work to get sober. You watch them experience success and begin to rebuild their lives….and before you know it, the rug is pulled from under your feet….your world crashes to a halt as you watch them begin the cycle again….and again….and again. It is a bleak and lonely existence….it is a roller coaster of emotions that can take you from the top of the mountain to the lowest valley in a split second.
Before I understood what was happening with my family, one word could describe me, comfortable….that’s what I was. On the outside, everything appeared to be going well. The kids seemed happy and afflicted at the same time. The turmoil of divorce, relocation, and blended families with me and with their father seemed to be weighing upon their minds. They, however, put on a brave face, not wanting to disappoint anyone. So, I became comfortable in their obedience. Comfortable is a dangerous place to live because complacency blinds the observer to what is taking place right before their very eyes. I am no different. My eyes were completely shut to the war that was waging behind the scenes. Unbeknownst to me, there was an enemy lurking around the corner that I didn’t see coming. Little did I know that around that corner was a giant I was not equipped to handle. For on the other side of that bend lay an immense sleeping dragon that was just waiting to be unleashed.
This story depicts my family’s battle with addiction and the darkness it brings upon the entire family. It will illustrate the struggle that each family member faced as they watched their loved one cycle out of control in the midst of addiction. It will portray the hopelessness faced by all and the constant roller coaster ride between rehabilitation and relapses. It is something that I hope you never, ever experience. But chances are, if you are reading this….that’s exactly what is happening to you. Let’s take a walk through my son’s experience and my family’s experience….just to help you understand that you are NOT alone.
Let’s talk about where my story begins…with the Sleeping Dragon…
Little did I know that the end I had in mind would have to be rewritten because when I started it that night, it was meant to be a story that portrayed restoration and overcoming. There are many families out there who do experience that type of ending, but it wasn’t in the cards for my family. I’ve asked why more times than you can count, but I decided that it really didn’t matter why because I would never know why…and even if I did, would it help in any way? The answer to that is no so, I finally stopped seeking an answer.
I’m hoping that I can soon begin the process of publishing my book, but it’s still in the works. I have to walk away from it sometimes because it is so painful to relive those memories.
I will, however, continue to write the book, if for nothing else but myself. My ultimate goal, though, is to help those going through addiction with a loved know that they aren’t alone.