I never imagined ending my relationship with my son…
I accepted a lot when I found out my son was an addict. I thought there had been other addicts in my life so I could accept him, love him unconditionally, support him unconditionally, be there for him whenever he needed me. I was his mother after all. The woman who grew him in her belly for ten lunar months; who had labored for 29 hours, only to watch 60 seconds before his arrival as forceps pulled his tiny body into this God-forsaken world. It was as though he never wanted to come even before he took his first breath.
Being the mother of an addict has been one of the most defining and tragic experiences of my life. I think of all the mothers that have lost their children to heroin. In 2016, the Center for Disease Control reported 64,000 drug overdoses with 20,0000 of them from fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (synthetic opioids). That is 64,000 moms crying themselves to sleep every night wondering what they did or didn’t do to save their child.
Though for me, my son still lives yet the son I raised is gone.
Heroin had found its way into my God-daughter’s veins a year before it found my son. And all the while, while I was trying to save her, I was losing him and didn’t even know it. I remember telling her, “I will do whatever I can to save you.” Though, when I look back, all she really wanted was her mom. She would often tell me, “I love you and I am grateful for you but you aren’t my mom.” I would agree, feeling slightly hurt. I was mad at her mother for not being there for her. Her mother had shut her down, turned her back on her. My God-daughter had gone to jail for a year and her mom wasn’t there. She didn’t send her a dime. My God-daughter had to figure it out, and she did. Days before she was to be released she called me, the backup mom. I readily jumped in giving her a job, my car, loans and above all else…unconditional love. I went far and wide to get what she needed, and I was judgmental of her mother.
Then my walls came crashing down. My son became the addict and I was in shock…
Our first line of defense was to attend NAR-ANON meetings. We listened to story after story. Not one parent or partner had found the answers. I remember I was in a meeting with my daughter-in-law, my son’s wife, and I felt drawn to this woman in the group. She had moved her addict son to a recovery house in Boston hoping he would stay sober and continue his studies. She and her daughter lead the meetings every week, offering her testimony and giving other parents and partners the space to tell their story. I remember sitting there judging her, not understanding why she had sent her child to a faraway place when everything in me was screaming to keep my child close. At that point, my son had only been an addict for several months so my MO was, “Whatever I need to do to get my son sober, I am going to get him sober.”
One night she said, “Sometimes I wonder if I have done too much.” I looked straight into her eyes and said, “You will never regret doing everything you can for your child.” I remembering feeling compelled to speak, confident that I had the answer. I would be the one to reassure her that what she was doing was exactly what she was supposed to be doing. In fact, I thought, “Do more.”
A week later I received a call from my daughter-in-law that the woman had lost her son to an overdose. I sat on the phone wondering if I was God’s messenger that night. Was it all in the grand design that her son was going to die and that I would be left with the undeniable shame for my hidden righteousness. I carry her memory with me always as I still have my son and she will forever miss hers. Though, the wait, whether for recovery or death, is filled with anguish and grief.
We never went back to that meeting.
I thought I could do it my way. Love him when he was sober. Love him when he was high. I found that “dope” love is warm and caring. The problem is it isn’t “real” love. It is cunning, deceitful and manipulative. I kept thinking if I just stuck with him, he would get it but it wasn’t the truth. Through my acceptance of his addiction, he became more narcissistic, more self-righteous, more careless and demanding. He believed that he could keep it all and still be an addict and that we loved him that much.
Then, after nearly four years of torment and abuse, it occurred to me that as long as he had everything – he would continue to tell me and the people around him that addicts relapse. That is was just part of “recovery”. The problem was that his relapses turned into weeks, then months, then back to “dry” drunk again. I knew my addict son needed something only I could give him. I knew he had to lose something. So when I turned my back on him, that was his first “loss” of something. I had to be the first. The one he knows has always loved him, has no memory of me not loving him. Through this journey, I finally realized that, even though it pains me to not be with my child, that everything I can do for my child includes leaving him. Leaving him was the very last thing I could give him. There was no better way to tell him I loved him. Then he would be missing a piece of his puzzle, the person that gave birth to him, loved him through and through.
Hate filled rants, despise, and deafening silence are all part of rejection. My son has even told others that he would not be too upset if I died, and that breaks my heart. But I know that my rejection of him is the ultimate sacrifice of love for him. I told my daughter-in-law I could be hated. It was my job to be hated. I was his mom. I could take all the hate he had to give. Whatever works, I said.
He has to fight for his own sobriety, and if hating me is the sacrifice I have to pay for his life…so be it. So, hate me all you want kid. I gave birth to you. I changed your diapers. I loved you when you were sick. I defended you. I gave you money when you didn’t have it. And even though it hurts like hell to know that you don’t see my value, I have to believe in my own value and in yours as well. It’s not okay anymore…no more dope love.