“I am filled with such sorrow this Mother’s Day.” That’s how Kathy’s email to me began. She said “I think now that I will be 60 this year I need to free myself from secrets,” and then she shared her story – no holds barred. I asked her if I could publish it on this blog, and she said yes – a brave and selfless move. Thank you, Kathy – I know you will touch others who need to hear and know just what you have to say here:
Mothers Day 2014
I am filled with such sorrow this Mother’s Day….. I never, EVER imagined that my son’s life would take a bad turn. I was so ignorant . I mean, I knew about drugs. Heck, I was a teenager in the 70’s. But my experience was nothing like what I know now. As a divorced mom, I did my best to raise my son with manners. I tried to be a good role model, as a mom. In retrospect, I wasn’t perfect. But who really is? I never thought about my kid messing around with pills. Honest! I had never even heard of oxycontin, until my son confessed to me that he was addicted to it. Heroin? Oh, c’mon! Not my son! He’s a clean cut kid. I knew all his friends. They were all clean cut kids, from nice families. Right? Wrong!
It has been almost 10 years since I became the mother of a drug addict. Jason has a problem, a serious problem — but I believed he was willing to change. I believed I could help him change. At first I tried to argue Jason out of his behavior. It was too costly a rebellion, I pleaded. The stakes were too high. Or was it more than rebellion? Was he self-medicating for depression, trying to find a remedy for his insomnia? When reasoning didn’t work, when my empathy was pushed aside, I tried setting ever stricter limits on his behavior. If he couldn’t be talked out of using, maybe I could establish enough control over what he did and who he saw to end his drug use that way. I searched out help. Jason went to counseling and attended occasional AA meetings, and I participated in therapy sessions and 14 years of Alanon. I desperately wanted someone to tell me what to do to save Jason. I searched out help, any help, but the social workers, therapists, psychiatrists and drug counselors never agreed. “Work is too much stress for him,” one advised. “Pay his rent so he can concentrate on getting well.” “Never give him any money. Why should he get well if he doesn’t have to face the consequences of his actions?” “He’s self-medicating. He needs to take something for his anxiety.” “Of course he’s anxious. Wouldn’t you be anxious if you were using heroin?” “He needs to get away from his family and friends. He needs to be in an environment where he has no one to turn to but himself.”
In the turmoil of contradictory advice I received, the one consistent message came from Alanon, the 12-step group for families of addicts. “Take care of yourself,” I was told. “Fix your own life. The addict has to help himself.” This is not what I wanted to hear. My fears about Jason absorbed the family’s energies. I was often preoccupied. It was hard to concentrate, it was hard to sleep, it was hard to pay attention to my other child/grandchildren and my husband. I was exhausted, and though I tried to continue family activities, it was often an effort, and they could see this. Jason didn’t want me to tell people about his drug use, and it was easy not to: I talked less and less with my friends. I felt I knew what they must be thinking: “He’s still using drugs? Why don’t you do something?” It was hard to show interest in my friends’ concerns — a child cut from the lacrosse team, an overdue term paper. I avoided celebrations. I had no patience for the cheerful conversations at parties, and I was jealous that other families had something to celebrate. Graduations and weddings left me so sad , blinking back tears. I wanted to fix Jason’s life, but failed again and again to do this.
I grieve. I grieve for the years overwhelmed by Jason ‘s addiction, years when I was lost to my family, myself. I grieve for the loss of the enthusiasm I used to feel that is now so hard to reclaim. I grieve for the relationship I used to have with my son, the relationship I might have with him now, one of openness and trust. I do not know how long it will take – if ever it happens – to rebuild that intimacy, or if that is still possible. I have not had this kind of relationship with Jason in over ten years. We do not speak. There will be no cause to celebrate. While I never expected anything like this to happen, I’ve had to face that this is the way it is. In a strange way, my son’s drug addiction has made me a better person. Wait. Did I really say that? What I mean, is that I have learned to be less judgmental of parents. Up until 2003, I would have told anyone that if a kid becomes addicted to drugs, then the parents failed to raise them right. What a stupid thought that was. I was so wrong. But I am saying it now, out loud, in public, for the first time: I am the mother of a drug addict. My beloved, second born child suffers from a terrible disease, drug addiction, and he has been struggling with it for several years. It started with early juvenile experimentation with marijuana at about age 14 and has progressed to where he is now at 34 years old addicted to hard street drugs. He has been to 5 drug treatment programs,12-step meetings, jail, prison, and on the streets. I have cried, begged, threatened, prayed and beat myself up every way a mother can possibly beat herself up.
I know I made mistakes in raising him. When he was admitted to the hospital a few years ago, they warned us he might not make it. My heart broke as I watched a priest administer last rights. Miraculously, he did pull through, but he refused help, and then we were right back where we were at the beginning, before the overdose. I watched him walk out of the hospital. down the street, and back to a place where a beautiful, brilliant, sensitive, amazing, loved-beyond-all-reason young man can’t see past his next fix. I had to see, once again, that he can’t or won’t stop careening down a one-way path straight to hell.
I am no longer willing — or ABLE — to keep this secret. Maybe people will judge me. Maybe they will label me the bad mother I fear that I am, since I ended up in this place. Maybe they will shun me, my son, my family. I don’t know. But I do know that the disease has now declared itself to such a degree that it’s no longer possible to keep it a secret, even if I wanted to. I am the mother of a critically ill man. He has a terrible disease. And I am now officially outing myself, once and for all. I remember thinking when Jason was born that I would give my life to save his. Now I know that there is nothing I can do. I can give my life, but it cannot save him. My heart breaks…
Kathy Welby-Moretti, friend and sister from Women At Woodstock 2012 and 2013, my heart breaks with you. I know that on the other side of this story is the story of you stepping into the role of parent to your grandson, your son’s son. You are mother once again, while carrying a great, great burden. Your love for your son and his son is palpable and painful, and your strength is beyond comprehension. I hope for a wonderful miracle for you. Just one. It can happen. But we both know it is out of your hands. Peace and love to you.