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Grieving My Living Son

This was originally written on 12/7/18, Keven's 28th Birthday

Twenty eight years ago on 12/7/90 my surprise baby arrived. I was 30 years old, single and had decided I did not want children. But hey, things happen and I got pregnant by an ex-boyfriend. I chose to have the baby even though I cried daily for the first three months of pregnancy.

Then one day something happened, I felt the little intruder rolling around inside me. I fell in love. I fell even more in love when I finally held him in my arms. The feelings I had for this child, shocked me and changed me. No one had ever explained what a powerful love a mother has for her child. My life revolved around him — keeping him safe and healthy, raising him to be a man of integrity, compassion and curiosity, those were my new priorities.

He was, for the most part, a happy little boy who loved Legos, playing outside with friends and dressing up as pirates, cowboys and super heroes. Even though I was a single mom, with the help of my sister and my mom, I was able to provide him a very stable loving home, fun vacations, and new experiences. As he grew older he had good friends who loved him for who he was, yet he never felt worthy. That became an indication that something was not quite right. Counseling, love, encouragement, nothing helped. He didn’t feel good about his tall, handsome, intelligent self. I always wonder if that had anything to do with it…

Late on an August night in 2007, my son and his girlfriend came in and sat on my bed. The girlfriend forced him to tell me that he had been using heroin. He was 17 and had “shot up” his first time with some older guys he knew. He’d been using for about 2 months. At the time, the opiate epidemic was not public knowledge and I couldn’t understand where, how or why he got his hands on such a vile drug. He promised me he’d stop and I believed him. Oh — the bliss of ignorance!

My son is still using today. He’s been through 12 drug treatment programs, the mental hospital at least 6 times (lost count) four suicide attempts, he’s been on life support twice (once as a John Doe until he finally woke up and gave them my number), he’s been in and out of jail for the last eleven years and he spent 16 months in state prison. He’s watched so many of his friends die, including one that I unofficially adopted as a second son.

What many people don’t seem to grasp about heroin is that its unlike any other addictive substance. You need more and more each day just to “not feel sick”. Its an insidious disease that affects the mind, body and soul. It controls every thought, motive and action. My son has committed acts (both illegal and immoral) to support his habit that make my stomach turn. Things I wish I didn’t know.

We’ve all heard that “addiction is a family disease”, that statement is pure truth. My life as I once knew it, like my son’s, is a distant memory. I’ve lost friendships, gained weight, lost jobs, gained debt, lost laughter and peace and gained fear, and stress. Out of necessity I've become an expert at heroin addiction — something no parent wants to be.

Sadly my only piece of advise is: There is nothing we can do to stop them from using. Its no longer a choice for them, its a need. Many do get to the point where they are literally so sick and tired that they are ready, only to relapse years later. Its never completely over, although there are many success stories.

So today on his birthday, I grieve the loss of who he was and can only hope that someday, my real son will return to me. I miss the smile that is so rare these days. I miss being able to trust him. I miss setting my purse down when I enter the house instead of locking it away the second I’m home. I miss the laughs we used to share. I miss the real hugs. I miss his hopes and dreams.

The hardest part of this tragedy is not grieving over who he was, but grieving who he is today. He is paranoid, stressed out, anxious. His only goal in life is to find ways to stay high and to pass drug tests for his parole officer. He hates himself. He is filled with guilt, remorse and disgust for all the things he’s put me through. He’s lonely with no real friends. He’s a tortured soul who feels completely hopeless about his future.

My love for him hasn’t lessened, in fact its grown. Too bad love doesn’t conquer all. He’s been on this earth for 28 years as of today, but only 17 years of actually living. The rest have been years of survival and devastation because of a poor choice he made 11 years ago. Just one time of using is was all it took.

So today I grieve instead of celebrate. I would do anything to save him, to help him. ANYTHING. But there is nothing I can do other than take a lot of deep breathes, continue to love and encourage him and force myself not to think too much about the possibility that he may not be around to turn 29. Happy Birthday, dear son, your mother loves you and will never lose hope no matter how dark the days have become.

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