The left turn

I’m sitting in traffic on June 4, 2015. It’s about 4:45pm or so.

I am on my way to a running event with my team, a digital marketing company for which I co-owned at the time. All my employees will be there. I have to show up. The weather is ugly and rainy.

I am wearing my company shirt we bought just for this event.

I want to bail but leaving will look like I bailed because of the weather. Having a child with mental health and now addiction issues makes me so unreliable. I told them earlier that day I’d see them there.

I had left the house after talking with Charles on the phone on and off for two hours. I’m still confused but feel alarm. Should I call him back? I think I should.

This event has clogged the traffic. I’m in the left turn lane. Maybe I should leave and go find him. I can still do that. But I would need to find out where he was. Would he tell me this time?

I’m emotionally drained and exhausted. I feel like I’ve abandoned my child. I hate this tough love stuff because it’s so hard to figure out where the boundaries are.

I think he kind of did ask for help. Or did he? He sort of danced around it but when I asked directly, he deflected the question. Never a straight answer. I’m struggling to remember the conversation. What am I expecting him to do or say?  Just when I think I know what the boundaries are, Charles throws a curve ball and pushes the envelope. Always in the gray area.

Randy is convinced he is almost at rock bottom and will ask for help. He told me we’d go pick him up Friday when he got back and go get pizza.

How many times have I been manipulated? A lot. What else would he say that he didn’t already say over and over. Besides, I had a hard time understanding him. What was wrong? I was new to his addiction. How long had he been addicted to heroin? I know it wasn’t that long.

Maybe a few months? We’d only known for 35 days. He wouldn’t admit it was heroin. That pissed me off. Kept saying oxycontin. I know that’s not true. Still lying to me. Yeah, I was being manipulated.

That last text still haunts me. It won’t let me go. This is torture. What do I do?

“Pick up the f-ing phone! There is something I need to tell you,” it said.

What couldn’t he tell me in two hours? When he got anxious, he’s blow up my phone and my only option when he’d do that was turning the phone off until he cooled off. He called me back 4 times at least. Should I call him back? Yeah, I should. No. I can’t take any more. I’m just emotionally drained. I can’t be sucked back into that chaos. I think it will digress into more of his yelling at me. But that’s not what I heard in the end.

I inch forward just a little more in traffic.

It was despair. I know it was. He sounded….defeated.

My heart sinks. Is this how they approach rock bottom? Honestly, I don’t know. How could I not call him back again when he sounds like that. I’m a terrible mom. Or am I a mom that can’t hold her boundary? I wish I had someone I could ask.

Randy is out of town and I couldn’t feel more alone right now. A run will help me sort through my thoughts. Despite the weather I crave that right now. I’m right at the light. I have to decide right now because the light is green.

Inching forward, I agonize.

Pull out or take the left? Why do I feel this decision is life or death? I have time, right? I can take the run and that will help me sort through my thoughts. I need it.

I’m right up at the light, I think I’d better take the left. I can’t get into that right lane now. It’s too late. I think I should have pulled out. Backtracking now would be a nightmare.

Just 30 hours later, that moment haunts me and I can’t figure out why I didn’t do what any normal mom would do and call him back. So I could be on time for a race?

As I drove to this event, my son was agonizing through his last hours. I think he was fighting for his life but after our phone call, felt alone and abandoned. I think he figured we didn’t care and would have been a burden to us. Not true.

I had given up on him. Temporarily. Like so many times before when I couldn’t resolve something, I would take a break. Tell myself I was done with this only to regroup and come back strong. How could I give up on my child? Moms don’t have that luxury. I was regrouping so I could make the right decision.

He was not in a rational state since he was suicidal. That I didn’t know.

I made a left when I should have made a right. But honestly, I don’t know what I would have run into, what the outcome would have been.

In my fantasy, I save him. But most likely, it would not have been that neat and tidy. Would he have answered the phone? Would he have told me after all? Was he already dead?  Would I have found him hanging? Would he have simply said, “I love you.”

I have to let it go. I have to because there is no going back. And I have to accept there are things I will just never know.

Is tough love the right way to treat an addict?

7 thoughts on “The left turn”

  1. It’s so hard when you’re on that roller coaster of what can feel like emotional abuse when dealing with a mentally ill and addicted child.. You have to take little breaks for your own sanity. You couldn’t have known the outcome of that day or the days that followed. You were a good mom….and still are. Hang in there.

  2. I understand. The last time Whitten left the house before he died, Chip was taking him to the train. It was 5 or 6 in the morning and I didn’t get up. Heck, I would see him in 10 days or so. I texted him “I Love you – Bye”. Yeah.

    1. A-M, while its said we moms have intuition when it comes to our children, we are not omnipotent. You strapped on the maternal battle gear and went to the war for Charles for YEARS before this day. There is not another thing you could have done. Charles’ words in his music and notebooks reflect his awareness of your love and support throughout his illness. The demons won, but your boy KNEW. Your boy knew no matter what. I dont know why he and you, Randy and Richard –and Charles–had to go through this hell. Its heartbreaking. But you, amd Charles through you, are changing the world. You are stopping the stigma, insisting on raw and painful, gut wrenching honesty–and you are changing the world. And your boy? Well he’s changing the world too–and its BECAUSE of your relationship with you that its happening. I love you, A-M.

    2. My heart aches for you. You are enough. You always were, and you are today. When someone we love dies, the pain is brutal and overwhelming. but you have taken your pain, and used it to help others who have endured the same, or to prevent a death by suicide. That is the legacy that Charles has given all of us. The left turn was the right turn and you had no reason to think otherwise.

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