by Jenny Derr
October is a hard month, and the past couple of weeks even more so. Three years ago, Billy relapsed after seventeen months of sobriety. I was in my Wednesday Nar-Anon meeting when I got the call.
I remember vividly sitting in that room in shock and disbelief
We thought we were done with the craziness of active addiction. I just couldn’t believe it. I remember walking in the house, my husband wasn’t home, Jordan was still in school at the University of South Carolina, and Harrison was home with me.
Billy was in the hospital in Boston, in ICU. Because he was over 21, I really couldn’t get anyone to speak to me. His good friends Evan and Matty were with him, as was Victoria, his girlfriend. They kept me filled in as they could, he was in a medically induced coma and was intubated and stable.
We couldn’t get a flight out of Richmond until early the next morning. When we flew into Boston we were met at the airport by Victoria and Evan, I remembered just standing there hugging Victoria so tightly while sobbing. I just didn’t expect this, it wasn’t on my radar at all. Billy was working at a Sober House, a job he loved. What had happened? The thoughts swirling around my head were many and so random and came at me from all directions.
When we arrived at the hospital, I again just wept
My beautiful boy was laying there with tubes coming out of everywhere, machines beeping and purring, the ICU is never a quiet place. The nurses told us what they could of what had happened, with Billy’s friends filling in the rest as they were learning it.
None of them knew he had relapsed and all were as shocked as we were. He was found in the bathroom at the sober house, blue and barely breathing. He was administered two rounds of NARCAN and when he came to he was swinging and had to be physically restrained by the EMT’s and police.
They began to reduce the medication to bring him back to consciousness and once he was awake they explained where he was and what was going to be done to extubate him (give him a tube). If you could have seen his eyes, he was at first terrified and then I think the realization of where he was and why hit him.
He was extubated and I was holding his hand and rubbing his forehead, I just kept saying “we’re here, you’re ok…” He began to cry, I said, “Do you want to say the serenity prayer together?” And we did. It was heartbreaking.
I think October is so hard because I now know it was the beginning of the end.
Even though we got Billy back into treatment after this, it wasn’t long enough or the right place. I spent hours on the phone the day he was released trying to find a place that could take him right then. I was also adamant that he go back on Vivitrol, so also needed a place that believed medically assisted treatment ( MAT) was a viable path to recovery, along with a 12 step program.
One of my biggest regrets is that we didn’t send him back to Caron in Pennsylvania, to a program for relapse specifically. When I go down the path of recriminations and I should have done this or that I have to literally say, “STOP.”
Billy did die of overdose later. And I know giving myself grief that I took the wrong step won’t bring him back and will only make me crazy.
I miss Billy every day. I am trying to continue to raise awareness and honor his life.
To Thine Own Self be True