My mom lost her battle with addiction and my world fell apart

by Miranda Booher

Every single day in the United States, 130 lives are lost to opioid overdoses. Children will never see their mommy or daddy again and go into foster care, parents will bury their adult children. Families will pick up the pieces. Partners will left behind to face the brutal realities of this world alone.

The dark day my mom overdosed on morphine

I was 12 years old when my mom started taking pain pills for her chronic back pain that was caused by an extra vertebra in her spine. It didn’t take long for her medication to become a full-blown addiction. Seven years later, right after a failed attempt at rehab, my mom was given morphine that ultimately claimed her life by a woman she met in rehab. That night she went to sleep and never woke up.

My dad was in bed with her and woke up next to her, cold and gray. I was in nursing school at that time, and I would learn later that my mom had severe undiagnosed sleep apnea. The levels of morphine in her system were not toxic, but morphine causes respiratory depression. With her sleep apnea, the combination made her breathing too shallow to the point that she didn’t take that next breath.

In 2005 (the year in which she died), drug deaths were considered the
smallest contributor to deaths by despair. This statistic is in sharp contrast to the fact that in 2016, opioid-related deaths were by far the biggest contributor to deaths by despair.

From denial to shock, anger, depression, bargaining and more

It’s true what they say about the different stages of grief. The bereaved really do go through them and they come at different times and intervals for everyone. Complicated grief can pose some unique challenges and hurdles and often it is a result of a traumatic death or a death that occurs in people that were just too young to leave this world.

For years, I struggled with severe grief. I had periods of time where I would spend entire days just bawling my eyes out. Birthdays and holidays were always the worst. At Christmas time, I had inherited all of my mom’s decorations, and every single ornament I hung, window cling I stuck, the wreath I put out, just reminded me of mom. Ultimately, after three years of this, I stopped celebrating Christmas altogether as my dad quickly remarried a woman who despised me and I was not welcome in his house.

So no tree, no family get-togethers. Nothing.

Honestly, that helped. It made no sense to me to put myself through that torture. Plus my son was young and I was proud to raise him to not expect any big presents on a certain day. Furthermore, I took very seriously the commitment to never lie to my son and Santa Claus is a ridiculous lie that I would never have told him anyway.

Death is confusing and unfair.

After my mom died, I ran through my head every single detail of that time period leading up to her death. There were five things that stood out to me that showed me she had a premonition of sorts that had prepared her for what was to come, and that it was part of a bigger plan, which I sadly have no control over.

  1. Right after my mom got out of rehab, about two weeks before she died, she was wearing this large metal cross necklace that was hanging from her neck with a leather string. She told me that she was never going to take this off. I argued with her saying that surely when you go out to a fancy dinner or on another cruise you will take it off. She protested. She swore it would never come off. One thing that I did too was honor her statement and that cross necklace was the only piece of jewelry that I left on her for burial. I had an identical cross necklace make into a piece of memorial jewelry that contained a diamond that was made out of her ashes.
  2. “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray to God my soul to take. Amen.” While most of us are familiar with this childhood bedtime prayer, it means something so much more to me. You see, a few weeks before my mom died, she was in the emergency room for pain and some of the symptoms of withdrawal. I bought her a Precious Moments stuffed animal that said this prayer. Believe it or not, the day that she died I found that stuffed animal laying on the floor next to her bed. I squeezed its belly and it no longer said the prayer.
  3. My mom and dad’s wedding anniversary is in early September. However, the year that would mark their 25th anniversary, they decided to go on a cruise in January, before the anniversary. They had a wonderful time which says a lot because during that time she was suffering bad withdrawals and not always that pleasant. Cruising became her new “thing” when she got home. She absolutely loved the trip and promised to take me for a cruise when I graduated from nursing school. In April of that year, she passed away before the actual anniversary they had already celebrated took place.
  4. I was in the first semester of clinical rotations for nursing school when my mom died. Her last months were very miserable. The person who sold her pain pills for years moved several states away, and since she had already been cut off and flagged by doctors, she could not get any. Many days she didn’t even leave the bed. However, every single morning that I had clinicals, when I got up at 5 AM, I would find my nursing uniform ironed and hanging up downstairs. Mind you, I have only seen her iron clothing maybe twice in my life, so this is not something she did regularly. Inside of the pocket each day was a Post-it note that she wrote for me with a different message on it each time. One of them said that all my patients were lucky to have me just like she and dad were lucky to
    have me and she called me an angel. I treasure that tiny piece of paper.
  5. Finally, there was a song that my mom dedicated to me right before she died. It’s a beautiful song so I will close out the article with the lyrics. But first, I want to say that all these things that happened helped me to accept that her death was somehow meant to be and that in a spiritual way, she saw it coming. Before you think otherwise, know that my mom was definitely not a suicide. She loved life more than anyone I have ever known, and it was an accidental overdose. Anyway, about the song, it was Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son”. She told me to listen to this song and pay attention to every single word of it, just replace it with “Mother and Daughter”. Because every word was important to her, I will share every word of the song here. When you hear the words, especially the very last words in the song, you will see what I mean about her having an intuition her time was near.

It’s not time to make a change
Just relax, take it easy
You’re still young, that’s your fault
There’s so much you have to know
Find a girl, settle down
If you want you can marry
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy

I was once like you are now, and I know that it’s not easy
To be calm when you’ve found something going on But take your time, think a lot Why, think of everything you’ve got

For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not
How can I try to explain? ‘Cause when I do he turns away again

It’s always been the same, same old story
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away

I know I have to go
It’s not time to make a change
Just sit down, take it slowly
You’re still young, that’s your fault
There is so much you have to go through
Find a girl, settle down
If you want you can marry
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy

All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it If they were right, I’d agree, but it’s them they know not me Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away

If they were right, I’d agree, but it’s them they know not me
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away I know I have to go.”

One thought on “My mom lost her battle with addiction and my world fell apart”

  1. Miranda – what a good job you did writing this all down for others to learn from. People have no idea of the heartache in the world. I am so sorry you lost your sweet mom and that your dad is no longer there for you. But your son is, and so you will love and care for him. I will think of you during the upcoming holidays, as they are hard for all of us with complicated grief.

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