Stop ‘should-ing’ yourself

After Charles’ addiction and suicide, I looked back with all the wisdom and all the facts of “after” and told myself I should have done something this way or that. I tortured myself with it. The coulda, woulda, shoulda consumed me for months and years.

I blamed myself for something ...  read more

My deepest regret

I know in Charles’ final hour, he felt abandoned.

Heroin is not a party drug. It’s a loner drug. The solitary nature of the drug is so counterintuitive to Charles’ outgoing personality. It does not make you a fun person or one that everyone wants to be around. Just the opposite.

When Charles called me,  I was his last shred of hope in an effort to save himself. His mother. I can still hear the despair in his voice. I think he left this earth thinking we abandoned him because he was addicted to heroin. I hope he knew we loved him. I’m going with the fact he did because I can’t bear it otherwise.

It was that moment I could have softened and said, “Where are you? I’ll come get you.” But I didn’t, even though alarm bells were ringing in my head. Why not? Because I thought I had to hold my boundary. Why did I go so f-ing catatonic at the moment he needed me most?

At the moment when I needed my own brain to behave and act in “normal mom mode” it went haywire on me. Scrambled signals coerced me into thinking I needed to wait when all I needed to do was act.

I don’t get a redo.

You don’t want to be the one walking through Target talking to the air and telling your son who died by suicide that you love him. You don’t want to be the one screaming at your windshield because you can’t reverse time. You don’t want to be the one that wakes up daily realizing the nightmare is real.

You know in your gut when something is wrong. When you get that inkling, don’t shut it down because you don’t know what it is.

Don’t dismiss them as “wanting attention” or think they are joking around. Take every threat seriously. Give them attention. What does “offering attention” cost you anyway? A few minutes of your precious time? Why do we resist offering compassion when someone reaches out desperately for it? How else would anyone get help?

I have learned to live with my deepest regret. I have forgiven myself for it. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt. Some days a lot. Others not so much.


Dear high and mighty parent

Suicide. The coulda, woulda conversation in my head goes something like this

My coulda woulda shoulda is that last phone call I had with Charles. Here’s how it goes.

Alter Ego: You missed that last conversation, the one where he texted you, “Please pick up the f@#$%& phone, there is something I need to tell you.”

(my mind usually whines here)

Me: We had already been on the phone for two hours. He was shouting, incoherent and argumentative. I didn’t know where he was. I couldn’t understand him. I said, “I have to go. Bye, bye, I love you.” Then he called again and we talked again.

Alter Ego: But that third phone call, the one that you didn’t take, was your last chance. I think he wanted to tell you he loved you. And you missed it. You’ll never know what he wanted to say for sure. That opportunity has vanished….forever.

Me: But I didn’t know it was my LAST phone call. I thought I’d wait and call him the next day or later that night. I texted him a question and asked him to call me. He didn’t.

Alter Ego: You could have called. You have a phone. Every normal mother would have.

Me: I know, I know. It hurts. We did everything.

Alter Ego: You didn’t answer the phone again, though, did you?

Me:  I didn’t know he was suicidal. And I didn’t know then what I know now. He was going through withdrawal and having a depressive episode at the same time. He told me nothing and I couldn’t figure it out…. and I had to be somewhere.

Alter Ego: I see, you had to be somewhere. Was it that important?

Me:  I had no control over the situation, no knowledge of what was going on. I know I missed something important. It kills me.

Alter Ego: Do you really think you could have saved him?

Me: Maybe that day I could have. But I don’t think he was going to wrestle out of the grips of heroin. Ever. He was so fragile. And he refused traditional treatment for depression and his self medication had made his depression worse. I remember trying to figure out if he had hit rock bottom. And if so, what we needed to do. I needed time to think.

Alter Ego: It was always hard,
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