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

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?

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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