First Moments with my Dead Son

In my battle with daily grief, I share my first moments with my dead son.

The Time to Let it Go

Walking by the stares that tried not to look, they kept looking…
but I was certain not to lift my eyes.
One step in front of the other,
I followed until the curtain was parted
and I stepped into the space that became enclosed as the curtain was let go.
A soft sway of the fabric gently moved, until the stillness was bigger.

Machines stood around me,
Entangled wires left to hang.
No beeps or whirrs or steady drones to hear.
Just silence echoed, bouncing in the space like a torpedo bomb looking for its target.
My sons body lay there, his long legs and muscled shoulders filled the table and stretched the sheet right up to his chin.

Was this really him?
I stared at his sleeping body as I had done so many times before, through all the years of nurture and care…
What do I do
but put my hand on his chest – no rise, no fall – and I feel the stillness and the silence as it stopped right here.

A tear trickles down my cheek, then another, and another,
and my voice, like a misty vapor, can only say:
God, have mercy on my son’s soul.
For the very last time I kiss his forehead and catch the scent of my son’s body
to savor as a memory forever…
The time to let it go,
Will be
when I meet him again
on the other side.

img_1872 (3)

This memory is ingrained in my mind and will never leave; the images, the smells, and the visceral pain rushes like raging waters breaking the dam, at any unexpected moment, without warning.

I cannot erase it.

I cannot ignore it.

It doesn’t go away.

I have been writing about the ongoing battles that my son, who died of an overdose, dealt with; I have shared some of the battles & victories that other friends in Recovery face; but today I share a little of the battle I face every single day, in grief.

It is common practice to encourage people to talk about their trauma’s in order to process and work through them. Experiencing the unexpected death of a child is a gigantic trauma; the battle with daily grief is real and not easily understood by onlookers and supporters, even though some try so hard.

How can you help?

Here are 5 ways:

  • Listen; we need to talk about the raw, unedited stuff sometimes
  • Be still with us and maybe hug us; we are lonely in the crowded rooms, and in pain.
  • Do not try to reason our suffering away with staid, trite phrases; we don’t want to hear it, and even if we did, our minds are so overwhelmed we don’t hear what you are saying anyway; I love you, is more than sufficient.
  • Be patient with us; it is scary to re-involve ourselves with life and activities that once were routine for us.
  • Pray for us; grief is a process and it weighs us down, sometimes just getting out of bed is the biggest accomplishment for the day; we need God’s healing.

 

Please share with those who may need to hear my story of grief, to know they are not alone,  or share with someone who can hear and then learn how they might help someone else in similar grief as me.

 

 

Trust God, Clean House, Help Others

My friend, Croix, got his One Year Coin and I was there to witness it!

img_3789 (2)

This young man was my son’s roommate at the local sober house, Honest Beginnings, and the one my son wept fearful tears with just days before my son overdosed and died.

Proud.

Yes, I was so proud of him as he beamed at the podium. We have emotionally adopted Croix and think of him as a son, as we do others we have met while we were on the difficult journey of trying to help our own addicted son in Recovery.

At the podium, my freind clearly declared and shared his testimony as to how he accomplished this milestone:

“Trust God, Clean House, Help Others” is what he said.

Basically, that was his whole speech..

This plan is so simple; it is profoundly awesome!

Trust God: At some point in our lives, we must admit that there is One over us, One we must submit to and trust with our lives.

  • For me, that is Jesus; “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

Clean House: No Windex necessary! It’s not that kind of cleaning. This is cleaning out the messes in life that we have created – making amends with people we have offended and hurt – seeking forgiveness and making things right with them.

  • As a Christian, I align this with the concept of repentance, making all things right in relationship to God, first, then with others; “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

Help Others: This is the profoundly awesome part because it is the key that keeps him continuing on the path of Recovery.  Croix said, when he stops helping others, that’s when he sees himself begin to slip in thought/mind and heart and that’s a dangerous thing… a very dangerous thing.

Helping others is the way to stay focused — talk the talk, and walk the talk alongside!

  • Coincidentally, this is the way to follow Jesus as well, He said: be fishers of mendo as I did love your neighbor. Jesus sought out the broken and made them whole by seeking, serving, and loving. This is key to the mission, no wonder it is so effective in Recovery for one to help the other; it’s essential to passing on the wholeness & healing.

So, in case you are wondering…

or know someone else who needs to know what a good battle plan is…. this is it!

BATTLE PLAN IN RECOVERY:   TRUST GOD,  CLEAN HOUSE,  HELP OTHERS!

BUT DO NOTE:

It’s not a one time declaration, it’s a day by day, moment by moment work.

It’s doable.

Recovery is attainable.

 

PS. This is a good battle plan for every life in fact.

Trust God, Clean House, Help Others: Repeat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a Recovering Addict wants for Christmas

So, what do you want for Christmas?

That’s the question of the season right?

Both clandestinely and up-front-boldly, parents ask it of their children, children ask it of their parents, friends ask one to another, and all are expecting tangible ideas in order to compile their secret lists and sneaky plans…

It is a conversation starter when you are in groups; a good way to get people talking about what their hearts are set on…

the latest gadget,

a new pair of boots,

coveted jewels,

or… money – to get what they really want…

Those are the kind of answers I expected when I asked a small group of men in Recovery what they wanted for Christmas. But it is not the answer I got. Not even close.

Without hesitation, his voice was steady and strong:

“All I want is one more day, just like today, clean and sober.”

010

Immediately, my heart melted right into the shape of a large piece of humble pie.  In my asking, I was boldly sneaky in hopes that I would be able to gain insight and surprise these guys with a tangible gift near Christmas Day. Instead, I was stopped in my tracks.

How many of us think, all we want for Christmas is: one more day?

It is a total perspective game changer to think like this! This young man’s answer caused me to realize how very ungrateful I was to not see the preciousness of one more day. Not to see the gift of one more day.

One more day to breathe in the cold winter air and feel the crunch of snow underfoot…

One more day to enjoy a taco on Tuesday…

One more day to laugh with a friend, hug a mom, and sing in the shower!

For those in Recovery, it is a different story. One more day, clean and sober, is one more day to live and enjoy life and the people in their paths.  Too many of these young men know the instability of recovery; too many of these young men have been revived by Narcan and fully know that unexpected deaths occur. Too many of these young men fear that tomorrow may not come.

One more day is a gift for sure.

And so, I ask myself …

If I all I wanted for Christmas was one more day…how would that change my Holiday season?

One more day to cook a meal for those I love…

One more day to give a hug, loan a dollar, listen to a hurting heart…

One more day to laugh and cry and  pray…

One more day to serve my Lord…

The best gifts of this season are those intangibles – the stuff you cannot buy, but that are given by the Father of the Baby Jesus that is so prevalently depicted during this season.  Today, I am thanking my young man friend for the gift he gave me:

… perspective.

I will align myself with him and say, yes – I want the same for Christmas – the best gift:

One more day to wake up and enjoy what God has given me.

What do you want for Christmas?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Addiction Sin?

This was the one question asked of me while I spoke to the high school students at the Granville Village School; my topic: Addiction Juxtaposed with a Christian World View.

Is addiction sin?

I believe the short answer to that is, “NO.” Addiction, in and of itself, is not sin because addiction is a chronic illness.

The longer answer involves a bad choice tried and then repeated, that can be triggered by emotional states & mental illness, which messes with natural dopamine levels, and can be exacerbated by genetic predisposition… all leading to chemical and /or emotional dependency. That’s my take on it all.

The truth is, we all make bad choices from time to time and they usually follow a similar pattern of pre-meditation.

I am young and I stayed up too late, I am wicked tired, and I have an early class…so I decide to start drinking coffee like my dad…or a Monster energy drink like my older sister.  This week it is one caffeinated drink, next week it is three, and now I  need one everyday to function. This is an addiction to caffeine. Lack of self-control, to get the sleep that is needed, is the sin.

I am overweight and I need to stick to my diet, but I had a really stressful day…so I reach for the bucket of ice cream and I eat the whole container. Today it is ice cream, tomorrow it is second helpings, and next week it will be a bag of chips. This is an addiction to foods as a comforter. Lack of self control, leading to moments of gluttony, is the sin.

I am super anxious and I need to calm down so I can focus…so I decide to drink a couple of beers and try smoking a joint that my friend offers me. Tonight that worked well, so I try it again the next night, and the next night, and most every night; in fact, I think chillin’ like this is the way to go for a good night sleep! This is an addiction to substances.  Lack of trust in God*, to absorb the anxiety, is the sin.

Caffeine, sugar, alcohol … or whatever the substance used (especially those that fuel the current drug epidemic), once we take part and repeat the partaking, our brains are  altered chemically and/or emotionally, and we set ourselves up for potential addiction.  When people attempt to abstain consistently from these addictive substances – headaches pound and cravings of a beastly size will come at the minimum.

This is why America runs on Dunkin’ and people cannot stick to the number one New Year resolution… so, you can imagine how much harder it is to abstain, for the one who is addicted to stronger substances that skyrocket dopamine levels and cripple the body’s own production of it’s natural dopamine?

Most choices that feed our fleshly desires, rather than the Spirit desires, are sinful acts.

Everyone falls short. We all make bad choices sometimes.  Temptations ensnare us like a trap that bites the rabbits leg.

One piece of advice from God: “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,” Ephesians 5:18.  This warning against drunkenness implies abstaining from anything that will impair your physical being to cause you to act in ways that would harm your body, or cause more behavior that is displeasing to God.  Surrender your life to Christ, die to self, and you will be enabled with the power of the Holy Spirit to resist temptations and live a fully free life.

Image result for pics of people living free

Short answer take-away:

No, I do not believe Addiction is a sin.

Addiction is a chronic illness and people who suffer from addiction need loving care and help.  The sin is the piggy-toe dipping, leading to a big step walking, in the ways that satisfy the flesh-desires we have instead of trusting that our God can take care of our every need.

 

*(My one disclaimer is that I believe that there are some levels of anxiety and depression, and other mental struggles, that do need medical & psychological intervention alongside a relationship with God, in order for there to be full healing).

 

 

 

How Can I Thank God When my Son is Dead?

How can I thank God when my son is dead? 

That thought alone sets off an explosion in my head!

It  Can’t be done!” Reason explains.

He is Dead. You are dead. The world is dead. There is no point.

Give up while the choice is still yours!

Can I say it any bigger, any bolder?

Just dead.

Dead.

Dead.

Why am I even going on?

The fact is true as the sky is blue. My son is gone; There can be no thanks in that!

And yet …

Before my son died,

I lingered in bed when the sun kissed my cheek through the window.

My mouth watered in anticipation of a warm chocolate chip cookie.

My heart delighted in silly bantering with my husband  – who is right and who is wrong?

I looked forward to meals alongside my kids,

and their kids,

and their dog-kids.

I loved the sound of rain, especially when I was falling asleep.

Then… I thanked God for every enjoyable blessing.

Of course,

… then, it made sense.

And yet …

After my son died,

I still linger, anticipate, delight, banter, look forward to things, and love.

I am not dead. The world is not dead.

I am alive and creation still thrives with sun and rain and kids, and their kids, and their dog-kids.

And so, even if it makes no sense, I can thank God, even … now.

The choice is definitely mine.

So I choose.

And…

Before my son died,

I loved my son with a deep, sacrificial love – the kind that warmed, and hurt, and forgave, and forgave, and forgave.

After my son died:

I still love my son with a deep and sacrificial love – only now it aches to hug, and hug, and hug. So I do. I hug, and hug, and hug others who need those hugs like my son needed them.

There is a point. A particular point.

I remember how he reveled over  a good barbeque,

a big jump in the pool,

a chill time at the bonfire,

and especially a spirited wrestle with his brother.

His smirky-grin dances in my memory and stitches a stitch in my broken heart.

Stitch by stitch. Stitch by stitch.

All this, a very profitable, particular point; Healing one stitch at a time.

The sun rises, the sun sets.

There is rhyme and there is reason.

“It Can be done!” I say.

There is no if, and, or but.

Joy reaches it’s potential when Sorrow is known in the gut, way down deep…. you can’t appreciate the good without knowing fully, the bad.

This is why I go on.

God is still God, and merciful, and compassionate, and powerful, and the same as He has always been.

God allowed for His own Son to die,

so that mine might live...

not just in my memory, or in my heart, but in heaven eternally.

Yes,

so I thank God for that! 

How can I thank God when my son is dead?

This is how.

Love.

IMG_1858

May you, dear reader, find Joy in abundance this Thanksgiving!

This is as big and as bold as it gets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where was God, when my Son Died of an Overdose?

My son, was alone when he died.

This fact haunts me.

His friend, “asleep” in the next room, unaware, did not wake up in time help my son. There was no one else around, just the two of them.

With angry, mournful cries, my question stands:

Where was God, when my son died of an overdose?

It had been a self-medicating night of weed, alcohol, and cocaine. Pizza, laughs and companionship, leading to a late night taste of heroin. One high falling to a lull, after the next high falling to a lull, and on it went.

Why heroin?

It was not his drug of choice; He told me several times, “I will never do that mom, I am not that stupid.” All I can assume is that he was not in any right-frame-of-mind and therefore did not realize what he was doing; he had no idea that the heroin was laced with fentanyl.

ikvk6228.jpgHe just bought new sneakers one week before, a prideful accomplishment on his part; he sent me this photo saying, “I got a good deal , mom, $10 bucks off!.” He recently picked out his meal choice for his brother’s upcoming wedding, “beef” of course, we all knew he’d choose that.  Earlier that week, he made plans to go to the gym with another brother to get back in shape. Just four days before, he wept with a sober friend, confessing he had relapsed and knew he was in trouble and was afraid. I believe he finally got to the point of realizing for himself that he had a problem and needed help.

My son did not intend for his life to end on that terrible night.

So, where was God when he pulled out the heroin packets? Why didn’t God awaken the friend sooner?

As my son began to lose his capacity to breathe, did he know it? When the oxygen level was cut off, and his heart slowed to a stop, could my son comprehend what was happening? Did he cry out for help, inside? Did God hear him?

Here’s what I believe:

I believe that God was with my son the whole time, weeping over his choices perhaps, but loving him through it all. If comfort and assurance was needed as my son was in that flash-of-a-moment, realizing he was dying… I know that God gave comfort. When faced with stuff too hard to do alone,

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:8a. 

I often told my son this.

I believe, that God held his heart, til it’s last beat and cradled his soul with his last exhale, hugging him into heaven. God is a God of compassion and of mercy and He knew even more than we,  how much my son needed to be rescued. And rescue, God did. My son was rescued from ten years of mental anguish, inner turmoil, two years of addiction, and all the fall out that crippled life for him; he suffers no more.

I often think: what was ahead that God spared him from? … the unseen future that only God sees. Because of His sovereignty, I choose to trust that what God allowed was the best for my son; in this trust, my anger dissipates. Though I still weep mournful tears and my arms ache to wrap my arms around my son, I know that God did not fail him, or me.

Currently my son has no need of sneakers, beef, or the gym; Instead, my son enjoys the fullness of peace with God.

If you wonder where God is in your battle, be assured, He is with you because He never leaves us, or forsakes us.

 

 

 

 

 

In the Battle – Love

Nose to nose,

I can see your sweat balance on your brow just before it drips like a tear down your cheek.
Heat-flares swirl like flames from your words that are so loud, I cannot hear.
Standing still,
I am not afraid of you. I am afraid for you.
Search I do, with a calm desperation, for my soft tender boy, as I stare steady into your eyes…
Where are you (?) I plead, with a screaming whisper…
I Know you are in there…
My heart holds on like a rope to the mast as you turn in a fury and punch the wall with ramped-up rage, storming ocean waves keep coming without mercy and the sheetrock tells all with it’s gaping hole.
Ah-uuuuugh! Vomits your souls guttural plea, from the inside places that weep inside your brokenness.
Hang on…
I see you soft tender boy, caged by the demons that grip, and tear, and lie to you.
Nose to nose,

I know you see that I am not afraid as your sonship locks on my momma’s gaze, again, as the tide rolls out…
I am afraid for you.
Look at me, don’t turn away soft tender boy.

I see you.
Let me hold your chalk dusted hand.

The third thing I learned in the battle is this:

Loving, is the most important action.

As a Christian, my mantra sings:

Love God. Then Love others.

Love is what enabled me to stand in the storm with my son. I did not leave. I did not give up. And neither should you. Do you suffer by watching your loved one suffer in the illness of addiction? I urge you to stand firm – look hard to see the person underneath their addiction – see the lost child you remember and keep loving, even when it makes no sense to keep loving.

Down deep the one afflicted will know, and that’s what counts most…

that your loved one knows that they are loved.

IMG_E3293