Memorial : Loved Ones Lost To Addiction

The following stories are shared by individuals, in their own words, about a loved one that they have lost to addiction.  D.O.P.E has not changed any words that were written.  We believe that their story needs to be told exactly how they wanted it to be told.  RIP to all the people that we have lost to addiction.

Matt

Looking Back Through Tears

July 30, 1977 - January 3, 2015

By MaryBeth Cichocki (mom)


 There is no instruction manual for mothers of addicts.  We have all the information about what to expect when you are expecting and of course there is always the go to book by Dr. Spock.   There are books written by parents living the nightmare that addiction brings along for the ride.  As Matt's mom I tried to educate myself on addiction.  An Addict in the family, Stay Close, Beautiful Boy all became my bibles.  My go to reference books that made me feel like I wasn't crazy or a horrible mom.  The only problem with those books is their addict survived.  My son did not.

 Being a nurse became a curse.  Matt's addiction became my addiction.  I was addicted to saving him.  Yes, I know, I've heard it all. Only the addict can save himself. Unfortunately, I saved other mothers babies for a living so I foolishly let myself think that I had the power to save my own.  I let myself believe that I had the problem under control.  I was a nurse, how could my son be an addict.  He grew up in a good home.  Went to a private school.  He had a mom who set a great example of work ethic. To me, he wasn't an addict. Matt just had a problem.  He had scripts for the Percocet and Xanax from what I believed to be a pain management clinic that cared about Matt's well being.  Denial helped me survive those years we battled his addiction together.  There were times I felt like I was strapped to a roller coaster blindfolded.  Never knowing or truly seeing what was coming next.

I didn’t talk about Matt's addiction at work.  Addiction is a dirty word. It was my dirty little secret.  I would sit and listen to my fellow nurses brag about the accomplishments of their children, all the while wanting to scream.  My child is an addict and I need to be supported, not shunned. No amount of nursing education prepared me for the power of addiction or the stigma that branded the addict and his family.  Addiction is the most misunderstood disease.  I remember wishing Matt had cancer, sick I know, but at least I would have gotten support and sympathy.

  Parents are afraid addiction is catchy and if they allow themselves to think even for a minute this nightmare could invade their perfect family they run and shut you out.  The stigma lived in the NICU as I kept my mouth closed afraid of the reaction I would receive from my educated colleagues. You are the mother of an addict, their dirt is now yours.  You are a nurse, how could your son be an addict.  You are a horrible mom.

  I look back now and realize how blind I truly was. I though being a nurse would protect my child from the deadliness of addiction.  After all I should know the signs. I should have been able to handle the health crisis that addiction and withdraw threw in my face.  I wanted to believe the lies.  I'm just tired.  Yes, I went for the interview.  No, mom I'm not abusing my drugs.  Matt lived with me the last seven years of his too short life.  We battled many days. Screaming at each other after me coming home from a 12 hour shift to find him slumped over on the couch with white residue on his nose, his list of chores undone.  Still I denied he was that addict.

  Being a nurse I had contacts in the treatment world and believe me I exhausted them.  There wasn't a mental health facility in Delaware that I haven't visited with Matt in tow.  Unfortunately for us my state had no rehabs so it was always a fight to find him a safe place out of state.  Getting him admitted and finally being able to breath even just for 28 days felt like the weight of the world left my heart.  Knowing he was safe gave me the false security that my son would also be one of the survivors.  Matt's coming home was always a mixed bag of emotions.  Yes, I was happy to see him but at the same time I was scared to death.

I had to keep a roof over our heads and that meant Matt was once again afforded the freedom to live in his world of euphoria.  When I had exhausted the resources in Delaware, we went to Maryland then Pennsylvania.  Through this entire 7 year journey I never thought he would overdose.  Denial became my very dear friend.  Tough love didn't work for us either.  I finally told him he had to go after he stole from me and then called the police on me for hiding his drugs.  You see, I was tired of the rehab stuff and was going to detox him myself at home. He left and I cried and constantly worried.  I let him come home to shower and eat, I felt like a piece of dirt.  Me living in a great house and Matt sleeping on whatever couch he could find for the night.  Tough love just about did me in so Matt came home and the cycle started all over again.  I became the mom police, checking his phone and emails.  Searching through his room and things.  I was becoming someone I never wanted to be.

My friends, tired of the same Matt stories started to avoid me.  My life became a place I didn't want to be anymore and I would dream of selling everything and running away, but I had to save Matt.  Our last Thanksgiving together was spent at Rockford, a mental health facility.  We were given one hour.  Knowing what I know now I would have signed him out and run like the wind.  My son eating with strangers and me crying my heart out as I left him behind.  The last time I saw Matt he was in Bowling Green, a rehab in Pennsylvania.  He ended up there after another screaming match with me coming home and him stoned again.  I told him it was rehab or the streets.  I drove him there on a Monday night and held my breath in the waiting room as the staff did their assessment to decide if he would be admitted.

I praised God all the way home in joy that maybe this would be the magic time as all the books tell you, don't give up one time he will get it.  I fooled myself into thinking we finally did it.  Matt was saved.  The last time I saw Matt was a beautiful day in May, so full of promise.  Matt looked great, speech and eyes clear.  He told me he was so happy to get the monkey off his back and was ready to start his new life at a sober living house in BocaRaton, Florida.  The Boca House was recommended by Matt's counselor and was actually a place mentioned in one of the books I'd read.  If only I had known what Matt was heading into I never would have bought that ticket. 

He left for Florida on June the 2nd.  We spoke twice a day.  He told me he felt blessed to be so close to the beach.  You see, we are beach people, me and Matt.  I felt good knowing he was on board for his recovery and breathed a sigh of relief.  We did it.  I so foolishly believed that 28 days in rehab had prepared Matt to face the world again.  A world where Mom wasn't there to pick up the pieces and get him to safety.  I was flying to Boca on February 10th to spend the week with Matt. To celebrate his new life and meet his boss, as Matt finally found employment.  How foolish I was.  With a job came a paycheck. Drugs cost money and Matt had money and no mom on 24/7 watch.  Matt overdosed on January 3rd and my life stopped.  I live in a world of disbelief.  How did this happen.  Every time we spoke he sounded normal, my ears, trained to pick up the changes in speech failed me.  We spoke at 6:23 p.m. on Friday night.  He died 5 a.m on Saturday morning.  My last words to him were I love you Matt, stay safe.  I love you mom, I'll call you tomorrow. That call never came.  No amount of nursing education could have prepared me for this ending.
  As I look back I remember all the mothers in the NICU.  Holding them as they said goodbye to their babies who were born too soon or too sick for even the latest technology to save.  I remember crying with them feeling like I let them down by not being able to save their babies.  I remember the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness as we sat together.  I remember saying it will be ok.  I think back in horror.  How could I have uttered those words when I had no idea of the heartbreaking pain these moms were feeling as they held their dying babies.  I am ashamed that I thought so little of their grief as their dreams were shattered and their lives were changed forever.  I now get it.  Losing a child is having your heart ripped from your chest.  Having the breath sucked out of your lungs.  Having your world spin off its axis and shatter at your feet. 

I now live in a state of profound grief.  I question everything I did during his addiction. I replay the last 7 years and try to figure it out.  Dissecting every decision I made or didn’t make.  What did I miss, what could I have done differently.  When Matt's life ended a part of mine did too.  I spent so much energy on saving him that I am lost.  I walk around looking at his pictures, always smiling, no hint of the demons that controlled and finally took his life.

My NICU days are over.  I could not handle the loss of another mothers baby.  My days are spent writing Matts story in my blog called mothersheartbreak.com.  I offer support to other mothers who share my grief of losing a child to addiction.  I speak out against the stigma that prevents addicts from getting the treatment they need and deserve.  I pray that someday I will find peace knowing that Matt is safe and I hope to forgive myself.  I used to think I was a smart girl, a critical care nurse who saved other mother’s babies but could not save her own.

AN UNFINISHED MASTERPIECE

Anthony

October 11, 1989 - May 31, 2014

Before he died from heroin on May 31, 2014, I would often refer to my son Anthony as “a work in progress.”
He could be mean, rude and selfish. But he could also be generous, kind and loving. And he was working on becoming more of the latter and less of the former.
He just needed more time to get there.
He had serious anger management issues. He would often fly into a rage when he didn’t get his way, but he would always apologize for his outburst later. And he was learning to control his outbursts and was working on being more patient.
He just needed more time to get there.
He had a substance abuse problem. It didn’t define him, but it dominated the last six of his 24 years of life. He would get clean and then the siren call of heroin would lure him back one more time. He was learning what he needed to do to stay clean and he was getting closer to recovery.
He just needed more time to get there.
Tragically, he didn’t get that time. He went back to heroin one time too many and it killed him.
Anthony was precious and special and unique. But his story, sadly, is not. One hundred twenty nine (129) Americans die every single day from drug overdoses. And all of you who have also lost a loved one to a drug overdose have also lost someone who was precious and special and unique. And though you may not have used those words, you probably also thought of your loved one as “a work in progress” and prayed, or wished, that they could have more time.
Time for a bad habit to be exchanged for a healthy lifestyle; time for a hijacked brain to rewire itself; time for the cravings to become manageable and to learn the necessary skills to overcome them.
Ninety (90) days of in-patient drug treatment – the minimum time recommended by experts -- can give someone struggling with addiction the time they need to begin to heal. We need to require that that time be provided to every victim of the disease of addiction who wants it. Anthony’s Act http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/anthonys-act is a movement seeking to make long term treatment a reality.
So, if you haven’t signed the petition http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/anthonys-act in support of Anthony’s Act, please do so today. To the 41,700 plus who have already stepped up – signed, shared, lobbied – please accept my heartfelt thanks and please keep up the fight to bring attention to this serious health care crisis. To those who have only signed, I also say “thank you” and I respectful ask that you take the next step: share the petition everywhere you can and seek support from decision makers with the ability to spread the word ever farther. You have more power than you may realize. Please use it.
Let's stop having to say “if only he (or she) had had more time.” Let’s give those suffering with addiction a real chance at recovery.
Joseph Anthony Pihota
March 15, 1987 - May 3, 2015
Joseph died from synthetic marijuana

   John

By Pamela Mahoney (mom)

I lost my son, John on November 8th, 2015. We were very close. Of all my 4 sons he was closest one to me.
I had been clean for many years. One day, he said he waited for the right time to ask me if I wanted to buy some heroin. I said yes. And so it began.
After a while I got clean again. My faith in Jesus was the only time I had long-term sobriety. I didn't have much of a life. I worked and stayed home.
I lost my job in March of 2013. I had a breakdown and ended up on the crisis unit after a series of losses. John was there. He encouraged me to get help. I was there for 5 days.
When I came home I couldn't leave my room. I felt like I was super glued to my bed. I was on a strawberry flavored milk diet. I felt crippled.
John came to help me to pack up my stuff and put it in storage. His friend, who was also his dealer was thrown out of his mother's house because of his drug abuse. He and John were getting high downstairs. I went by and asked if I could have some. And so it began. Again.
We were homeless together. We went through so many things together. Most of them were not very good.
The first 4 weeks we went camping at two different campgrounds. We were getting high every day. I was on Ativan for anxiety. I didn't realize what repercussions that would have on my using.
The first time I od'd John Narcan'd me. I was so mad that he ruined my high. I think the 2nd time I was mad too. Then I saw what it was doing to him. He told me I was seizing and wasn't breathing.
We lived in the car for another month. John had to Narcan me 4 other times after those 2. I was Narcan'd by a state trooper once and my youngest son's friend the last time. This took place in a 2 1/2 month period.
We argued about my getting high the last time. I told him no more car or money for drugs.
I called him a few days later and could tell he did something. I went where he was and as he was cleaning my car up, I told him I wanted to buy something. He started yelling at me. He said that the only reason why he was being nice to me was because I had stopped. I decided, at that time, to go to a homeless shelter.
I cared for my father until he died. I still couldn't get 3 months of sobriety together. I went back to the shelter after that.
Because I had a few of my meds in my bag, I was thrown out of the shelter for 30 days. I called my youngest son, also an addict, if I could stay with him. I bought some heroin and split it with him. Twice he stole what I had left for myself. I argued with him, he told me to get out of the apartment.
I called my brother and asked if his offer for me to live with him was still an option. He said yes and my recovery and soul searching began.
I had been saved years earlier. That was the only way I've ever had real long-term sobriety. I started going to his church with him and his wife.
I helped with household chores and weeding his yard. They had this vine called bittersweet tearing the railing of the deck apart. When I started weeding, I had to get rid of the bittersweet. It had a thick main root that was a bright orange. It had other roots off of it and they had smaller roots off of them. They had little fibers at the end of them. God showed me that that was like bitterness. It evaded every fiber of of me. It was destroying me, tearing me apart. And then He healed me! I hadn't had that kind of freedom for almost twenty years.
The next thing he showed me was my responsibility for the bad choices I had made. I was at my counseling appointment when out of nowhere I realized that I had torn my own house down with my own hands. I couldn't blame anyone else. I chose to do what I did. I couldn't blame my ex, God showed me he was none of my business. I was undone! BUT GOD, redid me! And I found, once again, sweet freedom!
All through this John was still in my life. In 2014 he would call me and tell me he wanted to die. There was nothing I could do for him. I told him about what God had shown me. I told him to ask Him to reveal Himself to him.
John went to jail up here. I continued to encourage him to seek God. I sent him a devotional named, Jesus Calling. I accidentally sent him 3 of them. He gave two away to others. That was John. There was a man who held a Bible study group there.
I am grateful that John made a real commitment to the Lord. They released him on parole. John never took parole! I couldn't believe that they had let him go! I was devastated. He still called me. He always stayed in touch with me.
He wrote to everyone he had hurt when he was in jail. His father came across him in Boston just after he was released. He so John from the back and thought it was him. He said John's name and it was John. He took two pictures of him. I didn't see those pictures until later.
So his father reconciled with John. My prayer for him and my youngest son was that God would let them know happiness here before He took them.
John spent a day with his dad and my grandson on a Saturday. They went to Fenway Park and out to dinner. His dad dropped him off Saturday night and went home
Sunday, that call I had fear the most for so long came. My oldest son called my brother's phone because mine was off from being at church. He said, "Mom, Johnny's dead." By the time I got off the phone my voice was hoarse.
My brother took me to the hospital he was at. They still had the intubation tube in him. I put my hand under him and it was still warm. There was no one there to Narcan him. He was my heart. And now he was gone.
Tomorrow would have been his 33rd birthday. But he will be forever 32. His youngest brother eulogized him like this, "John would give you the shirt off his back. He wouldn't hurt a fly. He'd probably keep it as a pet!"
At times I couldn't distinguish where I began and where John ended. I now know the answer to that.
He saved my life 6x's, only to die and leave me to live without him. God answered my prayer. The last day of his life was as good as it was gonna get for him. He would have lost all that he had gained if they knew he had relapsed. I could hear it in his voice one of the last times I spoke to him. He knew I wouldn't turn my back on him.
I have never, ever felt pain like this before, because, you see,he was my heart. And now he's gone.
I have talked to people about addicts having Narcan. One woman said it would only give addicts an excuse to use. I told her about my experience. I told her that because of Narcan, I lived long enough to achieve sobriety. It's been over 2yrs. I ask people who say that, would they want it to be available if it was there child or loved one?
I feel that God has spared my life to share what He has done in my life. When someone has been in their shoes and tells them it can happen for them too, it might cause someone to listen and get to their place of sobriety.
I will honor my son by staying clean and telling them about our story, because he is still in my heart and always will be.
John was a gentle man with a big broken heart.  He loved children since her was 2 years old.  He loved animals.  I want people to know who he was. He held me many times as I wept for him.  He knew much I would beat myself up about letting him down.  He even advocted for me with my other son's over everything that happenend.  He knew because he was there when I would weep for my children.  He knew because he was my heart. My others sons love is conditional, John wasn't.  My poor boy is happy now.  His pain is gone, he's free from all the pain.  God told me that John;s death was for his glory.  I had the humbling privilege to lead his best friend to the Lord.  Si it already has happened.  I prey there will be many more.  I believe there will be many more.  My identity was being a mother.  I believe that God wants me to mother these young people. 
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