There are times in your life when you are faced with two choices: lay down and die, or fight. Do I really have a choice? For thousands of parents, we simply do not have one. We get up each day and start a nightmare all over again and again. A nightmare that we can never wake up from. Our nightmare is addiction.
I am the Executive Director of the national nonprofit I Hate Heroin. I am the mother of three young adults who suffered for many years with heroin addiction. On April 9, 2016, two of my sons overdosed and died from a lethal dose of fentanyl. This is why I will be attending the FED UP! Rally and support all of their efforts to bring solutions to this devastating epidemic.
I will rally in memory of my children and all the loved ones we have lost. I rally in support of my surviving son, who has two amazing years in recovery! I will rally for the parents whose story is my story too, and needs to be told.
I watched heroin take my boys’ light, sanity, friends, and family from them. I watched them die a slow death, right in front of my eyes. I tried begging them, screaming at them, and pleading with them to be well. They tried so, so hard. They stayed well for a long time: so long that I thought I could finally rest. But, we all know that as a parent of someone in recovery, the shoe can drop at any time.
What’s it like parenting someone in active addiction? We don’t sleep because we wait for our children’s phone calls at night. We cringe when we see a text. We feel nauseous when we see our kids walk out the door. We panic at the sound of ambulance sirens. We dread doorbells and phones ringing. We lose our health, our savings, and our sanity. We pray that God takes us home because the agony is more than we have ever been equipped to handle. But then, who would take care of our children?
And then it happens, the day we all dread.
What’s it like find your child’s body? We try to breath for them and pound on them until they come back to life. We beg them to wake up. We scream at them. We tell them not to leave. But they don’t wake up. We are left there with their blue body, fluids coming out of their mouth. We are there, with our dead child on the floor. Our nightmare, our every fear, is lying right there in front of us. This is the moment when we lose our soul.
What’s it like burying your child? After the funeral, days go by. People tell us how sorry they are. They cannot possibly know how truly destroyed we are. We pray they never know. We smile and we laugh and we go through the motions, but we died with our children. Our lives are forever shattered. The restless nights continue and the phone is now dead silent. The silence is killer. The silence of everything we lost is loud at night.
What’s it like missing your child? We find their clothes and frantically try to smell them. Slowly the scent fades. Slowly, our children fade from our lives. We go to the grocery store and see a cereal they liked or hear their favorite song on the way. We are reduced to sobbing in the parking lot. We see their shoes in the garage and our stomach drops. We leave their old hat hanging in the hall, where it shall remain until we die. Their friends’ lives go on, and we try to be happy for them, but deep down we wish our children were here, too.
You see, our children deserved those things, too. They mattered and they were loved. They should be here.
ABOUT FED UP!
This story is part of a series that highlights the FED UP! Coalition’s call for immediate and comprehensive action from the federal government to bring an end to the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose deaths. We invite you to add your story here. In addition, we encourage you to participate in a FED UP! event on International Overdose Awareness Day, August 31, 2017. The Washington, D.C., event will include a noon press conference and 1:00 p.m. networking luncheon at the National Press Club, followed at 7:00 p.m. by a candlelight vigil at the Ellipse and The Opioid March to the White House. To register for these events, please click here. Local rallies will be held simultaneously in locations across the country—find one near you. See FED UP!’s Toolkit for complete instructions on planning your own International Overdose Awareness Day event.