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Grief Transforms Into Advocacy
In recognition of Mother’s Day, this blog is a guest contribution from MaryBeth, one of the members of the JC Recovery Facebook Community. MaryBeth is a mother who lost her son to the disease of addiction and wants to share her story with our readers. To read more of her story, visit http://mothersheartbreak.com/.
I hate the disease of addiction. The only things I hate more are the words used to describe those who suffer from this disease. Words like “junkie”, “coke head”, “dope fiend” and “druggie” are just a sample of the names I’ve come to hate. They make my blood boil when I hear them used by people who have no clue. People who have never walked in my shoes. People so uneducated and filled with hate that rather than try to gain knowledge before opening their mouths in judgment they spout off ugliness against a population of people they know nothing about.
You might wonder why I feel the way I do. My son was one of those people. Prior to his addiction, he was a successful mechanic. He owned a business. Owned his home. Paid his bills and taxes. He was a loving son and brother. He was an amazing man with a generous heart. The guy who would help the homeless and bring home a stray dog. He was everything except a “junkie”.
His addiction started at the hands of a trusted physician. Prescribed post op opioids led to a path of darkness and despair. Matt followed doctor’s orders and became one of the 80% of Americans who start their addiction by taking opioids legally prescribed for pain. Matt never thinking that by following his doctor’s plan he would lose everything he loved including his life.
Being the mother of an addict was tough. Combine that with being a Registered Nurse and it became a nightmare. I watched his struggle to get clean. I lived the roadblocks that stopped his potential for recovery in its tracks. I witnessed the bias of the insurance industry. I lived the stigma along with my son.
Matts life ended on a cold day in January 2015. He lost his battle and I lost my purpose and a piece of my heart. I thought I could deal with my grief and let addiction become a part of my past. I thought I could bury the pain of the disease along with my son and move on. What I didn’t know was that once you lived with and loved someone who suffered from this mistreated disease, it becomes a part of who you are. It courses through your being like the blood flowing to your heart. Once you’ve lived the stigma and witnessed the hate addiction becomes inescapable.
I never planned on becoming an advocate. I wanted to disappear and guard my heart against further pain. I wanted to live a quiet life remembering my son. The last thing I wanted was to live addiction again. That feeling stayed with me until I saw several posts on Facebook. February 2016. A firefighter in Weymouth posted his feelings for all the world to see. “Narcan is the worst drug ever created, let the shit bags die.” I could feel the anger burning in my soul. What! My son was one of those he would have considered a “shit bag”. How dare this first responder spew his hate on social media. How dare he judge without knowing how impossible it is to get help. I found myself reposting his rant calling him out. I called the Patriot Ledger giving them my opinion. I called the Weymouth Fire Chief and the Mayor. I demanded this so-called first responder be held accountable.
Next came the multiple disturbing videos of overdose victims. Law Enforcement officers, Paramedics and civilians all taking the time to post videos of people in various states of distress. Taking a video before administering aid. Fueling the stigma and giving the public a place to comment their ugliness. Being a Registered Nurse, this behavior angered me. I wondered, “do Paramedics video victims of heart disease or motor vehicle accidents”? Why is the disease of addiction a target for people who have no clue?
As if seeing the pictures weren’t heartbreaking enough, the comments were unbelievable. Raw hatred for those victims. Strangers letting the world know that addicts should be shamed and deserved to die. Does society really believe you can shame someone out of their addiction? Is the general public really that naive? If shame was the answer, we would not be losing 170 people a day. If shaming was enough my son would be alive.
As if things weren’t bad enough for those impacted by addiction, the fashion industry jumped on board with the Capsule Collection. Backpacks, handbags, and shirts covered with lifelike capsules. Small clutches resembling the exact pill bottle my son’s opioids lived in. So now in the midst of the stigma and hate, this industry is glamorizing addiction. Making pill bottle purses the in thing to add to your accessories. I felt like I’d been punched in my heart.
The last straw for me was the Prescription Shot Glass Collection by a company called Big Mouth. Imagine my surprise while shopping on Amazon. That surprise was short lived as my anger hit the roof. “Take one by mouth and repeat until intoxicated” typed on the fake label. Written by Dr. Harold FeelGood. Again, my brain screaming what the hell! The twisted message. Get high, be cool.
So let’s get this straight. First, we have a society crucifying those suffering from addiction. Next, we have an industry glamorizing and promoting drinking and drugging. Giving impressionable minds the idea that being high and doing drugs is really no big deal. What the hell is wrong with society? It seems that Addicts are damned no matter what they do.
Slowly I could feel myself switching gears. No more slipping quietly away. No more silent tears. My grief turned to anger giving me a strength I never knew I had. I found my voice. I feel my son guiding this new journey. This grieving mother lost her heart but found her new purpose.