David had overdosed, not on heroin—he couldn’t get it that day—but on a pain medication he stole from his grandmother. He landed in the hospital, and doctors told us that if they couldn’t reverse the effects of the medication he’d ingested, he would need a liver transplant, if he lived.
Mother’s Day. When children are young, it’s a day celebrated with macaroni picture frames, candy, flowers, sweet hugs and declarations of “I love you, mommy. Happy Mother’s Day!” But in 2010, as I tried to sleep on a cramped two-seat bench in a hospital waiting room, praying that my son would survive, I knew that Mother’s Day would never be quite the same.
I’d known something was wrong for a long time, but it never had a name until that moment. A heroin addict. How? How did my son, the sweet, smart little boy who grew up in Catholic school, played on soccer teams coached by his dad, and made me laugh with his quick, goofy wit, how did that boy become a heroin addict? God forgive me, but heroin addicts were someone else’s child, not mine.
I had no answers. I still don’t. What I did have was fear and a boatload of guilt.
What did I do? What didn’t I do? I know this is my fault; how did I let this happen? And now that it has, how do I save my child?
How do I begin to know how to save him when everything I thought I knew about myself suddenly seems like a lie?
Who I thought I was, where I’d been, how I’d raised my family, where I thought I was going—all of it was erased with one horrifying statement:
David survived the overdose, without needing a liver transplant. But that day and very long night were the beginning of a descent into a world I had no idea how to navigate. When you grow up with Marcia Brady as a role model, you don’t exactly have a frame of reference for heroin addiction.
But if my son, and the rest of my family were going to survive—of which there was no guarantee—I knew I had no choice but to walk into the fire.
I’m here to share our story. And though I don’t have the answer (no one does), I’ve learned some things along the way that I believe will help the families of those struggling with addiction.
David is well, healthy, and the married father of three amazing kids. It wasn’t easy for him, or for us, to come out on the other side of addiction, and it’s not easy for me to go back and re-visit the pain.
But I believe the only way to turn something terrible into something good is to use the experience to help others.
Sharing our story is one way I can do that. I hope you’ll join me on this journey, and perhaps find some peace.
Until next time, keeping you in prayer. ~ Mary Fran