Have you ever met a guy who’s smile would light up a room. Who made you feel like you found a long lost friend. The kinda guy who would give you the shirt off his back. That guy who would bring every stray dog home and make it a member of our family.
That was my son, Matt. He had that happy go lucky personality that drew people in and made them fall in love. Unfortunately for Matt he never loved himself enough.
Matt experimented with marijuana in high school. He loved that high. He ended up in his first rehab while in high school. He spent 30 days as an in-patient in NewPort News, Virginia. I foolishly thought that we beat his disease.
Matt went on the become an excellent mechanic. He moved to the beach, bought a home and opened his business. His adult life appeared free of drugs. He was an adult. He was successful. I took that deep breath and started to relax. Matt loved life and was living it to the fullest.
The beginning of his end began with a back injury. He was lifting an engine and felt a pop. The next day he could barely walk. He called to let me know he had been to his doctor and was given Percocet and told to take it easy. I remember a cold chill running up my spine. Call it Mother’s intuition or a flash back to his younger days. Being a nurse, I knew the dangers of any form of opioids and warned him to try to stay away. I knew his pain was real. I also knew his predisposition to become addicted.
Months passed and the signs were all there but I was in denial. Missing days at his office. Unpaid bills. Not returning my phone calls. Our close relationship was changing as the disease found him again. I felt like I was living in Groundhog Day, except this time Matt was an adult. My hands were tied.
Matt struggled with his addiction to Percocet for 7 years. During that time he lost everything he had worked so hard to gain. His business closed 6 months after his injury. He was abusing the pills and trying to continue to work on cars. It was obvious to his steady customers that something was terribly wrong and they took their business elsewhere. Mortgage payments were missed and his beach house was repossessed by the bank. Everything he loved now gone. He came home to me.
During those 7 years Matt was in and out of rehab. I referred to that time in our lives as “The revolving doors of rehab” I felt like we were strapped on a roller coaster holding on for the ride of our lives. Due to his insurance he was never permitted to stay for the length of time needed to learn how to handle life without pills. He would come home clean and I would look into clear eyes and thank God that Matt was back. He was such a joy to be around. He never wanted to be that person who was tortured by cravings. Our life would just start to feel normal again but my joy was short lived as he would return to his world of numbness within weeks of returning home and the cycle would begin again.
Matt had a horrible fear of needles. This gave me a false sense that I never had to worry about him graduating to heroin. Little did I realize that crushing Percocet and snorting it was just as deadly.
His last attempt to getting and staying clean took place at Bowling Green. A rehab close to home. I watched him struggle with the demons that plagued him most of his adult life. I was so proud and hopeful. Matt was coming back. His clear eyes and beautiful smile greeted me each visit. I remember sitting together looking out over the water. Matt was headed to a recovery home in Florida. I was unsure about his decision but remembered every book I read always spoke of different people, places and things being the best choice for new sobriety. Matt left for The Boca House on June 2nd 2014. He wrapped me up in his big bear hug and told me he was so happy to have the monkey off his back. Little did I know that monkey would find him in Florida.
We spoke twice a day. I was going through withdraw from Matt and he was starting a new life. Once again he was living by the sea. His happy place. He found a job and his self esteem returned. I allowed myself to believe that this was his ah ha moment. That finally he was in a good place in his life.
Our last words were spoken on a Friday night. My ears trained to pick up cues found none. I love you mom, I love you Matt. For reasons my heart will never understand, Matt relapsed. I heard the words that shattered my world. Matt is dead. Matt lost his battle on January 3rd, 2015.
Since Matt’s death I have been trying to pick up the pieces of my life. I started a support group for parents who like me have lost a piece of their hearts. I began writing letters to Matt and started a blog called Mothers Heart Break. I share our story and educate about the addictive properties of prescription opioids. I started a FaceBook page in his honor. Breaking the Stigma of Addiction: Matt’s Story posting educational articles related to prescription drugs and their potential for abuse.
I would give anything for a do over. To rewind time knowing what I know now. I would have held on tighter and never let him go. 💔
Story by MaryBeth Cichocki