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Addiction, co-dopendecy, and grieving

abuse addiction Alcohol co-dopendecy Confessions family fentanyl heroin loss Mother overdose youth

Mary Beth lost her son Matthew May 19th, 2013 to Addiction. This story chronicles her journey through co-dependency from living with not just an addict, but an addicted loved one.

Many people affected by addiction are not addicts themselves. In fact, most people affected by addictions are the people closest to the user/abuser. Through Mary Beth’s journey you can see the addiction full fledged. You can get a feel for her grieving. You can hear the death of her son through her eyes. And we find out how she develops her own personal recovery.

We begin by challenging the insight that we already know. The insight of others who’ve gone through this disease a key way to making changes. This is important to adding sentiment of an already disgruntling topic: “Addiction and Co-dependency”

How do we deal with the ones closest to us struggling with addictions? How do we deal when we may be addicted to them ourselves?

Don’t just keep Mary Beth in our prayers but have hope for all of those struggling with the same issue!

We thank Mary Beth for her compassionate honesty.  We wish her well on her journey.  We wish everyone else reading our love, too.

"On Mother’s Day 1996 my nearly 11 year old son Matthew told me that he had thought about ending his life. This jolt colors everything that came after in my life and my son’s.  There is a thread of anxiety running through all my parenting until the day he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl and alcohol almost exactly 17 years later. I was always afraid, afraid his thoughts would turn into reality. Fear is not a good place from which to parent.

His father and I had separated and divorced when Matt was 9. His dad had only sporadic contact with him. I was the primary parent. For better or worse I made the decisions and bear responsibility. His use of alcohol and drugs were established by the time he was 15 or 16. It took me a while to catch on. I didn’t want to see it. Show me a mother who does.

The older he got the bigger the problems. He was arrested for the first time when he was 16 and there were many times after that. All either drug or alcohol related. I consulted doctors, counselors, special ed teachers, interventionists, addiction counselors.  Matt lived two years over a 3 year period at a long term residential program for at risk young men. He attended two different IOP’s. There were diagnosis of ADD, depression, bipolar disorder, substance use disorder.

And through it all was my anxiety, my fear that the worst would finally happen. I hovered, drove both of us a little batty. I could see how much he had to offer, how intelligent he was, how creative. I could see it but nothing I said or did could make him see it.

The story goes on. I could tell the details but almost anyone who has loved an addict knows them already. He was intent on destroying himself and I was intent on preventing that destruction. He no longer lived with me but I subsidized his living on his own to various degrees at different times. I paid for his phone, his health insurance, occasionally his rent, bought textbooks and so on.  I paid for things with money I shouldn’t have used and had no right to give. In my own way I was as sick as he was.  Finally, in 2012 my family helped me see what I was doing and I began more serious work with AlAnon, making my first faltering steps toward my own recovery.

I backed off as best I could, cut off the money supply and stopped trying to get him follow my agenda. In the words of a friend, I “respected his choices” or more accurately I respected his right to make his own choices.  What followed were months of chaos and misery. It was during this period that I received a tearful phone call from Matthew. He sounded broken, lonely. He said, “Mom I feel like you’re my best friend. You’re the only one who tells me the truth.”  I think it says more about Matt’s ability to burn bridges than anything else. By the last year of his life Matt had lost most of his friends and virtually all of his personal possessions.  He was alone and very lonely.

He was arrested and jailed shortly after Thanksgiving 2012 and was released unexpectedly right before Christmas. I allowed him to come to my home for the holiday but by New Years he had again chosen drugs and alcohol and landed in a homeless shelter.  Literally 48 hours later I received a phone call from him saying, “Mom, I’m done. I’m ready to get help.”

It took 11 days but we found a bed for him at an inpatient treatment center in a nearby city. He did well, graduated and moved to sober living where he had a series of slips or relapses over a couple of months. He was in and out of a local hospital. I kept a certain distance, there was just so much chaos. I was trying to do my step work and build some healthy boundaries but Matt’s addiction was not making that easy. He wasn’t building any real clean time and was easy picking for the dealer who lived across the back yard. Matt was given the fentanyl which in combination with alcohol killed him on May 19, 2013.

What’s next for me?  Learning to live without the physical presence in this world of my only child and learning how best to integrate the lessons I’ve been taught over the years.  What seems to do me the most good is helping others, putting my experience to work, encouraging other families and letting them know they are not alone. The challenge is to do that in a healthy way, helping people without neglecting myself. Knowing I control nothing but my own reaction to the world.

Over the years, I have come to see addiction as a prison where the addicts and everyone who loves them are the prisoners. The bars and doors are no less real than those in any county jail. The difference is we hold the keys to our own cells. We use those keys and free ourselves by being brave enough to ask for help."


We thank Mary Beth for her courage to share her story with the world.  God bless, Mary Beth.  The insight Mary Beth’s story provides is crucial in understanding the true disease of addiction.  It takes a tremendous amount of strength for someone to share this amount of honesty with the World.  We should all give Mary Beth that much more respect!

God bless.

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