“Losing someone you love is never easy, but sometimes it’s the easiest thing in a difficult situation.”
I lost one of my best friends today. But, it’s a true blessing how and when we met. I was in my first couple years of recovery and had just published my first book. It was a memoir in a series of my life. MaryBeth had just that year lost her son to an overdose of Fentanyl laced heroin and alcohol. The sober living house he was living in was crap, and you could tell MaryBeth just needed answers, “What did my son go through?”
A mother's heart will more than break when their son overdoses and dies; it will bleed with no cure by him in mind. MaryBeth felt this pain for years after her son overdosed. She was broken, searching for answers and unable to find them simply because Matthew, her son, was gone. And the only way she could see him again was a visit to heaven, while we all know she wouldn't be coming back from it.
MaryBeth was sick for years with Pulminary Fibrosis, where she could only use 25% of her potential oxygen. Among this she had discovered a golf ball sized tumor on her liver, that had been metastasizing for 10 years. None of these were to kill her, except for the broken heart she lived with. Missing Matthew was what tipped the iceberg in the last few month's of MaryBeth's life.
We once had a conversation that the scariest part of the day for her involved right before bed and her cell phone. She said during Matthew's addiction that if the phone rang it was bad news. And then she said if it didn't ring she wouldn't sleep regardless of the bad news to come. She was in a constant battle of mending that feeling after the final phone call from police to notify her of his overdose.
And where my quote at the top fits best, maybe letting her go after refusing treatment for failing kidneys, wasn't the worst thing for her. Now she is living in God's glory hugging her son Matthew for as long as God smiles upon her; eternity. But let me note that MaryBeth's death is not in vain. She changed my life, and thousands of others with not just her contributions on Substance For You, but all over the world with advocacy. She had a voice, and it's my job to make sure that her pain and suffering not be gone silent. So for the still sick and suffering addict or family member in and out of recovery out there… this is your story!
Everyone… meet MaryBeth.
How we met was when she purchased my first book. She’s actually the first to ever buy it, and about another of couple hundred copies she purchased to distribute to libraries and her favorite treatment centers.
Of course with the generosity she’d shown towards me, my recovery, and YourInnerAddict.com I had to reach out and send a personal thank you! She showed me gratitude and I’d not even officially met her yet! Once we started talking I thanked her and then I urged her to review my book on Amazon. I didn’t know anything about her, or her story, other than she supported addiction recovery. So, when she went on and published a review what she said would forever seal our fate together as best friends, and her to become my sober mom. (Yes she’s why I made my sober mom tees…)
“I felt like it was a peek in the window of what my son's life may have been during some of the time he was using. Regardless of how painful it was to read, I continued. There is nothing to be gained by burying my head in the sand. Fortunately, the author's story ends on a positive note. The final pages of the book were very emotional for me as it was very easy to put myself in the place of his family, especially his Mom. I've walked in her shoes and I know what she suffered… You will understand all of that better than you do now and that is the only thing that's going change any of this. The more who understand the easier it will become to solve the many problems associated with substance use and abuse.”
Moving on, after I’d met her I started writing more. Next came a collection of short stories in addiction and recovery. This was my first attempt to tackle multiple aspects of addiction that weren’t always my own, but mostly stuff I’d relived through night terrors from my previous life in addiction.
Halfway through the book of short stories I was finally beginning to understand MaryBeth’s struggle and most of my stories were due to PTSD induced night terrors. What happened next would be my best, realest, and scariest short story I’d ever write…
God knows he put me on the path to writing “Mother” after having a night terror about a mother losing a son to overdose. In the story it was a combination of my mother, me, MaryBeth, and her son. I don’t know why it all connected out that way but as soon as I awoke I screamed! I knew that I needed to dedicate the short story to MaryBeth because it held truest to her and what she’d told me about her story. Maybe it was a premonition from God, but whatever it was I was writing in divinity! I only told her that it was her story after she was done reading it. I told her that I want her to hold on to this, as it’s the best my mind can comprehend to dedicate at the moment, and although I wasn’t rich with money, my words were in effort to heal her soul. This only sealed our bond even tighter!
Around this era in my life I was still young and a struggling author, but the one constant person who loved me no matter what, through addiction and recovery, was MaryBeth. Now, I wanted to write my follow-up to ILLICIT (my first book). Although, there was one problem. I didn’t have any money for the editorial fees and I couldn’t decide how to start it! I had no one to turn to because I was still gaining my families trust back, my business wasn’t that successful yet, and no one in my family would read my books because they hurt too much. But, one person who believed in them, and me, since day one was MaryBeth. She requested that I finish them because she needed to know more. Right there, during this moment, that doubt I had in myself on how I’d write another book, was gone! Then what came next shocked me and everyone I knew…
MaryBeth without question, or asking her, or doing anything to hint at the subject of editorial fees, willingly funded the book for hundreds of dollars in order for me to finish it. It tackled the stigma of early recovery mental health. All she requested in return was that I put a memorial for Matthew in the back of the book, because she was sure that it would sell millions! We’ve only sold a few thousand, but I know she’s smiling from heaven as I let her write Matthew’s memorial and put it in the back of the book herself! Then she got the first copy, and if you go to the back of my book there is a memorial of her business and to her son Matthew for about 5 good pages. That will forever remain there.
INSANTY, the book dedicated to Matthew, was my third book. Once again MaryBeth not only funded it but she bought dozens of copies to distribute and donate as a joint effort to tackle addiction recovery!
Now at this point I’d just gone into starting Substance For You (where you’re reading) and switched from books to blogs, and posters to tee-shirts. MaryBeth didn’t have to financially support any of the blogs because they were free! But, I wasn’t a struggling author anymore. I was simply struggling mentally as a new business owner who was finally getting a little bit of success! I would call her and ask her, “Am I okay calling you?” and her most common answer—her family knows too—is that she would say, “Don’t be silly! Duh! Of course it’s okay!” And then I’d go, “Are you sure?” and she’d reply, “Brian, you know me… there’s nothing that you could do to make me mad!” As she’d laugh, the warmth from the other end of the phone immediately fixed my problems! MaryBeth was a godsend to my recovery. She had saved me from relapse more times than I could count!
Now knowing MaryBeth for over a year she had given me insight into what it must have been like for my mother when I first went through addiction and then had gotten clean. I want to give MaryBeth credit for her helping me find the right things to say to my own mother and rekindle our relationship to where it is today. Without her hours of conversation on the subject I don’t know if my mother and I’s relationship would’ve healed as fast as it did! But, because of MaryBeth’s guidance and honestly to tell me what a mother’s heartbreak is actually like, my mother and I are closer than we’ve ever been!
MaryBeth was more than a business support and an advocate alongside my first try at helping myself for real, or Substance For You as it started off. MaryBeth was now what I call my “Sober Mom.” She was someone in recovery and knew what recovery was like who was like a mentor and mother figure to me. How? Yes, I did have my mom, but she wasn’t always sober (not a problem either). And my mom didn’t “get it” like MaryBeth had been through it. She’d seen all the steps addiction had to offer and came to me with open arms. If you can get the vibe, I’d say we were meant to be best friends and her be my sober momma! If you’ve seen my site there are “Sober Mom 4 Life” tees. Those were dedicated to MaryBeth only about a month before she unexpectedly passed away. And she fulfilled its motto to the fullest! She was my sober mom for life!
I guess you could say that MaryBeth also loved my tees quite a bit! Her favorite of course was the sober mom’s tee because that was HER tee! And then there was “Recovery Woman.” But besides those two I don’t remember her actually wearing any of the other hundreds that she got. Why? Because we started a program that was kind of underground until just today…
MaryBeth would donate hundreds of dollars of her own money and raised money towards using my sobriety clothing to clothe addict’s in treatment centers or sober living homes. She personally chose the treatment center’s that Matt—her son—went to. With her last donation, it became the first of the “CLOTHE 4 RECOVERY PROJECT.” She gave it its name and in her son’s honor we chose to give 20 of our 100% sober long sleeves to her favorite center that Matt went to. I personally coordinated everything and even became friends with the treatment center. They now have a plaque with our tee-shirt inside hanging on the wall in their waiting room. They’ve successfully clothed over 100 intake patients because of MaryBeth and I officially brought back the "CLOTHE 4 RECOVERY PROJECT" at midnight last night. The very same time and day that MaryBeth was admitted to hospice care. While I was unaware that she was admitted, the two actions were put into place by a divine being!
You see, it wasn’t by accident that I started the program at the same time that she was admitted to hospice care. But, I had no idea that she was actually admitted until she had already passed the next morning.
That very next morning I found out that she had passed the very same hour that I announced a press release for the “CLOTHE 4 RECOVERY” project. I’d even sent her a message about an hour before I put it up on Substance For You’s shop page, but her messages say that she never got a chance to read it. So, if all of these events happening at the same exact time were meant for anything it means that finally MaryBeth had her peace, and she knew that her legacy would live on in my heart and other recovering folks hearts for eternity. She knew that the project went up because God guided her home. And if I look at this any which way, I know that she’s not suffering from any of her illnesses and is holding hands while hugging her son Matthew at the Gates of Heaven.
So from the bottom of my heart, thank you MaryBeth for doing nothing more than being you. The world needs more strong advocates like you! And even though I know it was your time, you wanted to see your son, just know that although Earth will miss you, Heaven has gained another Angel.
I think in some simple little way MaryBeth knew her time was coming too. A few months back she had to be moved from her home in North Carolina to an assisted living home in New York by her sister. Although she’s said she was fine these past few months, I think she was only fine because she knew she’d see Matthew again, soon. She even said her goodbye to me without me even knowing. This is a message she’d given me on our last conversation roughly 48 hours ago:
“Brian. Just know that I’m very proud of you and all you’ve accomplished. We’ve known each other through good and bad times. I love you and your wife, make sure to give Patricia a hug for me! I now know today if Matt had heard your story, he’d be alive. Thank you for helping me understand. I’m really tired now. G’night.”
At the time I took these words as a see you later, not a goodbye as not even her family knew. MaryBeth and I would always say “I love you,” and talk about Matthew or how to prevent overdosing or relapse. I had no idea… And MaryBeth, my best friend, my sober mom, knew exactly what was going on. She was going home. And in her own little way, I have closure that our lives together were exactly what they were meant for and for that I will always, always, always hold MaryBeth as one of the best people to come into my life.
It’s funny that if I’d never of become an addict I’d of never met MaryBeth, but you know what? If being an addict was the only way to meet MaryBeth and help each of us find some peace instead of more years of wondering with torture, then God have it, I’d never, ever, change a single thing in my life!
MaryBeth you are my saint and have saved me from relapse more times than I’d like to count. Thank you so much, my sober mom!
And for those of you out there reading this who are addicts and think it only affects you, then you’re truly mistaken! Addiction doesn’t just kill the addict; it kills the whole family. MaryBeth fought for years, as she went from good health, to mortification. She spent every hour wondering and worrying what could’ve gone differently to save her son until one day she realized… I JUST WANT TO BE WITH HIM.
That’s how it’s going for a lot of families who lose loved one’s to overdoses. They are left wondering why for years until one day the answer may never come and they’re left saying, “I’m ready for it to be over…”
I am truly just happy that I gave MaryBeth that answer and a few more good years to fight until she was finally ready for God to take her hand in hand, on her way home, to see Matthew again. So listen up if you’re struggling with addiction, because you’re not the only life it’s after. Addiction is a murderer, but not just for those using or abusing the drugs. And trust me, I’m not wrong or I wouldn’t be flying to New York for my best friend’s funeral on Friday.
God bless you MaryBeth and may your legacy live on forever to save addicts caught in the grips of addiction. May your legacy guide mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters, aunts and uncles, to a safe place in their head for those they’ve lost or are losing each and every day. May your story go down in history, marking the day that God gave me a higher calling. The day I was told to step up and speak out. The day I know that I can do more. The day you finally get to see Matthew again. God rest your soul, my family, my friend, my sober mom. I love you and I always will.
Forever in my heart, and in the hearts of thousands more. We love you MaryBeth!
Rest in peace. September 12th, 2016. Beloved Mother, Puliminary Fibrosis Advocate, Addiction Recovery Advocate, Great Sister, and a Fighter for the Just!
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