Recovery Can Be a Gift

Addiction affects an entire family and so does recovery.

I first ‘met’ John McMahon, PhD, who lives in the UK, when he replied to my blog post, “After Years of Sobriety, She/He Won’t Forgive or Forget,” recently. We exchanged a few emails, and I learned that he and his wife, Lou, a counselor, founded the website,, to provide help and support to people living with an alcoholic. I invited them to write a guest post and share a bit of their backgrounds. Between them they have, if not an unique experience then certainly a highly appropriate background.  Lou is a counsellor with a private practice.  She also has first-hand experience of alcohol abuse and its effects in her own family.  She is a classically trained musician, a graduate of the Royal College of Music, London, and a singer / songwriter who has made 7 albums and toured the UK, USA and South Africa giving concerts and workshops. John is a PhD in psychology.  He has practiced as a therapist and has designed and run treatment programs for addiction problems. John has also been clean and sober since 1984 and has been involved in teaching and organising treatment for almost as long.

John and Lou can be reached by email at

Recovery Can Be a Gift by John and Lou McMahon

John and Lou McMahon, founders of, and authors of today's guest post, "Recovery Can Be a Gift."

John and Lou McMahon, founders of, and authors of today’s guest post, “Recovery Can Be a Gift.”

Living with an alcoholic is hard. So it is hardly surprising that partners and families of alcoholics dream of the time when the drinking finally stops. In their minds everything will then be great, the drinker will return to the person that they love and life will go back to normal.

For most people at the beginning of the recovery process there is still, unfortunately, a considerable amount of work to be done if the relationship is going to thrive. Remember that there has been a lot of mistrust and emotional and perhaps even physical damage done over the years. There have been arguments, promises made, promises broken, hopes raised and hopes dashed. These things take time to heal. There are also the problems that can arise from the adjustment to a new way of life for both you and the drinker. Think of it as now the storm has passed, it is time to repair the damage.

Unrealistic Expectations of Sobriety

It has been difficult hanging on and keeping the faith over the years. You may have spent quite a lot of time dreaming about when he stops drinking and your life gets back to ‘normal’. You may have very definite ideas what that ‘normal’ will entail.

One of the dangers here is that you may set yourself up for a disappointment. It may be that your expectations, while understandable, are unrealistic. It is possible that you have a vision of family life that is either not shared by your partner or that he cannot deliver even if he does share it. It may also be the case that she doesn’t actually know what your dream is. Over the years your communication has almost certainly suffered; that is something that needs to be repaired. Talking through what you both want and expect from each other may be revealing and help to clarify your new roles and status. It may be difficult at first as you are probably not very accustomed to sitting and planning together. You have probably had to take the responsible role and now your partner may want to ‘share’ that role.   That could be a relief, but it could also be difficult to relinquish the control.

Rather than have high expectations you may find yourself at the other extreme. After having your hopes built and then being disappointed so many times, you may feel reluctant to allow your hopes to be built up too far as it is painful to have them crushed again. Indeed, you may take the view that having no hope is easier to deal with as it is a state that, while not comfortable, is at least familiar.

Again this is an understandable reaction to the roller coaster ride of uncertainty that has been your life. However, beware that you don’t become too cynical. He probably needs support, especially in the early days of recovery and so may take your negativity as a sign that you don’t believe or appreciate the changes he has made, or that you just don’t care. However it is important to stress that, it is not your responsibility to keep her sober, but it is in your interest to provide support and encouragement.

Walking on Eggshells

You may find that your ex-drinker is experiencing difficulty adjusting to a new sober lifestyle and feel that they are reacting irritably to any interaction. So you may feel that you need to monitor your every word or action in case she becomes negative and has a drink. If you are living like this then you probably feel that nothing very much has changed from the drinking days. We are sure that this is not what you dreamed or hoped for when he got sober.

If you feel that you are walking on eggshells, perhaps you should start by asking yourself, why you are doing that. You know from experience that worrying about her drinking, policing etc never got her sober. So it is unlikely that worrying about whether he is going to drink is going to keep him sober!

Obviously you do not want her to return to drinking and all the misery that the drinking brought. However please remember that you are not responsible for her staying sober or drinking. If he should drink it is completely his choice! Be supportive and positive but remember that you have a life as well and you should live it. Besides she needs to take responsibility and that can be difficult if you are fussing around her. Letting him get on with his recovery may be the best thing for both of you and will allow you both to grow.

Dealing with the Past

It is not only the drinker’s feelings that need to be monitored. Time and again you have heard the promises and assurances that drinking is over and this is a new beginning. Having lived on the emotional rollercoaster, it takes time to develop trust again. It will probably develop much more slowly than the drinker would like, but it has to be earned.

Ironically once trust has actually been regained can be one of the crisis points in the recovery relationship. Having started to relax into a way of life that does not include drinking, the partner may access all the feelings that were evoked by years of drinking but were never addressed openly. Anger, rage and resentment can burst out into this new ‘safe’ environment which may be flashpoint but could lead to deep healing.

The drinker may feel that the anger is unjustified as he is sober now and all that is behind him, besides he said sorry. Nevertheless these feelings will demand to be expressed and the healthiest way to do that is with the drinker. If he can listen to his partner’s feelings at that stage without excuses and justification then there is an opportunity for growth within himself and the relationship. However that is not an easy task; maybe he can view it as making amends. Otherwise there is a danger that it will always be the unspoken obstacle to the relationship.

Recovery Needs Work

The quality of the recovery, for both of you, will depend on the effort that you make in these early stages. Depending how you approach it, it can be a wonderful time of new opportunity or a time to pick over old wounds. We don’t minimise the problems in any way, we have been there, so we know the issues. However there is a chance here to build a relationship that doesn’t disappoint, that doesn’t bring shame, that has good channels of communication and that makes you both happy.

Most people go through life without questioning their hopes, values and dreams too much, locked into patterns of behaviour that were established years before. Although it may not seem it at the time, recovery can be a precious gift. For if you approach it in a positive fashion you can reinvent your relationship, create a new way of life, a new you and a new us. However this will not just happen automatically when the drinking stops. It will take time and effort but it is worth it.

National Substance Abuse Prevention Month – Where To Start

“The majority of those who have a substance use disorder started using before age 18 and developed their disorder by age 20,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) > Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research-Based Guide » Introduction.

Given this fact, “What does effective substance abuse prevention look like — is it awareness programs in middle school and/or high school? — is it ‘Just Say, “No”? or it is __________________?” 

In my opinion, based on my twelve years studying, writing and speaking about 21st century brain research as it relates to brain development, adolescent behavior, mental illness and “all-things” addiction, effective substance abuse prevention should involve the following:

  • Helping Parents and Parents-to-Be Understand How the Brain Develops In Utero through Age 25
  • Helping Children, Teachers and Others of Influence in a Child’s Life Understand How the Brain Develops In Utero through Age 25
  • Helping All Concerned Understand Substance Use Disorders

To celebrate National Substance Abuse Prevention Month – October 2015…

Listen to Michael Botticelli, Director of National Drug Control Policy’s, message:


And, browse through some of the key information I’ve found and/or used and/or written that addresses the three areas I listed above:

Child's brain goes through critical developmental processes aged 5-20 and continues until around 22 for girls and 24 for boys. Source: NIDA, "Cormorbidity: Addiction and Other Mental Illnesses," p. 4

A child’s brain goes through critical developmental processes aged 5-20 and continues until around 22 for girls and 24 for boys. Source: NIDA, “Cormorbidity: Addiction and Other Mental Illnesses,” p. 4

Helping Parents and Parents-to-Be Understand How the Brain Develops In Utero through Age 25

  • U.S. National Library of Medicine > MedlinePlus > Fetal Development – as you read through this, you’ll learn at which stages brain development occurs In Utero, which is why it is so important for a woman to avoid drugs or alcohol during pregnancy and follow other medical recommendations for maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
  • NIDA Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction > Drugs and the Brain > Introducing the Human Brain – this explains how the brain works, which explains why drugs and alcohol (and other influences, such as genetics, childhood trauma, mental illness) can change the way a child’s (or an adult’s) brain works.
  • Partnership for Drug-Free Kids > The Teen Brain – you’ll find an explanation of the adolescent brain and it’s development. I also urge you to check out the Parntership’s Parent Tool Kit.
  • CDC and Kaiser Permanente > Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study – an important study explaining the role of adverse childhood experiences on brain development and long-term wellness. This study is now being used as the basis for “trauma-informed” programs in schools, juvenile justice, communities, and for this information, I urge you to explore the website, ACEs Too High.
  • Lisa Frederiksen > Want to Get Through to Teens | Talk to Their Brains – one of my blog posts to help parents talk to their teen by using simplified brain research.

Helping Children, Teachers and Others of Influence in a Child’s Life Understand How the Brain Develops In Utero through Age 25

In addition to the information presented above, check out:

  • NIDA > Parents & Educators for a wealth of information and free resources to help teachers, parents and others of influence in a child’s life talk with children at various ages about their brains and the influence of alcohol and other drugs on their brains.

Helping All Concerned Understand Substance Use Disorders

One of the most important ways to prevent substance use disorders is to understand how they develop. It’s not simply the use of a drug or alcohol. Understanding how substance use disorders develop will help parents, educators, youth and others of influence in a child’s life understand what “it” is that they are trying to prevent. For this, I suggest you read:

Celebrate October as National Substance Abuse Prevention Month

…by sharing this post and any other information you may be aware of that can further the conversation – prevention is stopping it before it starts.

Thank you!

Saving Jake | Interview with Author D’Anne Burwell

D’Anne Burwell’s smart, athletic son—raised in a loving and prosperous home—begins abusing OxyContin as a teenager, and within a year drops out of college, walks out of rehab, and lands homeless on the streets of Boulder.

Struggling with fear, guilt, and a desperate need to protect her son, D’Anne grapples with her husband’s anger and her daughter’s depression as the family disease of addiction impacts them all. She discovers the terrifying links between prescription-drug abuse and skyrocketing heroin use. And she comes to understand that to save her child she must step back and allow him to fight for his own soul.

Saving Jake, D’Anne Burwell’s powerful new book, gives voice to the devastation shared by the families of addicts, and provides vital hope. Above all, it is a powerful personal story of love and redemption.

It is with great pleasure that I share D’Anne Burwell’s interview…

Why did you write Saving Jake?

Author D'Anne Burwell, Author of "Saving Jake: When Addition Hits Home."

Author D’Anne Burwell, Author of “Saving Jake: When Addition Hits Home.”

To offer hope. I remember when I first learned my 19-year-old son was addicted to OxyContin, then heroin, I felt sick with fear. I wanted to crawl under my covers, pull the sheets over my head, and not get out of bed. One minute I was the mother of a smart, athletic, kid who’d gone off to college with a bright future, and suddenly I was the mother of a drug addict. That’s an awful lonely place to be… until I realized there were thousands just like me. Just like him.

During the worst, I read until I was dizzy. Every bit of knowledge about addiction helped get me through. But there weren’t enough books written by parents. There’s real power in stories. We’re wired to remember stories much more than data, facts and figures. If I tell you the most rapid growth in heroin addiction, according to the Substance and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is occurring among young people under age 21, it might register. But if you read a story about a mom discovering the terrifying links between OxyContin abuse and heroin addiction in her teenaged son, it will make an impact.

I’ve written Saving Jake to share hard-won knowledge. As my son gains time in recovery, I’ve realized how essential it is for stories like ours to be told. Prescription drug abuse leading to heroin addiction is screaming from the headlines. Families everywhere are trying to figure this out on their own. I’m honored to add my voice to the thousands speaking out about the current crisis of addiction.

Besides struggling parents, who else would benefit from reading Saving Jake?

Everyone! Soaring addiction is a national crisis and we’re all in this together whether we want to be or not. If people had a better understanding of what’s happening, positive change might happen quicker. Readers will come away with knowing more about addiction, they’ll gain compassion for a struggling person and empathy for the family who often has to deal with stigma, shame and silence.

Parents, family members and friends will immediately identify with the raw emotion in Saving Jake but I also want to reach the greater public. There are so many misconceptions around the disease of addiction. A big one is, “addicts use because they want to” so they get what they deserve. And with that thinking, we all get bogged down in arguing about choice vs. responsibility when we need to be talking about solutions, we need to be learning from the science of the brain, and we need to be implementing treatment programs instead of housing addicts in jails.

What are 5 things in your book that might surprise a reader?

1. Taking care of yourself will often help the addict.
2. Lying, stealing and manipulating are symptoms of the disease of addiction.
3. An addict is not bad, lazy or immoral; he or she is sick and needs treatment.
4. Treatment works, though it may take multiple attempts.
5. OxyContin is a synthetic opiate and highly addictive. Kids get it easily and some move on to heroin because it’s cheaper than Oxy and readily available.

I’ll stop there and hope readers will pick up the book and read the rest!

Could you share some lessons you learned along the way? In other words, what might help other parents going through the same thing?

Well, much of the story is me scrambling to learn as fast as I can. Once I realized my son was derailing himself from college, distancing himself from relationships, losing weight, and always broke, I felt driven to fix his problems. I really had no idea about addiction. Attending the family week at his first rehab, helped me learn he wouldn’t “be fixed” in 30 days which was a devastating realization. We all wanted to get back to our nice lives, put his drug use behind us. Instead, we learned this would be a long road, that addiction was a disease of relapses, that our son would need a lot of support over a long period of time to get back on track. On top of that, he was naturally feeling invincible at 20, not wanting to listen to his parents, and like so many others, he would fight the information he’d learned in treatment, ignore the fact that he would need to stay clean and sober. His brain was telling him he didn’t have a problem.

Time went on. I felt crushed. Fear for his life consumed me, especially when he walked out of several rehabs. I slowly learned that while I could convey my love, encouragement, and boundaries, helping him in any other way robbed him of feeling the consequences of his choices. To me, it felt like doing nothing, watching him go it alone, standing with my arms hanging loosely at my sides hoping he would live. And yet—learning from support groups, therapists, and his rehab counselors—if I focused on my own life, it allowed him the space to take responsibility for his. That change in me, to let go, turned out to be the light to follow out of the deep dark woods.

Your story includes your entire family struggling. Describe a bit about what your husband and daughter went through.

Wrestling with my son’s addiction tore us all apart. My younger daughter became depressed feeling as though her older brother had abandoned her, as she was left alone to watch her parents agonize. My husband threw himself into work—something he could control—while I obsessed about how to save my son. It seemed that addiction would crack our marriage in half. We found a therapist who specialized in addiction who helped focus us on our marriage. She emphasized that we wouldn’t be of any use to our son if we weren’t together on boundaries.

Eventually, I began to see that each of us was grappling with Jake’s addiction in a different way. Realizing there was no right or wrong way helped me get free of my misplaced anger and resentment. Each of us experienced on-going fear, stress, anger and sadness differently. But we’re all doing much better…there’s lots of forgiveness and love.

Why did you title your book Saving Jake when you learned you couldn’t really save him?

As much as I tried to save Jake from pain, from drugs, from himself, it was the hardest of lessons to learn—in the face of enormous everyday worry and fear—that I HAD to step back and let my child fight for his own soul. I titled the book Saving Jake because I couldn’t. He had to do that for himself.


Saving Jake by D'Anne BurwellCurrently ranked #1 in New Releases in the category of Drug Dependency Recovery on Amazon, with 5 Stars reviews, you can read D’Anne Burwell’s book in paperback or on Kindle: Saving Jake: When Addiction Hits Home.

And check out the Early Praise…

“A brave and powerful memoir… Rooting for Jake on every page, we come to share in his struggle and in his family’s hope for recovery.” — Katrina Kenison, author of The Gift of an Ordinary Day

“Too much shame and silence surround addiction. Burwell’s terrific memoir will move dialogue forward on one of the top health problems of our time.” — Greg Williams, director of The Anonymous People

“Exquisitely detailed, this book chronicles the tortuous journey to recovery for both addicted  individuals and all those who love and care for them.” — Katherine Ketcham, co-author of Broken and Teens Under the Influence


To learn more about D’Anne and her story, connect with her on her website or log in to Facebook and follow D’Anne Burwell on her page, D’Anne Burwell.

Recovery Today Online Conference – September 21-25

Join me at the Recovery Today Online Conference September 21 – 25, hosted by the incredible Sherry Gaba, LCSW, Psychotherapist, Certified Recovery and Transformation Coach. Sherry has worked in the field of addiction and recovery for the past decade and is VH1’s Celebrity Rehab Expert and a media expert on CNN, HLN, Inside Edition, Showbiz Tonight, Inside Edition and the Bio Channel.

Sherry is a dynamic interviewer and sure to bring her guests and their subject matter to life in a meaningful way that can help YOU – whether you are the person struggling with a substance use disorder, the person who loves them or the person in long-term recovery looking for added insights.

Recovery Today Online Conference Speakers







Lisa Frederiksen keynote speaker

Lisa Frederiksen – honored to be one of Sherry Gaba’s Guests for the 2nd Annual Recovery Today Online Conference!

Sherry’s line-up of Speakers and their Interview Topics for this dynamic, free online conference, include:

      • Christopher Kennedy LawfordThe Power of Recovery – Realizing Yourself & Maximizing Your Life
      • Janet Bray AttwoodDiscover the Effortless Path to LIving a Passion-Filled Life
      • Marilyn BradfordEnding Addiction Once and For All
      • Joan Borysenko, Ph.D.The Resilient Brain and the Wisdom Mind
      • Crystal Andrus MorissetteThe Emotional Edge – Working with Your Inner Addict and Rescuer Archetypes
      • Caroline Sutherland“Recovery from Food Addiction”
      • Colin TippingThe Fast-Track to Breaking Free from Addiction with Radical Forgiveness
      • Dr. Jamie Marich, Dancing Mindfully in Recovery: Transforming Trauma Through Creativity and Movement
      • Colette Baron-ReidRadical Acceptance – The Key to Transformation in Recovery
      • Jeff JayNavigating Grace: Sustaining Recovery Through Grief and Loss
      • Sunny Daw JohnstonNo Mistakes – Everything Happens for a Reason
      • Jennifer MatesaThe Awakening: Sexuality and Recovery
      • Jon GriffinAuthentic Living with Sound Healing
      • Lisa FrederiksenSecondhand Drinking – the Other Side of Alcohol Misuse
      • Kenny Pomerance & Ron TannenbaumCan 12 Steps be done Virtually?
      • Greg HannleyIt’s Treating the Underlying Issue That’s the Key
      • Sherry GabaWake Up Recovery
      • Andy Dick, Celebrity Bonus Interview!

Sign up for this NO COST Event with Some of the Best Known Experts

Whether you are newly sober, have had years of recovery, love an addict or alcoholic, or are a professional in the recovery field, Wake Up to Healing and Hope during the 2nd Annual Recovery Today Conference! Discover the power within you to overcome any addiction whether its substance abuse, love, sex, food, internet addiction and/or co-dependency.

Please join me by clicking here to Sign-up Today!

Coping With a Son’s Death by Drug Overdose | MaryBeth Cichocki

MaryBeth Cichocki’s son, Matt, died of a drug overdose. She is determined to do whatever she can to help another child, another parent, another family, which includes working to extend insurance coverage for 90 days in residential treatment/rehab (vs the current 28 days) and to promote and support efforts to regulate sober living homes in Florida. She also writes a blog,, to help others whose child has a drug use problem and welcomes your emails:, and phone calls: 302-561-4619.

And now for MaryBeth Chichocki’s guest post…

Coping: A Mother’s Point of View

Coping - MaryBeth Cichocki shares how she's coping with her son's death of a drug overdose.

MaryBeth Cichocki shares how she’s coping with her son’s death by drug overdose.

Everyday across this country there a thousands of mothers like me trying to pick up the pieces of our shattered world. The fallout from addiction they call it. Our children taken from our lives by their demons. Heroin, Percocet, Xanax, Cocaine became the love of their lives and all that mattered. No amount of love, tough or otherwise, could have saved our kids, we know this. Yet, we continue to beat ourselves up with the whys and what ifs. I rethink every decision ever made during my son’s battle. I am an educated woman. A nurse who became more educated by attending conferences and reading everything I could get my hands on about addiction. Still my addict son stayed in his world of chaos, deception and drugs until those demons took their final toll on his body and mind and ended his life.

So now I am left behind. There really are no words to describe the toll addiction takes on the non-addict. The fixer, like me. I’m a nurse. I fix people for a living. I, like so many other mothers, place the blame on myself. What did I do wrong? Why did my child become an addict when everyone else’s child is living a productive life? These questions have no answers. At least none that can ease the pain that fills my heart and mind everyday as I try to figure out a way to cope with this ending I never imagined. I’ve read that childhood trauma can lead to addiction. Matt’s father left when he was 5. I often wonder if that caused him to choose a world where pills could make you forget pain. I have two sons. The other married with a child spent ten years serving our country. Two different boys raised by the same mother puts a hole in that theory for me.   In my wildest dreams I never thought my son would die from an overdose. Every admission to a rehab was filled with such hope. He believed just like I did that we would beat this demon back to the hell it came from and become that happy family once again. Every relapse was a break in my facade that life would get better. But denial kicked in and life returned to the chaos we knew as normal.

Now he is gone and I’m told I have to accept and go on. How does a mother learn to accept the death of her youngest child? There are no magic pills that will make my shattered heart whole again. Believe me the medical professionals have tried to shove pills down my throat. I’ve been given Xanax, my son’s favorite go to pill when the going got tough. I’ve thought about taking them, then my little voice of reason says no way. They are just a mask. Stay away. I’ve been told I’m depressed and need once again to take those magic pills to make it all go away. Really, we have become a pill pushing society. No one wants to feel pain. Some doctors run clinics just for the purpose of keeping people pain free. They have a license to create addicts. Matt was one of their victims. I felt the pain of giving him life, and I need to feel this pain of losing his life. This pain is part of who I’ve become and there is no covering it up.

We aren’t allowed to be in mourning. People aren’t comfortable when you cry in their presence. No one wants to hear your story, even though saying it out loud makes you feel like maybe you did do everything in your power to help your addict. Reliving the horror is a way of coping, knowing you went through such a hell and are still breathing is a powerful thing for us Moms. Society wants you to get over it. Hey, my son is dead. I’m allowed to be sad. It’s a way to cope. Some days are better than others. Some days I can get through the day without too many Matt Moments, where a memory hits hard and the tears start. People don’t want to hear about your dead son. They are afraid the pain you live with will invade their world and they will become you. Like addiction is catchy and you are the carrier. I don’t expect anyone to fix me. I know there is nothing anyone can say to make this better. Everyday is a challenge.

I know people mean well but there are days when someone will call and offer advise. Now I haven’t heard from or seen some people for months but they are just so full of great suggestions. Really, your children are alive, you have no clue. Why can’t people just call without an agenda to make me better? Just say you care, you’re thinking of me. That’s what I need. Not the you should be…..that comes out of their mouths. Yes, your right, I should be working, eating more, having fun.  My mind turns ugly as I think you have no clue of the struggle it is to cope with my reality. My son should be alive.

Throughout my journey I have found many blessings. There are mothers like me who sadly get it. We have a support system that not one of us signed up for, but we are joined together by grief. These strong women who started the journey before me have listened while I screamed, cried and told the same story over and over. They do not judge or tell me what I should be doing. They listen, they shed their tears with mine. We have a bond that will never fade. We have experienced the heart breaking, life shattering death of a child. I never knew these women existed. They knew nothing about me. Yet I feel a closeness to them I can’t explain. I want to comfort them when they cry out on the birthdays that have ceased to be. When they have the gut punches that only profound grief can bring. When holidays come and break our hearts again. Together we hold each other up.

This journey has shown me who my true friends are. The women who admit they can’t imagine my pain, but aren’t afraid to hold me when I cry and just show up on rough days.

My husband. I believe God put him in my life knowing Matt would be leaving me. He is my rock. I was a smart girl. A critical care nurse who made great money. We had a great life. No money worries for us. Today I have no job, my smart girl brain lost in this world of grief. No worries he tells me. You take care of you.

Mike, my firstborn. Matt’s big brother. The inseparable boys until the demon came between them. Always there when I need him. We cry together, his only sibling gone. He shares my grief. He reassures me when the guilt seeps into my brain and I second guess every decision made during Matt’s addiction.. He is my voice of reason. He lived the nightmare of his brothers addiction. He gets it.

Comfort comes in all shapes and sizes of furry bodies and paws. My pups all rescued have returned the favor and rescue me everyday. No judgement when the tears are falling just four pairs of knowing eyes all running to cuddle. Sensing my pain and instinctively knowing how to comfort. We take long walks, they give me a purpose. The best therapists have fur and four legs. I have recommended to Moms who have no one left to find a rescue and save a life. Many have responded sending pictures of their new furry kids. Saving lives in a different way. It’s how I cope.

Writing. Before Matt’s death I couldn’t write to save my life. Term papers were my only experience. Now I sit and the words come as the story unfolds in my brain. I feel Matt next to me as I close my eyes and remember. Writing has become cathartic. My personal therapy. Writing it down makes it real. Sharing my story and having other mothers respond so positively assures me I am not alone on this journey. Moms who have lost their addict identify with my words and moms who’s addicts still struggle tell me they are learning from my experience.  Helping others through my pain comforts me. This is how I cope. From God’s mouth to my ears is my new motto. I ask for help in telling my story, in choosing my words to touch hearts and minds.

The gift of time. I never realized just how much I was missing. My world was the hit the ground running one. Out of bed, scrubs on, dogs out and fed. Twelve hour shifts of stressful NICU life saving babies and calming parents. Day after day I ran the race. When I wasn’t saving babies I was saving Matt. Never thinking about my needs. It’s just who I was and how I lived. Now, my life has done an about face. My son and my career both gone in the blink of an eye. Calm, quiet days now greet me. I am learning to stop and smell those roses. I was stressed out of my mind and never realized just how out of control my life had become. I worried about Matt, his addiction became mine. Now I sit and breathe. I hear the birds and spend time in my garden looking at the beauty I planted but never took the time to enjoy. I take time to talk to God. Not just a quick prayer when I could fit it in, but real conversations about Matt and why our journey ended this way. I pray for acceptance, for guidance. I pray that when I’m ready I will find a new path where once again I will be helping.

Coping with this new life is as individual as a fingerprint. Everyday is a painful reminder of loss. I will never be the same woman I was before my son lost his battle.  Life is different. Nothing is taken for-granted. Moments of joy are found in unexpected places. Life goes on, one day at a time, one moment at a time, one breath at a time.