By Janine Canty.
My son is a drug addict.
I’ve taken to practicing those words in the mirror. They feel unreal. They sound foreign, no matter how many times I repeat them. They taste bad. They actually taste bad. They smell like sour milk and unwashed skin. They feel like a snowstorm in July.
I love him enough to die for him. I love the part of him that named a gerbil “Blub Blub”, when he was three. I love the part of him that ran a gentle finger across my swollen abdomen, and quietly whispered “Baby Brutha”, when he was four. I love the part of him that wrote a journal entry for his first grade class. He wrote: “My cat, Mittens, has fleas. Mommy had to give her a bath. Mommy swore a lot.”
Maybe it was because I dropped the F bomb in front of him. Maybe it’s because he was conceived in the backseat of a blue Dodge Dart with broken seat belts. Maybe it was the tinny rendition of “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” blasting out of cheap speakers. Maybe it was the sound of clothes slipping lazily off of skin. Maybe it was the boxed macaroni and cheese I let him live on when he was six. Maybe it was a cold night in November. When he watched me climb into a police cruiser without him. I didn’t look back that night. I didn’t see him standing there in a pile of brittle, dead, leaves. I didn’t need to see his face, to memorize it’s every pore.
Maybe it was bad luck, caffeine, or even a faulty gene pool. Maybe it was Bazooka bubble gum and beer. I remember when I was seven, how the rotary phone rang from it’s spot on a kitchen wall. My mother played with the pushpins on a cheerful bulletin board, while she listened. Her voice got smaller and quieter. Her body slowly folded in on itself. Assuming the fetal position. Protecting herself from the words. My cousin, Jackie, a solemn boy with big eyes and soft curls, had been found laying on a Boston street. His blood staining the cement underneath him. His life light extinguished by a strangers dirty knife. Drugs the adults whispered with red rimmed eyes. Drugs . They lowered their voices. Jackie was reduced to a shameful little secret, with that one word: “Drugs.”Life went on. Family barbecues resumed without him. Jello cake, sweating soda cans, and half smoked pall malls littered a picnic table. While my aunt sat in the shade, with her broken heart hidden behind a pair of Walgreen’s sunglasses.When I was 23 the phone rang again. This time death had come on a beautiful summer day. My cousin Stephen silenced his demons with a piece of plastic tubing, He ended his life on top of a mountain, with one push of a hypodermic needle. He was found among soft grass, and sharp boulders. His face looked peaceful. He didn’t leave a note. Whether it was on purpose was never decided. Whether it was on purpose was irrelevant. “Drugs”. again, it was “Drugs” Guilty whispers. Shameful glances. Red rimmed eyes, and a closed casket. Stephen’s life reduced to it’s tiny, sad, ending.
Many, many, years have passed since those events. Rotary phones have been replaced by fancy cell phones. My son has grown into a scabby looking transient. His hands shake. His once beautiful face is cracked,, and covered in tiny sores. He hides his eyes behind an oily string that was once healthy hair. The world looks at him and judges him for what he has become. Someone you wouldn’t leave alone around your pocketbook, or your child. When I hear “Ballroom Blitz” start playing from my fancy cell phone, my hands turn to heavy ice.
While I rummage through my purse, grapple on top of a crowded bathroom vanity, or reach blindly in the dark to silence one of my favorite 70’s songs. I wonder if this is the time I’ll have to go identify the remains of my child in a freezing cold room while bland professionals offer me horrible coffee, and whisper Drugs.
My name is Janine Canty. I have been writing since age 11 when a teacher told me I had “talent.” Writing has always been a tonic for me. Being published is a pretty little dream I keep tucked away in a safe place. I am not a professional writer though the passion for it has stayed with me like a campfire. I make my living as a CNA- Med Technician in a busy nursing facility in a tiny Northern town almost no one has ever heard of. I dabble in blog writing, and all things Facebook. I fail at tweeting.
Great writing 🙂 powerful subject 🙂 very descriptive… Write more! 🙂 My son was addicted to drugs and after six months he is now drug free and back to his natural well self! We did it together as a family and as a unit we found a way to help him say NO to drugs and YES to Life! … I so wish I could give that to other lost souls! Because seeing my beautiful son come from the depths of darkness and near death back into the light and joy of life was the best gift any mother and father can receive. My heart so goes out to all those Families who have lost children to drugs. God bless them all.
God be with you and your Son. May he find the path to recovery!
Dear Janine, Jen’s mom here. I know your heart is broken and you live in fear. I pray that your son can find the light and turn around. I know the world you live in all too well. Someone in my family, very close to me, lived in that world too. Love to you.
Thank You, Barbara!
Janine you most definitely have a talent for writing. I’m sorry to hear about your son. But the way you have written it into such a powerful story I’m sure you will be able to reach him one day. Hopefully soon. Before it’s too late. If not you I am sending the intention for a person somewhere to help him to find a reason to rescue himself. My prayers and love sourround you, your son and you family at this time and always Janine!
Thank you for writing through the pain. Authentic voices need to be heard; the detail makes this real to me. Makes me feel heard only by hearing you. Thank you.
This one, I have to share Renee…. So thank YOU!
Janine Canty, My name is Annette Hanlin-Cooney. My son was an addict. He hung himself in our local detention center. I would love for someone like with your ability to write, help me do my son’s story better. You can find me on face book as Annette Cooney. or email me at email@example.com with some information on cost. You did a beautiful job writing this story. Thank you for your involvement in bringing awareness to this terrible disease.
Annette, It meant so much to me, getting to know parts of you last night. Thank You, for sharing your son with me. I’m looking forward to our project!
Well-written piece. Hope it’s fiction; afraid it isn’t. Courage to you and yours.
I am touched by your story and I am so sorry
Thanks for sharing. I have buried too many people in this life who have lost the fight against drugs and alcohol addiction. But there is always hope until there isn’t. When I was 24 years old, I was a homeless bum, living on the street, addicted to drugs and alcohol. When I was rescued by the police on December 18th of 2001, I finally had had enough of me, and the way I was living.
I got into recovery, stayed there, and 13 years later I’ve graduated from college, owned several businesses, write, am a yoga teacher, spiritual advisor, youth mentor, motivational speaker and life coach.
I Imagine my parents, on their knees, cowering in the corner alone, waiting to find out I was dead (finally)…and then I imagine God saying…y’all got to chill out, 13 years from now he’ll be writing stories about this after going to college and running his own ad agency. Just relax!
Regardless, I am sorry you are having to watch this. I am sorry my parents had to watch me go through what I went through. There are no easy answers. People asked me all the time why I did what I did. There is no easy answer to that, but the truth is, if people had to feel the way I felt…every day of their lives…that hollow gut wrenching empty loneliness that I was born with…if they felt that way…they would do what I did as well…it commit suicide to end the pain once and for all.
Lastly: You have to know that addiction has little to do with conditioning most of the time. I came from a good home with middle class parents in a town of 4,000 people. We had everything. I was treated well. I was not abused. My parents did not drink. They worked hard. They taught me right from wrong and about morals and values and how to work hard to get what you want…but I didn’t absorb any of it. And night after night I sit in AA meetings with people just like me…god family…no history of drug abuse or anything else…and they are addicts nonetheless.
Yes, I understand that if you grow up in a war zone, and your dad was constantly in jail and your mother did drugs in front of you…that this will impact a childs destiny. I get that. But those people rarely come to recovery. At least I never see them and i’ve been in recovery in four major US cities. So you can’t blame yourself. We just aren’t that powerful. So give yourself a pass. Nobody could have changed my destiny. Nobody. No begging of pleading or anything else would have altered my trajectory. I was born in excruciating mental and emotional pain. I don’t ever remember not having it. And drugs and drinking made it better…for the first time in my life, something made it better….and when I tried to stop…the madness and pain returned…something people who are not addicts can’t understand. Drugs were the first thing that ever made life o.k. for me. Unfortunately, it was temporary and came with an extreme price tag. But I didn’t care. And if people hurt like I used to hurt…they wouldn’t care either.
So take heart. Recovery is possible. Recovery has done for me slowly and permanently what drugs used to do temporarily but with a huge price tag. Life doesn’t hurt any more. I am ok. More than O.K. I’ve been taught how to live in this world and not be in pain all the time. So there is hope until there isn’t.
Love and light.
What a powerful, truth speaking, soul reaching way to describe how I felt most of all of my life as well until I found drugs and alcohol to “numb the pain.” Thank you! I am grateful you left Janine this comment so that I was able to find the description of what it is that caused me to use and drink! I hope it will be okay to use this description when speaking to others when I try to talk to them about my addictions and recovery. I too have found recovery and it is such a way of life that only those that had been born with the same hurt and pain, whom then found alcohol and drugs and then learned how to live in a place where the hurt and pain no longer was excruciating and could remain tolerable, could therefore teach me. Everything happens for a reason and today there were many reasons why I read Janine’s story but now I have more than just her story to take with me I have an addition to mine.
Janine, I have been thinking about your courageous post since I read it last week while visiting my 19-year-old daughter who is 60 days sober. I have lived your journey — the fear, the gut-wrenching anxiety, the letdown after so many broken promises, the toll it takes on a marriage, family relationships, friendships. Like you, I am a passionate writer, although I have taken refuge in fiction writing.
I can only echo Tim’s words above: recovery is possible. Mostly, recovery is possible for you. This is a family disease, and while you cannot control your son’s actions, you can change your reactions to them and begin to change your own fearful existence. This shift often has an amazing impact on the addict. There are many groups that can show you the way: Families Anonymous has helped us to reclaim our lives, but there is also NA, Al-Anon, etc.
You are a gifted writer with many stories to tell. My prayer is that in 2014 you can begin to live a more joyful life.
Oh Janine, I knew from your posts and little inklings here and there that your son was going through hell and you were along for the ride. Not just along, at times it must feel like you are a in a straight jacket in the back seat of a car being driven by you son, blindly drunk, high on whatever he can get his hands on. I have hope for you and your son … one day, there will be peace. Wishing you only the best on your long journey, and don’t forget about you. You need just as much love and compassion.
Thank-you for sharing your courageous post, and to all others who have shared their stories here. I will pray for you and your son. My brother also has an addiction problem but I don’t see any hope for his recovery. I have tried everything to help him. I keep waiting for that dreaded phone call too. Everytime I hear the phone ringing late in the night or early morning, my stomach drops as I try to prepare myself for the awful news that he has been found dead somewhere. It’s graphic and disturbing but real. No one in the family wants to talk about it. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. That my brother doesn’t exist. And then there is the guilt. The guilt I have for not being able to help him. The guilt my mother has that she hasn’t been able to help him. And what a fine line it is. The line between trying to help him and being an ‘enabler’. Its hard not to cross that line when it’s with someone you love so much 🙁
Your teacher was right. You have a calling.
I’ll be looking for your blog.
Thank you for writing this apt description of living the life of a mother of an addict. My daughter is recovering after many years of using heroin. She has been teaching high school English for years, finished her M.A., and is working on her Ph.D. Amazing. My son, who was the white-collar prescription drug type of addict, was not so fortunate. Two years ago he died in his sleep with a laundry list of drugs in his system, leaving two beautiful children to grow up without their father. Their father (my former husband), also an addict, committed suicide when they were 6 and 8. As someone else said, addiction is a family disease. Every person who recovers is a small miracle.