This was Matt on drugs:
In 2007 Matt called me on the phone, desperate, crying, in trouble. His trouble started with a stolen cell phone from a store near his apartment, escalated to a drunk driving, and ended with Matt burning the tracks off his arm in a paranoid frenzy.
I had enough of my 22 year old acting like he was 15.
So, after repeated attempts for him to take his stored memorabilia in the basement to his apartment, I just brought it to his place. This sort of ignited a frantic attempt to stay a child within Matt. He was so angry with me, so incensed that I would remove his stuff. According to Matt, he wasn’t ready to grow up. He really wanted to remain a child in his own eyes. I questioned why, quietly, to myself. Why would he not want his things with him. They were important to him; every scrap of paper with a number, every concert ticket stub, every trinket won from a fair had intense meaning to him. However, my answer from him was that he wanted to travel light and have his childhood home as his refuge. He just couldn’t get out of the nest. At his age I gave birth, had my own apartment, lived many states away from my parents: all the better I thought. Not Matt. He wanted to come to his childhood home and sack out, store valuables, and just plain be a child still. It was like he never quite grew up.
About a week after I dropped his boxes on his doorstep, around 7 or 8, I received a desperate call from Matt describing how the police came to his door and accused him of stealing a cell phone from a store. I don’t remember the details as he went on and on about his innocence, the police’s hate for him, the circumstantial case they had, and how they confiscated the phone. We talked, I rolled my eyes, and Matt hung up. About two hours later I received another call, but this was different; he was crying. He had gotten in his car, bought a 40 oz of some dirt cheap beer, and drove around town. He narrated the story about how the cops herded him in a corner, pulled him over for no good reason, and asked him if he had been drinking. He said he had, which according to Matt was the fatal mistake. So, now he had a DUI and a theft in one day. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
However, the next events really pushed me into a fog as Matt was beyond consoling. He was talking nonsense, conspiracy theories and the like. It’s a bit foggy as to which happened first, the job loss at the local grocery store, which he worked at since age 15, the job loss at Walmart, the long span where he couldn’t find a job, or the friends that just stopped hanging out with Matt because some pills supposedly disappeared. None of this was Matt’s fault of course. All just looked like he did it, but of course, he didn’t, according to Matt.
As I sat listening to still another story of Matt’s on how he was the innocent citizen being harassed, I became suddenly very tired, very jaded, and very sick. I just needed off the phone. I told him we would talk in the morning because I was too tired to think and was not buying any of it. So, I hung-up. He called back. I hung up. He called back. I got very firm. He cried. The phone sat silent.
About an hour later it rang again and I let the answering machine pick it up. I could hear Matt, whimpering, asking for me to please pick up the phone because he had burned himself. Upon picking up the phone I received the most desperate cry I had ever heard to this day. He was so scared, so cornered, so desperate. Holding the phone and holding my head I asked quietly what had happened. The response was explosive. “Mom, I was frying a burger and the pan flipped! I have grease on my arm. Mom, I burned my arm. It hurts so bad. Oh my God! Mom, it’s bad!”
I tried to comfort him and give advice for burns. Thinking about other things as I was talking, I just didn’t believe that this was accidental. So, I asked, “Matt, did you do this on purpose? Kiddo, what is going on?” The conversation continued, fast paced, frantic actually. He was so repetitive, so emotional, so desperate. If I could go back to that day, I would have done things so differently. But, retrospect doesn’t afford experience. After an hour of trying to calm him down, I was drained and he was still a vortex of emotion. Absolutely sick, I calmly told him that I was going to hang-up, and in the middle of his crying I did just that. I hung-up.
The next day he came over to the house, about a 30 min. drive. He showed me his bandaged arm, which had a deep burn about 4 or 5 inches long and an inch wide directly over the inner bend of his elbow. My son had done it to himself, though he still held to the grease story. Hearing about this later from a friend who was there to witness the whole account, I now understand that he was afraid the police would see his track marks, scars from heroin use. I was so naïve.
That summer progressed with the same sort of incidents.
Matt would come by to ‘visit’, hang out on the couch, sleep in his clothes, wake up to make a few phone calls, and suddenly take off. He was often wearing dirty clothes, always wrinkled, and shabby. I bought him such nice clothes here and there, but he never bothered to change. Strangely, he never stole from me, always kissed me hello and goodbye, and always wanted to know about my life. I explained, but he never seemed to remember what was really happening with me.
At that time I had a beau, a guy, a proposal, and a hopeful new relationship. Things were moving quickly with my new love, and Matt was fairly absent. I would call and he would be in Chicago, or he would be driving somewhere far away. His life was like trying to keep up with a political campaign—one day this was the story and the next day that story was changed and neither had to do with reality. It was so tiring, so maddening, so draining. I just turned away. Such a mistake.
August came and a ring was given. However, being married before and a bit older, I just didn’t see the need to buy 100 people chicken and a dress that I wouldn’t wear again. Me and my beau decided to elope. The day arrived and only a few were informed because if you tell more than the necessary two, than the other 100 feel hurt for not being the necessary 10. The preacher arrived and the two witnesses, and one other not foreseen guest. Yes, Matt showed up that morning, stoned out of his head.
Matt had a large dirt smear on his face, which I asked him to wash, kindly. That was unimportant and with a flip of the hand he dismissed the necessity to look clean at his mom’s wedding. He did want to put something clean on though, and popped into a bedroom to take off his pants. He emerged only in his boxers. Mind you, the preacher, his wife, and the two witnesses were sitting in the livingroom sipping coffee as Matt crossed back and forth several times looking for a good outfit. Everyone was mortified!
The wedding moved down the street to the little church in our small community, Matt still had the dirt smear on his face. The wedding ended and my new husband and I went back to my house to begin our first day and evening as a married couple. Oddly, Matt couldn’t understand why we wanted the house to ourselves. He actually argued with me about staying there the night. After about a half hour of firm requests Matt left dejected, hurt, angry, and sad.
This was not the real Matt but a hijacked body. Your story may be similar, your own or your child’s. I am telling this story so that you can see what it really looks like, what it really means to be an addict or close to an addict. So, by no means should you feel that your story is that horrific, that shameful, that odd. It’s all the same for everyone that gets drawn into the easy feeling of covering mental pain by using chemicals.
Once Addicts Find Honesty and Love:
Matt’s mental pain was due to low self-esteem and depression. After his addiction escalated to the point that he was put in jail for planning to rob a pharmacy, Matt went into rehab. This center forced Matthew to grow up, look at himself, be honest, face himself and take responsibility for himself. I can tell you with all honesty that my son came out of rehab a man. For the first time he and I talked as adults, as friends, as equals, and as one soul to another. The year after Matt left rehab was the best year I have ever spent with another individual ever. It all started the day I picked him up and he said, “Mom, ask me anything, anything at all, and I will tell you the truth. I’m not afraid of the truth anymore.” Telling the truth freed Matt to talk, to share, and to feel free again.
The world after rehab and the freedom Matt experienced that summer of 2008 is my hope for all of you creative and sensitive souls out there that find yourselves looking for a chemical to cover the real you and make yourself more palatable to the world. I have spoken to many an addict, many a social phobic, and many a creative soul, and they all seem somewhat the same. Society has made these people crawl inside themselves for a safe place, a lonely place, a dark place that only feels good after releasing that inner self and becoming unafraid to express all those emotions and personalities.
Matt was now free mentally but jailed financially. In search of a job, I sent Matt to a city far away, strange, and cold. He once again was sucked into the pain of rejection, the stigma of different and the easy feeling of mental freedom for dollars. Who wouldn’t pay to feel good? How many of us would march before the world without make-up, without hair dye, without all those façades that cover the real us? Some people just don’t have that easy of a cover.
Moral of the story:
The truth is your best friend, your midnight lover, your clear mirror, and your salvation. If you or someone you love wants/needs to be free from an addiction, I know at least a big part of this freedom is the ability to be completely honest without fear. Consider the necessity of love in a human soul and what love means. Have you ever truly loved someone? Was that love a feature of control? Not love. Was that love a feature of being needed? Not love. Was that love required because a blood-connection was shared? Not love. (I don’t love my Aunt Mildred. She called me a brat and cheated at rummy.) Was that love the feeling of running through a field of flowers completely butt-naked and flabby loved, cottage-cheese thighed loved, short-dicked loved, bald-headed loved? Okay, that’s what people need! It’s the “I love you because I know you and you let me really know you, the real you, the human you, the workings-of-your-mind you. Thank you for letting me know YOU.”
I didn’t get that until just recently. Matt taught me that. I should have driven to his apartment and gave him a hug that night while laughing at his ridiculous excuses and letting him know that I still loved him. God taught me that. God has always listened and never asked a crumb of me. He even wrote me big letters letting me know what is wise and not before I was even born. Fat, ugly couples that have been together forever taught me that. I notice that couples that are not considered “beautiful” by commercial standards are so happy and not divorced. I also notice that “beautiful” couples are typically serial marriage couples.
After 48 years of life, the first half completely dumb, the next forth a bit durrrrr, and this last few somewhat salient, I would like to pass on the little treasure box I have filled to others. If I can save one addict, parent of an addict, loved one of an addict from missing that critical addition to a meaningful life, I will have achieved something with this blog. Therefore, I am not going to be all rainbows and unicorns as I present the truth. I find the rhetoric around addiction to be very vanilla on the web. It is also very sciency, if that is a word. Science shimience, addiction is a disease of the soul. So, try just yelling out the truth as the truth will set you free.
Love and hugs,