I don’t want to tell anyone it’s not just the painkillers, it’s not just OxyContin, now it’s heroin. Everyone knows heroin is the worst, the dirtiest, most shameful drug. Even when my clients talk about people they know on drugs, they say, “At least it’s not heroin.”
More people die of heroin overdoses than from any other drug. My heart beats like a train barreling down the tracks. My gut feels as if a hundred pound weight has been dropped inside.
I can’t get rid of this pressure, this ache.
It’s like there is a shard of glass wedged deep in my foot that will never come out. Every step I take the pain permeates my body, some days more than others, but always, always it aches. There is never a moment that I am unaware of the pain. There is no relief.
To survive, I do what I have taught myself to do over the years when these same overwhelming feelings of panic, pain, fear, powerlessness, and grief wash over me. I pray. Not because I have so much faith in God, but because to survive I have to believe there is some power greater than myself. I have to believe that in some way a higher power can relieve my suffering, if only for a second. If it can relieve mine, just maybe it can relieve Nate’s, too.
I have two prayers. The prayers begin out of necessity. At night I cannot fall asleep because I am so worried about Nate. But worse than not falling asleep is when I do. I have horrible nightmares. I awake from nightmares of Nate, beat up and bloody, drugged out on the street late at night or being sodomized in a jail cell. These nightmares feel so real I often wonder if they are actually happening.
My first prayer takes a similar form to counting sheep.
Instead of actually counting sheep, I imagine the giant hands of God above me. I am below holding Nate in my arms. My big man of a son is limp and broken in my arms. I lift Nate up and put him into those huge hands of God.
For a brief moment I feel relief, and then Nate simply rolls out of God’s hands. I gather my strength and pick him up again. I give him to God. God takes him, and for another brief moment I feel relief. Nate rolls out of his hands again. I gather my strength and do it again and again and again. Sometimes I lay in bed for hours putting Nate in God’s hands. Sometimes I beg God to take him; protect him, heal him, show him a better way.
He falls out over and over again. He never stays. Eventually, I fall asleep. The next night I repeat the same prayer. All I have left is prayer and my own self-care. I believe that if I give Nate to God, if I trust God, eventually healing will come for him and our family.
This first prayer, putting Nate in God’s hands, becomes more than a nightly ritual. It grows into a daily ritual. Whenever the burden of his suffering, Stacy’s suffering, the boys suffering, or my suffering becomes too great, which is often, I repeat the ritual. I start putting them all in God’s hands.
My second prayer is to ask God for the next right thing to happen. Please, God, let the next thing that happens lead Nate closer to healing for himself and his family.
Many days I do not know if Nate’s death is the next right thing. I am taking care of myself. I’m exhausted from talking about Nate and his addiction.
When my family calls, I tell them that I can’t talk about Nate anymore. I beg them to please learn about addiction.
Please go to Al-Anon. Please go to therapy. Please go to church. But most of all, please stop talking to me about your anxiety about Nate’s addiction.
Cere Demuth’s book The Way We Stay: A Memoir of Recovery is available now.