Cameron West
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Loving A Drug Addict

And Having the Heart to Do So

I was pretty young when I realized my mother was using drugs. I didn't know what exactly she was using, and I didn't really understand the extent of things, but I knew something was very wrong. I had lost my father at three years old, and I developed somewhat of a dependency on my mother. Honestly, more of a death grip. I was horrified of losing her. I once told someone long ago, that if I lost her, that I firmly believed it would be the end for me. I loved her. I loved her in a way so immense, so overwhelming, almost to a fault. My mother loved me, too. She loved me just as any mother loves her child, and if there is one thing I am certain of, it is that my mother loved her children more than life. Unfortunately, my mother was sick. She struggled with addiction all of my life, and I presume before I even existed. Maybe it was some kind of trauma that led her there, perhaps she fell into the wrong crowd. All I know is that I was cheated out of the real opportunity to have a mother. I was cheated out of a mother because of drugs. Opioids, to be exact. 

My mother was an alcoholic and a user, but she was not a bad person. She was genuine, kind, sweet, and loving. She was hilarious and sarcastic, and her presence was intoxicating. She cared for other people. Her problem was that she didn't care about herself. By the time I was a teenager, I became accustomed to only seeing her a few times a year. Thanksgiving, Christmas, maybe Mother's Day. My heart ached in her absence. I didn't understand why she didn't want to see her children. One time in an emotional rage, I remember yelling at her through tears on the telephone telling her that if I had kids, NOTHING would stop me from seeing them. That I would walk, if need be. I regret saying that to her to this very day. I didn't understand that my mother didn't want me to see her bruised and broken. She didn't want me to see her weak and at rock bottom. She loved her kids far too much to let us know the extent of her struggle, her continuous uphill battle. I simply just didn't understand.

August 16, 2014

It was my Junior year. First week of school, actually. I was quite the thespian in highschool, and the day before I had found out I had snagged a role in the play that I had studied all summer for- The Outsiders. The next series of events prevented me from ever living out that role. It was a Saturday morning. I woke up to my phone exploding with texts and missed calls. My stomach sank. I didn't wanna say it. I didn't want to think it, but deep down I knew that very second my worst nightmare was coming true. "Your mom is dead, Cameron. I am so sorry." For a moment, it felt like my heart stopped beating. I heard my garage door open and close as my grandma was conveniently leaving right as I just got the news my mother had passed. I kept screaming "no, no!" I was hysterical. My legs felt like jello as I was running down the stairs, choking on tears. I call my grandma and the only words I can muster is "She'd dead, mom is dead." And I don't remember too much after that.

At sixteen years old, I was an orphan. That alone was a big pill to swallow. But I hadn't the time to think about that now, my mother's arrangements needed to be tended to. I picked out her rose gold casket, the songs to be played at her funeral, the photos for her slideshow and obituary, design and phrase for her gravestone, and even gave her eulogy. I sat in the front row and held my baby brother (15 at the time) as he was in fetal position begging me to never leave him. I felt his heart breaking on top of my own. I stared at a woman in a casket that looked nothing like my mother. I kept waiting for her chest to rise and fall. I remember the sea of people there, and how they all looked at me with pity and without words. How could they know what to say? How do you begin to apologize or even wrap your mind around an overdose? That felt like the longest day of my life. I was so angry. "Mom, how could you do this to me? I need you!" I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. There for a while, I wanted to die. I felt like I was alone in the world at that point. I had my grandma and my loving family, of course, but who am I without my mom and dad? I was angry at the world. Why did I deserve to be cheated out of not one, but two parents? I soon came to the realization that playing the "why" game does nothing but drive you crazy. It took me a long time to come to terms, but I did everything I could. I pleaded I begged. I screamed. I cried. But when drugs have a grip on your loved one.. a lot of times you never get them back no matter how strong the love between the two of you is. 

August 16, 2016

It was about 11:00 p.m. and I had just gotten to my boyfriends house from work. My sister calls me, she wants me to come over. I wanted to, but I was reluctant. Obviously, considering the date, it had been a very long, tiring day. Honestly, I just wanted sleep. I told her I would be over in the morning. She proceeds to tell me that she would be going to rehab the next day. This wouldn't have been her first time, and I'm sorry, but I was skeptical. I heard the hurt in her voice. "Why don't you believe in me?" Something I wish I could erase from the depths of my brain. I told her that I did believe in her, but that this time had to be the real deal. No more bullsh*t. I told her I loved her too much to lose her like we did mom, and that I didn't think my heart could take it. That night I begged and cried, I yelled at my sister trying to convince her to stay clean. I asked her to think of her son, to think of her siblings the next time she wanted to use. I reassured her that I loved her and that I would be over in the morning.

This would be the last time I spoke to my sister.

Call it a coincidence, or a sick joke, but my sister died shortly after I got off the phone with her. Two years down to the day of my mother's overdose. The killer this time? A cocktail of Heroin and fentanyl. I do not believe she knew it was a mixture, but I suppose we'll never know. Some have had the courage to ask me if I think it was a suicide. No, I do not believe it was. My mother and my sister both fell down a spiral of destructive patterns and habits that ended up taking their lives. They were suffering in a way only a user understands. I can only imagine the loneliness, the self loathing. While it hurts me that they did these things, I forgive them. I know the pain I feel from them being gone is probably the same kind of pain that made them use, and sometimes I forget just how strong I am. I have loved many addicts in my life. Aside from my mother and sister, I have lost two best friends to overdoses. Loving a drug addict isn't easy. It is gut wrenching, and painful. It is tear soaked pillows and sleepless nights. It's endless begging, and endless fights. But I fought until the end because I loved them both so fiercely, I would have never given up on them the way the world did. Even when people tried to save me from hurting and told me time and time again to let go. Sometimes I feel guilty, and sometimes it really gets to me. For a moment, I really believe there is something I could have done. The cold, hard truth is that I did all I could. I loved them and never turned my back on them. I can't tell you how many nights I spent awake begging whatever God there is that somehow, someway, my loved ones would be spared. Unfortunately, that's not the way life works, and sometimes, life makes you an orphan at 16 years old. I have a lot of hurt in my heart that I will forever have, a lot of memories I wish I could forget. What I choose to remember is my mother and sister for the remarkable, incredible people they were. They weren't just addicts. My mother was beautiful and hilarious, warm and inviting. She made you feel at home. She helped you even if she couldn't help herself. She spoke from her heart in ways that made you feel like your heart was mending. She knew what it was like to hurt. She was no stranger to suffering, so she wanted to give a helping hand to anyone that needed it. My sister was brilliant, she loved to read and write. She wanted to become an English teacher to Spanish speaking people to help them here in the States. She was a mother, and loved her son and siblings more than life. She, like my mother, did not love herself.

So my message to you, Dear Reader, if you have read my testimony and relate to it, please know that it is not your fault. You are courageous for enduring the storm your heart is going through. The actions of your loved one does not reflect who they truly are, or how they feel about you. Most turn into a person they don't recognize anymore. Many are just lost, trying to find a way to kill the pain. I beg you, if you are hurting, if you are using, seek help. Your life is far more valuable than you could imagine. You are worth redemption.

Take it from someone who knows, your death might be more than your loved ones can handle.

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