How Does one Recover From the Death of a Child Due to Addiction?

Short and Thankful
November 17, 2016
Because of Justin
April 10, 2017

To say that 2016 was a tough year is an understatement.  But there are so many paradoxes as well.  I return to December of 2015 and where I was and what was going on.  My beautiful son Justin was an addict, but alive.  But he spent the entire Christmas holiday in jail in Vista, California.  His ‘rap sheet’ was a mile long and to be honest, I am not sure what he was jailed for this time.  It is nearly impossible to keep track of all these arrests, infractions, problems, crises, and traumas for twelve years.  Eventually you file away paperwork and just realize that the deeper the hole, the harder it is to climb out of.  And that is where I was last December and January.  My husband Geof and I always told Justin, “Rule number one of holes, is when you are in one, stop digging”.  He either never got that rule, or never made it a priority.  And so, the holes got deeper and deeper.

We lost Justin to his addiction on January 25th, 2016.  He didn’t mean for that to happen.  Our boy loved life and had hope.  His plan the day after he died was to try yet another program that he had registered in, in hopes of finding his way to lasting sobriety.  Yet, circumstances thwarted his attempt, he died not of an overdose but of an acute drug intoxication – the body simply can not process the amounts and types of drugs in the system and slowly shuts down.  It’s like going to sleep – peaceful and quiet.

The relative peacefulness of it does not bring me a lot of comfort.  It kind of pisses me off – Did he think he was indestructible and so smart that it would never happen to him?  So many questions.  No answers. Ever.

So…….. Joy.  How to find it again?  It doesn’t just ‘show up’ one day.  It is illusive.  It comes and goes.  It brings some pain and guilt (how can I feel joy when my son is dead?).  And then one day, you get to the end of the day and you think, “Wow, I had a good, happy day!” and you reflect on it.  What made it special, happy?  Sometimes there isn’t an answer but you take it as a gift and you continue forward.

My joy has been gradual.  In April I had a brainchild and founded Blankets of Love South Bay.  I had no idea what it would become or if it would work.  I just knew that my son loved his baby blanket, there were babies in need and that my hobby might help others.

Fast forward to December of 2016.  I am SO humbled and grateful for all the people that have embraced Blankets of Love South Bay and helped me remember Justin.  I had hoped to have 25 blankets created by the end of this year and to date I have had 150!  My creators have poured their hearts out and knitted and crocheted (some have done quilts) to donate to this cause.  THIS is JOY.  This is LOVE.  I can never thank my creators and supporters enough for all they have done.  My friend and mentor, Laura McIntire, has been there for me from day one.  She has encouraged, suggested, guided, and affirmed me as she donated her time in creating the BOL website and social media. She is also the backbone of South Bay Families Connected (www.southbayfamiliesconnected.org), a substance use prevention project for youth. Because of Laura, my family and friends, my amazing BOL donators and volunteers, and through my involvement in SBFC as a blogger and ambassador, I feel truly blessed and humble.

And,  I feel JOY.

2 Comments

  1. Barbara says:

    Your story terrifies me. We’re living it now. Blessings to you for all you do.

  2. MARIA C VALERA JOHNSON says:

    I love your <3, I'm saddened with you in your loss. I take comfort and hopeful that even now I can begin something …… I have 7 grandkids, and so much joy with them, ONE which is a spitting IMAGE of my AD ….. I hold her close to my heart. The also, is the only grandchild that I saw be born, so my joy has become an out pour. However, The constant unknown, or no desire for her sobriety has been scary and heartbreaking. Every day she is alive I count as joy, yet until I hear her voice or see a text from her cell, I sit/or cry waiting. I'm wondering if there is something I can do to make my time useful and bring joy, substance and hope for a new day.

    Thank you for sharing your story of love

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