Last Saturday morning, I received one of those most-dreaded telephone calls I’d ever expected. “Donna, please call me. Jessie (not her real name) passed away last night. She died of an overdose.” Shock flooded through my body as if I’d been injected with a hail infested tornado.
Jessie had been a dear and close friend of our family, and we’d spent hours talking about recovery from addiction. She was several years sober. During that time, she ran a successful business and was a loving and present mother to her young daughter.
I wanted to cry, but no time for that now. I had a greater need to console the man on the phone.
“What do we tell her daughter,” he asked?
Searching deep past the explosion in my head, I prayed for the right words.
“Tell her something very sad has happened. Mommy passed away last night. Then let her ask the questions; they will come as she is ready to receive them. Be honest with her, let her know what happened but, also, that it was an accident. Mommy would never leave her on purpose.”
After the shock, the rest of the grief hit me — first, the anger. I had fantasies of finding the drug dealer and administering torture. Outraged that someone is trying to kill our youth with Fentanyl. Furious that two people who knew she’d relapsed several months prior kept the secret rather than bringing out into the open. Angry that Jessie thought she could dance with the devil and come out alive.
Then the sorrow rained down upon me. I was sad I would never see Jessica’s beautiful smiling face and bubbly personality. I would miss our conversations about life. I would never drive to her place of business again. Her 12-year old daughter had lost her mother forever. I was sad that my own daughter was in pain having lost one of her very closest friends.
Depressed. I think about Jessie constantly, and then it hits me over and over again — she’s not here anymore. No goodbye’s, no closure, nothing. The space she filled in my life is now a void.
Acceptance. I know that over time my pain will heal; it always does. I will remember all of the good things and smile. I will accept my powerlessness to force anyone to take a lifevest that they do not want. I forgive myself and everyone else because it is useless to blame.
Jessica was good at taking care of many people, but she never learned to love herself. Jessica’s mistake started way before she died; she stopped her recovery meetings, took on too much stress, and then didn’t get help when she knew she was in trouble. All leading to the final mistake, the one that cost her life.
Jessie was good at taking care of other people but never learned how to love herself. Love is the only force that will permanently stop an addiction. The problem is that people confuse indulgence with love. Doing something that makes you temporarily feel better is not love. Doing something that destroys your body or your relationships is not love.
Some people have never been loved and don’t know how to love themselves or others.
We can’t win a war on addiction. Love does not go to battle. No amount of money or education will stop addiction. During the decades I’ve been in the recovery rooms, I’ve watched hundreds of overdoses and deaths. Very few make it, and those that do aren’t necessarily happy.
Love is the only answer. We must learn to feel the internal void with behaviors that provide lasting self-esteem.
When we want to reach for an addiction, we must learn to reach for a hug, a good friend, a favorite book, a hot bath, embracing emotions without acting on them, a healthy meal, a good laugh, a fun hobby, or anything that provides a lasting positive feeling. Eventually, all of those good feelings will fill the void, and then harming ourselves will be the farthest thing from our minds.
We will all go home someday, but the pain can be overwhelming when someone leaves through an unnecessary and fatal act — especially a child. But, like everything else, we must love our way to healing. When we embrace the pain and allow the grief to flow through and outward, comfort one another, time will do the rest. No one or nothing will ever replace the loss, but if we keep our hearts open, love will find a way to fill that empty space.
It’s no mistake that the day I finished writing this blog, Beverly Makar, sent me a copy of her book, Tell Me It’s Gonna Be Alright. Beverly also has lived the unimaginable. She lost her son to addiction. While she is one of the many parents who have faced living hell, she turned her pain into a tribute to her son and his many gifts. Her book is a compilation of his poetry and letters to God, explaining his turmoil and struggle with addiction. Through her own tragedy, Beverly has given meaning and purpose to her son’s life as well as her own. Another triumph for love.
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To find out more about Dr. Marks’ unique approach to draining the value out of any addiction visit https://drdonnamarks.com/etm/ and receive a FREE copy of her award-winning book “Exit the Maze: One Addiction, One Cause, One Cure.” (You just cover shipping and handling).
Donna Marks is an educator and licensed psychotherapist and addictions counselor in Palm Beach, Florida. In 1989. She has worked with over 6,000 clients. Donna’s struggle with addiction brought her to a worldwide search for healing. She became licensed as a Mental Health Counselor in 1987. In 1989, she earned a Doctorate Degree in Adult Education, then became Certified in Addictions, Gestalt Therapy, Psychoanalysis, Hypnosis, and Sex Therapy. Donna developed an award-winning addiction training program at Palm Beach Community College. She co-owned an outpatient treatment program and is a consultant to treatment centers. Donna is the author of the multi-award-winning, Exit the Maze-One Addiction, One Cause, One Cure, and created an online course for people who want to be cured of addiction.
Donna is a public speaker and has shared her methods with hundreds of thousands of listeners on podcasts and radio shows.
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