By Mary Cucarola – 4/4/19
“At times, guilt ravages the heart, stills all hopefulness and holds me hostage in a sad story with no ending.” ~ Molly Fumia in Safe Passage
His eyes are open, and he has a breathing tube down his throat. His eyes dart toward me when I walk into the ICU room. He points at the tube and desperately wants it out. I see it is very uncomfortable, and I feel it in my throat, too. I always feel his pain, as if it were my own. When I look into his eyes, I see my baby boy struggling to stay alive.
I move closer to him. I love him so much it hurts, but alongside the love, there is anger, too. I have the wish to pull him close and the wish to push him away. He is looking at me for help, but I can’t help him this time. I can’t pull out the breathing tube or save him from himself or the drugs. He overdosed on heroin and was revived with Narcan, after his roommates found him and called 911.
I hate his drugs. They render me helpless and him, too. No doubt they are winning the battle.
His girlfriend called me right after it happened, around midnight, and told me she didn’t know if he was going to make it. She said he is in really bad shape and I should come over. I live in Telluride and have to make the 6 ½ hour drive to Denver. I called his father, but don’t get an answer, so I pack a bag and leave in the early morning hours. While I am driving, I don’t know if he is going to live or die. My thoughts slide into a dark place, full of guilt and unrest, about all of it.
If only I hadn’t divorced Cody’s father, he’d be okay.
If only I hadn’t worked so much, he’d be okay.
If only I had been stricter, he’d be okay.
If only I hadn’t enabled him, he’d be okay.
If only I hadn’t given him so much, he’d be okay.
If only I had sent him to another rehab, he’d be okay.
If only I hadn’t rescued him so many times, he’d okay.
If only I had been a better mother, he’d be okay.
I never ran out of “if onlys” or guilt and nothing I did worked. Lord knows, I’d tried. I didn’t even recognize the person he was anymore or the person I had become. I felt so alone and was scared to death he was going to die. I could barely eat or sleep as it was. I cried all of the time. I had lost 25 pounds and pushed away most of my friends. I moved to Telluride to get away and to try to stop enabling him, because I couldn’t watch him self-destruct anymore.
The ICU nurse walks into his room and asks me if I am Cody’ mother. She tells me he is going to make it and is very lucky to be alive. She gives me a look I understand. I tell her thank you for saving my son and ask her how much longer he will be in ICU. She says at least another day. He keeps trying to yank out his tube, but it’s not ready to come out yet, she tells me. I nod my head. I ask her if Cody gave her his insurance information and she says that they do have it. She walks out and so do I.
I have to go cry and figure out what’s next. I don’t feel like cleaning up his mess again. He’s been to rehab five times already and sober living twice. His girlfriend tells me more bad news. His business partner calls me and rails about him missing work. Maybe this is his fault, not mine. Maybe it’s his responsibility, not mine. Just maybe I can let go of this guilt I’ve been carrying around and live my life.
After all, the truth is I am a good mother. I think I can change him, but I can’t. I’ve been told it’s time to start caring about my own well-being. My thoughts become a little lighter, and I calm down.
If only I could let go of the guilt, I’d be okay.
If only I could accept what is, I’d be okay.
I walk back into his room. They have his hands tied down, so he can’t yank out his tube. I wince at the sight of him being restrained. I remind myself that my son has a chronic illness, and I go over to his bed, get close to him, and whisper I love him. I promise him the tube won’t be in much longer. He relaxes a bit, and I stay with him until they take out the breathing tube.
Mary Cucarola – 4/4/2019