I've run out of gas twice, almost three times, since August 9th - the night of my son's first overdose. The first time was just a few days after being blindsided with the overdose that he survived. I was driving down the freeway, talking to a friend about Chandler, and my car shutdown. I was able to coast over off the exit, wind down to the end and around up to 19th
with no oncoming cars. Thank God, Buddha, my guardian angels, the universe and whatever other powerful energy allowed me to roll all the way to right in front of the Shell gas station where I attempted to push the car, by myself, into the station. After recruiting three guys to help, and one angry driver to honk, I was able to get my car to safety and fueled. The second time was just this week. I left my house, saw I was very low on gas and made a mental note to get gas before I got headed out for the day. I made two stops, then headed on to my next account, again knowing when I left the house I needed to stop for gas. But somewhere in that morning, the concept of the need for gas simply evaporated out of my head. It was there, then it was gone. Driving down 99, my car once AGAIN shut off, and again, I looked at my dash and thought really, really??? I had to coast down a 45 mps highway and on to safety at yet another Shell station on the horizon. I coasted through an intersection, across five lanes through oncoming traffic, and make a sharp left up a slight incline and right alongside the pumps. Not an easy task when your car is not running. But hey...I accomplished it, I was becoming pretty good at running on empty. I'm an achiever, what can I say, I rarely back down, I do what I say I will, I persevere...but in this case, that's nothing to be proud of and everything to be thankful for.
As I made it to the pump this time, I was shaking, near tears, and thanked all my angels, including dad and Chandler. Chandler. He shouldn't be my angel. He should be my son, here on earth. For someone who prides herself with staying on top of things, having the ability to multi-task, and being pretty quick, these traits seem all to have taken a mental hiatus. Grief does strange things to the brain, mind, body and soul. The aches, tears, exhaustion, and forgetfulness while simply trying to make it through each day can become overwhelming. Yesterday, listening to one of my preferred podcasts: The Addicted Mind, Kyle Ferroly was the guest speaker on Episode 61: Brain Mapping and the Mind. He explained that the brain and mind are two different things, although often, people interchange these two terms incorrectly. The brain, the actual organ that takes up physical space in our heads and operates our sensation, and intellectual and nervous activity, is part of our human bodies. Our minds on the other hand, is the element of a person that enables us to be aware, think, and feel. Our mind is our consciousness and produces our thoughts. And our thoughts can be totally encompassing when it comes to grief. During grief or loss, our mind is so occupied with thoughts, both consciously and sub-consciously, that I believe it can overwhelm our brain. Grief can cause a literal brain fog to the extent of messing up the most mundane and regular tasks, even as simple as remembering the need to pump gas. I googled the mind brain connection with grief and what I found was that several regions of the brain play a role in emotion which then involve emotional regulation, memory, multi-tasking, organization and learning. Well there you go, my emotional regulation, multi-tasking, organization, and learning days are gone, or at least those abilities have stepped to the sideline for a time. The good news is that grief comes and goes and eventually may be less present than every moment of every day. Can you hear that sigh of relief? Today, I sat with one of my accounts and friends and we shared the loss we have in common with both of our hearts being challenged by the experience of losing a child. As we cried together, I thought how can I survive losing one child, let alone her losing two children. My heart broke right then and there for my friend and for me. When grief is shared with another, it somewhat lightens that load and eventually, I have to believe, we make it through to the other side. As I've been told by so many, it simply becomes a new way of living. A recent article I read on How Coping With Grief Can Affect Your Brain explained how when we grieve, a flood of neuro-chemicals and hormones dance around in our heads and can disrupt hormones that then disrupt our regular functioning in areas such as sleep, appetite, energy, and stress. Therefore the loss of appetite, the onset of anxiety, insomnia and fatigue I am experiencing is textbook grief. See I am an achiever, as is every one of my loved ones these days. Smile. Sigh. Our symptoms deserve an "A+" for effort as our symptoms are definitely converging and overwhelming our brain function. Voila. When our world came crashing down early on August 17th, when our incredible boy was taken from us through a fatal overdose, we all slipped into the grips of grief. Just as he had slipped into the grips of the disease of addiction that wouldn't let go, we all are wrapped in the tentacles of grief. Ours though is not a life-long disease. Ours is a moment in time, a temporary struggle until we find our way out the other side. Ours will subside one day, or at least lighten, we will get back on with our lives, we will again multi-task, I will eventually remember to put gas in my car, and life will be back to normal. Well, at least to a new normal. I will forever remember my son and miss him with every breath I take. I will forever carry his heart in my heart.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction, please know there is help. Overcoming the disease of addiction is not something done alone as it is rare that one can battle this and win it on their own. There are so many resources out there to assist. Please let someone know you could use their help, do not struggle alone like our Chandler did, and lose the battle. Fight for your life.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.