There is Always HOPE.

This is a picture of Taylor detoxing from opiates. He was sooo sick and in a sober living here in RVA. He would take not meds to make it easier because he said he wanted to remember how awful it was so he would never do it again. The tattoo on his left shoulder was a compass to remind him to keep going in the right direction. Under the compass it reads: ” If you think it is hard to watch, Imagine how hard it is to Live”. As hard as this picture is for me to look at, I am reminded that it was so much harder for Taylor to live. I felt pretty hopeless the day I took this picture. Taylor had no idea I took it. This was the beginning of his recovery journey. Taylor’s journey did not end the way I planned, but know that if they are still breathing there is always HOPE.

This is for all the people that are struggling to hold on while loving someone struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD). This morning I was returning a text to a friend, whose son is in inpatient treatment for SUD once again. Her message said in short, this is such a rollercoaster and it feels so hopeless.

To love someone one with a substance use disorder is incredibly hard. The fear you carry on a daily basis is all encompassing and threatens to pull you under at any moment. I can remember so many days with Taylor grieving the person standing right in front of me, because I hardly recognized him. The behaviors that go with SUD make them incredibly hard to love at times. As a mom, it was so gut wrenching to be afraid every single second to know that today could be the day you lose them or something awful could happened. I tried not to let myself go there, but you do. It is such a dark place, but I couldn’t help it at times. It is a rollercoaster as my friend reminded me this morning. Only it is not like any rollercoaster you have ever ridden. It is like being on a rollercoaster with no safety harness, hearing the ominous click, click,click of the car as it climbs the hill, knowing what awaits when you get to the top. Then the shear terror of knowing you aren’t strapped in as you drop down that hill unable to breathe knowing the car could derail at any moment. It is the nightmare of all rollercoasters.

As awful as it is at times, there are also moments of Hope. In those moments, you are scared to exhale. Scared that hope is so fragile if you exhale too much it will shatter into a million pieces. I found that having faith and hope in the darkest moments with Taylor was difficult. Ironically, faith is hardest to have when you need it the most. I was scared to hope too much because I knew the other side of that coin and perhaps I thought it might protect me somehow. It doesn’t protect you by the way.

I pray that if you are reading this and you love someone who is struggling you give yourself permission to have HOPE. Because as awful as it was in Taylor’s darkest moments; the crazy, the lies, the fear, the frustration and the anger, that was so much better than what it is like to actually live in a world without them. The heartbreak is so profound and gut-wrenching. To lose a child, is to lose a part of yourself and then have to figure out how to live in the world with a huge part of yourself missing.

If you are reading this and you love someone who is struggling with SUD or mental illness please allow yourself to HOPE. When you do that, I believe you bring that into the world and to your loved one. They need to know that there is HOPE because they too lose HOPE. Hope is light and we can help them find that light even in the darkest of moments. It is one of my biggest regrets looking back that I didn’t allow myself to hope very often because I was so afraid all the time.

Taylor taught me so many things on this journey. One that resonates with me today as I write this is, that people who struggle do not need fixers. I am a life-long fixer by the way. They need people who can walk beside them on this journey even on their darkest days and love them. Just simply love them when they are finding it hard to love themselves. It is no easy task because none of us know how the journey will end but I do know this: as long as they are breathing there is still HOPE. Believe it and put it out into the world. I told Taylor so often that I was always rooting for him. I would forever be in the stands of his life, cheering my fool head off. I learned that from my high school spanish teacher of all people. It is so powerful to know there are people in the stands of your life rooting you on. So know that I am rooting for all of you out there that are struggling and loving someone with a SUD and I believe there is always HOPE.

Published by Kerri Rhodes

I am a licensed professional counselor (LPC) and licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) with twenty-eight years experience in the mental health field. None of my experience, prepared me for my own son's struggles with addiction and the journey it would take our family on. This site focuses on my journey, grief, addiction, and mental illness. It is for anyone who struggles with addiction, loves someone who struggles with mental illness or substance use disorder and those who live with grief. There is the grief of loving someone who is standing right in front of you that you no longer recognize and the grief of losing someone you love. I lost my beautiful son, Taylor when he was 20 years old to an accidental overdose. It was a moment I will remember for the rest of my life. In that moment, as I fell to my knees my heart breaking into a millions pieces I was unable to think, breathe, or speak. The next day in the early hours, I began to write and it was like someone undammed a river. It would become a huge part of my healing in that first year. Taylor's was a light in this world and this blog is a tribute to that light. When we share our broken pieces we begin to bring light to the darkness. This site will be a place I share my grief, my brokeness and my healing in the hope that it might help someone else. It will be a place to share the things that are hard to watch and even harder to live.

11 thoughts on “There is Always HOPE.

  1. I lost one child to a drunk driver and the other child to a mental illness. 8 years apart. I know your pain. Yes, as long as there is breath, there is hope.
    For them and for us. We are still breathing. Just … keep breathing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Keri for this – I am a daughter of a heroin addict.. my mother passed away when I was 22 and I dealt with so much as a child I didn’t think I could live at times.. Now I am 46 and my 28 year old daughter suffers from bi polar disorder , major depression disorder and major substance abuse addictions .. she has been to 8 rehabs 6 metal hospitals , to jail 5 times , all within the last 4 years!! Also she was missing in Vallejo California for 6 days after walking out of a mental health/ rehab ..We did t give up and never will , she is still breathing and I will fight forever for my baby girl .. please let me know if you have any advise 😦

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    1. April, I would find the best therapist I could to support your daughter. Sounds like she has tried so many things. Has she ever done EMDR or EFT? Those might be worth looking into and exploring. NLP would be another modality to consider. Finding a therapist with training in this or EFT would be worth considering. She is incredibly lucky to have you. It is an incredibly tough journey for everyone. If our kids had cancer they would be showered with love and support. This is a disease and needs to be treated as such. I pray that she finds recovery and her path. Sending you love and prayers.

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  3. Thank you for sharing your family’s story. Grief is love with nowhere to go, and your courage to share will bring hope to so many.

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  4. Thank you for sharing your story with us and your beautiful son. I also have a son that has SUD..it is very hard. We are with him and it everyday trying to fight it. It is a beast. I just keep telling him to fight…never give up. I also wish we had more resources for them- He has done a lot on his own..there needs to be more support and less stigma around this disease. Thank you for your continued conversation. Talking helps!!!

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    1. Laura, you are so right. One of the most frustrating things for me as a mental health clinician was the realization of just how few competent long term supports are out there for teens and young adults. It is a real need and we are losing too many because they are falling the in gaps. We certainly need to do so much better. I am praying for you son. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

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