Demand Better

This documentary powerfully tells the story of three families who struggle with Substance Use Disorder and why we need to do better in how we manage pain in this country. Our family could have been in this documentary. This story is our story and the story of far too many families. June use to signal the the beginning of things I loved: the end of school, the start of summer and my son Taylor’s birthday. Sadly it now rolls in like a heavy fog of dread as it amplifies the hole that exists in our lives. Taylor died in June of 2019 from an accidental overdose. His battle and our battle to save him began after a shoulder surgery and an opiate prescription to manage his pain at the end of his freshman year of high school No one asked me if he was at risk for addiction, educated me about the risks of opiates, gave me non-opioid pain management options, explained to me that developing brains are even more at risk, or that having anxiety and ADD put him at greater risk for addiction. Never in my life has any doctor for any member of my family talked about these things when prescribing opiates and we are an athletic family with more than our fair share of surgeries and injuries.

I use to joke about our orthopedic office having our families’ picture on the wall as a way to thank us for all our business. In truth, the people who are charged with doing no harm are contributing to that harm in a significant way. We are needlessly putting young people and adults at risk by handing people opiate prescriptions without any conversation to assess risk or educate patients about the dangers of one of the most addictive drugs on the planet. Diverted opiates are another issue since 80% of heroin users report starting with pain meds they found in medicine cabinets or the homes of loved ones. Wisdom teeth are another popular place where opiates are prescribed without education, divulging the risks of opiates or giving non-opioid options. When Taylor and Blair had their wisdom teeth out Taylor was in recovery and I actually had an argument with our oral surgeon who insisted that they would both need the opiate prescription he was trying to hand me a month before they actually had the surgery. I asked if he understood that Taylor was in recovery and had a Substance Use Disorder. He understood but continued to be insistent. I was blown away and sadly this is not uncommon. By the way, they both managed the pain of that procedure with over the counter anti-inflammatories and NSAIDs.

Why in the world is our own healthcare system contributing to this epidemic when we are on track to kill over ninety thousand people this year an increase of almost 40%. No other disease is raging this out of control or killing this many people. Yet we continue to prescribe. The why is in part because many current healthcare providers were taught that pain is the 5th symptom and if you don’t treat it you are not doing your job. This also occurred about the time we started to publicly rate our healthcare providers. Another factor is MONEY, the root of so much evil in the world. Big Pharma sold all of us down the river with the lie that opiates were not addictive and managed pain incredibly well. While that lie has been debunked it has not stopped our dependence on these drugs. Opiates don’t cut into hospital bottom lines and come out of our pharmacy benefits where other non-opioid solutions might be covered but may come out of the doctor’s compensation or not be part of hospital contracts. Many non-opioid options are not carved out and passed on to us as consumers thus coming out of the doctor’s bottom line. I think lastly the other piece is that many doctors like most of us, do what they know. Change is difficult and frankly opiates keeps us from calling doctors in first few days after a procedure when pain is the most intense. I don’t think doctors prescribing opiates have any idea who they are addicting. We did not go tell the orthopedist that prescribed the opiates after Taylor struggled with addiction what that prescription had done.

The USA makes up 5% of the world’s population but uses 95% of the world’s opiate supply.”

James Comey, Former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

Ask yourself how this could possibly happen in our country.

Make no mistake about it, the only sure way to make sure you are not at risk for addiction is to not take them in the first place. There are doctors managing surgeries and pain without opiates and while they are not in the majority and are truly swimming upstream against the tide of common practice they are out there. These upstream measures are saving lives and we need it to become the norm in how we manage pain.

I am part of several efforts to change how our healthcare system manages pain. I want doctors to have control over what is best for their patients but we should be exhausting non-opioid options before riskier options are considered. I am not saying there is not a place for opiates in managing pain but it should not be given to young people without laying out all the risks and options. Continuing to play Russian Roulette with our children’s brains is not okay. There is a saying I have heard for years, “no one starts with heroin”, but sadly they do when they are prescribed opiates for orthopedic injuries, wisdom teeth, and so many other procedures. When Taylor was given that prescription his brain felt “normal” for the first time. His brain chased that normal for four years to some of the darkest places you can imagine. I wouldn’t wish what he went through, what we went through, on my worst enemy. SO until the healthcare industry does better we need to DEMAND better as parents for our children and for ourselves. One way you can help is to support current legislation call the NOPAIN Act. It is currently before Congress and has the ability to truly save lives. Please go to this link and encourage your representatives to support this piece of legislation. https://nonopioidchoices.org/action-center/. I hope you will take a few minutes to watch the documentary above and share it with everyone you know. #GatewayFilms, #NoOneChoosesAddiction, #DemandBetter.

Band of Brothers

Taylor on the left and Stephen on the right in the black shirt. Photo cred to Caleb Barnhardt

When Taylor started this journey, I didn’t realize how many beautiful people and and families we would meet. Families with children who were struggling with Substance Use Disorders. Families that were holding on by a thread. When Taylor was in a collegiate recovery program in Raleigh, NC he made some amazing friends. The kind you have all your life. I am convinced that many of the people who struggle with this disease have hearts that are just too big for this world. They are some of the most creative, inspiring, beautiful souls I have ever met. The struggles and darkness they have been through have given them a lens of compassion and way of seeing the world that you only find when you walk through such darkness and come out on the other side. Stephen Brown is one of the beautiful boys that was in recovery with Taylor. This is a piece he wrote about his relationship with Taylor. I treasure all the memories and moments they share with me about Taylor. I root for them and fight beside them as they continue to battle addiction and mental health issues. Thank you for sending this to me Stephen. I know Taylor walks beside you each and every day. Loving you like we do on the best and worst of days.

Thank You, Taylor

“It’s silly, no’ When a rocket ship explodes, and everybody still wants to fly, Some say a man ain’t happy until he truly dies, Oh why Time, Time. ~ Prince Sign of the Times

The first song I listened to the night after I’d received the news of Taylor’s passing was “Sign o’ the Times”. Prince had somehow been an integral part of nearly all the “days-after” life changing events. The day I’d met Taylor was the day after I’d gotten out of rehab and moved into a sober living. I posted Prince lyrics that day on Instagram. This day was different, however, because I couldn’t quite wrap my head around what Prince meant when he wrote, “Some say a man ain’t happy until a man truly dies”. To this day, I’ll never tell you I get it––but I will say I’ve reasoned with the lyric.

Our first conversation was at the Raleigh YMCA where I asked him how old he was, expecting to get a number somewhere in between 23 and 27. He said 19, which was a year older than me, and yet the man was at least half a foot taller than me and built like a basketball player. At that moment, I knew two things: a.) Taylor was definitely going to be my personal trainer and b.) Taylor was going to be my friend. We worked out that night with our friend Caleb for an hour and a half (I tapped out 45 minutes in and read a book in the lobby) and then chainsmoked cigarettes for another 30 minutes in the parking lot before going back to our Sober Living.

I’d been through in-patient rehab for drug addiction in high school before, however a subsequent relapse after graduating that program landed me in a 90 day facility in another state, and then in a sober living in Raleigh, North Carolina. Back home, I’d struggled with a multitude of issues including cocaine and opioid abuse, and hadn’t ever given counseling or treatment a chance despite my parents’ and peers’ urges. Finally, in the fall of 2018, I’d given up and decided to give these programs a chance. When I’d reached Raleigh, it was just days before the new year and there were a lot of guys in our house. Taylor was friends with my roommate, so I’d begun to hang out with those guys, who were both older than me. I was still graduating high school and by far the youngest member of the house. I’d gravitated toward Taylor specifically because he had a leadership mentality as a result of his journey before Sober Living.

We’d end up being there well into the New Year, and eventually as people came in and left, Taylor and I grew closer and became roommates. For a short time we’d share a space with Kevin, who was  a leader and respected amongst everybody in the house, especially Taylor. For a good period of time, we’d play golf video games and watch adrenaline-pumping thrillers nearly every night of the week. We were all pretty normal guys despite our addictions and I think we saved each other as much as we all bickered. It’s hard to explain what a sober living is or how it works, especially when you’re in high school. Everybody thinks you’re in some sort of psychiatric ward with crazy people who’re bouncing off the walls. It couldn’t be further from the truth though––all of these guys had talents, hobbies, and people that they loved.

Taylor and I used to walk everywhere in Raleigh, meeting people and just figuring out stuff to do for the day when we weren’t in treatment. As we gained more freedom, we faced more boredom being at the house. I’d go to the NC State library all the time and work on schoolwork. Taylor would come with me pretty often, and a lot of times we’d end up just roaming around campus pretending we went to school there. It was always funny because Taylor didn’t retain much information about Raleigh, so we’d make up names of buildings and streets across campus when we’d talk to people. He was hilarious. That’s the number one thing that everybody says when they talk to me about him––his sense of humor was impeccable. I had many bad days, but no bad day was bad enough that a joke or prank from Taylor couldn’t brighten things up.

The people Taylor cared about the most were his family. Kerri, Taylor Sr., and Blair were the main people he was concerned with at almost any time, especially his mother. I remember she’d asked him one time to annotate a Brene Brown podcast that was at least 6 hours long. Taylor did it in a day or two at the most and came to group therapy telling us all of the different trauma theories Brene Brown had discussed. He told us he didn’t realize it, but he thought he’d been set up to literally learn about mental health by his mother. I still to this day think of that group therapy session with so much love because it was the moment I remember him first opening up about his family. He told us his regrets, and most importantly he told us how much he’d give to fix things with his family and show them he loved them.

The night Taylor left this Earth, he texted me and said two things: “Hey”, and then later, “Thank you”. I’ll never know what those texts would’ve led to had I been awake, but I know the next day he was gone. I’d left our sober living and moved back home to another one so I could be closer to my family, and Taylor had graduated a month after my leaving. We texted every day, and played video games whenever possible. I carried a lot of guilt by my side for a while after that, wondering if I could’ve said something that would’ve changed the outcome. But I know from the people closest to him and the texts he’d sent to me in the weeks leading up to his untimely passing that he was happy. His 20th birthday, just weeks prior to his passing, was a special day because it was the last time he’d Face-Timed me. I wanted to make it up to see him, but my new sober living wasn’t ready to let me make a trip just yet, so I’d Face-Timed him and we’d planned a visit for me the next month. He looked happy and he looked like he’d really found a place for himself in Raleigh on his own.

I don’t know what he meant when he thanked me.   I can only hope that in the future, I’m half as strong and decent a man. My 20th birthday was a few months ago and I’ve now lived more days than Taylor got to.  I remind myself of that every day so I don’t take anything for granted. He always told me not to take things for granted, especially family, and I’ve grown closer than ever to my mother since she drove with me to his memorial a year and a half ago. Every time she tells me she loves me, I feel it for two guys with two moms who love them: Taylor and myself.

He was my best friend, big brother, and now my guardian angel. I know he’s happy now, and I know that he’s proud of his sister and his parents. I try to make him proud. I try to do the right thing, one day at a time, for him. There are days of guilt, wondering why him and not me. I know how he’d react to my saying that though. It’s hard to lose someone who you looked up to and wanted to be like. How do you reason with that? I don’t. When things begin to fall apart, I look to the sky and see that rocket ship explode and I remember he’s flying over me. I know he’s happy, and I know even God mistook him for at least 25 years old at the gates of Heaven.

Thank you, Taylor. Godspeed.

  • Stephen Brown

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.

Shoulder Surgery and a bottle of Percocet.

Taylor’s addiction started with a shoulder surgery and a bottle of Percocet. He would later tell us that when he took those Percocet, it made his “brain feel normal for the first time”. It was the match that lit the spark that hijacked his brain and led to his battle with addiction. He chased that feeling until it killed him. The treatment of SUD and mental health issues leave a lot to be desired. The gaps are many and it is hard to find good care. Each of those gaps represents the potential for relapse and with fentanyl there is no room for error. My beautiful boy died of an accidental overdose on June 29, 2019.
Ironically, 6 years after Taylor’s shoulder surgery, Blair his sister, had the very same shoulder injury and surgery Taylor did. What I found was that little had changed. She was going to be given the same Percocet post surgery that Taylor was. We REFUSED opiates and Blair was able to receive a non-opioid option that slowed the release of her numbing block. That block lasted about 6 days and she had little pain and only took tylenol. Our story is all too common and so many of us do what doctors tell us. They are telling far too many of us that we need opiates for our children for orthopedic surgeries and wisdom teeth extractions. Doctors need to do better too and we as consumers should have non-opioid pain management options post surgery that we don’t have to fight for. We know how addictive opiates are yet they are prescribed for routine surgeries like tic tacs. 

 The NoPAIN Act is legislation that was before Congress in the last session and did not pass. It would require the coverage and access of non-opioid pain management options like Blair was given. Congress has the opportunity to pass legislation that would create real Change. I do a lot of talking about how dysfunctional the system that treats SUD. In truth, we need to go up river and keep thousands of people like Taylor from falling in the river in the first place. Once you fall in you are in a fight for your life. No one should fall in because they have a procedure and are given a prescription. Medical professionals have to do better and as parents we have to demand it. The goal should be to manage pain. Not have zero pain. There are non opioid pain management alternatives. Discuss this with your doctor. If they aren’t telling you the risks of opiates know them going in. From 1999 to 2018, more than 232,000 people died in the United States from overdoses involving prescription opioids.  In developing brains we need to be real sure it is worth the risk and truly the safest option. #NoOneChoosesAddiction,#HowIsThisReal?

RESOURCES:

Managing Pain Differently

Beyond Opiates

What do new law mean for opioids

Taylor’s Story-Stop the Stigma

Thank you Jon Avery, Sarah Kamaras, Frank Sun and Thom Cameron and Weill Cornell Medicine for making this a reality

Coincidence?

In the first few weeks after we lost Taylor it was all such a blur. I don’t remember much about it in truth, but thankfully my letters to Taylor in those early days remind me about some of the extraordinary things that happened to remind us we were loved and that the universe works in mysterious ways. A colleague of my husbands sent us a medical journal from Weill Cornell Medicine. In it bookmarked with a blue post it was an article written about Dr. Jon Avery. Dr. Avery, M.D., is the Director of Addiction Psychiatry and an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and New York-Presbyterian Hospital. His mission is to see things improve in the medical community in how we treat those who suffer from Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health issues. We wondered aloud if it would be possible to talk to someone doing such important work to learn more about our lived experience over the last few years. As fate would have it, we learned that the person who sent us the article had a personal connection to Dr. Avery and in a matter of days we connected.

I am always in awe that there are such kind and loving people in the world. Here is a very busy doctor who took time out of his busy schedule to talk to two grieving parents, who had just lost their 20 year old son. Our conversation was like talking to an old friend and as we finished I told him I felt this incredible pull to tell Taylor’s story with a video that we could use to shed some light on what happened to us and to hopefully help another family from the heart-ache we felt.

It never in a million years occurred to me that Dr. Avery would email me back with the opportunity to do just that. He wanted to send a film crew to Ashland, VA from New York City and create a video that we could both use to tell Taylor’s story. Long story short, it happened and it was a gut wrenching, amazingly, awful, healing experience that I am so grateful for. I hope you will watch it, share it, and think of my beautiful boy and all the beautiful people who are struggling.

Thank you Dr. Jon Avery I am so glad that the universe decided to cross our paths. I look forward to hugging you and meeting you in person as soon as it is safe for us to do that. There are really no words for how grateful we are. No one Chooses Addiction. Thank you for helping us remind the world of just that.

21 Things Taylor taught me

21 things Taylor taught me:

As Taylor’s mom I have learned so many lessons in his life and from his death.  Ironically his addiction taught me the most important lessons of all. When he was young around ten, he had gotten in trouble for something and in one of my finer parenting moments we were talking.  I said, “well it’s just one of those life lessons”.  He stopped, and you could see the little wheels turning in his head.  Then he looked up at me and said, Mom, can you just teach me all the “Life Lessons” so I will know.  I smiled and said I wish it worked that way but I’d do my best.  Taylor and I both learned a lot of life lessons the hard way and he taught me more than he will ever know.  In honor of Taylor’s 21st birthday (June 17th), here are 21 things he taught me.

  1. It’s worse than I IMAGINED. When you love someone who struggles with addiction you imagine their death because you know that it is within the realm of possibility. You imagine all the moments that you may never get to have, the bad jokes, the hugs, the texts, the sound of his voice when he says” Mom”, the bad rap music, the arguments, the birthdays, wedding, the holidays the vacations and the mundane every day moments that you might miss.   In those dark moments  when I imagined life without him. Never seeing him, hugging him, hearing his voice again. No more memories, holidays, arguments, laughs. Those thoughts, as heartbreaking as they were, never came close to reality.
  2. It’s hard to just breathe. The first few weeks are like a bad dream. Numbness and pain come in waves.  It is hard to feel any positive emotion.  It is like your emotions got a shot of novocaine.  Every single task seems overwhelming.   There is no right or wrong way to do this. It’s literally left foot, right foot, repeat.
  3. There is a BEFORE and an AFTER. Grief splits you.  There is a part that carries the pain and loss and a part that functions in the world.  The line between them is thin in the beginning and all consuming. 
  4. I am NOT Strong.  People tell me all the time you are strong and we are inspired by you.  I never realized the price paid for such comments.  I would trade it in a second to have Taylor back.  I am just a person like any other with simply no choice.  My strength is really the people who love me and hold me together. It is GOD and my son walking with me each day and carrying me more days than not. 
  5. Being a Parent is the hardest job.  No one is prepared for the love they feel as a parent.  It is the stuff of super-powers.  I think it is the strongest love on the planet and it is hardwired from the moment you know you are having them.  I loved Taylor long before I held him that first time.  Having people that you love more than you thought humanly possible walking around outside your heart is truly the most humbling, scary thing I know.  I am sooo blessed to be a mom of two beautiful kids.  The hard part is learning to live with one of them in heaven. 
  6. PEOPLE have no idea what to say. I know people are trying and I really try to give them grace. Some avoid saying something and those are the hardest.  The thing that gives me the most comfort in this are the people who risk saying the wrong thing and decide to try to tell you how much your child and your family are loved.  Telling people they are loved and thought of is what get us through. 
  7. You see them all around you:  I see Taylor all around me.  He is in nature, the song that randomly( not really) plays on the radio, a smell, a feeling, a breeze, the night sky. Every new place you go you look for them and every familiar place is full of memories. 
  8. Be STILL: Taylor’s death stopped me in my tracks and brought me to my knees. There were weeks where I did nothing but listen and look for him in the beauty of the world.  My life before that was BUSY, too busy, too full of distractions and things that really didn’t matter. His death changed that for me.  I am grateful.  It is really only in my own stillness that I find him and that ever present ache is soothed. 
  9. Love more, Judge LESS:  Taylor was the kind of person that loved little kids, all dogs, and saw the big picture in life at an early age. He didn’t care if you had money, what color your skin was and had a gift for seeing “who you really were”.  I am so proud of his kindness and his strength in standing up for others who couldn’t stand up for themselves.  We try to be more like him each day. 
  10. HAPPINESS and SADNESS are forever tied together.  Every happy moment is laced with sadness because he is  not here. I believe it will always be this way. The reverse is also true. Crying and feeling sadness over our loss will have an undertone of happy because it is full of Taylor.  What people who haven’t lost someone they love don’t understand is when they say I wish I could take your pain,what they don’t realize is that they would also be taking your love.  You can’t have one without the other.
  11. The Before is harder than the day.   In this year of firsts without Taylor, every single day is really hard.  There is a fog that rolls in before those big days.  Thanksgiving, first day of school, Christmas, birthdays, graduations.. the list goes on. You can feel the heaviness and dread surrounding you.  It is often worse than the day itself.  I try on the days that are hardest to BE STILL and listen. 
  12. I WANT TO QUIT.  I have a CHOICE in how I spend each day. In the last year, there are so many days where I just seriously wanted to quit life.  I don’t want to die, it’s not that, but I really just want to pull the covers up and quit.  Usually somewhere in all the  “I want to quit talk” I recognize what a gift it is to have another day.  What I wouldn’t give for Taylor to have another day.  Then I get my butt up and try to honor him. 
  13.  Tears.  There are so many tears in missing him and all the strings in life tied to his life and death.   As a young person, I would tell myself over and over,  “do NOT cry”.  How crazy.  Crying does not mean you are weak, it means you are human and your bucket of love is overflowing.  I miss him so incredibly much and when the tears come I know how lucky I am to LOVE someone that much. 
  14. STORMS CHANGE YOU.  Losing Taylor and his struggle with addiction has changed me.  It has stripped  my life to the core of what is most important. I don’t have  energy for the bullshit or frivolous in the world.  Losing a child brings you to your knees and when you get up off your knees you are a different person.  I know I am a lot kinder, less judgmental, more determined and more focused on what is really important: Family, friends and leaving the world a little better than I found it are where I try to focus my energy. 
  15. Silver-linings:  Taylor believed that it is only in breaking that the light gets in.  It is one of the silver linings to the DARKNESS and STORMS in life.  I have always known that life’s worst moments were weed-outs.  Those moments help you to separate out/weed out who is and isn’t important in your life.  If you want to really find out who your people are look around you in the darkest moments.  Those are your people.  They are GIFTs. I am so grateful.
  16. LIGHT in the darkness.  I have always been a spiritual person and believed in GOD.  Our family was not one to go to church.  Many of my Sundays growing up were spent on the ball field.  Taylor’s addiction and death brought me to my knees in surrender to GOD in a way I had never known. One of the reminders that Taylor had set on his laptop was PRAY.  IT popped over and over again when I opened his laptop after his death.  I know GOD saved me and has my beautiful boy. 
  17. SIGNS and GOD-WINKS- I have had signs and God-winks from the other side most of my life.  I never really stopped to look for them or think about them.  When my dad was dying I got a really big one to which logic could not explain.  That was when I really started to reflect and think about what it was all about.  Since Taylor’s death we have gotten so many signs from him.  They come in many different forms: songs, a number, a rainbow, a smell, dragonflies, butterflies, birds, weird things that you can’ t explain.  They are gifts from Taylor and the veil between this world and the next is thinner than I thought.
  18. COST of KNOWING. There are so many lessons that we pay a price to learn in this life.  I never really understood that before and when I meet people that have “that wisdom” or are doing amazing things, I know now, all that comes at a cost.  There is no higher price than losing your child.  If there is a hell on earth this is it.  I wouldn’t trade the 20 years and 12 days of having Taylor with me for anything.  Was is enough? NO. I have learned so much in being his mom through his life and in his death.
  19. Blessed: Taylor had a tattoo, on his forearm that said blessed.  I found it  odd at the time because his life seemed very out of control and far from God.  I learned that it was to remind him every day how blessed he was to have the family, life, and people he did in his life.  It was to remind him to remember all his blessing even though he was struggling and lost sometimes.  I find so much comfort in that in my own journey. 
  20. Listen More. I have been a fixer my whole life.  Always trying to help and fix things.  It became an obsession at times with Taylor as his mom.  I so wanted to help him, to fix what was wrong.  To find the answers, that eluded us all.  In the end I wish I would have listened more.  As a parent, we get caught up in the fixing so easily.  It is not our journey, it is theirs, and it wasn’t until I really started to LISTEN that I realized all I could do was walk beside him and make sure he knew how loved he was.  So parents, if you want some advice:  Stop sweating all the small stuff and LISTEN.  (Side note:  most of it is SMALL stuff).
  21. Everyday… there is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish Taylor was here with us or I was there with him.  I am not suicidal and I am not done with my time here just yet.  Every day I tell myself I am a day closer to being with him again.  It gives me peace.  The day we lost Taylor I literally felt a piece my heart shatter.  I am not strong, I am not inspiring, I am simply just putting one foot in front of the other, like every other parent that has lost a child. It is a shitty club to be part of.  The price of membership is too high.  We are not strong, we simply have no other choice.  We are trying to learn to live in this world knowing a piece of our heart lives in heaven. We are missing part of ourselves and learning to walk in this world again. Each night I talk to Taylor before I go to bed.  When it is my time and I get to see him again, I hope what he says is, “Mom I am so proud of what you did in my name”.  I have great peace in knowing that one day we will all be together again.          Happy 21st Birthday T.  love, mom
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