I can still see my mother’s face when I came clean with the truth about my penchant for long-sleeved shirts in the summer. My family knew something was awry. They watched at the before as 4MPD addiction took me tumbling down an abyss. The illness progressed rapidly in my mid-20s, and now, coming up on 30 years old, it had me down for the count.

For months I desperately wanted to tell the truth. I’d think about blurting it out at our traditional Sunday dinner. Just get it out alreadyThe more you think about it, the worse it gets. And it got bad.

Heroin brought me to my knees. My methods to get off the junk only made things worse. I knew I didn’t have long before Johnny Law or an overdose put me out of life for good. On Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012, I looked my mom in the eye and told her something I knew would break her heart.

That’s probably what kept me from coming clean earlier. I knew the devastation it would cause, the heartache she’d endure. Again.

But I had no more options. It was get help now, or fall to the lash of heroin and opiates. I watched people close to me sink in the sands of substance abuse. That day I decided that wouldn’t be me. I was going to kick the habit

The Drugs Go Away, But the Pain Begins

A hellish opiate detox allowed me to discover why it’s called “kicking the habit.” My legs ached with pangs of growing pains I’d felt as a child. My body shivered. My mind dove into darkness. The lady in the needle wouldn’t go without a fight.

Perseverance is a powerful ally when your body cries out for a drug your soul no longer desires. I endured in spite of an incredible biological urge to roll the dice one more time with the needle. Yet I couldn’t shake an overwhelming guilt from the knowledge that my mom had a son with a drug problem, and I was that son.

Shame shatters even the strongest glimmer of hope. How could a guy like me, who loved his mom so much, do the things I did? She exemplified self-sacrifice. She gave up her career to raise the family. She devoted everything to us. What did she receive for a life of service? The devastating news that her son had a drug problem, and all the misery that goes with it. The lies. The arrests. The broken hearts. The lost dreams.

I’d like to tell you I wasn’t the son who stole from his mother’s purse. I’d like to tell you I was the son that showed up for the family. And I’d really like to tell you I didn’t bring emotional turbulence into our family like a temperamental tornado. Truth is, I did.

I knew writing this article wouldn’t be easy. It resurfaces memories I’d rather forget, but recovery taught me that a grim past can help others in similar situations. In a letter to my mom, I asked her a few questions and received this response:

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