My Son's Battle with Addiction - Letter from a Mom

This is a letter I received from a mom sharing her feelings about her son’s long battle with addiction, which ultimately resulted in his death from an overdose June 7, 2016. It is being published with permission, entirely in her own words. It is our hope that it may help some of you understand the many conflicting feelings, questions, regrets, etc. experienced when dealing with a child suffering from addiction. If someone you love is struggling with addiction or has been lost to an overdose, please know that you are not alone and there is help available.

What I Learned in this 10 Year Evil Journey (by Pam)

What I have learned in this 10 yr evil journey that robbed me of my son…. I have learned there is no one size fits all solutions, no magic wands, no “if I do it this way, or that way” you will save them. It’s a crap shoot. I have learned my life, the lives of my loved ones have crashed and burned, and will never ever be the same. I have learned that despite everything “I thought I knew” about this disease I couldn’t stop it from happening to my son. I have learned that no matter how your child was raised… single parent, two parents, sports, no sports, money, no money, black, white, asian, hispanic etc…. this disease does not discriminate.

I have learned the phrase “unconditional love” are the two most important words a parent can know. I have learned “not my kid” are the three most dangerous words a parent can utter. I have learned to get used to isolation, and judgment… and that what others think matter not. I have learned that a parent fighting for the life of their child does better research than a rocket scientist. I have learned that even through the tears, frustration and anger, hug your child tight, kiss them and tell them how much you love them… they truly hate who they have become, and desperately need to hear this A LOT!!! They don’t hate us. I have learned even if you see they are high, sit and talk with them about everything and anything anyway. I have learned that with the introduction of fentanyl, carfentanil, and other poisons the definition of rock bottom has changed. Rock bottom is now death. I have learned that tough love is not for everyone. Each person has a different journey. What works for one, doesn’t mean it works for all. I have learned so called “experts” who advise you to do tough love, never ever prepare you, if that doesn’t work.

I have learned that the word “Hope” is no longer a part of my vocabulary. I have learned to live in the moment (30 seconds at a time, usually less) that’s all I’m capable of. I have learned that every loved one who has the job of trying to save their child from themselves should go with their HEARTS, because at the end of this journey, that is what you will answer to. There are no do overs. I have learned that no one can tell you how or what to do when dealing with your loved one… we know what we can handle, and time will tell us, when we need to step away. This is where your heart comes in. I learned if you do make that decision, for whatever reason, to ask them to leave… that your heart is breaking in a million pieces, your worry is 24/7. That tears and prayers go hand in hand. I have learned if you want to help them, feed them, give them a bed…. Just do it… I have learned it is a disease, they are sick, and they need help… and we are their last line of defense… I have learned that those that struggle are smart, funny, intelligent, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, uncles, cousins, friends and beautiful human beings with beautiful hearts…. I have learned that their hearts ache knowing the pain they have caused, even as they are yelling obscenities at their loved ones. It is not them, it is the drugs. I learned that contrary to those who are uneducated about this disease (and it is a disease), they don’t do this for fun. They hate this disease. No one ever said, I want to be an addict.

I have learned people can be extremely judgmental… and we have two choices… ignore them or educate them. I have learned there is plenty of blame to go around…. Pharma Co, FDA who approved, politicians who had their hands in those pockets, and turned a blind eye, open borders for the drugs to flood this country, and dealers/distributors who capitalize on all of it… and knowing this doesn’t change what is happening. I have learned that knowing the possibility of losing them is real, and it actually happening are two different planets!! I have learned that those that struggle are broken, and need so much love… they are worth it!!! Love and compassion go a long way in the life of those that struggle. I have learned the compassion, love, and support of total strangers have humbled me beyond words. God puts angels in our path for a reason. Thank YOU…. I have learned I am so glad that we decided 2+ yrs before he passed that tough love was not for us!!

I have learned that my heart aches every second with an unimaginable unbearable pain without my angel… and I tell him all the time … I’m sorry I couldn’t save you…. Please forgive me for my words, thoughts, actions and inactions… I’m so sorry…. I love you I love you I love you. Charles, my angel 6/7/16...


When I received this letter in an email from Pam it became clear to me that it wasn’t just for me but needed to be shared with as many people as possible. I have deep empathy for anyone who finds themselves in the battlefield of addiction. Thank you, Pam, for your strength and honesty in sharing your story.

My desire to become a part of the journey for folks who’ve lost loved ones to overdose was one I didn’t take lightly. My heart has really been speaking to me in recent months – there are so many lives being lost to overdose and so few services available for healing from this type of loss. I believe that providing professional help for people like Pam is an honor and I salute the bravery of those walking through their journey of grief in a healthy way.

Where to Get Help

Overdose Grief Group – my practice offers this group on Tuesday evenings beginning at 7 pm in my Roswell, GA office. Please click here for more information.

Read my earlier blogs on “Why Grieving an Overdose Death Is So Hard” and “Why Overdose Deaths Cause Complicated Grief” for more information and resources.

Family Grief Counseling – my practice also offers grief counseling for individuals and families. Click here to visit my website.

Addiction Counseling and Intervention Services - visit my website for more information alcoholism and drug addiction, and how I may be able to help you or your loved recover.

Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing (GRASP) offers some groups across the country, as well as good information on reading materials, etc.

Al-anon and Nar-anon are support groups for family members of those suffering from alcoholism or addiction. Even though they are not grief groups, many people find support there following drug and alcohol deaths. Remember that each group is different, but most are very open and supportive of those who have lost someone to an overdose.

UPDATE: The response to my blogs on Overdose Grief has been phenomenal! People from all over the US and even some other countries have responded and wanted to know how they can receive the help they need. Although my professional license only allows me to offer counseling services in the state of GA, my Intervention Services often include finding local services nationwide to assist those in need. The best way I can help those of you experiencing overdose grief is by serving as a Mental Health Resource Finder. If you are interested in finding qualified and highly skilled specialists in your local market who can help you, please contact me at 678-316-3991 or at to learn more about this service.

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Dr. Joseph Kirkpatrick, LPC, CAI

(678) 316-3991


Main Office:

Wellspring Counseling

700 Old Roswell Lakes Pkwy
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Roswell, GA 30076


Services are provided throughout the Atlanta metro area including:

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