‘He was my first baby. Sometimes I think, hell, just OD already. I didn’t raise you this way. I wait for that final phone call. Then I hate myself even more.’

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“Seattle had a very rare snow day today. I actually had to put on a parka and hat to take my dog out to pee. The wind chill was super cold. That triggered the thought of, ‘wow, how do the homeless survive?’ That triggered my heart to break, and then another thought even more so. My son is one of those homeless persons, living on the street, with who knows how little warm clothing. Is he even still alive?

Little boy stands with hands on his hips as he wears helmet and roller blades
Courtesy of Michaelann Allen

Mo was born in Kenya over 30 years ago in a tiny Muslim island town with no cars, only donkeys. My husband was from Kenya and I had met him on an anthropological study tour. He was so handsome and he smiled at me, and I was hooked. Funny how they can do that! I stayed several months longer than my group before returning home to the US, but then after a year, I sold everything and moved back to get married. Mo was born into a family that loved him without measure. We had our ups and downs and adventures, which is another story completely.

Mother holds baby boy to her chest
Courtesy of Michaelann Allen

I came back to the states with a 6-year-old child and pregnant with my second. I struggled to make ends meet, worked three jobs, went back to school and got a degree. I worked in the medical field for many years. I am now a college professor. I also work with service learning, homeless populations and the like. I know what it is like to have issues both in this country and other places I have lived. It is not the same when it is your own child.

Mother sits on canon beside her young boy
Courtesy of Michaelann Allen
Little boy sits reading a book
Courtesy of Michaelann Allen
Little boy stands outside with hands in his pocket
Courtesy of Michaelann Allen

Mo started using drugs when he was 12. He has been through therapeutic foster care, juvie, in-patient and out-patient treatment countless times. He has had medical care and mental health care and naturopathic care; you name it, we tried it. I used to beg the court to help me send him back to his dad in Africa. He probably would not be alive today if that was the case; there are addicts over there too and little to no treatment options. He even told me that same thing about two years ago during a lucid moment. Mo is a heroin addict. But he also abuses oxy, alcohol, Xanax, and any other thing he can get. He self-medicates due to being severely bipolar. He has tried bipolar meds but he just cannot spend the time it takes to keep trying combinations until you find the right fit; one size does not fit all when dealing with mental health and medications. It is also extremely hard to navigate the referrals and phone calls and appointment scheduling etc. They don’t make it easy. I work in the medical field and I get frustrated. Imagine trying to do it with Medicaid insurance, rude people answering the phone and you are either tripping or jonesing for your next fix, on top of a manic or depressive episode and they put you on hold for 30 minutes.

Little boy with ear pierced smiles over his shoulder
Courtesy of Michaelann Allen
Little boy with backpack stands at top of steps looking over his shoulder waving
Courtesy of Michaelann Allen

He has been on and off clean throughout his 30 years. He was a runaway when he was younger. He tried to inject ecstasy and spit into his arm and they somehow got my number off of him and I went to find him handcuffed to a hospital bed with a huge abscess in his arm. I am like, ‘what the hell, you were my photo op for my medical textbook, you know how to do injections and phlebotomy, how did you miss? And why spit? Sh*t water would’ve been better.’ He even went to New York for a couple years with his friend and fellow addict to live with his friend’s family for a while. His friend OD’d there. Mo came home. He worked hard trying to stay clean, went almost all the way through Le Cordon Bleu to be a chef, but he always seems to find a way to self-sabotage when things are going well. Bipolar does that.

Man sits at restaurant table smiling as he looks over his shoulder
Courtesy of Michaelann Allen

I have picked him up when he found himself beaten and robbed and tossed in the bushes. I have allowed him and his girlfriend to live with me and tried to help them both. I have bought him numerous phones only to have him sell them over and over. He has stolen, lied, and cheated; whatever it takes to get that next fix. His younger brother and I can no longer afford to enable his addiction.  He has lived with me on and off in various places. He even brought another junkie home one night and I woke up to them knife fighting in my spare room. I had to grab a baseball bat I kept by the front door, put it up under the dude’s chin and usher him out of my apartment; all the while vacillating between, ‘oh sh*t the neighbors will complain and I will lose my place,’ and ‘I am too old to be doing this sh*t!’

I have searched for him on the streets, waited while he shot up so he could stand up, just to be able to give him warm boots, coat, socks, gloves, a sleeping bad, tent and some food. Next time I went to find him, he had none of that – he had sold it all for a fix or however many. I cannot keep giving him things to sell. I cannot give him money. It got so that every time he called we knew it was for money, but he would get pissed if we started or ended the conversation with ‘I don’t have any money for you.’ We are the bad ones. We are the ones who are yelled at, told he hates us, etc.

Man who is addicted to drugs stands on sidewalk on phone
Courtesy of Michaelann Allen

I carried this young man in my body for almost 10 months. He was almost a month late because I was scared and in Africa and he wouldn’t come out. I had him in a village hospital with a knot in his cord and on a bed quickly vacated by another woman with no change of bedding. Remember, this is a small old hospital in a village back in the 80s. He and I traveled the world together. We are alike in a lot of ways, but oh so different in so many other ways. He was my first baby. You always love them all, but your first, that is the one you learn from and grow with. He is such a smart and handsome young man. So polite to others, helping elderly and disabled, parents of his friends always loved him. I love him.

Little boy who grows up to be drug addict sits in red fold up chair smiling as he holds toys
Courtesy of Michaelann Allen

I have not spoken to him for many months. I look for him on my drive into work and on the way home. I drive by his haunts. He hangs out by my work neighborhood often. How does that make me feel? Like he wants to be close, but oh so far away. My coworkers mostly know and love my son, they have known him for years. They pray for him and worry with me. I often check the online jail look up service. When I see him on the roster, I look at the charges to see what stupid stuff he has been up to. And then I feel better because I know he has three hot meal and a cot and can even get clean for a bit and maybe even medical care. He told me last year he has HIV and Hep C. It could be true, but it could be a lie. I am not surprised, they all share needles and girls/men or hook for money (there is no gay or straight when you are a junkie; it’s just a way to get money for drugs). But he has lied so much for attention to get money and other things, it is hard to believe him. We don’t bail him out. He won’t show up for bond. I emailed the health services at the jail to give them info for his record. They won’t talk to me due to HIPAA and him being an adult, but they will forward the info I give.

I think about him and worry about him 24-7. My younger son would like to save me the worry but it is different for a mom. That is my baby. Like that children’s book that says ‘as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.’ Yeah, tearjerker for sure. My heart just has a huge hole in it. I wait for that final phone call. I know there is enough information on him that if he were to OD or freeze or be killed, they could get his prints and connect him to me. What a great way to understand that no phone call probably means he is still alive. Sometimes I think, hell, just OD already, I didn’t raise you this way, you are one of those type of homeless junkies who steal and cause problems. Then I hate myself even more. I already feel guilty as hell; is this my fault, what did I do wrong, how come I can’t save him? Hope is not something I have at this time for him. He has to save himself. I cannot save him. He has to want it. Last time he got out of jail it says released on bond. None of my family paid. He has burned every single bridge of friends and family. Who helped him? Are they keeping him warm and safe? I can only hope. So I guess I do have some semblance of hope after all.”

Man who is drug addict stands in fitting room wearing suit
Courtesy of Michaelann Allen

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Michaelann Allen, 56, of Seattle, Washington. Do you have child who suffers with addiction? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

Read more powerful stories from parents whose children battle addiction:

‘My son has until this Tuesday to turn himself in. I love you, Josh. But the DEVIL returned this year. I made the decision to send my son to jail.’

‘He was my best friend. The last thing he said to me was: ‘I’m ok mom, I love you too.’ That was at 10:20 on Saturday night.’

‘This typing… is Tyler. I am the junkie of our family. My mom and I were best friends. Then addiction struck.’

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