Dear Annie: I am shattered and torn apart. My son, who served eight and half years in prison for drugs, was released last Thanksgiving. Within four days of release, "Ray" had a job as a cook, had joined a gym and was working out every day. His life was all positive.
Then the pandemic came. The restaurant closed, and the gym shut down. Ray turned back to drugs. Five months after his release, he is deceased. He overdosed.
He had been living with his twin brother, "Tom." Apparently, the restaurant manager called Tom and told him that Ray was doing drugs. Tom confronted Ray to no avail. My problem is I hold my son, Tom, responsible for Ray's death. Why? He never once called me, when I live 25 minutes away and would have been there in a heartbeat. It dawned on me days later -- why did my son never call me about the drug use his brother had returned to? Tom was fearful I would have Ray put back in jail and then prison. But after all he had been through in his life, I would have never ever done that. I would have taken Ray home with me to clean up. I would have put him in a program that I went to with him. I would have had a sponsor for him. But I never ever had the chance to help my son. How do I overcome this anger, this blame and this outrage at Tom for simply allowing my other son to turn back to drugs? -- R.
Dear R: I am so incredibly sorry that your son, Ray, died. No parent should have to outlive a child. I wish I could say something to make it better. But the truth is, there is some pain too deep for words to reach.
Your rage is understandable. You might find yourself preoccupied with anger toward Tom, because in a way it's more manageable than focusing on the fact that Ray is gone. But it's very possible that Ray would still be gone right now even if Tom had alerted you to what was going on. And as you seem to recognize based on your letter, you cannot let your anger toward Tom consume you, robbing you of that relationship, too.
Unfortunately, this is not something that can be worked through in this meager space. You must reach out to a counselor, grief support groups and support groups for families who have been impacted by addiction. No one can endure this alone. Some resources for your consideration: Nar-Anon (https://www.nar-anon.org), Families Anonymous (https://www.familiesanonymous.org/) LifeRing Secular Recovery (https://www.lifering.org/), and Refuge in Grief (https://refugeingrief.com).
Dear Annie: In response to "Mortified," who suffers from random attacks of reliving embarrassing memories: I, too, have experienced unrelenting memories of cringe-worthy moments. I have found a lot of relief through self-compassion and meditation. I say the things I would say to a friend: "Yes, that happened but it's over now. You are a good person. You are loved and lovable."
Then I can give myself a hug and breathe through the memory. Once calm, I redirect my thoughts to something positive. There are books on self-compassion that would help "Mortified." -- Been There
Dear Been: This is excellent advice, and I especially like the line about talking to yourself as though you were a friend. Many of us show our friends so much more compassion than we show ourselves. Thanks for writing.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.