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We’ve all heard the saying, Life Goes On. It wasn’t until this year that I really felt the impact of those three little words. The day I lost my son my life stopped. The third day of the New Year. It came to a screeching halt. Spun right off my perfect little axis and shattered at my feet. Not only did I not want it to go on, I wanted it to rewind. To give me a do over. One more hug…one more I love you. Give me time to undo things already done. I wanted it to just stop. As much as I tried to fight, to curl up and stop, life moved on. Dragging me along kicking and screaming. At first I counted the days, the weeks, then the months since Matt’s death. The saying is true, life did go on.

The yearly celebrated holidays came and went.

Winter, summer, then sadly his birthday all came like they did every year and forced me to be me.  To get up and be that person everyone expected me to be. To be a part of the family that was changed forever. The family missing its youngest son. I was numb, grieving and in shock. Trying to hold my emotions in check. Struggling to get through the days, but life didn’t care. It kept coming, forcing me to put one foot in front of the other and continue to live.

I wake, I breathe. My heart beats. Time has passed. I’m told I made it through all the firsts. I should feel relieved. Like winning the race of a life time. Like the weight of my grief should have lifted. Unfortunately, I feel nothing that resembles relief. I feel a void that will never be filled. I feel disbelief. My mind tells me it has been well over a year since I’ve heard his voice or felt his hug. My heart tells me it will never be the same. Missing those precious moments between a mother and her son. The everyday conversations sharing the dailies of our lives.  Unrelenting grief follows me like a lost puppy looking for a place to stay.

When Matt was alive, I was too busy to think of anything other than his addiction.

Saving him was my addiction. Denial became my best friend. His death was something I never saw coming. His loss has pushed me into detox and now I’m trying to save myself. To feel needed and useful like I did when all my energy flowed toward his recovery. So here I am, the left behind – trying to find a new path in my life. A mother detoxing from her son’s addiction.

Most of my life has been spent saving others. The last eight years focused on saving Matt and other mother’s babies. So what to do now. Who do I save? My grief brain keeps me from being that smart girl. The NICU nurse responsible for the tiniest of patients. My mind now wanders. My attention span short lived. My brain has been wounded, my heart shattered. Ideas fly away and I struggle with “Matt moments” where the grief hits like a wave leaving me a sobbing mess.  Every day is a struggle, some are tougher than others. My wounds are invisible.  Looking at me you would never see the change. But inside I am struggling to find my balance. I have forgotten how it feels to be whole. To laugh and enjoy the little pleasures. When Matt died a piece of me died too. A mothers heart, broken beyond repair.

During the last years of Matt’s life, I had an eye opening education on how the disease of addiction is treated.

I witnessed the phone calls as Matt fought his insurance company begging for approval for admission. I stood by as multiple doctors refused to get involved in his recovery and I witnessed how the other doctors pushed pills and contributed to his disease. The stigma that surrounds the disease that killed my son lives on and continues to contribute to the deaths of many others. So many parents live in denial. Thinking their children are safe from this dirty disease. They live in beautiful homes. Go to the best schools.  Excel in sports. Hang with the “good” crowd. My son did all those things. I lived in denial and my son is dead.

I’ve found the stigma that surrounds addiction also blinds parents to the reality that drugs have found their way into the best schools and onto the football fields.  Drugs are in locker rooms and have snuck into their homes. No parent wants to believe their perfect child would ever use a drug. I had a false sense of security, my son was terrified of needles. What most parents aren’t aware of is that most kids don’t start with Heroin. Prescription opioids left over from Mom’s surgery or Dad’s broken leg are the first step.

Even though use of illegal drugs declined in young adults, the abuse of prescription drugs continues to rise.

Teens feel that these drugs are safe and have no fear of becoming addicted. Percocet being the drug most over prescribed and abused by teens and young adults. What I did not realize was that crushed Percocet is exactly the same as Heroin. Perfect for anyone afraid of injecting. No telltale track marks, no way for parents to see the evidence that drugs have found their children.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a parent say those three words that make me cringe. “Not my child.” I once had that same thought. I once believed that addiction would never find its way into my family. I was a nurse. My son went to a private school. We lived in a great neighborhood. None of it changed the fact that my son got hooked on Percocet. First legally prescribed, then abused. My son died from an overdose. I have lived every excuse I’ve heard from parents in their denial.

As time and life go on, I have found a new path.

Still saving other mother’s children but now by sharing Matts story. I tell of Matt’s struggle with his addiction. I educate parents on the dangers of prescription drugs. I share Matt’s struggle for recovery. The hopelessness and chaos that come with addiction. I speak out to educate about the disease that kills more beautiful people than gun violence or auto accidents. The disease that no parent wants to talk about. The elephant in the room. The disease that carries a shameful stigma. The disease that is thought of to be self-inflicted. The only disease you are punished for having. The disease that insurance companies ignore.

In my journey, I hope to open the eyes of parents in denial. Reach those who believe that prescription pills are safe. Educate those who still believe addiction only happens to other families. To save other mothers from my grief and their children from my sons’ fate. Hoping to save myself by saving others. Making a difference as time goes on.



  1. Thank you for sharing such a heartbreaking story. As a recovering addict, hearing from the family side affects me in a profound way. And as a survivor of many close friends, my best friend and girlfriend, I relate to the pain and grief as well. Thank you for continuing on and helping to fight the stigma. In this time of the heroin epidemic, I believe that’s all we can do. <3

    • Mary Beth Cichocki Reply

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m trying to make a difference by touching hearts with my story

  2. Hey Marybeth. Very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story.
    Good luck and God bless. ODAAT!
    “It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”
    ― Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy

    • Mary Beth Cichocki Reply

      Mike. Thank you. I’m just seeing these comments Rose Kennedy was right. Time heals nothing after losing your child.

  3. It’s always sad reading these stories, and my heart breaks for you! Unfortunately, they are written every single day, and nothing seems to change. I pray for your strength!!

  4. MaryBeth, thank you for sharing your story. As a person in recovery, a person who loves someone struggling with alcoholism and a woman studying to be both an addictions counselor and recovery life coach, I see all too often your story unfolding…doctors pushing pills, rehabs too full to take more people, insurance companies wielding way too much control. I also work with a group called They have a program which teaches family members how to become their loved one’s best chance at recovery. It includes new ways of communication, getting in better touch with ourselves, and learning tools for coping. I highly recommend it and you may find something useful for yourself there.

    I also know that grief has no timetable and that the worst grief of all is burying a child. Know that your grief will take as long as it takes and no one can make that decision for you. The idea that you should “snap out of it” because it has been over a year is ridiculous. Take the time you need to heal. Do what works for you. You are a testament to the fact that out of our pain, we can create good and positive things.

    Love and Light.

    • Mary Beth Cichocki Reply

      Jackie. Thank you for your kindness. It’s been a difficult life altering journey. I’m still trying to find my way.

  5. Gail Parry Reply

    I am so so sorry…. I am sending you Prayers Godspeed for strength and some kind of serenity for you…..sending you lots of Hugs <3 <3

    • Mary Beth Cichocki Reply

      Gail. Thanks so much for your kindness and prayers.

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