Mother Finds Way to Forgive After Son’s Overdose

Dealing With Depression In Recovery - Part 2Forgiving somebody who’s affected your life for the worse, intentionally or not, is never easy. The heart-breaking story of Diannee Carden Glenn, told in the Fix, about her son’s addiction and his untimely death, conveys this message very clearly. Her 40-year-old son died of an overdose after being introduced to drugs by a young woman she calls “Mary” (to protect her identity). It’s a story with the power to touch many parents of children struggling with addiction, because blaming others is a natural inclination when your child seems to have turned into someone you don’t recognize anymore. Diannee’s story of how she forgave Mary is an illuminating read, and can help people struggling with similar issues let go of their own blame.

The Loss of Innocence

Diannee introduces her son Michael as having “huge expressive brown eyes and even as a child it seemed like he could look right through you into your heart and know what you needed.” He was an intelligent Christian boy who excelled at sports and vowed to “just say no.” The disparity between this image – which Diannee is inherently inclined to hold on to as her idea of who Michael was –and what he became is something most parents, with addicted children or not, can identify with.

Michael went to college (studying social work and substance abuse counseling) where he met Mary in his junior year. She already had a son and was a heroin addict. He loved the kid like he was his own son, and even attempted to become a legal guardian to him, but when he was with Mary he started experimenting with heroin. His mother never knew he was taking drugs. The warning signs were there, but that image she held of him as an innocent little boy wouldn’t allow her to see them. Eventually, Michael and Mary broke up, and he was left feeling like he’d failed in his “father” role to her son, just like his own father had failed him. They parted, both now addicted to heroin.

Much later, after Michael had died, Mary got in touch with his mother. They consoled each other and filled in some missing details of his story, but Diannee couldn’t forgive Mary. She seemed too much like the person who’d killed her son.

Is It Mary’s Fault?

Diannee’s feelings are all too understandable, but it’s important to recognize where her thinking led her astray. She’s thinking about Michael as if he were just a pawn, being moved around by others with no agency or choice of his own. She was intellectually aware that he must have made the decision to plunge that first needle into his arm, but emotionally, bubbling under the surface, she believed it was Mary’s fault. She was the one who stole Michael’s innocence, from Diannee’s perspective, and she was the one who made him a drug addict. But things aren’t really that simple.

Letting Go of the Blame

Nearly two years after Michael’s death, Mary called again because she was thinking of Diannee and how she was getting along over the holiday season. She wanted to know how Diannee was, and told her that she was heading to an opiate detox and treatment facility herself. This was a turning point for Diannee. She found herself congratulating Mary on taking the first step, just like she’d done so many times with Michael, and came to realize that she’d never considered that Mary could still be using.

At this point, it’s undeniable that Mary wasn’t a cruel woman who ruined Michael’s life; she was a human being too, with her own issues, her own demons and her own need for love and support. She too was a victim of addiction, not the cause of it. She thought about the potential consequences of Mary’s addiction, and how her new husband and child would cope with it, and she knew that Michael wouldn’t want anyone else to suffer. She knew he’d look at her with that characteristic smile and head tilted to the side and say, “Mom, forgive her, it’s time.” So that’s what she did.

Blaming somebody else for the actions of another is useless; it’s like a bottomless pit you can keep throwing negative emotions into and never feel any better. As much as parents might want to cling to the image of their innocent child, kids grow up, and some do things that parents wouldn’t want them to. Mary was never a villain; she was just somebody else’s child going through the same problems. The pain might not go away, but you’ll feel lighter when you aren’t carrying around that hopeless, misdirected anger, and you’ll be able to think positively about addressing your own and your loved one’s problems.