This will be my fourth Mother’s Day without my son, Jason. I often reflect on the past at this time of year. I have memories of homemade gifts, Jason bringing me lilacs from the yard. As he grew up and his addiction took over so many aspects of his life, Mother’s Day became different for me. Having a family member struggle with addiction is hard and holidays sometimes bring drama and heartache.
As Jason grew with his addiction, I became his advocate for addiction services. At the beginning of our journey, behavioral health and addiction services had to be paid out of pocket with a slight possibility that insurance might reimburse after a long process. Eventually that changed, but the process was still not great. At one stage of trying to find recovery services, we were told Jason would have to relapse three times from detox before insurance would cover the costs of long-term care. Imagine if we treated any other disease this way?
The stigma that went along with addiction not being recognized by health professionals as a health issue was concerning. Talking to a doctor was hard at the beginning; there was little compassion. My feeling is that no one wants to be addicted to anything; you want to make your family and friends proud. Every time Jason fell, he eventually brushed himself off and tried over and over again. Addiction is exhausting, and we had our ups and downs, but the love and bond were always there between us.
As a mom, I beat myself up, always wondering what I could have done differently. That question will forever haunt me, but I know we did the best we could. My goal is to help other parents not experience what I went through. Changing the stigma over behavioral problems, mental health and addiction is an important step to getting individuals the help they need to be successful and healthy. Jason’s family and friends have joined with Shatterproof to help bring this change. We feel that by keeping Jason’s memory alive, along with so many others who have lost their lives to addiction, I could help others in their journey through addiction and the red tape that goes along with getting the help they need.
We need to end the stigma of addiction. We must always remember that where there is life, there is hope. I will continue to honor my son’s memory in hopes of helping others. This Mother’s Day, I will smell the lilacs and think of Jason.
Karen Anginoli is a Shatterproof Ambassador based in New York. Want to join us? Learn about the program and apply today.