Sometimes Love is Not Enough

Colleen Michaelis
An old family photo of the author, in sunglasses, holding her baby son Tommy

Being a mom is hard. The questioning of ourselves, from the very minute we hear we are pregnant, is a nonstop burden. The barrage of expectations, advice, research and opinions—it’s overwhelming. And it undermines what we instinctively think we know: if I just love this baby, that will be enough. Realizing that love is not enough is heartbreaking, and no one knows that reality more than a mom who has lost a child to substance use disorder.

How did this happen? Do I blame the doctor who prescribed the pills? Do I blame his dad for our divorce? Do I blame the friends he had? Do I blame his girlfriend? Do I blame “failure to launch?” Do I blame my family for having a long line of addiction? Do I blame the teachers or coaches who could have done more? Do I blame the manufacturers of hydrocodone and OxyContin? Do I blame the drug dealers who introduced him to heroin? Do I blame the treatment he received?

 Ultimately, as a mom, I blame myself. I search and search the past for the exact moment that I could have made the difference. The moment that I could have changed the trajectory for Tommy.

There are two things that help lift the blame from my shoulders. Creating Team Tommy under the Shatterproof umbrella has given me a voice and an opportunity to educate, bringing awareness and ending the stigma of substance use disorder. If our story can reach just one kid or one family and save them from the pain that we have endured, then telling our story will be worth it. And, when I am really having a hard day, I reach into my jewelry box and pull this letter out and as I read it, I am forever thankful to have this precious gift in Tommy’s own words.

Dear Mom,

I want to start off by saying you were never a bad, dull or uninterested mom. You’re the best mom anyone could ever ask for. You were present, fun and always available. My friends loved you, girlfriends loved you and pretty much everyone I know loves you.

You never messed up as a parent and my drug use was never a result of something you did or didn’t do. I chose to use drugs until I didn’t have the choice anymore. Drugs were doing me. You didn’t make me or force feed me pills. The divorce was rough, yes, but I wouldn’t even contribute that too much to me using. I used drugs to escape from myself. Not that I hated myself, but I had just been having a hard time growing into my own. I had always been popular, athletic and good looking, but there was just something missing I guess you could say.

You’ve been with me literally every step of the way and been on my team even when we both knew I was wrong and for that I love you so much. Just so you know, I’m also always on your team and don’t think that just because I am younger or your child that I can’t help guide you in some ways as well. I am always here for you no matter what.

Love Always,

Your Tommy



Colleen Michaelis is a Shatterproof Ambassador based in Texas. Want to join us? Learn about the program and apply today.

September 2021

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