I was young, and met a girl, as the story always goes. We very quickly were married, in the summer of 2012, and almost immediately after the wedding I was told I’d be going to Afghanistan. We had about 5 months before I left. Looking back now, there signs I should have recognized. Mysterious pains and excuses to go to an emergency room, even during a holiday vacation.
Prior to my deployment, we became pregnant. I was ecstatic at the thought of getting to be a dad. Missing every appointment while I was gone was difficult, but I knew it would all be worth it. When my son was born, my commander made it so I could have uninterrupted access to some internet so I could attempt to watch the birth of my son on a video call. We were scheduled to come home 7 weeks after his birth.
3 weeks after he was born, my wife passed in her sleep on my mother’s couch with our newborn next to him. I was sent home through the Red Cross, and prepared myself to bury my wife, and be a brand-new dad. When I returned home and started going through all of her things, I discovered multiple bottles for prescription narcotic painkillers, all issued two days before she passed. Every bottle was empty. Only after she passed did her father decide to tell me that they knew she had a problem. I found out that while I was gone, she was spending hundreds every few days on pills to share with her mother, who has been off again on again with addiction her whole life. It took me several years to come to terms with the fact that she overdosed. The coroner knew I was military, and in his report, he stated that the cause of death was undetermined. It became clear when I could finally admit that she overdosed that he marked it that way thinking he was doing a favor of some kind to me, perhaps to make sure I got the life insurance.
I returned home to a funeral, a baby who was very underweight and being weened off methodone, and an emptied bank account.
My son is now 10, and struggles with behavioral issues and is diagnosed autistic. I always wonder what aspects of the challenges he faces in school with focus could possibly have a link to her active abuse of painkillers while pregnant.
I still have a good relationship with her family, with the exception of her mother, and more recently her brother, who himself has been in and out of abusing fentanyl and other opiates for the past 6 years.
Thank you for providing this place, where we can share our stories of how addiction has affected our lives, and for working so hard to make a difference in people’s lives. I didn’t realize how much this all really meant to me, didn’t understand the magnitude of it until I started hearing other’s stories, and seeing how candid Josh is about his own story.