Our Church is starting a program... Reformers Unanimous. The international director came and preached at our church yesterday and my emotions were all over the place really. One of the first comments that stirred an emotion was that when 1 person has an addiction...4 people are directly affected. My mind raced back to Mark and when we first started seeing the signs of his addiction. The number 4...has to be an average...I can count 10 people without really trying, and I am sure there were more.
The preacher talked about how addiction was a spiritual thing. Mark was saved, I truly believe that...he was wounded...and I don't mean the fall that started his journey to pain meds...Mark was broken inside too I think, even before the fall. His wife had an abortion and didn't tell Mark she was even pregnant...and ohh how he loved children. That was the straw with Emma, he didn't look back when he walked out the door. That was unforgivable for him...for all of us. But, I can see that as a turning point for him. Though he dated other women, Linda was the most constant in his life...and it was a very intense, spark filled relationship. When they were good, they were really good. But, the bad...was soooo bad. Her children Terry and Brandy though, were the soft spot in Marks heart. He loved them like they were his own. Marks accident was during the time they were together, and marked the beginning of the end. His addiction started and it deteriorated their relationship...and his familial relationships as well.
I remember the first time I realized he had a problem. I was at his house, and Linda and I were playing cards....he came in and sat his bottle of Valium on the counter and went to the bathroom. We hid his bottle...as a joke. He came in and was high, he said...yelled "WHERE are my v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-valium....it was funny at first, but now...I wish I had realized it was sad.
Mark's addiction to pain meds led to other drugs, and that is not the opinion of my parents...though I know it. I found the burnt spoons and foil hidden in the bathroom trash....I saw him change with one bathroom visit. Popping a vicodin doesn't do that ...that quick. My frustration with him inhibited my heart I think.
Growing up he was the youngest of my 4 brothers and as tourturous as he was to me...I loved him so much. He would pick on me till he made me cry...but if someone else tried that, he would not hesitate to pop them or make them quit. He was very handsome and so talented on the piano. He had a very bright mind, he worked in cable and did an architects job and never graduated high school. He just had the brain for it, he could look at maps and such and design the lay out. He was just so smart in that arena. I was so proud of him....and regret to this day that I never told him any of that.
Then. Then. He fell from a cable poll onto his shoulder. Surgery wasn't an option, seemed pain med were the course he had to take. Him and Linda were rocky...more unsteady than ever in their relationship. He wasn't in church anymore. Once the taste was there for prescription meds...he had to have more and more. This escalated to one weekend, my parents were in Santee Cooper fishing...Mark went to a neighbor that had a small pharmacy in his basement that he provided service to local nursing homes. He went there with a gun, unloaded...but a gun no less. He went there with a bandana on. He walked in and demanded Vicodin. Later, we learned that the pharmacist had a gun under the counter and could have killed Mark. But, he said..."The man that did this, was so nice and so worried about my insurance paying for the theft...and he kept apologizing...I couldn't shoot him." It was a big deal in our small community. I was at my brother Johnny's when Mark came flying in behind his house leaving the truck. Johnny had already heard about it and Johnny knew it was Mark...I don't remember how he knew..or if I even really know how he knew...but he did. I remember Johnny crying. I went home to my parents house and saw Mark beside his little trailer burning a bandana and papers. It wasn't long after that, he was arrested and taken to jail. I remember hearing the sheriff pounding on my door wanting to talk to me to get a statement, and I hid in my closet, curled up in a ball crying until I could barely breathe.
I remember my dad and mom getting so mad at me, so mad at Johnny for saying out loud that we felt that he had done it. They couldn't believe he would do something like that. He denied it for a long time, finally admitting to us all he did it. ADDICTION caused a normal, loving, talented, smart, funny, friendly, honest man to lie, steal and break the hearts of those he loved and loved him back.
He was later convicted and sent to prison. I remember while he was waiting trial they had let him out...I am sure after my parents paid some exhorbinate amount of money. Mark said he wanted help and my dad had this big old blue chevy van. HUGE! My mom and I drove him to 3 different hospitals....all day long. Every time we would pull into the parking lot of one of the treatment centers...he would back out. Even as far as going in and then turn around and come right back out. He had a bag packed and everything. I was so angry at him. He had to want it, and as hard as we tried to force him...he pushed back. I went with my daddy the day he was convicted. I felt relief, thinking he would get the help he needed. I felt sad, he would miss almost 5 years of his life...our lives. I felt disconnected, I chose not to write or call or visit him while he was in prison. I got angrier by the day. I would read his letters to my mom and dad. He would start by saying how miserable he was, continue on to how he has turned to God and finish with how much money are they sending. My parents exhausted their bank accounts helping him, paying for new lawyers, sending him money for cigarettes and 'other' things. He didn't get the help he needed, he fell through the cracks and was treated as just another inmate...not someone that is suffering with an addiction. I did write him one time not long before he got out...just wanted him to know that I forgave him and we could start over when he got out. He never responded.
He did finally get out. He seemed better, more like the old Mark. Him and I talked, we were good. We sat on our front porch and talked. He told me he hated being 'OUT', he said he wasn't ready really to be on his own. He got up and started to walk back up to moms, and turned and hugged me and said he was sorry for everything and it would be better. Then...old friends came around. He went to yet another doctor, he begged to be admitted into the psych ward or some program. Instead she sent him home with Morphine patches. That is just what a well documented addict needed...more, stronger pain meds. He came home, he put on a patch...and I am sure took some Vicodin or whatever he had. Todd said he came down and talked to him a bit, how when he felt better he wanted to work with Todd in the shop. Then he went somewhere, came back to mom and dads house and crashed in the recliner. Daddy said he knew Mark was high. He was mad at Mark and they argued...Dad didn't want him sleeping in the chair because he knew it would hurt his back. Finally, Mark got up and went to bed. The next morning, Daddy said he walked by the room where Mark was asleep several times...but was gonna just let Mark sleep it off. Lunch time came, my mom was out in the garden. Daddy stopped and turned the light on and went in to wake Mark. Mark was gone. Oh his body was there, but Mark was gone.
I don't know the details really but my mom said that she heard this guttural yell from my daddy...that made her cold. She ran to the house, up the stairs and from that point until I get a call from Scott I am not sure what happened. I rarely left work early, I worked in Hickory and would always stop at my mom and dads before going home. I left work early...heading for my parents. Scott calls me from my office in Hickory asking where I was. I can see it today. I was just passing Salem General Store when he called. He said to come back to Hickory or wait for him so we could have dinner. It was 230ish....I knew something was up. I said no, just meet me at home. He said Hope...STOP, don't go home. I froze and thought for a split second my daddy was dead, or my mom....both had just had heart surgeries. But before he said anything, before I said anything...I knew it was Mark. I said what has he done now. Scott wouldn't say and I said is he dead? Scott wouldn't answer just begged me not to go home. I hung up and didn't answer when he called. I remember pulling in the driveway...2 ambulances, several sheriff cars and there stood Todd and Johnny. I rammed into a sheriff car *oops* and stopped, got out and Johnny told me that Mark was dead. All I wanted to do was get to my mom and dad...but no one would let me. ADDICTION did this. That day changed our lives forever.
He was 35. I am 37 now. I am 2 years older than when he was when his breath stopped. How did time go by?
The days following his death, very blurry. I remember going with mom and dad to pick out a coffin. Nothing I ever ever want to do again. I remember the night at the funeral home, receiving friends. I remember most who came by to offer their condolences. I would say a lot never knew Mark...they knew and loved us. I do remember those that I expected to be there and never came. That night made me realize how important it is to be there during the painful time of death, especially those first few days. I remember those that came, brought food, prayed with me and my family. I remember those that didn't come. I wonder sometimes why they didn't. I know there is a good excuse probably....but it doesn't dull that wonder and yes...a little hurt. But, it sealed my promise to be there for anyone that is close to me that loses someone. I don't want anyone to wonder where I was!
Addiction. I have had every opportunity to be addicted to pain meds. I have had several surgeries and recently have been given every kind of pain med thinkable to control migraines. But, Mark comes to mind and I chose not to take the pills. I don't want to hurt anyone like that. And what really perplexed me for a long time...he was not the kind you would picture to become addicted. He grew up in a Christian home, his daddy was a Baptist preacher. He was loving and kind, funny and smart...talented, why would he need to dull life with drugs??
Addiction. The preacher spoke of it often during his sermons. I don't think all treatment programs are bad, just the ones Mark was in...they would give him more drugs..though different...it was still something he would abuse. I wish this program had been here when Mark was going through this. He could relate to Christians, he was one. I think this would have changed his life where we all failed, where all the programs, jails, psych wards failed.
I never thought I would be typing all of this...not sure why I am, other than God just laying it on my heart. This program our church is participating with and starting will do so much good, especially in a community like this. Addiction isn't just drugs... I know that, but that is the venue that has impacted my life so intensely.
I promise to pray for this program at our church and all the churches across the US that have this program. I am sure it will impact many lives here in Myrtle Beach.