What inspired me to write “Secret No More”

What inspired me to write “Secret No More”

When addiction first crept into our household 11 years ago, I started keeping a journal. Retreating to clean white paper became my refuge. The blank pages stared back, non-judgmental and welcoming. On their unvarnished surface I poured out my anguish, fear, confusion and shame. It was the only place – until many years later – that felt safe to reveal the terrible secret that was destroying our family.

When Jacob was in active addiction, so was I. Not to drugs or alcohol. In fact, there is no history of addiction in our family. I was addicted to him.

Obsessed with where he was day or night, assaulted by hideous images of what he might be doing and with whom, ashamed that someone – anyone – might find out my son was using drugs, I was suffering the same feelings of isolation, anxiety and shame as was he. But I was Jacob’s mother. If he was sick or in trouble, wasn’t it up to me to help him? I had to fix him, to cure the disease, to bring back the healthy, handsome son with the brilliant future he was meant to fulfill.

During Jacob’s high school years, I held a senior position with one of Maryland’s fastest-growing health systems. As president of the Anne Arundel Medical Center Foundation, I was the chief fundraiser overseeing a staff of ten and a board of 25. We were engaged in a $44 million capital campaign to expand the hospital campus. I loved the work. Like my journals, it offered refuge from the ugly scenario of my son’s worsening addiction unfolding at home.

Ours was a fairly “normal” family, but with a very public face. My husband had been mayor of the City of Annapolis, where he was born and where we had lived for more than 40 years. Active in the town’s civic and social life, we loved giving back to causes we enjoyed. Jacob was born on our daughter’s fifteenth birthday. Eventually, addiction would erode the bond of their shared birth date. But until he began his senior year of high school – and that fateful phone call from a respected teacher who first warned me about Jacob’s “smoking” and a “different” crowd – life was good.

For a time I wondered if the school had the wrong kid. Addiction? Not my son. Not in my family. Denial moved in right alongside my child’s worsening disease.

At work, meeting with donors, sometimes a couple would make me wonder: was addiction worming its way into their family, too? A son was living in their basement. A daughter was away at school but a “How’s she doing?” brought only a shoulder-shrug. That subtle glance between husband and wife, the wife looks away, then a quick change of subject. My antennae honed in. But, of course, I was shielding my own dark secret, so nothing more was said.

Often, it was the faces of these mothers I recalled as I began writing Secret No More. At first, it was simply cathartic, the sheer act of setting on paper years of pent-up pain, like lancing a boil to rid my body of a cancer I’d borne far too long. Scanning pages of my journals, I searched for understanding. How had Jacob’s addiction begun? Was I at fault? Did I cause it? What was his disease doing to our family? And if I couldn’t cure him, could I survive?

Midway through writing I wondered if sharing my story might make up for those missed opportunities to share with other parents. Would a kind word have soothed that mama’s soul? Or a soft suggestion have steered that dad to find help for himself? Caught up in my own fear and isolation, I was incapable of helping anyone else during those frightening years.

Eventually, the book faced a huge hurdle before it ever reached a publisher. Would my son give his permission?

“Mom,” he once told me, two years into recovery, “if this book is meant to be published, it will be.”

It’s my hope – and Jacob’s too – that Secret No More will comfort families facing addiction in a loved one or a friend. It’s the book I wish someone had given me when I was living with the active disease in my family.

Because if one mom and one addict can make it, others can, too.

6 Replies to “What inspired me to write “Secret No More””

  1. I really enjoyed the background of the story “Secret No More.” This has caught my attention, not only because I myself being 22 went through the same obstacles. Growing up in a family that was similar to yours. Father was very well respected at this Multi-billion dollar company called: “Vanguard” he was a functioning Alcoholic. I myself never had a liking toward beer or any liquor. My love was drugs. All kinds; Weed, Coke, shrooms, acid, meth, hash/wax, (any type of designer drugs I could get my hands on.)(2ci,2ce 2ca 2cb, Special K, roofies, Aladad(like acid) and other crazy shit I can’t remember ATM.)
    My weak spots where: “downers/opiates/opioids”
    First it started after being on a 2 week long Coke binge. Where I got about 5-8 hours of sleep the whole 2 weeks. I was introduced to a pill and the next day we couldn’t find anyone and my buddy Kyle in the car with us said he can get this shit called Dope-D, H, bags, China white, bundles, smack, Diesel. All I knew was it was the same feeling ask the “30” I tried the day before, so I liked the feeling of the warm body feeling, the slow motion world, the itchy nose/ face and rubbing it constantly due to the pain killers making you itch. I loved it. Every last bit of it. The ways and means of getting it, finding a spot to use it, crushing it up, rolling up a bill or getting a straw, cutting it, and chopping up the powder and lining it up ready to snort. BAM!! A short time goes by maybe a minute or two, but feeling like a lifetime the best feelings creeps up on you. You feel like you’re on a cloud, floating higher and higher as the seconds go by. Warm fuzzy feelings making me feel like a king. Nothing else matters at this moment. Just my high. That day was the last day of my life that I had control over myself, my life, my choices, relationships, trust, love, loyalty, basically everything I ever believed in or any dreams or goals where either left in the dirt, or locked away until I get ahold of my life in the future, and that was an “IF” IF… I survived, I didn’t catch a case, I went to jail for ever, I hurt someone, I hurt myself, , I hurt loved ones, I hurt my soulmate, but that didn’t matter too much. My goals daily revolved around Herion. Period point blank. Finding ways to get money; after I had the money I’d either already be with one out of my closet 4-5 homies that knew what I did, did what I did, wanted to try it for a first time and trusted me, or just did other drugs or just smoke or drink but knowing what I did and they didn’t judge me? I loved it, because just what I do shouldn’t be judge and I’m grateful to have my squad by my side down to ride on anyone or anything needed. At 53 Alcohol took my father on the date of September 17th 2015. That day changed my life, my younger brothers , and my wonderful mothers. That day I came home from Philly with my right hand man Troy just copped like $500-$650 worth of some grade A heroin. I believed the stamp was the Handicap symbol and this other stamp called “avion” I believe it’s a type of liquor. Each bundle we got 12-14 bags. And that day I got 5 bundles of the Handicap symbol for $80 a pop and than 3 bundles for $200 total. I couldn’t beat those deals so I made a huge mistake that day I came home with Troy everyone was crying and I let
    my little brother try Heroin for the first time, and that’s when his addiction began and hasn’t stopped yet as of August 2nd 2017.

    Sorry for writing so much

    1. Austin, thank you for writing. It’s never too long to write if it comes from your heart and helps. I hope you are healthy now and able to help your little brother.
      For all of us, it is one day at a time.

  2. Very good. For me the take home point of the book was how your need to keep Jacob’s addiction secret made your and Dick’s lives so much more difficult and kept you out of support groups.

    1. Karla thanks for this comment. Yes. Very perceptive. Hiding addiction in the family hurts the family as much as the addict.

  3. Your inspiring story and heartfelt writing will surely help many parents. I am so grateful that you persevered in getting hope out there.

    1. As a writer, you are very generous to share such kind words. Thanks Therese
      I would recommend your book Beyond Blue to literally everyone! It’s a guidepost on living.