Ignoring the Pain

I never dealt with the trauma in my life, because I wanted to be there for others. But my coping skills fell completely apart after the worst tragedy imaginable.

By Tom

My troubles started when my father left our family when I was very young, leaving my mom to raise two boys—my older brother and me. I loved my mom, who was my everything. But I missed having a dad. My brother filled that hole.

I was a typical teenager, getting into trouble on occasion, dabbling in drugs and alcohol, but nothing serious. But then my life took a terrible turn in 1995, when I was 23. My brother was killed in a car crash. Then my grandfather—my mom’s dad—died shortly after that. Mom was on the verge of falling apart, so I felt like I had to be strong for her. I invested all my energy in making her life easier . . . but I didn’t take care of myself.

I never took the time to process my own emotions after my brother’s death; I just bottled everything up inside. Drugs helped, and heroin became my friend. I loved how heroin took me to places where I didn’t have to feel anything. I was addicted on and off for years.

Things got better when I met Victoria. She was a single mom to two kids, and we really hit it off. We got married in 2000, and had a couple kids of our own.

Life was going fairly well for a while until a series of devastating events. Between 2011 and 2015, I lost an aunt, an uncle, a stepfather, and a grandmother. While I was trying to stay strong for Mom, Victoria got terminal cancer in 2014.

I dove deep into “Tom the Protector” mode. We tried every kind of treatment available, and by early 2016, her cancer was actually in remission. But then in July 2016, we were in a car accident, and Victoria took the brunt of it—cracked skull, broken ribs, punctured lungs, lacerated spleen. She almost pulled through, but her body had been so ravaged by the cancer treatments that it was just too much. Victoria died October 25, 2016.

For a while, I tried to be strong for my kids. But after barely making it through Christmas 2016, I couldn’t handle it emotionally any more. The next day, I took a bunch of Victoria’s old pills. I wanted to die and join her in heaven.

When I woke up the next day, I was angry at first. But then I had a moment of clarity, and I realized God had woken me up for a reason—to be there for my kids.

I ended up at David Lawrence Centers . Their Traumatic Incident Recovery (TIR) program was literally a lifesaver for me. I finally dealt with all the pain of my past—peeling back the layers one at a time, like an onion. It was so hard, but so worth it.

David Lawrence Centers gave me my life back. I’ve been sober for four years, and I’m able to express my feelings now. I’m fully recovered, and I’m so grateful.

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