☼ Dear Joey: A Love Letter To My Son The Addict

Photo Credit: Randy Mason

Photo Credit: Randy Mason

Dear Joey,

I miss you. I ache for you to fill your place in my life.

Will I ever again feel your hug? Hear your laugh? See you proud?

I don’t want you to be an addict. I don’t want you to push me away. I don’t want you to die. I want you to be sober and happy and to fulfill your dreams and fill your soul. I want you to be Joey. But addiction is sucking the life out of you. Sucking the you out of you.

I’m haunted by the difficult life you are living; I’m sad for the life you could have but are missing; and I grieve for the loss of my son who is still alive. I stopped trying to contact you, not because I stopped caring, but because I had to stop the self-inflicted pain.

I made a lot of mistakes trying to help you, sometimes treating you like an adult when you were acting like a child, and treating you like a child though you’re an adult. I tried warm fuzzy love and I tried tough love. I tried keeping you from hitting bottom, bringing the bottom up to you, and getting you into treatment when I thought you’d hit bottom. And I struggled to recognize the difference between helping and enabling — I tried so hard to stay on the right side of an invisible line between helping you to live and helping you to die.

Through trial and error and lack of results, I learned that I can’t fix this for you. And I learned that I love you enough to bear the toughest love of all.

Sometimes love means doing nothing rather than doing something.

But, Joey, Letting Go is not the same thing as giving up.

There is a place in my life that is exactly your size.

I’m keeping it warm.



Sandy Swenson is the author of The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction. She has a forthcoming book and app published by Hazelden Fall 2017.

About Sandy Swenson

Sandy Swenson is the mother of two sons—one of whom struggles with addiction. Author of ‘The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction,’ Sandy lives in the place where love and addiction meet—a place where help enables and hope hurts. Sandy is a voice for parents of children suffering with the disease of addiction, putting their thoughts and feeling into words. Sandy lives in suburban Austin, Texas, where she has just finished writing her second book—to be published by Hazelden in the fall of 2017—and an accompanying app to be published in the spring of 2018. When she isn’t writing or traveling to speak with other parents coping with the disease of addiction in their family, Sandy volunteers at a local maternity home teaching the girls to cook healthy family meals. Sandy also loves to garden, read and travel.
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13 Responses to ☼ Dear Joey: A Love Letter To My Son The Addict

  1. Donna Ward says:

    I feel your pain I have a granddaughter with this disease

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dorothy says:

    I feel your pain my daughter has this disease call addiction …❤Hugs prayers…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kelly Shatto says:

    Thank you for posting this Sandy. I keep a screenshot in my phone of a quote that was in the book you wrote. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I can’t fix this for my son, only he can, so I read this over and over as a reminder.

    “My baby grew up to be an addict. There was a time I thought a mother’s love could fix anything, but it can’t fix this”

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Sandy Swenson says:

    Sending hugs and hope, Kelly. Together we are stronger. xoxoxoxox


  5. Erica Watkins says:

    I lost my son and only child, Joey, March 7, 2016. He overdosed snorting heroin March 3, while he was at home. I found him barely alive. I made the agonizing decision to remove him from life support due to severe brain damage and multiple organ failure.
    It’s never wrong to do what you feel is necessary to keep your child alive. I could have done more, I could have done less, ultimately it was his decision to use. There is no greater pain that I can feel than the loss of my only child. It saddens me to know that I am not alone in this grief and there will be more in the future. This heroin epidemic is awful.
    Thank you for sharing. I believe talking about this epidemic and bringing awareness is key in stopping such tragic losses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sandy Swenson says:

      Erica, I’m so sorry that addiction has stolen away your Joey. My heart aches for you. As mother’s we do the best we can in battling this hideous disease that is so determined to win. And together we are stronger. Sending hugs.


  6. Jackie Cleveland says:

    I had to let the love of my life go too! I can relate to all your feelings in this letter to your son. I tried helping my fiance in every way, but I got ill trying. It’s been 2 years since I let him go, but not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. I still suffer and continually will. I have a lot of guilt for letting him go. I have been trying to find happiness again, but I doubt I will. I don’t know who I am anymore. His addictions tore everything apart!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sandy Swenson says:

      Jackie, I’m so sorry. I know how hard it is to come to the point of realizing the outcome is not yours to control. I hope that you can let go go the guilt and find peace. Sending hugs.


  7. Donald S Godwin says:

    Sandy My daughter pass away three years ago she OD from Heroin , The police found her on the siide of the road up against her VAn, she was in a known crack house and when she was OD
    they carried her out side and left her there like she was garbage then they call the police and ran off, she was in a coma for 40 days and we had to let her go she was only 42–she left her son who was 18 and for my wife and I to take care of—You don’t get over this Never—The worst thing about this is help is very expense and the waiting list is very long, My heart go out to all who has a child, friend or family member who has this addiction
    Sandy thank you for this posting

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Lisa hogan says:

    Beautiful words as always from sandy.
    It’s as thought she is speaking the words we so desperately want to say to our loved one.
    Always so graceful with her words ❤️
    Love and hugs to sandy and to all who are going through the same story that we all share. ❤️❤️


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