My First Baby: Heroin And Grandsnakes

First, I gave birth to neither heroin or snakes. Hopefully, the title of this post will clear itself up before the end.

I wrote posts about both of my beautiful step-daughters and my younger son, Joey.

I’ve been putting off writing a blog post about my older son. Not because I have nothing to say but because there are so many things to say.

Zach is a recovering heroin addict. He’s been clean for nearly two years. I cannot begin to describe the special kind of hell it is to be the parent of a heroin addict. I felt more pain and raw terror than I thought possible and there were days that I truly didn’t think I could endure.

There is so much more to my son than his addiction, but his addiction did define him for a very long time.

It defined me as well.

My son has a well of compassion that I don’t see in most of the other humans.  He will share what he has.  If someone is going without, it makes him sad. If he can help someone, it makes his day.

I watched him fret for an entire afternoon over a chickadee that flew into our glass door and was mortally wounded. He was 24 years old at the time.

It didn’t bother me that he was hurting over the little bird.  In fact, I was COMFORTED by my son’s pain. I lived with his pain for years. I watched him withdraw. I watched his pain over being a junkie when he didn’t want to be one. I believed, for a while, that the look of despair would be permanently etched on his face. His drug related pain grated against me like a wire brush. When he felt pain that reflected his humanity, that felt like Christmas morning.

He is gorgeous and smart and funny as fuck.

He isn’t an overly cheerful person, he never has been. But put him in a room with his nieces and nephew and he will turn into a great big grinning jungle gym for as long as they want to climb on him.

Zach is making a life for himself. He’s working a demanding job and learning how to be an adult after coming out of a years long opiate haze.

He’s living with a lovely girl that he adores. I am grateful that he has found someone to share his life with. I am proud of him and what he has been able to overcome.

One thing, though, he and and girlfriend just bought two pet snakes.

Do I have to love the grandsnakes?

You know, there is a silver lining in dealing with his addiction. It’s given me instant perspective for just about everything and that will last my life time. Is it as bad as watching your kid go through opiate withdrawal? No? Well can be dealt with.


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  • Wow. That is amazing. I am so proud of your son for overcoming such a horrific addiction! I couldn’t imagine one of my babies going through that and I am truly happy for him that he has SURVIVED!

    I am also amazed at you for battling with him in his weakest hour. It is what we do as parents, but some are harder to manage than others.

    This is a very touching and amazing story, Michelle.

    P.S. – I’m sure you’ll learn to love the grandsnakes in time 🙂

    • I don’t think I’m gonna love the snakes.

      My son is amazing. He truly is. I’m extraordinarily proud of him and it feels so good to be able to breath again. I am far from over the anxiety and it came come back in a moment..but it is getting better.

      Thanks, Rocco. 🙂

  • You have every reason to be proud of him–what a touching story!

    My little brother (who is now 38) spent most of his 20s at rock bottom, using every drug possible, and has come back to us from that place and been sober since.

    He also has managed to remain the same wonderfully compassionate, funny, smart, and sensitive person that he was as a boy, and I am grateful every time we are together, that he is still with us.


    • Thank you. I went from wanting him to be a happy and successful adult to just hoping he didn’t die. At one point, I wasn’t even worried about prison for him.

      I’m so thankful that he’s doing so well now. 🙂

  • This is great. I don’t know that I would embrace the snakes, either, but I think it’s a small price to pay. I could, probably should, write something similar about one of my kids. I’m not ready yet.

    • Yeah, you can’t rush this shit. This was harder than I thought it would be and I am the queen of detachment. I also know that if I hear a certain tone in his voice or see even a ghost of the expression he mostly wore when he was a junkie then all of the progress I’ve made is gone in an instant and I’m cold and makes me realize that I’m really not far from it at all. I just hope I can put some real distance between the me now and the me day.

  • What an amazing story, Michelle. Thank you for telling it – and so eloquently, too.

    I think people who have experienced great pain have the potential to be the most caring and compassionate. They just don’t want anyone else to hurt like they have. Your son is clearly one of those people.

    • He is..that’s not to say that he can’t be a real shit head…he can. 🙂 But so can his mom…he comes by it honestly.

  • What’s he doing for work! BTW- I respect what he’s gone through. A lot of us have pasts we’re not particularly proud of.

    • He is working third shift at a distribution center driving a tow motor. He’s outside a big portion of the time and freezes his ass off.

      • Cabela’s has some great cold weather gear. So do snowmobile shops. I’ve often seen tow motor drivers wearing nylon, insulated bibs. They can unzip the legs if they’re too warm as well as the front. Face masks and balaclavas aren’t unusual either.

        Black everything.

  • Congrats GF. Its nice to read that he’s still on the straight and narrow and seems to have gotten that monkey off his back long-term.

    You’re so very lucky too, there are so many that never make it to the other side and live miserably as addicts until the drug takes them away. So relieved and grateful for you… and him.


    • oh, I know..I literally spent years being afraid that he was going to die..and for once, it wasn’t an irrational fear. It was a very real and likely possibility. A number of his friends died during his years of using. Every single time, I felt so sad for the parents..but part of me was so fucking happy it wasn’t my kid.

      It just feels good to breath again.

    • Thank you so much. I really appreciate that.

      I’m just grateful that I have my son now. More than I could ever express.

  • What a great post, Michelle. I am so glad your son is doing better these days. I hope one day I can write something similarly happy about my brother-in-law. The only upside of the grandsnakes that I can see, is at least you won’t be asked to snakesit, right?

  • Drug addiction is a scary thing. I watched my first husband spiral down into that world and it took me such a long time to realize that I couldn’t “fix” him, so matter how much I wanted to. It was also incredibly difficult to understand and accept that his drug use wasn’t because of me (no matter how many times he told me it was).

    After a stretch of being homeless and going to jail for robbery, a benevolent judge sentenced him to a year of in-patient rehab. I no longer have direct contact with him, but I hear he is still clean and sober. For my children’s sake, I hope he can be comfortable and content in sobriety.

    As hard as it was to go through it with my husband, I can’t even imagine the fear and despair that one must go through when it is a child. Thanks for sharing such a personal story!

    • It was life altering in so many ways.

      I know how much worse this could have been..and it was pretty fucking bad. I have to give my kid a shit ton of credit. He did steal from us and that was devastating, but it could have been so much worse..he has a well a strength that is impressive.

  • Pardon my french, but heroin is a motherfucker.But at least a good percentage of those who manage to get clean from it stay that way.
    First I want to express my admiration for you for the support you showed your son when he needed it most. It can be so difficult to be the one stubborn bridge that just won’t burn.
    Second, I’d like to share a story your post reminded me of:
    A friend of mine lost the love of her life (who used heroin) to a severe asthma attack and a hospital staff indifferent to the well being of someone they knew to be a heroin user. A few weeks later she found out that some of us had expressed concern that she might be using, and she confronted us about it: “I never used it while he was alive, why do you think I would use it now?” she asked. To which I replied “Because it kills the pain. That’s what opiates are supposed to be for, remember?”
    Anyway, I wish you and your son (and even the grandsnakes) all the best.

  • Michelle, this brought tears to my eyes. This is a beautiful portrait of your son. Thanks for sharing this.

    My step-brother, who I haven’t seen in years, died a couple of years ago, before his 50th birthday. Dilaudid was his murderer. I watched my step-dad fret over his son. Hugs to you and yours.

    • Thank you so much. I’m so very sorry for your loss. I feel so bad for your step-father. I really appreciate your sharing. 🙂

      • Yes…but it’s hard to know for sure. He’s 31 now and has grown up in many ways, but (and I hate to put it this way because it sounds so…hackneyed) he’s has some mental illness, too. More and more I hate to use that phrase, “mental illness,” because it shouldn’t define us. His gifts far outweigh that.

  • I can only begin to imagine what you have been through – when my daughter turned 18 (legal age to drink) she started drinking and she drank heavily and often. It was scary getting phone calls asking us to collect her but we would rather get up and go and get her than leave her where she was or hope she would get a taxi home. A year later she realised that she wasn’t doing herself any favours and she stopped – she still has the occasional drink but nothing like what she was having.
    It hurts when you see what you children put themselves through. She is now a volunteer SES member and is working at schoolies watching all these youngsters who have just finished school getting drunk every night and is amazed at how she managed to do that for so long.
    I definitely wouldn’t be getting too fond of the snakes – to me the only good snake is a dead snake – yes, I know they eat vermin etc but I still dont’ like them !!!
    Have the best day !

  • Michelle – I’ve been reading your blogs for months, and make me laugh as often as you touch my heart. But this post, this touched a broken piece of me. My oldest son struggles with addiction issues, and I’m terrified this is where we are heading. You’ve given me hope that there could be an end, and validation that this *is* how Moms feel. Thank you for these words.

    • This brought a tear to my eye. First, let me tell you how very sorry I am and I hope that it works out for you and your son. It’s a terrible thing to live through and if you have access to counseling, please take advantage of it. This is a marathon and it really takes it out of you. I’m still dealing with the aftermath, but every day, it gets a little easier.

      There is hope…but please arm yourself with as much information as you can. And if you suspect something is wrong, GO WITH YOUR GUT…you’re probably right..even if you don’t want to be.

      Please feel free to contact me through email if you want to vent or have any questions. I’m not an expert, but I am experienced.

By Michelle


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