For many years I have attempted to write down a story of my life. Trying to chronicle a part of my history to see if some of my journey can help another. I say “another” because I know that I cannot save everyone; but my hope is that maybe I can at least help one other person.
Our life has not been easy, and there have been moments that gave me cause to just give up and give in.
Mechanically going through the motions, trying to see the good in everything. Even in my darkest moments – just putting one foot in front of the other. This year, 2020, has been a year to reckon with. Pandemic, riots, race wars, cheating, and death. Though many things have happened, nothing, absolutely nothing could ever prepare my heart and soul for that pivotal moment that totally erased your birth. That fateful day taught me that my life story was not nearly as important as yours – even though ours are entangled, and to understand the path you chose; I must share a tiny glimpse of mine.
This blog is dedicated to you and others like you struggling with addiction and mental health… and a special dedication to the mothers and families who must live with a piece of themselves no longer here physically on earth.
My name is Naomi Vega.
I grew up in an alcoholic home riddled with domestic violence and molestation; added to the usual statistic of a teenage mom; and had to raise all three of my kids alone. I say “was” because my kids and I are grown, I am older and because my son is no longer walking on this earth.
This is his story.
My son was the most kind-hearted man with a beautiful soul and an amazingly big heart. He was the child who made me feel and experience unconditional love for the very first time. He cared more about others than he did himself and could make you laugh when you were feeling your lowest. My son’s name is Jesus G. Gutierrez – he will forever be 29 years old.
Jesus had been addicted to meth, heroin, and any other substance he could get his hands on for well over 15 years.
He was a very extremely intelligent young man, testing at college level while in elementary school and afflicted with bipolar schizoaffective disorder. There were many moments of light that shone through the darkness that came with those co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders, that we all were extremely blessed with, and I am eternally grateful for that. However, when not completely treated, were exceedingly difficult, tenuous, and sometimes scary to handle and deescalate.
As an adult, my son made his own healthcare decisions and I was unable to enforce his treatment for continued stay in the facilities that he was placed in. Some facilities were simply unable to accommodate his co-occurring disorders and kicked him out the moment his behavior was not “appropriate” according to their standard. He was on a continuous escalator going up and down, getting admitted, re-admitted, discharged, and eventually forced out to be released back on the streets. My son and I agreed that he would only be allowed back home when he had at least 6 months of active treatment and sobriety. He unfortunately could not uphold his part of the agreement and instead chose to go back out on the street, living in washes, under bridges, ashamedly committing illegal activities to fund his habit and start using again.
I often wonder if I would have asked him during one of his non-lucid moments to sit and plan his funeral arrangements if maybe that would have pushed him to finally surrender to the help that he was given and remain sober. Wishing for that wonderful day that I would have my semi-whole son back in my life. That was my continual prayer every moment of his adult life. My prayer for all those struggling with addiction and for those loved ones holding on to hope that their child, sibling, parent, family member, friend would finally “return home” one day.
As a mother, I tried everything and anything to get him the help he needed. Even going as far as using his young son as a method to push him into recovery… unfortunately, even that was unsuccessful. Yes, I have always loved my son, but despised the ugliness of the shell of who he was when he was high and/or not taking his meds appropriately. My rational mind knew that one day his addiction and lifestyle would be too much for his body to recover from; my heart released control of the situation over to God a long time ago… but nothing, absolutely nothing, prepared my soul for his death.
A few months ago, Jesus’ death was publicized due to the current political climate within our local police department. Never could I have imagined losing my child, but having his tragic death aired on national television and posted all over social media will forever be etched in my mind. A mixture of methamphetamine, fentanyl, and buprenorphine killed my son. Seven minutes… that is how long it took for them to pronounce my son dead at the scene. There is nothing more permanent and painful than burying your child and I would do anything humanely possible to fight for another seven minutes to have him back.
I would like for his death to have a purpose.
Though my son’s life, our life, has been tarnished by the ugliness of addiction and untreated mental health, and as painful as it was while he was here on earth hurting, I would like for his death to have a purpose. Please do not give up on yourself and know that there is at least one person fighting for your success. As we step into tomorrow, fight as much as you possibly can to walk towards and live in recovery. Because as much as I would love to have my son back, it is simply humanly impossible. But you are here, you are fighting the good fight and have a reason. Even in the darkest nights, the sun must rise and there is always at least one person around to lend a hand. Surrender to the greatness you are destined to become, ask for help and put those steps into action. Then, and only then, will you discover that My Son/Jesus’ story has fulfilled the purpose of at least helping one other.