Forgiving The Forgotten: Memories of an Addict

Posted: June 9, 2015 in life, mourning

Heart of gold and the soul of a saint; imprisoned in a sinner’s body, led by a faulty mind. This was my mother’s war. Day in and day out she fought a losing battle against the demons degenerating her mind, leading her to survive by any means necessary. Her desperate attempts at finding normalcy and mending fences with those she had wronged along the way would succumb to the need to feed her addiction. To the unempathetic she was a leech, sucking the blood from anyone who dared show her kindness; a sentiment we often echo as a society when viewing those in destitute. An attitude I quickly adopted as a teen toward my mother when I could no longer excuse her inability to help herself. Truth of the matter is she was sick, unable to fulfill her most basic needs. Her life was a reflection of destructive decisions and a type of solitude only felt by the unforgiven and forgotten.

My childhood prayers were dominated by a common request of asking God to get my mother help, moreover to ensure she got home each night safely. See by the time I turned 13 I had been there for my mother’s schizophrenic episodes, I had spent a summer visiting her in the mental ward, I had seen her choked, beaten and thrown through walls. I was also there while she attempted to cope. I tried talking to her when her speech was slurred beyond comprehension from abusing pain pills. I was in the car when she traded an old VCR for crack. I signed my sister’s excuse blanks when my mother was too far gone to drag herself out of bed. And through it all I prayed, I begged she’d see the light and better herself for our sake. I didn’t care that we lived in a roach filled apartment, or that by her early 30’s she had taken on the appearance of someone who lost all will to live. I still saw the good in my mother. I wanted the best for her and though I begrudged her on a daily basis for her decisions, I knew deep down there was a genuinely good person. I know because no matter how strung out she had become she always wanted for our happiness. There was little she could control, but she understood school and friends meant the world to me, so despite multiple moves, we never left Leechburg. Barely able to care for herself she still pulled it together to make sure our clothes were clean. And the rare occasions (the 1st of the month) there was fresh food to cook we were sure to be served a home-cooked meal. Most importantly she had enough presence of mind to build a strong relationship between us and our grandparents. At the time, I felt my prayers fell upon deaf ears, but reflecting back I realize my Grandparents were the godsend I had requested.

I began dealing with the loss of my mother 20 years ago when I was awoken late one school night by my Pap explaining that I needed to gather my things and go with him to the jailhouse. She had been picked up attempting to solicit drugs to an undercover officer. From that day until college, I turned my back on my mother. Her life spiraled. I mourned. I suppressed any sadness or sympathy I could muster and turned a cold shoulder to her apologies and requests to spend time together. I spent so much of my childhood hiding what she had become, I rationalized away the guilt I felt. She was dead to me.

IMG950199Thing is I still remembered who she was deep down. The version of her who loved me and my sis unconditionally. The woman who spent the better part of my life encouraging me to conquer the world. Eventually, the anger and disdain subsided. I began to understand her mental illnesses and realized real world problems, particularly addiction, don’t get solved through turning a blind eye or casting someone aside in hopes they can muster the strength to fix themselves. Most can’t. Still, for the past two decades the most I could feel was sympathy for my mother. I remained guarded, feeling that if I became empathetic, if I extended too much of a helping hand she would prey upon my generosity. I would go so far as to pick up the tab when she’d bottom out and I’d answer her calls in moments of clarity where I realized not every call was a plea for cash, but more so a subtle cry for help. The mix of excitement and hurt in her voice each time I answered the phone made me often question if I was right to distance myself. Unfortunately, I was so concerned with protecting myself from her lifestyle that I never stepped in and offered her a way out. She was too far gone in my eyes, perhaps I was just too far removed.

Friday evening I couldn’t sleep. I was physically and mentally exhausted from the long hours of play during the World Series of Poker, yet I couldn’t quiet my thoughts. My mother was on my mind in a way that I hadn’t felt since I was a kid. I questioned why it was so easy for me to treat her like a burden, and why I hadn’t made more of an effort to extend a helping hand in a meaningful way, not just financially. Having come from nothing, I have no tolerance for the apathetic crowd turning a blind eye to the poor souls who have been beaten to their knees by life. Yet, there I laid. It was that internal struggle that finally allowed me to acknowledge I had forgiven her. That through it all I was a better man for having been raised by a woman who did everything wrong but truly ached to make it all right. I closed my eyes with a promise to myself that the next time she called I would answer…

I found out the next day my Mom had passed away late Friday night, peacefully in her sleep.


  1. Khou Fang says:

    Wow! Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. It has touched my soul in depths that I didn’t know existed.


    • Berkey11 says:

      I’m very flattered it resonated with you on such a powerful level. Thank you for taking the time to read it and comment.


  2. Brian Fiorisi says:

    Matt, I’m truly sorry about your loss and also sorry I didn’t know more about you. I think your mother is very proud of the man you’ve become.


  3. Josh Leslie says:

    My condolences, you have always represented yourself and your family with integrity and respect.


  4. Danielle says:

    I can honestly say your mother was a good hearted person because I have known her for many years. My mother and my aunts are fellow addicts who have been in her life daily for as long as i can remember. My mother has been clean for years but I cannot say the same for my aunts or patty sadly. I really enjoyed your article thank you for showing her in a positive light because she was always a good person.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. uncle mark says:

    thank you Matt your heart is big and your kindness is one of a kind. your mom,pap,grandma, sister,and all of us are proud of you. your mom and pap are up in heaven drinkin a beer talking about how proud they are of you. keep being a great person.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jeremy Baker says:

    Thanks for sharing, Matt.
    Because it is a small town, people often overlook the darkness that can also happen in a place like Leechburg. I hope you have found healing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Terry Trinclisti says:


    Liked by 1 person

  8. Maryann says:

    What a wonderful tribute you left for your mother.She has to be so proud of you. Your mom was fighting a never ending battle. I feel for anyone with this illness. It is a struggle everyday for them. I have talked to you quite often since helping your Grandmother and I know you turned out to be a wonderful person and you did the best you could for your mom. She is in a better place now. Take care of yourself Matt. Maryann

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Christina Shumpert says:

    Our Mother’s were dear friends. My mother also suffered with addiction and lost her battle in 2002. Being raised by a drug addict is never easy. Thank you for sharing your story. I only hope it can help someone in their time of need. May God bless you. May your Mother RIP! She truly was a beautiful person. Best wishes to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Jordan Kovalcik says:


    I am deeply sorry for your loss. The words you wrote are extremely powerful and have an incredible amount of meaning. I wish you and your family strength during this time.


  11. Matt Shaner says:

    So very sorry for your loss my man. Your a very inspirational writer and you touched my heart. I too battled addiction, and I know first hand the struggles, it’s never easy. May your heart and mind be at peace now, knowing she is in a better place, with God.


  12. Jason Brown says:

    My condolences to you and your family. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts at this time. I honor your courage. There is no fear in your eyes brother. I admire you in a lot of ways. My beloved mom was an addict, she passed away late 2012, I come from a similar struggle.
    Man…. Your a warrior dude. I salute you.
    Thank you dude. Thank you for scaring the crap out of me when with your fierce table demeanor and calculated barrage of betting.
    Thank you for your words of encouragement while I was fighting for my life as an underdog, it truly meant the world to me and still does..
    I’m rooting for you ” Bizerkey ”

    Rest in Peace Miss Berkey, Thank you for making a warrior a true champion Matt Berkey.


    • Berkey11 says:

      Man, I don’t even know what to say. Thank you for the kind words and for holding me in such high regard. I’m very sorry to hear that you can relate so closely to my story, but just know I commiserate. Hope you’re still crushing and that all is well.


  13. Josh Mezzacapo says:

    Hey Berk, my condolences to you and your family. I’m sorry to read of your mothers passing, I’ll keep you in my prayers. You are such a great and positive person and I’m thankful I have the privilege of calling you a friend. Your message is powerful and eloquent in mind and word and I truly admire you as a person. I know we don’t see each other often but the love is there always, and if you ever need a friend by your side I’m only a call away. You are the alpha of all alphas. Best wishes and all my love. – Josh.


    • Berkey11 says:

      As articulate as I may be I can’t seem to find the words to express my gratitude. I hope you know I genuinely appreciate you and everyone else who has taken the time to read my mother’s story and respond with their thoughts. Hope all is well. Cya soon I’m sure.


  14. Terri (Myers) Emehizer says:

    Matthew how beautifully worded. I know your pain as my sister has been fighting the same demons most of her life. Her two children love her but on the other hand are trapped in her world. You are a wonderful young man blessed by the stepping stones of your life. Addiction is so easy to judge and not easily understood. I pray God continues to bless you.


  15. Debi says:

    What amazing words, you are truly amazing with words and I would like to say I am greatful to have come across this article and want to give my condolences to you and your family. I too come from a family with addictions, and a mother who passed away, a father who has gone to the dark side due to the loss, and a sister that has lost her adult children due to the way she “chose her addiction over them as children” (in their eyes). I would like to share this post with my dad and nieces in hopes that my dad could see what may and my nieces can see what could. As well as with my sister to see there’s still hope in forgiveness. Thanks you for sharing your story.


  16. […] before he became like a brother to me. We had free reign of the town as his mom worked a lot and mine was effectively comatose 24/7. His house became a second home to me, and mine was one to him. As I continued to expand my social […]


  17. […] for guidance and supervision– the caveat being I believed those conversations would get my mother off the streets safely and that my aspirations would miraculously come to fruition through blind faith and optimism. The […]


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