‘I couldn’t save him. Love couldn’t save him. For 4 hours they left his body there. They questioned me; they searched my house. I’ve stayed clean. He didn’t.’ Woman struggles to overcome husband’s death from heroin overdose

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“I thought we had everything. We weren’t rich, far from it, we struggled. But we had love, and each other. Two beautiful little twin girls, a home. The best part of my day was watching him with our girls after work. Pure, unconditional love. I didn’t know that night when I went to bed, I didn’t know my life was about to change forever.

Courtesy of Paula Bernard

I had been coaching at cheer practice while he was home with the twins. I rolled my eyes as I left to drive home, reading his text telling me they were having ‘so much fun that the house was kind of messy.’ He had tucked them into bed by the time I walked through the door. I was so glad to be home. I loved being with him, just doing nothing, just being together. This weekend he was meant to be home before leaving to work out of state for a week. He was so worried about leaving me alone. He hated leaving me, he knew taking care of toddler twins was a handful. He always appreciated my role as a stay-at-home-mom and was the most amazing father. Helping in every way he could.

Courtesy of Paula Bernard

Around midnight we both decided to head to bed, the usual ‘I love you’s’…exhausted…I remember him rubbing my back as I drifted off to sleep.

At 5:00 a.m., I awoke to use the bathroom. I guess he couldn’t sleep? He wasn’t in bed. He must be downstairs with a bowl of cereal and an episode of ‘Stranger Things.’ Ok, I’ll go see. The darkness that hit me as I made my way down the stairs seemed strange. The TV wasn’t on. No living room lights. Just a faint glow from the bottom of the bathroom door.

‘Hun… Whatcha doing? You ok in there?’

Silence.

‘Hun…?’

Silence.

I tried turning the knob, and it wouldn’t budge. Locked. I remember my heartbeat growing rapidly faster… I remember my voice getting louder… and I remember banging my fists on the door. I can also remember grabbing my phone and quickly dialing those numbers… 9-1-1… for what seemed like eternity. I can see myself kicking…pounding…trying so hard to break through that door.

At some point I saw the ambulance and let them through, directing them to the bathroom. In an instant a paramedic busted the door in, as I stood close behind. There he was. The love of my life, my soulmate, the father of my children. He was gone. It took me only a second to run out the front door and into the cold. I didn’t know where I was running, just away from the horror I had just seen. I wanted to erase it in that moment, it couldn’t be more than a bad dream. The blur of a voice approaching said, ‘I’m sorry.’ The flashing blue lights that began to engulf my driveway were next. My babies. What about my babies?

‘I’m not ok, don’t tell me I’m ok.’ My home turned into a crime scene. For 4 hours they left his body there. They questioned me, they searched my house. Nothing can prepare you for that. Nothing. Nothing can take away the pain of trying to accept he is gone. Forever. The pain of instantly trying to imagine what your life will be, what your children’s life will be without a father. How much hurt and anger can fill your soul at once?

Courtesy of Paula Bernard

That was the night that changed my life forever. This disease took him from us. Addiction. I’ve spent the last year and a half trying to put the pieces back together. My heart was shattered. I’ve struggled to find a way to explain to 3-year-olds where ‘dadda’ is. I’ve continued to try to make peace, even as I’ve gone on to lose more, like the house we made together. But, I’ve stayed clean. He didn’t. And it was too late, in one tiny instant. I couldn’t save him. Love couldn’t save him.

Courtesy of Paula Bernard

I hate that we are a number now… a statistic. He wasn’t my statistic. Six months it took for the toxicology to come back because of the backup at the medical examiner’s office. He wasn’t just a number to me or my girls.

I know he is no longer in pain, I do my best to remind myself that he is finally at peace with his demons. Either way, none of it seems fair. I know he didn’t want to leave us. I know he didn’t want to die. I also know, that unfortunately, I am not alone. My hurt is repeating itself every day across this country. I will continue to fight my own disease and to pray for the addict that still suffers. For myself and for my children. Life is worth it. We are worth it. RIP my love. EJF 12/20/80-1/13/18.

Courtesy of Paula Bernard
Courtesy of Paula Bernard

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Paula Bernard of Nashua, New Hampshire. A version of her story originally appeared on this addiction recovery Facebook page. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more compelling stories of loved ones fighting addictions:

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