Sometimes I like to picture an event in the way I imagine God sees it. My friend and I take our places on the crowded dance floor. How can you pass up a chance to crash a plate on the floor? I'm in Kansas City at a Greek restaurant. Dancing. Laughing.

My son is in Florida. He's high again. Driving deep into a high-crime area holding the belief he can rip off a drug dealer. He tries to pass a wad of cash, six $1 bills, to the dealer and take the drugs simultaneously. The seasoned dealer knows the gig. A gun is pulled, the car speeds off, shots are fired. Four bullets hit the car, one travels through the taillight, the back seat, the front seat into my son's back.

I wonder what God saw? I wonder if the shots coincided with my crashing plate?

nDepth: A Thousand Hail Marys to Florida

BY KELLY DYER FRY,
Vice President of News and Information, OPUBCO Communications Group
Print a PDF version of this story

My heels click against the tile as I walk down the hall toward my son's bedroom. I'm still in my suit from work. Wanted to get in a half day at least. I work for a media company as a vice president. I sit in executive meetings and look to my right and my left. Does anyone else in here have a kid shooting heroin? Doubtful. I share my story sometimes. Not often.

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I've walked down this hall too many times. So much trepidation. I hear my heart in my head. Will he be dead this time? Today I see his chest rise and fall. There is hope. "Get up! Get up right now!" I'm screaming at my 22-year-old son to get out of bed. He's stretched across the bed, beer cans strewed on the floor. The carpet is sticky. He has an itchy wool blanket covering the window. I flip on the light. His color is gray, dark circles under his eyes. He's so very thin, gaunt really. He hasn't showered in days. His jeans are frayed on the ends and carry the deep wrinkles of unwashed clothes. The tattoo across his chest reads: "I Need More." So do I. I need more for him. I need more for our family. I need more peace and I need him to live.

A part of me has accepted the fact he may not. A part of me actually acknowledges death may bring him peace. Who thinks that? What kind of mother have I become?

"We are going. You can go get in the car or you can just go." My hands are on my hips, two feet planted.

I'm remembering him now in his navy slacks, white shirt and red plaid tie. His dress uniform for Catholic School. He's 12 years old and standing at the front of the church on Christmas Eve, swaying. He always sways when he sings. "Midnight silence calm as the sky," he sings his solo in front of packed pews.

Hail Mary, Full of Grace

I start praying in my head, almost chanting. "Please, please get up. You said you would go." I don't cry anymore. I'm numb, robotic. Crying lost impact on my son years ago. I am stoic. I'm remembering a time when I sank in tears to the kitchen floor as he smashed a plate across the tile. It splintered. "Oh, that's great, Mom," he shouts. "Let's go for the f-----g drama... Whatever." He snarls as he bolts out the front door. Gone. Gone into the night. Who knows where.

image 1 Eric on a bad dayPhoto by Stephanie A. Smith

Is he meeting up with people who have gangster names like Snake and Storm? I can't even believe names like that are in my vocabulary. How did it happen? How did it get so ridiculous? How did we catapult from beer to heroin?

"I'm not going. I changed my mind," he says. Get out of my room you f-----g b---h" How? Why?

I stand firm. I'm so hardened by this language. It no longer cuts to my heart. This is not really my son talking. Not my little boy. This is a junkie. A heroin junkie.

"I'm not kidding. This time I'm serious. You can go to Florida or you can just go. It's your choice, but you can't stay here."

I think about his first run-in with alcohol. His cousin is getting married and it's fun for his cousins to let the eighth grader have a sip here and there. He plays the game around the room and before you know it, he is in the bathroom throwing up. Grandma hands him a cold rag. She laughs, "I bet he won't drink wine anymore." Everyone has those stories. Don't they? Kid tries drinking, throws up, you hope they learn from mistakes. I know intimately now that some kids move past that stage. For some, a hole opens up and swallows them ... and you go too. Everyone starts sliding. Sliding into the dark hole.

Sam, Kelly and Eric at the wedding where Eric first drank alcohol. Sam, Kelly and Eric at the wedding where Eric first drank alcohol.

He's calling my bluff. I have to be resolute.

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with me. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Hail Mary ...

"I'm calling Ed and Mandy and getting my job back," he barks. They won't take him back, I know this. They care enough about him to let him fall. After years of struggling, I do too. I still can't bring myself to let him roam the streets of Oklahoma City. I'm not as strong as some of the parents who cut their children off in an effort to save their lives. I know Eric would never stand for it. He most likely would end up on his brother's couch. It's too much to ask of my youngest son, Sam. Junkies have vast networks of enablers. It would be months of imposing on others before he landed in the streets. I believe he doesn't have time on his side anymore. I believe he will die soon.

I look him in the eye and say slowly, enunciating each word like I did when he was young. "We. Are. Going. You will not talk me out of it. Just get in the car. Now." "OK, but I'm not showering." Just another assault. Just a silly gesture to show he's still in control.

image 3 (top)Eric's first communion. (bottom)Brothers Eric 5 and Sam 2.

"Fine," I shrug. I have already packed his clothes and the car is loaded. He walks to the car without a shirt on. A blanket is wrapped around his shoulders, dragging behind his bare, dirty feet. I'm driving his used Honda Accord. This is one of many cars I have bought my son. He once gave one away to a dealer he owed money. Of course that makes no sense. And why would I buy him another one? When you are living in the dark world of drugs, everyone's will and logic is askew. I want to do the right thing as the parent of an addict. But there's something that prevents me from having the strength. I've made plenty of bad decisions and plenty of good ones. It's a roll of the dice every single day. An addict will test you over and over and over again. He will wear you down and zap you of all your energy. There are some days I only put one foot in front of the other. A good friend once told me angels only come to your aid when you invite them. "Angels, Angels, Angels," I repeat in almost a "Beetlejuice" chant. I picture my angels like Secret Service men. They walk beside me, steadying me. They talk into their wrists and say things like "I got this one." I let go. Let go and let God. I've heard this statement many times as I sat in a folding chair behind the sign shop at an Al-Anon meeting. I went faithfully for many years. I learned a lot from those people. Inner strength. They are impressive. I keep meaning to go back to another meeting. Tired. I just get tired of being the mother of an addict.

Finally, we are in the car. "I need cigarettes, he shouts. I can't do this. I'm going to be dope sick." We are 50 hours away from West Palm Beach. We are going to the Sunset House. I know of this place due to the kindness of strangers. I posted to an Internet message board. Parents Helping Parents in Edmond has a dedicated group of bruised parents who stand shoulder to shoulder and fight valiantly to save their children or yours. I wrote that I was out of money and out of ideas. Eric's addiction bill soared well beyond $100,000. I got an email then a phone call from the founder of the group. I've spoken to this kind man before. Six years ago when my son was a senior in high school, he spoke frankly to me on the phone when I told him I didn't think I could force my son into treatment because he was 17 years old. That's too old. Right? According to the law? "What do you think will happen to you?" he said firmly. "Do you think someone's going to come arrest you? Put that young man in the car and get him there." So I did just that. That day we had two cars. My older brother and I rode in one. Eric, his brother Sam and a friend were in the other. More antics. More bad negotiation with a young addict. Seventeen years old. As we made our way to Hazelstreet in Texarkana, the trip started unraveling. It ended with a foot chase in a small town. I called 911 and the local boys showed up with guns in hand. "He's just a scared kid," I screamed. "Put that gun back in your holster. Now." Crazy mothers scare people. They did as asked. He eventually stayed 90 days at Hazelstreet. That's what we agreed upon before he went. I learn later how silly it is to negotiate a length of stay with an addict. Nonetheless, he learned about addiction. It was his first foray into education of the disease. The staff was tremendous and he was safe for at least 90 days. His brother and I enjoyed the peace and quiet.

Eric and Sam visit outside Hazelstreet in Texarkana. Eric and Sam visit outside Hazelstreet in Texarkana.

This time the Parents Helping Parents gentleman came to my rescue again. He asked if he could give my phone number to another mom who knew of some programs that might be of interest. A couple days later, I get a call from a soft-spoken mom. She asked me to meet her for lunch that day. Moms know not to put things off when dealing with addicts. Any second could be their last. She mentions I will recognize her because she is bald. "I've been undergoing chemo," she says. I'm humbled. God has sent me another angel. This one has a scarf around her head and she has reached out mother to mother. Amazing. Grace. She tells me how her son went to Sunset House in West Palm Beach and how he's now in college studying to be a chemical dependency counselor. I have always secretly held the dream that Eric would someday use his speaking talents to reach others. I always try to make sense of all this. If something good could just come of all this. Anything. My son was a state finalist debater in high school. He has great speaking abilities, and wins friends with ease.

I know in my heart that he and I need space between us. We are tangled up. One of us breathes in, the other out. We pull together then push apart. His maturity stopped when he was about 16. Drugs took over then. I watched as his brother, three years his younger passed him emotionally. I fought hard to stop his descent into addiction. I held on tightly. Too tightly.

We pass Tinker Air Force Base on I-40 East. I want to point out the window like I did when he was a small child and say "Look at the planes." But I sit in silence, white knuckles on the steering wheel.

Hail Mary, Full of grace.

He starts to shiver. I'm a little worried he might jump from the moving car, but I take solace in the fact he buckled his seat belt. There's a part of him that wants to survive. "You're going to have to stop," he says as his teeth start to chatter. We've only been on the road for 20 minutes. Florida is a long way off. Must drive. Must keep going. I don't know if I'm running away from something or running toward something. Confusion.

The Lord is with me, blessed art thou among women.

I pull off the interstate to a gas station. He pulls on a shirt. No shoes. "I need some money." This sets off an emotion. A struggle. Every time I hand him money, I get a pit in my stomach. This time seems harmless enough. He comes out of the gas station with a paper sack. In it is a large beer, the kind with tomato juice already mixed in. "I have to drink this. It's going to be really hard to detox on the way to Florida. We can't make it." We will make it. Angels, angels, angels.

Another one of those reality moments smacks me in the face. I'm driving with my son down the interstate as he sips beer. I make him pour it in a large Sonic cup. How? Why? This is ridiculous. I tell myself to keep going.

(top left)Eric, age 15 months.(top right)Christmas ages 5 (Eric) and 2 (Sam). (bottom left)Eric, freshman year at Edmond Memorial High School. (bottom right)Sam, Kelly and Eric skiing in Red River. (top left)Eric, age 15 months.(top right)Christmas ages 5 (Eric) and 2 (Sam). (bottom left)Eric, freshman year at Edmond Memorial High School. (bottom right)Sam, Kelly and Eric skiing in Red River.

I'm remembering when Eric was about 2 years old. He's outside playing in the snow. He's wearing a red coat that is so full it makes his arms stick out. He's plowing slowly through a drift. It's almost waist high for him. I hear him repeating, "Keeeeep going. Keeeeep going."

That's what I will do today. Keeeep going.

And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

We are trying to reach Memphis by evening. We left OKC just before noon. Eric is still fidgeting. He can't sit still. He's sweating then freezing. Agitated. He wants more beer though we have stopped several times for him to fill up his Route 44 Sonic cup. We also stop frequently for him to go to the bathroom. He tries watching the DVD player. I have a sack full of movies. The whole second season of one of his favorite TV shows, "House." I can't really hear the movie so I have a book on tape. "The Book Thief." It's a good book, but my mind wanders. I constantly have to back up and find my place. I give up. I switch to Pandora. The music seems to add a bizarre soundtrack to our long drive. My firstborn son is smoking cigarettes. Sipping on a beer. I'm driving. Searching. Is there anyone who will help my son? Will someone look beyond the shaggy haired young man and see the desperation in his eyes. I check to see if his seat belt is still on. Yes. Hope.

We pull into Memphis. It's dusk. We need to find a pharmacy. Maybe Benadryl can ease his crawly skin. "It feels like it's on fire. Make it stop." He stammers as his teeth click. I decide to pull off the Interstate and find a store. Wrong turn. The exit I have taken is deep into a very rough part of Memphis. There are droves of men standing next to barrels with fire shooting from the top. It looks like a movie scene. They are openly smoking pipes. Meth? Crack? I don't know. It's Halloween and mothers dressed in short skirts are teetering on high heels as they walk their children down the sidewalks. There's Spiderman. A princess. It's a stark contrast. Hookers, dealers, batman, mamas, ghosts, junkies, strollers. Broken humanity. What chance do these mothers have to keep their children off drugs. I lived in Edmond and spent every penny I had to send my children to Catholic school. I was a homeroom mom and volunteered in the lunchroom. I vowed that my children would not miss out on my involvement at their school. I would never lean on the fact I was a working single mom.

(top)Eric, home for Easter. (bottom)Mom and son pose for a photo during a visit home. (top)Eric, home for Easter. (bottom)Mom and son pose for a photo during a visit home.

"Mom, pull over. It's so easy. I can score. Pull over, Stop. Hurry." Eric is rambling. Speaking nonsense, gibberish. His voice has taken on the quality of someone I don't recognize: "Come on, pull over, Baby. Whatchou doin?" Who is he? I speed forward trying to make my way to a safer part of town. It seems like I drive for miles before I find my way back on the Interstate. His voice is back to normal. He shakes his head. For the first time in eight hours he speaks to me in a civil tone. "Oh. My. Gosh. Mom, did you hear me back there, it's like I really thought you would pull over. How crazy is that?"

Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

I want to press on, but my left leg is aching. My neck is in knots and that one spot on my left shoulder blade is burning. Stress brings on the hot poker. Eric is in no condition to help drive. He's nauseous now, gagging periodically. He stares out the side window. He's always done this in a car. I remember looking back at him in his car seat. He would gaze out the side window the whole trip. It's a metaphor for how he does life. He rarely looks forward. If you look forward, you might see danger, obstacles, consequences.

An hour or so beyond Memphis we stop. It's a motel. We are on the second-floor balcony. I want to call my husband, Eric's step-father. I want to connect with reality. But I can't call in front of Eric. I can't carry on a conversation with him listening. I want to tell my husband that I am hurting. I want to hear his voice, his support. Eric steps out on the balcony to smoke a cigarette. I worry that he may somehow steal away into the night. I play scenarios through my head. I play " what if." I make a few phone calls, but I can't really express what I am feeling. I'm in a fog. When your child is sick, it can be very lonely. Everyone offers support but it's like childbirth — it comes down to you and your child. Through the years other parents stopped asking about Eric. They thought they were being kind, not wanting to embarrass me. But I wanted to scream. Please don't give up on my child. He's a fighter. He has to pull through. I told Eric many years ago I would never give up. "I'm fighting if you're fighting. Any given day," I would say. "Any given day you can turn it all around." I don't know how many times I have asked God to let my child live long enough to get help. I'm a glass half-full person. Every trip to rehab would be his last. I'm remembering his trip to a 90-day stint at Narconon. We had a particularly rough event that led to that stay. As young boys Eric and his brother had a saying. "I'm going to hit you in the face." It was an empty threat. Neither of them had ever struck his own brother in the face. Until that night. Eric was frantic, high. He said he owed money to a dealer and feared retaliation. Another mistake on my part. What to do? I go to the ATM at 7-11 and withdraw $400. I live in a crazy world of fear and desperation. I don't belong here. How? Why? When I return, Eric wants to leave. I grab his keys and he pulls back. His brother joins in and the three of us are in a wrestling match. Then it happens. Eric hits his brother in the face. Unspeakable. Unforgivable. We all know we have crossed into new territory. We stop. We look at each other. Eric grabs the keys and runs out the door. His brother yells. "Why did you let him go, Mom? Why?" I can't answer. I am broken, frozen. His brother has sacrificed too much. He's been my rock. Very stable at too young of an age. I will not allow violence to break this family even further.

When Eric returns he knows the world looks differently now. He struck his brother in the face. He agrees to go to treatment. I get on the phone, start calling places. Anyplace. He needs help. His brother and I do too. He leaves for Narconon the next day. Neither of us knows much about it, but it's an immediate relief. We need that. I put $10,000 on a credit card. He stays for 90 days. Strange experience, but once again — a much-needed break from his drug use.

Eric, Kelly and Sam before the Oklahoma Outreach Foundation dinner in October. Eric, Kelly and Sam before the Oklahoma Outreach Foundation dinner in October.

I don't know if this trip will be any different, but I have to try. I've run out of options. Maybe I'm finally ready to "Let go and let God," as they say in Al-Anon. Telling a mother to let go of her child is hard to comprehend, believe. But I know he won't live if he doesn't put distance between him and the dealers. He told me how easy it was to get heroin. How he'd see mothers driving minivans with kids in car seats lined up to pick up their fix. Or men in nice cars wearing business suits. "You never really know, Mom," he said. "It's more people than you would ever think."

It's late now. The room is dark except for the glow of the television. Eric showered and is leaning against two pillows clicking through channels on the TV. He tells me his skin hurts. "Mom, remember when we used to watch ER," he says. "Yeah," I say. Silence. We both know he was referring to better days. We don't have to talk to have understanding. I breathe in, he breathes out.

I wake up early. We slept with the TV on. I shower and go to the lobby for breakfast. I look around the small room. An older couple is sharing conversation over their Styrofoam bowls of cereal. I wonder what life has dealt them. Did they have children? Grandchildren? Has addiction been a part of their family story? I've heard addiction affects 50 percent of our population. If you are not an addict, you have still been affected by one. I balance my bagel and coffee, stick a banana under my arm. I grab a muffin, too. Maybe Eric will eat something. I head for the elevator and the woman I had seen in the lobby is getting on the elevator at the same time. She has gray hair, I think she's a snowbird headed south. I want to drop everything and fall into her arms. In my head I am saying "Please, help me. Pray for me and my son." The bell dings, we both get off. She smiles tenderly. Maybe she heard me, I think.

I get back to the room and Eric is still in bed. "Please get up. We have to get going." He snarls, but rolls out of bed and begins to complain. "Oh my God," he says. "It's not any better. When will it get better?" I realize I will face another day of driving. No help is coming. Keep going.

Eric in West Palm Beach. Eric in West Palm Beach.

Eric is not much better today, but seems to be resigned that we are not turning back. He doesn't sleep much but when he does, I try to be totally quiet. Just like when he was a toddler taking a morning nap. That's when I got the beds made, laundry going as quietly as possible. If I was lucky, I could sit down and read the paper; but only if I was really quiet. Now his sleep brings some semblance of peace within our car. By 11 a.m. he's drinking beer again. Less than yesterday, so maybe that's an improvement. I have no idea what the open container laws are in Tennessee. When you are struggling with heroin withdrawal, open container laws seem trivial. Logic gets skewed when you are sliding deeper and deeper into the hole.

Just three months earlier I was driving Eric to a rehab center in Cushing. He spent 30 days there, just long enough to fully detox and clear his head. His heart was filled with hope and promise, but that's the way it works for addicts. They don't intend to relapse. They don't do it to hurt you. Sometimes I see HOPE in all caps. Sometimes I can barely see it. I held lots of hope after his stay in Cushing, but it started to flicker just days after he was home. He was staying in an Oxford House with other recovering addicts and alcoholics. It's a haven with its own democratic rules and accountability. Good system, he just was not ready. As I've heard so many times, some folks hit bottom and keep digging.

We are through Chattanooga now and heading on to Atlanta. I see a truck ahead of us and notice a wobbly tire and faint black smoke. I slow down and say, "watch that tire, it's about to come off." It does and he looks at me with wonder. "How did you know that?" I tell him I was paying attention, looking ahead, watching. He gives me a look. He knows I'm trying to make it a life lesson about learning to anticipate what lies ahead. He lives his life looking in the rearview mirror, seldom wondering what his actions may bring.

It is a tremendous blessing that my son has never been in serious trouble with the law. His only brush with the police was when his car tag was written down by a convenience store clerk. It involved a foolish prank of yelling "yeehaw" and running out the store with a 12-pack of beer. He went to the police station to turn himself in. They actually laughed at him for doing so. He got a slap on the wrist and no permanent record of the incident. But he's always been lucky. And in many cases lucky to be alive. He once fell about 25 feet through a tree he was climbing. The limbs broke his fall all the way down to the sidewalk. He's been hit by two different teen drivers. Once when he was 4 riding his three wheeler in the cul-de-sac and another time when a teenage girl thought she had cleared his front bike tire, but instead threw him into the curb. For once he was wearing his helmet.

When he was 20, night terrors sent him soaring through a second-story window. He landed headfirst in a row of shrubs. His roommate called me to come to the hospital. The nurse stopped me outside his room and asked if blood made me queasy. I said no, but was not really prepared for what I saw. His chest and stomach were covered in blood-soaked gauze. His leg looked like it had been cut open with a garden hoe. I could see muscle and bone. His wrist was broken. When he hit the ground, he jumped to his feet and ran up the street. He left a trail of blood I would later clean with peroxide. Take two steps, stop and pour peroxide on the deep red stain. Watch the bubble wash away the terror. The wrist surgery offered a new high for my son. He loved hydrocodone. He pulled his cast off one day and called me screaming that he had to go see the doctor. His doctor was wise and after poking around his hand discovered that he did not have consistent reaction to pain. He looked me in the eye and said he would not give my son more pain medication. "I lost a bright young intern once to pain killers. I won't contribute to this." We left with a new cast and very few pain relievers. But the trigger had been pulled. He liked the new high and would start a new chase. Addicts love new highs.

He has slowed his drinking and seems to be sleeping more now. I drive and I drive and I drive. It is sheer will that keeps me going. As a child one of my favorite toys was a blow up clown with sand in the bottom. I loved it when he always popped back up. I'm the one now that has to add sand to my shoes. I have to keep standing back up to fight another day. Exhaustion. Hot poker in my left shoulder blade. The second day of driving passes in a blur. We stop just north of the Florida border. I want to press on, but I am out of strength.

Eric feeding the wildlife at Jupiter Pier Eric feeding the wildlife at Jupiter Pier

Neither of us is sleeping well so we decide to get up about 5 a.m. and continue our drive. We stop for breakfast at a waffle house that seems like it's in the middle of nowhere. It is empty except for a couple of guys loitering outside the front door. We order. Once we get our food, the cook wanders outside to talk to the men smoking cigarettes by the front door. We look at each other nervously, something doesn't feel right. We eat quickly. Our bill comes to the table. It is twice the amount it should be. "Mom, just pay it. We need to leave right now." He has an innate sense for trouble. That's probably what has kept him alive in some dangerous situations. I leave $40 cash on the table and hurry to the car. "Don't make eye contact, Mom." Back in the car, a sigh of relief. I'm encouraged by his protective attitude. My son loves me deeply. He does not mean to hurt me. Addicts are not punishers. They are very sick people in need of help. I know this in my head, but my heart still carries sadness. Did I fail as a mom? Did I fail to protect him?

Once we enter Florida we begin to see signs to Orlando. He's only had a couple beers today. As we get closer to Orlando, we begin to see the Disney signs. Stops for gas bring back memories of taking the kids to Disney World. I see families with matching colored shirts headed for the theme parks. Some have names on the back like Daddy, Mommy or Grandma. I hear kids asking for stuffed Disney characters. I once was one of those parents. Taking my sons, 7 and 10, along with my niece to Disney World. It seems like yesterday. I wonder what's in store for these families. Today I feel miles away from the magic of Disney.

Finally, West Palm Beach. Our plan is to stay one night in a hotel then check in the next day to Sunset House. We have talked to them by phone many times. They are expecting us the next day. We check into a beachside hotel with hopes of getting a good night's rest. He is still sick, but it now seems to come in waves. He's nervous about checking in without being fully detoxed. We go for a walk on the beach. The tension is palpable. He knows I am leaving the next day without him. My flight is booked for the afternoon. Exhausted, I go to bed early. In the morning I go down to the beach for a walk. I sit, drink coffee. The ocean feels like a healing place. I pray. I plead. I pray for wisdom, patience and perseverance. I must leave my son here. I must go.

Hail Mary, full of grace ...

People at the Sunset House are very supportive. I check him in. I make the sign of the cross on his forehead, tell him I love him and get in the cab to drive away. The Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen.

Of course that's not the end. But it does prove to be a beginning.

Within weeks he is asked to leave the Sunset House. He has not stopped using. New drug connections were made within days of moving to his new city. I tell him he cannot come home. He moves to another halfway house which proves to be disastrous.

My husband and I are in Kansas City with friends. We just got home from a Greek Restaurant with our friends. A fun night. My cellphone rings. I don't hear any words but "Your son has been shot." Terror. By early morning I'm on a flight to West Palm Beach. I have talked to him and I know that he is OK. The doctors tell him the bullet will have to remain in his back. It is one inch from his spine. One inch away from a spinal cord injury. One inch away.

I pick him up in my rental car and we drive to a nearby restaurant to talk. I have no idea what to do. I am lost. The only thing I know for sure is that he cannot stay in that place. We drive back there and a few of the men help carry his things to the car. I can tell they are not sober. This halfway house is a sham. An older gentleman leans into my car, looks me in the eye and says sincerely. "You are doing the right thing. Get him out of here."

Eric clowning around at the Turtle Sanctuary. Eric clowning around at the Turtle Sanctuary.

Where do we go now? I don't have a laptop, I feel helpless, out of my element. I need to get online and explore other options. I cannot take him home. There is no future there. It would be almost a death sentence. I know the bullet in his back has brought him a new revelation. A new bottom. "Mom, they wouldn't listen to me in the hospital. I told them I was different. I had insurance. They thought I was a gang banger. They were awful." As he spoke these words I could see in his eyes he realized what he was saying. We paused. We looked each other in the eye. No words, just understanding.

With all his belongings in the car we started driving. I didn't know where to go. We went to a Kmart where they had a bank of computers set up for public access. It's tremendously difficult to navigate a strange city. No networks. No friends. No colleagues. I take him to another emergency room to get rechecked. I want to talk to a doctor. I want to hear him say that the bullet in my son's back must stay there.

I've never felt more alone. Guns and violence have no place in my world. I'm not sure how to fit this in. How do I process this? How do I understand? I'm struggling this time to put more sand in my shoes.

When we leave Kmart we get back in the car. I look down and see something blue sticking out from my seat. I reach down and pick up a business card from The Sunset House. I stare at it. I have no idea how it got there but I am wise enough to take it as a positive sign. I call the kind man at Sunset. "I've been worried sick," he says. "How is he. I've been calling hospitals." After a long conversation he tells me he wants him to come back to the Sunset House. They want to try again. I feel like a miracle has been handed to us. Another chance. Hope.

Mother Teresa said, "God doesn’t choose the qualified. He qualifies the chosen."

Our hope comes from faith. Faith that God will qualify us to persevere. Time after time we have fallen. I say we because I am his mother. It is that simple. The opposite of hope is despair. We cannot live there.

It has been just over two years since the shooting. He stayed at Sunset House for 15 months. He had a relapse when he left but I can say today he is good. And I can only talk about today. But what a blessing today is.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee...