Every woman who has borne children remembers the details of meeting their long anticipated baby for the first time. I suspect that for mothers who have “one and only’s”, the details are etched into memory even deeper.
My Steven came into our life October 27, 1989. He had dark eyes that locked in on my face and soon his easy smile made its appearance. This was Steven – he treasured relationships. He connected with people with deep conversations and hardy laughter.
I loved Steven with all my heart and soul. He was my “raison d’etre”. I was lucky to be a stay at home mom for the first 9 years of his life. We did everything together. I remember him sitting by me and reading his books while I sewed. Later, after his dad made the decision to leave my marriage, it truly was just the two of us. Though times became tough, we were in it together. Our theme song was “I Will Survive”. A favorite picture is the two of us singing that song at a family karaoke session up at the lake.
Because Steven loved to visit with people, he made strong impressions on the adults around him. All saw an incredible future for this bright young man who starred in Mock Trial competitions, played sports, had tons of smart friends and who talked of his ambitions of a career in cinematography. Reviewing his college options was exciting for the both of us. He finally settled on the University of Iowa and was easily accepted.
And things went off the rails.
As with his birth, the moments that pointed to a situation bigger than I knew how to handle are burned into my memory. The morning my normally early riser didn’t come out of his bedroom and I went in to find him in a deep immobile sleep……with a bottle of pills in his hand. All hell broke loose. And we found ourselves on a path that had a distinct pattern: crisis followed by “tough love” drama and then momentary resolution until the next crisis.
He made it through his college freshman year. But not well. He went to treatment that summer. Later I learned it was at treatment at Fairview he was given heroin for the first time by predatory drug dealers who stalked the patients while on their outside breaks.
Fast forward to the following May when, after not-so-successfully attempting to stop on his own with prescribed substitutes, he went to Florida for treatment. The intention was for him to be away for less than 3 months but that stretched into 9 months as he experienced short-lived relapses and bounced through multiple halfway houses.
By this time, I had developed a deep compassion for Steven’s journey with addiction. He HATED being an addict. He described addiction as having every cell in your body screaming for you do the exact thing that could kill you. Oh God to hear that and know it’s his life long struggle, it broke me. I cried so hard when he told me that.
Steven inspired awe in me too. Though he lived a daily painful battle, he looked to the future with hope and optimism. He readied himself to go back to his beloved University of Iowa. On my last visit with him, he talked about making sure he selected a roommate who was clean and sober. He was just 6 weeks away from returning to college when tragedy struck.
Later the police who examined his phone said that drug dealers absolutely harassed him by text. Likely they brought the heroin over to him for free. He succumbed to a fatal overdose after 8 months of relative sobriety. The date was June 30, 2011.
Interesting to note, Steve Rummler passed the next day.
Grief journeys suck. It’s a lonely walk and without support, I too wouldn’t have survived to bear the pain. I credit God and Steven’s friends for saving my life.
And I thank the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation for saving lives and changing the whole conversation about chronic pain and addiction recovery.
Written by Sonja Crain (Steven’s Mom)