Giana moved from bedroom to bedroom as the installers worked, sick from withdrawal. At one point, I was passing through the upstairs hallway and glanced into the guest room. She had gotten out of bed and was changing her clothes. The door was half open. She was naked, bent over, pulling off her socks. Her skin had a bluish hue, and she was very thin. She startled when she saw me and straightened up. On her side was a new tattoo, one I hadn’t seen before. It was script in a fancy font. My first response was anger, thinking that she had frittered away money on nonsense. I closed the door and hurried away, not knowing exactly where the window installers were in the house.

Later I wanted to know what the tattoo said. The quote was from a song called “If You Don’t, Don’t” by a band called Jimmy Eat World, which of course I had never heard of. The lyric was: “Even if your heart would listen, I doubt I could explain.” A part of me responded by thinking, What a self-indulgent, adolescent bunch of BS. But not all of me—the words were sad. Giana was sad, isolated. Even if your heart would listen—implying that no one would—I doubt I could explain—meaning that she herself did not understand what was happening to her. The words expressed how she saw herself and her inability to connect and communicate.

That lyric also represents the way I have felt since the first day I found out about her drug use. The stigma was so great—more then than now, I think, although maybe I just don’t care about it anymore. Then I couldn’t imagine talking about it with any but my closest friends and family. I couldn’t conceive of having to field the questions, or worse, endure the silence. I had no idea how to understand it myself, so how could I explain? Yet even now, as I bare my soul about it, I don’t know if I can explain.

The complexity of the problem—opioid addiction’s intractable nature; the compounding brought on by severe depression and anxiety; the substandard treatment; the lack of the very resource such as MAT, that might have made a difference; the guilt at having failed to help her; the dismay about what her loss means to my other children; the grief and sorrow that is every day like a knife in the heart—how can one actually explain?