Updated: Jun 18
By Kyle's mom, Joanne
Kyle Michael Kenny
I often wonder how my adorable son with red hair and freckles sprinkled across his nose with a laugh that started in his belly and came tumbling out with such joy had to suffer so badly for 17 of his 35 years on this earth.
Kyle charmed everyone, and since we moved often, he had to make many new friends. On one occasion when he was five years old and after moving from TX to NC, the very first day in his new home he went door to door in our condo complex asking politely if they had any kids in the house. He loved to fish and spent countless hours at the ponds in our neighborhood and could tell you everything about animals, especially to my horror, snakes! He convinced his sister to go on many excursions through the woods hunting snakes, and she adored him, so of course she followed and never told me of these trips until after they were grown.
Kyle was full of questions his whole life and he didn’t accept the word “no” very easily. From the time he was little he would ask me questions like, “Where are those people in the next car going?” I would end up making up something just to get him to quit asking. He was always inquisitive, and his teachers told me he amazed them with how he did not some seem to be paying attention at all but would ace a test.
He and his dad spent many hours together on the football field for Little League, basketball and fishing. He was a super happy kid. It was common practice throughout his later years to see Kyle pulling an encyclopedia off of our bookshelf and heading outside to smoke a cigarette and dig for information. He was a lover of philosophy and could have some pretty deep conversations. He discovered in his late twenties that he had a gift of drawing and painting, taught himself to play guitar and could write beautiful poetry and music. He loved to play his guitar.
Kyle’s occupations ranged from insurance salesman to selling roofs, with many waiter jobs. I’m convinced he could have been anything he wanted to be if drugs hadn’t taken over. After every drug bout, anxiety and depression would hit. He worked hard during his sober times and kept bouncing back after every fall.
He had his first overdose at age 16 by drinking cough medicine mixed with pills. I remember taking a picture by his hospital bed where I stayed all night, wanting him to see how bad of shape he was in. He woke up the next morning like he had just had the best sleep of his life, ate a huge breakfast and told me not to worry. At this point his father and I thought this may be an instance of teens experimenting, and while worried, we didn’t have any inkling as to how bad his situation was.
Many years after were spent in short stays at mental institutions where Kyle was diagnosed as bipolar, with bouts of rehab followed by months of incarceration. In between, he lived with us for short times until his behavior would force us to ask him to leave, and then the streets were his home. No family ever wants to put their child out, but you have no choice when they steal and do drugs in your home. Our entire family and his friends suffered during these times and I would get so angry over his selfishness, until I realized after many years of counseling that this was part of the disease and I could separate the addict Kyle from the son I knew who was still there, just hidden at times. He hated his addiction and fought hard. Here is a poem he wrote that describes his pain well and a self-portrait of himself that he gave me for Mother’s Day 2016 that I love, but oh, that pain in his eyes hurts my soul.
The Fix, By Kyle Kenny
December 26, 2010 ·
I tend to take steps in all the wrong directions
While I perfect and the master the art of self-deception
Always selling myself short with a great fear of success
Never ever is there time to clean up this mess
Hopeless and broke all I own are these tears
I've let it take my dignity, respect and all who were near
I pillage my mind and body with many chemicals of defeat
As strangers witness the carnage of my disease while stumbling violently through the streets
But all I need is one more fix, just one more so I can finally get some sleep
On an ordinary day, June 28, 2017 around noon, Kyle called to let me know he was out of jail, where he had been for the last ten days. This time he stole wine from a local grocery store and said it was to help keep him from doing heroin, which he had graduated to at the age of 21. This drinking was something new, as he had never liked alcohol and rarely drank.
His mood was up, and he told me he had just finished playing some music as a stand-in at a local music studio, which was across the street from his favorite fast food chicken restaurant where he was in line waiting to order lunch. He went on to say he made a few dollars and wanted to buy a guitar before going into a rehab. “Going into rehab” talk was one of our more common conversations; both of us knew rehab could only do so much, but we still had hope. Our conversation only lasted around ten minutes, and in that short amount of time, I learned that while incarcerated he had read the book The Alchemist and that this book made him see how he must follow his dream to play music. I wasn’t sure his music would earn him a living, but he wanted me to know it was the right thing for him, so I remember telling him that he should keep that dream. I agreed a lot with Kyle when others would shake their head. I always believed he would be okay if we could just conquer the demon of addiction. To me, it was a black cloud that devoured him at times.
I heard him talking and laughing with the cashier, and then he casually stated, “Mom, I’m sorry, but I did just do heroin.” He followed quickly with “Don’t worry, I snorted it and that’s not as dangerous as shooting it up.” I remember saying, “Oh Kyle.” He had overdosed four times within the last year with the last being on Mother’s Day, so I knew the possibility of losing him was real, but it seemed like he had nine lives. He always came through.
His food was ready, so he ended the conversation as he always did with “I love you,” and I said it back but am not sure he heard it. I replay this scene in my mind more times than I can count because this turned out to be our last conversation. You see, Kyle passed away quietly in a booth where all the workers said they thought he was sleeping. A customer had to bring it to the manager’s attention that his fingers were blue. The coroner said he died shortly after noon and 911 was not called until 3:30 p.m. His cause of death according to the toxicology report was an accidental heroin overdose mixed with alcohol.
I had spent countless hours in doctors’ offices over the years begging for treatment and spent more money than I had on medications to help fight addiction, such as suboxone and methadone, trying to keep him sober; but, he would he would move on to cocaine or benzos. He constantly tried to smother the anxiety and depression with anything other than the prescribed drugs, as he hated the side effects of what he described as “I feel nothing.” I held him in my arms way too many times with him asking, “Why me, Mom? Why did I get this?”
Kyle’s death broke so many hearts, and my hope is that he is at rest and no longer fighting demons. I belong to a Facebook grief group of mothers who have lost their children to drug overdoses and have found lots of support there, although at times I have to unfollow the site because the stories bring me back to my awful day when I knew Kyle’s fight with addiction was over and the battle was lost. Kyle won’t get married or have babies or get to sing those songs he wrote. His friends keep in touch, and that is best thing ever because it’s like I still have a little of him around. I realized after his passing how many he touched in a good way, and this warms my heart.
His loss has affected me in ways I didn’t expect. I love more deeply, never take anything for granted and want to overcome fears and go places that before I only dreamed of. I want to live for him. I never realized that you can grieve and smile at the same time, but I do it every day. Kyle would be happy to know that I have also found peace.