She describes coming to terms with the 21-year-old’s self-destructive streak well before his death, aware that a happy ending may not be in store.
“As the mother of someone who was addicted to opioids, it’s a struggle,” Etheridge says in the RS interview. “You want to help your child. You want to make them all better. He was a young adult. There were things out of my control, of course. And there came a time when I needed to really sit down with myself and say, ‘I can’t save him. I can’t give up my life and go try to live his life for him.’ And I had to come up against the possibility that he might die. But I had to be able to go on living. Of course it’s nothing a parent ever wants. But as a human being, I just needed to be at peace with a troubled son who did the best he could, who believed what he believed, and then his life ended way, way too soon.”
Despite the extent to which she foresaw the possibility of a bad end and had reconciled herself to being unable to effectively intervene, Etheridge concedes that wondering how much blame to take on is an inevitability for any parent in this situation, herself included.
“There will always be that that place in my heart and my soul that that has a little bit of, ‘Oh, what could what could I have done? And is it my fault he ended this way?’ and all that sort of thing,” Etheridge concedes. “And it just gets smaller and smaller, because it doesn’t serve me anymore, and where he is now, he certainly doesn’t want me to take that on. So, you know, if that can help any parents who might be torturing themselves with that… You can’t lay down, You can’t be shattered. You can’t die and give up. You know, that’s what my son did. It’s to be lived. It’s to learn. I still struggle with it, but that’s what I can say.”
Etheridge also speaks in the interview about the huge success of her paid “Etheridge TV” livestream platform, and the help she gets from her wife, Linda Wallem, on that, saying, “It gives us something to do every day get through this time, and it’s really just saved us.”
The Q&A is part of Rolling Stone’s weekly series “RS Interview: Special Edition,” new episodes of which premiere every Thursday on the magazine’s YouTube channel. Other recent installments have included interviews with Kamala Harris, Megan Rapinoe, John Legend, Killer Mike and Al Gore.