When you start a writer’s website/blog, there is endless advice from “experts” about what you should and shouldn’t include in your posts. Promoting your work (your books and other writing projects) is a good choice. Sharing your political views, a bad choice. Little, mostly positive tidbits about your life, good. Tirades about issues, bad. Post frequently, but not too often. Vary your type of posts. Add photos or videos, but not too many in an individual post, or too often overall. Sharing posts from other people you know, good, as long as those posts stick to the rules. And the lists went on and on…
Those of you who know me personally know that most of the time, I try to be a rule follower. So as I have written this blog, I have tried to keep those suggestions in mind, and have mostly followed them.
I also try to do the “right” thing in the rest of my life, and in doing so, I try to keep the image of staying true to my own internal moral compass. So today, I can’t follow those rules for a writer’s blog.
Today, I am writing from a place of almost imaginable darkness, sadness and rage. Today, the weight of growing grief is too much for me to paste a couple platitudes out there on twitter or Facebook or this page. Today, I need to express that I am so very tired of watching this incredible generation of the most wonderful human beings die due to drug overdoses, and I am not willing to stuff down that rage and sadness to follow the rules of having an upbeat author’s page.
My father is a minister, so when I was very young, he always had a church youth group. In that group were many drug addicts, but in my father’s view of Christianity, he welcomed them into the group, showed them love and support. Many of them became part of the extended family, but continued to use drugs heavily. They dropped out of school, they didn’t have jobs, many were homeless and couch-surfed. They looked like society thinks drug addicts should look, often dirty, unhealthy looking, missing teeth, pale and oh-so thin.
Fast forward forty-plus years, and welcome to the new reality of addiction in the United States or perhaps the world. Our young people are dying in record numbers, the CDC states that more than 115 people a day die in the United States of drug overdoses.
115 a day.
Let that sink in. 115 a day! A day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And the number grows each year.
I have heard some politicians say that this is God’s way of cleaning the earth, getting rid of scum. This is not scum! These are human beings. These are children who are so loved, and so loved others.
When Sam died, and my mother dared to mention drugs at his celebration of life, some people said that we should have not shared his cause of death, that we should have just left it alone. THAT WAS THE PROBLEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We didn’t know that transdermal pain patches could kill him, because our little part of VT had so hidden the drug problem (nice towns don’t have drugs, don’t you know?) — maybe if it hadn’t been so shrouded in shame, the outcome would have been different.
So let me state this now. The population dying of overdoses are not losers. They are bright, educated, loving, motivated, creative people, so very loved by their families. They brought joy, love, humor, music, art, caring to the people around them. Yes, some of them also brought the heartbreak of their struggles to those same people, but many didn’t — many were so able to hide or control their usage so that their ultimate deaths still had an air of surprise to them. And their deaths have caused almost limitless pain due to how much they were/are loved, and the grieving just goes on and on.
I am tired of watching these beautiful lights being snuffed out. I am tired of watching this most incredible generation of 18-35 year olds, who are so amazing, who have showed us such love, given such joy and light to the world, being taken from us.
I rage against a society that spends time arguing about whether to arrest and imprison or treat, who vilifies the addicts and their families. I rage against a world in which these beautiful souls need either the high of the drugs, or the release of their pain through them. I rage against the number of broken hearts they leave behind, in their parents, siblings, extended family and friends.
So today, I don’t have any words of joy or light to share. I have only that I have been so fortunate to have all of these souls in my/our lives, even as they are taken from us. I will not hide from their cause of death, I will not vilify them or their families, and I will speak their names with joy, love, thankfulness, and with a smile at the memories. I will not let them be relegated into the shrouds of history as less-than others.
Let me start with our Sam. Today, as every day, I shout his name loudly, with love, with thankfulness, with grief and rage that he is no longer here with us in person. Today, I share one of my favorite pictures of him, to help others remember the beauty of these lost ones.
115 a day. It’s time for it to stop.