her-o-in (herōən) noun. a highly addictive analgesic drug derived from morphine, often used illicitly as a narcotic producing euphoria.
Say it out loud. Now say it even louder. HEROIN. This is what has been taking our friends, parents, children, cousins, siblings, and acquaintances away from us. Changing them until we can no longer recognize the person that they are anymore. Heroin does not have to affect you directly in order for it to affect you. I have witnessed and heard stories time and time again of this family disease tearing people apart in every aspect; people I grew up with and people I know of. Whether having known someone who has passed, someone who may still fight to this day, family members who will struggle with, “What more could I have done/possibly do?”, even just being someone who watches from the outside looking in wanting answers: THIS IS A DESTRUCTIVE POISON. No matter which direction this disease hits you, you are not and never have to be alone.
“This book will not stop the heroin epidemic. As I write, as you read, in the days that follow, the heroin epidemic will not slow down just because I wrote this and you read it; that is not my intention with this book. What I do hope this book does, is comfort the collateral damaged of the disease of addiction: the families and the loved ones. The ones who, with clear eyes, watch their child, husband or wife, sibling, cousin, niece or nephew, aunt or uncle, friend, neighbor, or co-worker slip away.”
-Alicia Cook (Heroin is the Worst Thing to Ever Happen to Me)
I first discovered Alicia Cook on Amazon in 2016. I am a huge fan of poetry and come April, Nation Poetry Month, I was looking for a new book. I stumbled upon Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately by Alicia Cook, a book filled with poems written as a cassette tape with sides A and B. Each poem contains a song at the bottom and I instantly fell in love with her writing. The feelings she was able to capture and pour onto her readers was something I had yet to experience from a poetry book. On a whim I searched her on Instagram and found her page (@thealiciacook). I learned more about Alicia and story behind her writing. The book I happened to “stumble upon” from Amazon led me to something I could never imagine.
When I was younger and more naïve, anytime I heard of someone trying drugs or being addicted to drugs was–in my opinion–a scumbag, a junkie, loser. Who I am now is so beyond ashamed of the person I was then. I took the easy route like a lot of people. I did not know what I was talking about. I did not care to research, to look a little deeper into those who became addicted or why they tried drugs in the first place. So I placed the blame solely on the addicts. I urge you all to put away your ignorance and educate yourselves more on addiction and what it can do to not just one person, but their entire family. I believe this is why I discovered Alicia. Opening not just my mind, but my heart to another way of thinking, caring, and feeling.
Just recently Alicia released a book, Heroin is the Worst Thing to Ever Happen to Me, a collection of her essays. I could have read this entire book in one sitting but I chose not to. I do not want the stories and essays I read to fade as soon as possible. I want to feel each and every story as if it were my own because I believe that is the only way we can get ourselves to an understanding that THIS DRUG DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE.
What does an addict look like? Like you and I do. People may believe it is all how a child is raised, it’s from their environment growing up, it’s from….stop right there. There has been a couple times since learning more about the affects addiction where I have wanted to take Alicia’s book and shove it in the face of people. I want them to read what it takes to be an addict, because in this book you won’t find the answer. Instead, you’ll find true stories of sorrow, suffering. Hopefully you’ll come out more educated and more empathetic than when you entered.
You might be asking yourself, “Why does Alicia Cook write essays/books, reach out to the public/schools on this topic?”. Unfortunately Alicia lost her cousin Jessica in 2006 from addiction. This was tough on everyone who cared for her (as you can learn in her book). She reaches out to families across the nation to let them know they aren’t alone. She reaches out to schools to inform kids on what a drug can do to you. Her voice is loud and strong, she is heard and is helping to make a difference through this horrible epidemic. I feel in my heart it is this woman’s purpose in life.
“In 2015, 25,000 people in the United States overdosed on drugs and died. Never in recorded history has narcotics killed so many Americans in a single year. According to New York Magazine, the drug-induced death toll was so staggering, it helped reduce life expectancy in the United States for the first time since 1993.”
I am very sad at this statistic. I am even more sad just having recently lost a classmate. I have known people passing away from this drug–this poison–each passing hitting closer and closer to home. It’s still shocking and scary seeing people from your childhood lose themselves to addiction. We initially want to place the blame on anything we can in that moment. “It was the parents, it was their friends, so and so didn’t help them..” it could go on and on. It’s important to realize it is no one’s fault. Grieve with your entire being if you have to, but please avoid pointing fingers. The questions might never seize. You will continue to ask yourself, “Why?”. Nothing will ever make it easier and the pain sure as hell will never fully dissipate but it’s important at those times to lean on the one you love. They will help give you strength. I hope anyone who is still fighting for a loved one or anyone who feels they need to ‘give up’ on a loved one knows they are not alone in your pain and suffering. My heart truly goes out to all affected by this disease. Let’s all push our ignorance aside, open our hearts, educate ourselves, and come together to make a difference for this epidemic. It starts with a small voice and large ambition to make a change. Let us help BE that change.