In this compilation of testimonials to children lost to the disease of addiction, one story is titled ďYouíre in the Arms of an Angel.Ē The reality is, unfortunately, this young man, dead of a heroin overdose, was in hell. I read through these stories, eulogies for dead children, searching for honesty, for solutions and self-awareness. What I found is tale after tale of heartbreaking loss.
One can only hope writing these painful stories offered grieving parents some relief. This is, after all, a book about dead people, young men and women killed by their addictions. The question remains: What measures are necessary to intervene on their behalf, and are we willing as a society to ask the hard questions and take the most extreme actions?
I donít think this book addresses addiction in a meaningful manner, although, to be fair, it never claims to supply the answers, only the stories. These are idealized versions of kids gone bad under the influence. In many cases, there were hints along the way - failing grades, behavioral problems, isolation - but these are mentioned, not as red flags, but historical footnotes to goodbye letters. The core issues are not identified, nor are any solutions offered. Yes, treatment happens for many of them, but the rate of success remains daunting; the odds not in favor of the addict.
This book emphasizes how addiction transcends economic levels, infiltrating even happy homes with its menace. But nothing happens in a vacuum; children donít become dependent on drugs overnight, and often parents are unwittingly complicit, unable to turn away from their suffering sons and daughters, speaking directly to the disease and still seeing the child.
The sad fact is that only the addict can make the hard choices; a parent canít wish or buy the child into recovery. The majority of these tales deal with drugs exclusively, only a few connecting to alcoholism, which is often a gateway drug to the uninitiated. How many teenagers watch their parents drink to relieve stress and later emulate that behavior with whatever substance is at hand?
The addiction/recovery field is fertile ground for therapists, authors, treatment centers, drugs a growing blight on our families in a turbulent time of economic hardship and a failing educational system. Whatever the solutions, they arenít found in a cemetery plot. By the time the thief has fled with one more life, years of denial, enabling and painful decisions have littered these short histories. The fact is that this is a family disease and must be dealt with as such, acknowledgment but the first step.
While each of these stories is devastating, they allow only the briefest glimpse of the enormous challenge for families beyond the crippling grief and regret of parents. Read this book if you are unaware of the consequences of addiction. Know that recovery is not easy or painless, but possible for some in spite of the odds.