I’ve spoken out about drug addiction and its direct effect on the family far before it was grabbing headlines and trending. I don’t even know if “trending” was a thing back when I started. If THIS work, not my poetry, becomes what I am remembered for – it will be more than enough for me to believe I have left my mark on this world.
The fact that my poetry book is in stores and in your homes and tabbed and highlighted means so much to me. A true dream come true – the culmination of so much work and rejection and more work. However, this “other” work I do – my other writing – the essays I pour my heart and soul and grief into – that is my true passion. I believe it to be my true purpose in life.
My work on addiction cannot be found in bookstores. Its words won’t be printed on bookmarks or t-shirts. And that’s fine. I believe it finds its way to people who need it the most. People, like me, who are heartbroken or scared or both. People who feel like they are on an island. People who can’t sleep at night so they grab their laptop and start searching for something…anything…on this terribly heart wrenching disease that they can connect to; so they learn something. So they feel less alone.
So, yeah, my writing on the heroin epidemic is sad. It’s hard to read at times. But when has any writing that has withstood the test of time been “easy” to read? This work of mine is read by millions of people online. Millions. Any other beat or genre I would be jumping for joy at that number. Instead, it makes me cringe because one million people should not have to relate to this work. My work is read inside the rooms of NA, AA, Al-Anon, and Nar-Anon. It is read at funerals by parents and siblings. It is quoted in obituaries. It has been read by grieving parents on their local news channels, with tears in their eyes. It is read in churches, outpatient facilities, and grief counseling rooms. It is read at schools and in hospitals. It is read inside the dark bedrooms of some really strong, really heartbroken people. People who feel scared and alone. Which feels completely full circle since I wrote my first few articles in my bedroom when I, too, was totally heartbroken, scared, and alone.
This work is the work that matters to me. The work that keeps me up at night because I just want to create more, do more, help more. Not the poetry, this. This is the work that matters, not because I am the one who is writing it; but because people – So. Many. People. – need to read it right now. They need to know they aren’t alone. They need to know recovery is possible, whether you are the user or a loved one. They need to know that if they lost someone, they have done everything they could. They need to know that if they are losing someone, there is still time for things to get better. Not all hope is lost in what can feel like a very hopeless situation. Keep fighting.