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Blog Archives

BBC: ‘Dopesick’.

Hey there! I’m heading to the beach tomorrow, and I have noticed a very strong pattern in myself over the last few years. Whenever I’m getting ready for a trip, the days (and usually the entire week) before I leave is completely INSANE.

That’s the thing when you work freelance, have a digital job, and manage a blog – you have to do ALL the work that was originally going to be done while you’re sitting on the beach! So, this week I’ve basically been doing double the work, telling all (11!) of my freelance clients that I’m heading out of town and cramming in last-minute projects, and writing blogs to publish next week while I’m laying in the sand.

Don’t get me wrong – no complaints here – it just seems like no matter how much I prep, part of me is always running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Amidst all of the craziness this week, I had books to read as they were due back at the library. I had no problem getting through this latest one quickly, so let’s hop to it. I’m talking about “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America” by Beth Macy.

In this masterful work, Beth Macy takes us into the epicenter of America’s twenty-plus year struggle with opioid addiction. From distressed small communities in Central Appalachia to wealthy suburbs; from disparate cities to once-idyllic farm towns; it’s a heartbreaking trajectory that illustrates how this national crisis has persisted for so long and become so firmly entrenched.

Beginning with a single dealer who lands in a small Virginia town and sets about turning high school football stars into heroin overdose statistics, Macy endeavors to answer a grieving mother’s question-why her only son died-and comes away with a harrowing story of greed and need. From the introduction of OxyContin in 1996, Macy parses how America embraced a medical culture where overtreatment with painkillers became the norm. In some of the same distressed communities featured in her bestselling book Factory Man, the unemployed use painkillers both to numb the pain of joblessness and pay their bills, while privileged teens trade pills in cul-de-sacs, and even high school standouts fall prey to prostitution, jail, and death.
 
Through unsparing, yet deeply human portraits of the families and first responders struggling to ameliorate this epidemic, each facet of the crisis comes into focus. In these politically fragmented times, Beth Macy shows, astonishingly, that the only thing that unites Americans across geographic and class lines is opioid drug abuse. But in a country unable to provide basic healthcare for all, Macy still finds reason to hope-and signs of the spirit and tenacity necessary in those facing addiction to build a better future for themselves and their families.

This book was outstanding! I’ve read many addiction memoirs, so I was really looking forward to seeing things from a more holistic view, and this book DELIVERED. Macy’s reporting is flawless, and I cannot imagine how long it took her to research, conduct interviews, and then cull everything down into this book.

The book is told through the stories of families who’ve lost a loved one from opioids. There’s information from every angle, from addicts, dealers, doctors, drug companies, and pharmacies… and frankly, the whole thing was quite creepy. It made me scared to trust prescription meds – although I’m already skeptical and rarely even take Tylenol.

It’s interesting, because there’s definitely fault on doctors and drug companies, but I also feel a certain way about how we (society) have responded to opioid addicts. This book made me want to judge less and learn how to administer narcan.

I’m recommending this book to anyone who’s interested in the opioid crisis in our country, but also to anyone who’s known an addict, and for anyone who loves reading true crime and investigative pieces. This is a must read!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “All We Ever Wanted” by Emily Giffin. Have a great weekend!

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BBC: ‘Amy, My Daughter’.

Happy Saturday! I am so, so happy it’s the weekend (I hate being that person) – this week was so crazy at work and, even though I have lots of things on my to-do list this weekend, I’m happy just to be out of the office.

I actually read the latest pick from Blanche’s Book Club in one sitting last Sunday, but it’s taken me all week to gather my thoughts on it for you. So let’s get into it! Today, I’m talking about, “Amy, My Daughter” by Mitch Winehouse. Here is the description from Amazon:

The intimate, inside story of the ultimately tragic life of multiple Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Amy Winehouse (“Rehab,” “Back to Black”)  is told by the one person most able to tell it—Amy’s closest advisor, her inspiration, and best friend: her father, Mitch. Amy, My Daughter includes exclusive, never-before-seen photos and paints an open and honest portrait of one of the greatest musical talents of our time.

Before I get into the heart of the book, I want to say that it took me a really long time to read it. Amy Winehouse’s album “Back to Black” changed my life – sounds super cheesy, but I loved that album (still do).

I listened to it on repeat, and when she got her first “Rolling Stone” cover, I was quick to buy it and read the feature. But it was then I realized all of the drug references in her album were…actually true. And I cried. I remember calling my mom and saying that Amy Winehouse was going to die and why was she living like that?

But still, I loved her and her music, and I framed that cover and hung it in my apartment. Today, it’s hanging in my kitchen. When I learned about Amy’s death, I was heartbroken. I can’t say I was surprised, but I felt she was gone way too soon.

Since then, however, I’ve lived a little more. I’ve dated an addict. And I’ve seen just how bad things can get. I know what it’s like to be with someone that’s possibly the worst person in the world for you. I know what it’s like to hang around a bad crowd. And I know what it’s like to not give a shit about yourself to the point of danger.

When I finally picked this book up from the library and posted about it on social media – I got messages immediately. I was quickly reminded just how controversial Amy was/is and how many questions still surround her short life, and the way she died.

I’ll admit that I didn’t read much press about Amy, even when she was alive. I knew about her husband, Blake, and I knew she was battling addiction and was very close to being thrown in jail. I saw clips of her drunken performances. But, that’s about it.

I still haven’t watched the documentary, and I didn’t know much about her family before reading this book. What I did know, though, is that you cannot force an addict to get help. An addict has to want to get the help for themselves.

I also knew that myself, nor any of the people spouting off opinions, have ever been famous to the point that Amy Winehouse was. Photographers basically lived in her yard, waiting for her to step outside. None of us know what that’s like.

Her music came from a place of pain. In a way, that’s why it was so good. But it was also a part of her downfall.

So, let’s get into the book.

For starters, it’s written by Amy’s dad, Mitch – an important consideration when he talks about his opinion of Amy’s music, and her hair and makeup (heh). He basically is telling Amy’s life story, but most of it does focus on the years when she was in the spotlight while battling addiction. Here are some of the lines I made note of:

  • It was precisely because her songs were dragged up out of her soul that they were so powerful and passionate. The ones that went into Back to Black were about the deepest of emotions. And she went through hell to make it.
  • While the album’s success altered Amy’s career in every way imaginable, it came with a high price tag. The nature of the songs made it hard for her to feel as excited as you might expect about the album’s reception and success. Whereas people might walk along the street humming “Love is a Losing Game”, to Amy it was like a knife in her heart, a reminder of the worst of times.
  • I didn’t think Amy would die, but I just couldn’t see a way out of this. You don’t become an expert in anything overnight, and I was still learning how best to deal with an addict.
  • Perhaps the most difficult thing about loving and helping an addict, which most people who haven’t been through it don’t understand, is this: every day the cycle continues is your new worst day. When looked at from the outside it seems endless, the same thing over and over again, but when you’re living it, it’s like being a hamster on a wheel.

I want to touch on that last point. Amy went to rehab more than a dozen times. Honestly, reading about all of her incidents in the book became a bit exhausting. Each page was starting to sound the same – in the morning she’d say she wanted to get clean, and by lunch there were drug dealers bringing her crack and by nightfall, she was high. The next day, the same thing.

Even with a nurse by her side, waiting for the 12-hour sobriety mark so she could start a proper detox, Amy could not stay sober. She often had drugs brought to her in rehab – stuffed inside teddy bears or hidden in flower bouquets.

As much as I loved her, she lived probably longer than a similar addict would have. Her family did everything they could to help her – kicking people out of her house, supporting her music, hiring guards to keep drug dealers out of rehab, etc.

I cried while reading this book, as it truly is just a tragic story. A talent gone too soon. Some of the most beautiful things come from the darkest of places – but there is often a price to pay, and she suffered the ultimate one.

My heart breaks for her family, particularly her dad, but I know there are fans across the world that will never forget the gift she left all of us, and the path she created for a new kind of woman in music.

I wish I could say no regrets
And no emotional debts
Cause as we kiss goodbye the sun sets
So we are history
The shadow covers me
The sky above ablaze that only lovers see

-Amy Winehouse, “Tears Dry On Their Own”

I’m recommending this book to Amy Winehouse fans – especially those that were not jaded from the (apparently) subjective view of the documentary.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “How to Party With an Infant” by Kaui Hart Hemmings.