I just want to commend Bryan Smith on his truly moving and inspiring article about the death of Michael York [Trashed, November]. It is about time Middle America awakened to the ever-growing problem with the drug epidemic among our young people. [Heroin] is being used by the kids next door to you.
My niece died of a heroin overdose October 7, 2006. She was a beautiful, athletic girl who lived in a very normal Middle American home. She found one bad apple to befriend her. She did not have the most confidence in herself, and he offered her something to make her feel better. To quote her: “I did it one time and could not stop!” There needs to be more dialogue given to high-school students to not glamorize this drug. They need to be educated. I hope this article is a step in the right direction.
A friend gave me the article Trashed to read. This is extremely difficult for me to write, but the article covered all the tragic emotions that a family with a heroin-addicted child goes through. We also live in the suburbs and wonder how this could have happened to our family. My husband and I did everything right to provide a great home for our children.
Our son was adopted from Russia at the age of eight. In spite of his abusive background, he adjusted wonderfully, thrived, and was a joy to our family. He was a Boy Scout, played tennis, went fishing with his dad. I taught his Sunday school class, and he was my best student. He wanted to become an engineer like his father.
At the age of 19 he said to me, “Mom, for the first time in my life I have really great friends.” It was all a downward spiral from that point. In two years he progressed from smoking pot to selling drugs and mainlining heroin.
We made him move out of the house, and he is now homeless. We see a future of prison or death for our son unless God intervenes. We are terrified. Heroin has taken away my son’s soul. It is as if an entity is living in his body in place of his soul. This entity feeds and lives on drugs and will make my son say and do whatever is necessary to get the drugs so the entity will not die.
I must say this was a very sad story. I do feel for the family of Mr. York, who died before he was able to grow into his full potential in life. If there is a growing problem in the community, you must take action. You cannot hide and pretend it does not exist and think that it is not happening in your family or that it will mysteriously go away.
I personally will have my children read this article and sit down and have the conversation with them about what goes on at parties they attend. Being teenagers, they may not listen to my comments. We talk about their friends and what kind of things they are into and the influence their friends have in their life. Most importantly I have them define “friend.” It might not be the right way to handle it, but I am always in their face, talking.
My beautiful daughter, 23 years young and the mother of a precious 18-month-old son, has been a heroin addict for the past three years. We are middle-class and well educated, and no one would ever suspect that a member of my family struggled with this addiction. Presently, she resides at one of a small number of treatment centers in the state of Illinois that provide treatment for mothers and their children. This program struggles continually for funding to keep its doors open to help young women in the community.
Your article captured the essence of heroin and the devastation that results for the user, family, and community. This epidemic knows no bounds—it inflicts itself on every race, religion, and socio-economic class and is emotionally and financially devastating. It is in the denial, the secrecy, the shame, and the dark corners that addiction lives and thrives, which is why it is so important that this story was told.
Kids are notorious for making foolish choices in their youth because of “teen brains,” but these poor choices, especially with heroin and prescription drugs, can come with a mighty price—death. The tragedy of Michael York and the kids involved is heartbreaking, disturbing, and horrifying, and yet sadly, it is not so unique a tale.
Heroin is stealing, destroying, and killing our beloved children in numbers that are shocking. Denial and stigma seem to be the foes that allow it to continue. All of us must speak out, scream out, and shout until more is done!
The most dangerous words a parent can utter are “not my kid.” I said that myself before I discovered my son was using heroin on a daily basis—the apple of my eye. He is better, and for that I am grateful, but how many more must we lose before we attack this disease head-on?
Director, Hearts of Hope
December’s Chicago Guide misstated who wrote My Fair Lady. The musical was written by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.
January’s Chicago’s Top Doctors misspelled the name of Dr. Edgar D. Staren.
In January’s Chicago’s Top Doctors, the name of William Small Jr. should have appeared under the specialty of radiation oncology. Small, who practices at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, specializes in the treatment of gynecological, gastrointestinal, breast, and pancreatic cancer. His office number is 312-472-3650.