Trigger/Content Warning (TW/CW): this blog post contains mentions of drug use and death from overdosing. Reader discretion is advised.
For the past 20+ years, I have always wanted to meet and have a chat with Keith Richards. Say what you will about him, but I am just fascinated by his life adventures.
If I were to ever be so damn lucky to sit down with him for an hour and just ask a bunch of questions, one of those questions would be something like this:
"How did you stop using heroin?"
And as much as I know that I may or may not get a straight answer from him, to hear what he has to say may or may not give me some solace in what is currently happening in the state of Ohio in the USA.
Granted, the Rolling Stones, a band that Richards participates in as a lead guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter, was just in Ohio a couple of weeks before this was posted. But I wonder, along with Sir Mick Jagger's epic failure of getting the crowd to sing "Hang On, Sloopy" (the look on Jagger's face when the audience chanted "O-H-I-O" was just priceless, heh) did a spotter fail on their assignment to have Richards address the crowd by saying something like: "Get off the smack; don't be like me, because you will die trying."
Yeah, heroin and opiates in general are seriously destroying Ohio. Specifically where I reside, in Northeast Ohio, heroin is decimating families and communities alike from Vermilion to Conneaut, from Lakewood to Canton.
I mention Lakewood in particular. I consider Lakewood my hometown, even though I was born in, and currently reside in, Cleveland. Lakewood is an inner-ring suburb of Cleveland, bordering the city to its west. And Lakewood is where this heroin epidemic hits me.
Am I using heroin? No. Am I using drugs of any kind? No. So what does heroin have to do with me? Why should I care?
From 1988 to 1990, I was in a couple of classes in the special education division of elementary school with this kid, Peter. Nothing remarkable about him, other than his utter surprise when I told him one day that I didn't like peanut butter, French fries, or Chinese food. Otherwise, he was a good kid. He and I graduated from Lakewood High School; I in 1998, I think Peter did too, or maybe a year earlier. Lint on the memory bank.
Fast forward 17 years later, and I see this post on Facebook about someone lamenting over the death of one of their friends over an overdose, their friend Pete. When I looked at it, my jaw hit the ground. This Pete couldn't have been the Peter I had special education classes with, is it? (Note: Peter's last name was an uncommon one, from the Hellenic nationality.) After friends of mine on Facebook confirmed it was the Peter I knew, my heart sank. Peter died from a heroin overdose. He was 36, single and childless. Peter died as a resident of Lakewood.
A few days later, I and a mutual friend, Stephen, attended Peter's funeral. It was very painful; it had been so many years since I even talked to this kid and there I was, looking at him for the very last time.
It was after the funeral that Stephen shared with me about another person from my class who also died from a drug overdose (I suspect heroin, but I digress) about 18 months earlier; a varsity football star named Aaron. Aaron was 35 when he passed, and he left behind a young son.
It made me pause for a moment. My class was among the first in the nation to participate in the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Program back in 1991. Their slogan was: "To keep kids off drugs."
I wonder if D.A.R.E. have updated it to: "To keep kids off drugs for life." Because, apparently, in Ohio, when a kid becomes 18-years old (legally an adult), they can pretty much throw the D.A.R.E. rules out of the window and do whatever the hell you want. Nobody tells them: "Hey, you stayed off drugs as a kid. Continue staying off drugs as an adult and for the rest of your life. You'll be glad you did."
Maybe that could have helped Aaron and Peter. Maybe not.
(The following is my opinion.)
Addiction is a disease and the only cure is death. To delay death is to get clean and stay clean. One day at a time. Every day. Until you die and people can say: "they beat their addiction by living a sober life all the way to the end," or people will say: "they succumbed to their disease of addiction, but they are free now."
(End of said opinion.)
Lakewood, however, is just one community being destroyed by heroin in Ohio. There are folks dealing drugs, including heroin, crack cocaine, and meth, out of Vermilion and Willoughby in the north, Hocking County in the south, and everywhere in between. Folks originally from outside the country come to Ohio and set up shop so they can distribute and make blood money. Parents are dying at alarming rates due to drug overdoses, leaving young children behind. Folks wasting their lives, just for "one more fix."
These aren't just teenagers and college aged adults dying. These are thirty-something year old folks, professionals and amaeturs alike; regardless of race, gender, orientation, and/or disability, dying from the needle and the spoon.
I found myself looking in the mirror shortly after Peter's funeral, asking: "what can I do?"
What can I do?
How can I help stop folks from contracting such a communicative disease like drug addiction?
If you where I can start, please mention it to me in the commentary below.
Until then, if you or someone you know is in the throes of addiction (and it doesn't have to be drugs, it can be alcohol, sex, gambling; anything that destroys a life), seek help. Whatever it takes.
In the USA: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (with a 24-hour hotline phone number)
If you know of a hotline/helpline in your country to help your fellow statespeople seek treatment for addiction, please share which country and their info in the commentary as well.
And, while you're at it, send a memo to Keith Richards, asking him if this brat can sit down with him for an hour to discuss things. Share this post with him.