A Tragedy in Appalachia: Oxycontin and Opportunities
or more simply:"The story of my Brother"
This could be your brother, your sister, your mother. . .
I have relayed various tragic details of this life of mine over the years.
This is a change from everything I've said to you before.
All I have written before tells a story that has resolved.
This story is ongoing. Sometimes it seems brighter. Sometimes it is so very bleak, I can hardly bear the weight of it.
Nothing in this world has broken me, left me destroyed and devastated like addiction.
Wait, please know, I am the furthest thing from an addict. . .yet I've felt it so close, I might as well be one.
I have lost a father, 2 brothers, a sister and a grandfather in my short 34 years. . .to fires and exhaustion.
I cannot even face it.
I have stood in front of a building holding my 3 year old sister in my arms, my 5 year old son by the hand. . .and watched flames consume the walls holding my 19, 17 and 14 year old siblings. I woke my 84 year old father up on my knees to tell him his last children were dead. I've wished so many times I was gone instead through these last 10 years. I said goodbye to Daddy two years later. I have had miscarriages and a baby born prematurely, unable to breathe on his own. I believed a child I carried would not live because of my own genetic failings.
I moved beyond molestation and rape. More than once. I have stumbled through having the brother I am telling this story about being abused, as well, when we were so young. And I was too little to protect him.
I've found a way to do something with these things, turn them into a reason to do things of value. They somehow have left good things in their wake.
But addiction. . .
It gives me little peace, no rest. No hope.
It renders me helpless, broken and desperate.
For 15 years. . .
It is a Death dragged out year after year: It goes on until I want to tear my clothes and scream for mercy. And still, it goes on. Without Mercy.
I am the oldest of my father's children during his last marriage when he was 58 years old.
My brother was born 2 years after me.
He was, from the start, nothing like me.
More than I was. . .
and sometimes less, depending on the matter.
He was beautiful, even as a little child. Everyone thought I was a boy, yet they thought he was a devastatingly beautiful little girl with shiny, thick hair and giant chocolate eyes. I was the homely child being loud in front of the lovely child over and over. Moving him out of the way. Again and again. I believed in "me" so much.
He was quiet, never challenging anyone, willing to follow me to the grave if I but ordered him to, and sometimes I almost did. He learned everything faster than did I. He grew tall and smart and funny. . .but not outspoken like his older sister. Not loud, not of the firm opinions, and without my confidence and ambition. Yet, he looked to me. I didn't believe in "him" like I did in me.
He could be found in my shadow saying, "Sissy, what now?" at every turn.
When my brother's story became too sad, I ignored it. Ran and ignored and tried to forget, but I cannot forget it.
He has slipped further and further away from the little boy full of promise. His lack of accomplishment will always dim my own, as I know how much more he could have done, if only. . .
West Virginia's hopelessness grabbed him, and he was weak. He didn't believe in John like I would have believed in him.
It began with Oxycontin, as it did for everyone in Lincoln county back then. Oxycontin eventually became impossible to acquire, so Opana and FENTANYL took their place. Methadone, Meth eventually turned to Heroin.
Anything, you see. It didn't matter, anymore.
Most addicts tell me they want to die. They know they cannot escape it, and they are just waiting for the last high to be the "last." To end it all. It is too hard.
I will pause here to tell you, we were a close family of fair privilege and intelligence and some vanity. We lacked for nothing and could have, individually, accomplished most anything. We were so loved by our family. We lived in an unorthodox way, but happily. wildly. originally. We had no "risk factor" beyond being born into an area swallowed up by hopelessness.
Folks like to talk about choice. What choice? Do you believe these people said one day, "I want to be an addict when I grow up?"
We've complained about poor choices while each year the number of addicts grow and grow.
My brother's body is covered in track marks. I've found him scratching in corners unable to speak, 60 lbs too thin for his 6'2'' frame. . .and yet he was unable to say, "ENOUGH!"
I would take his place. Any day. To give him a chance. What am I without him? We were so intertwined from our beginning.
Addiction is tangled in an extreme lack of hope and no confidence in one's self at the roots. I cannot imagine anyone choosing to be hopeless in these numbers, though. Something else is to blame.
Stop talking to me about choice when more than half of our population in some areas have become lost to Oxycontin then Meth and now Heroin.
Let's talk about the areas of this county that are a breeding ground of poor opportunities and sadness. Let's talk about letting humans become guinea pigs and cash cows for Big Pharma. Let us put some blame beyond the initial "poor choice" of the addict.
When I began this blog many months and months ago, My brother was still in jail, and I thought, "Please stay there, Brother, where I know you are safe. I know I will not lose you there. So stay, please, forever. Never leave."
I am not sure I could ever have brought myself to post this, forever it would have been a "draft," had two very different things not have happened this week.
Yesterday, 27 people overdosed in Huntington, WV within 4 hours of one another on heroin. . . and the "Let them die" and "Their Choice" posts flooded my news feed. . .
Only hours before, this brother messaged me that an addicted former girlfriend from 2015/2016 he met while working at a restaurant in Tennessee had a little girl born this year, maybe his. . .just a few days old at the writing of this blog.
The horror of what is taking place in West Virginia where addiction is rampant on every corner is beyond the scope of words or vision.
I have nowhere to turn and fail to see it. These people are loved by someone. Maybe not like I Love him, but someone loves them.
You only understand if you feel it to your core over and over like I have, I guess.
Opportunity, chance, charm, charisma and talent. . .lost in Appalachia.
People talk about Appalachia and Addiction,
and I am yet to hear anyone saying anything worth my while.
Someone say something of value.
Do something of value.
Get it right. Their lives matter. How about that?
Addicts' Lives Matter. Black Ones. Young Ones. White Ones.
It is as if everyone is crammed in a little room and afraid to talk of it anything but a choice.
I am not afraid, anymore. I cannot be. This is not just a continual choice.
The Hopeless culture here must end.
What if every first poor choice trapped us all in a cycle we could never escape? Thank God all of my poor choices didn't leave me trapped, for I deserve to be trapped more than he ever did. But I am free.
Someone must scream about it until the ceiling is shattered, until it stops. . .until we drag these human beings back from the brink and give them a vision. . .
"Where there is no vision, the people perish"