Sunday, January 19, 2020

Sometimes Letters to the Editor Don't Get Published

The New York Times offered readers the opportunity to write a letter about a book that changed their life in 200 words or less. I submitted a letter that wasn't published. I offer it here:
Our son and brother, William, died at age 24 following an accidental heroin overdose. At his memorial service, we made the following pledge to him: “We promise to do everything in our power to educate and inform people about drug abuse and its prevention, to provide ever more enlightened treatment for addicts, to help make treatment options for addicts more readily available, and to remove the stain of shame surrounding this disease.” So began a sustained advocacy for substance use disorder (SUD) sufferers.
Shortly thereafter I read Andrew Solomon’s Far From The Tree. For me, the brilliance of his writing is distilled in these few words: “…we all have our darkness, and the trick is making something exalted of it.” Words that inspired me at first encounter and guide me as I seek to listen, learn, write and speak about SUD; as I labor to honor my pledge.
Unlike the conditions Solomon writes about, SUD is often not far from the tree. Rather, it lurks persistently in the roots and branches of many family trees. Solomon’s book doesn’t address SUD directly, but he writes eloquently about shame and stigma. His wisdom thereon motivates and shepherds my quest toward the exalted.

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