There is no grief like the grief that does not speak. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Arizona Daily Star
Sunday, March 1, 2020
Southern Arizona Authors
John Leif, known to family and friends as JL, was smart, charismatic, fiercely loyal – and addicted to opioids. When he died of a heroin overdose at the age of 25, his anguished parents sought some relief by keeping a journal in which they wrote letters to their late son. Holding nothing back, they shared their confusion, their profound despair, and finally their hesitant steps toward acceptance. Their journal provides a framework for Jude DiMeglio Trang's memoir, a book as timely as it is heartbreaking. Trang begins with the horrifying discovery that JL, at age 15, was using black tar heroin, obtainable in his high school in their affluent section of Tucson. The ensuing years saw her son in and out of rehab in an endless cycle of sobriety and relapse while the family endured a decade of false starts and dashed hopes. Information about opioid addiction was scant (even the high school, aware of the problem, kept parents in the dark), and luck was in short supply – two of JL's relapses coincided with medical procedures that put him back on prescribed painkillers, and during one stay in a sober residential facility, he secured drugs from the resident manager. Trang bears her soul in this moving book, explaining how she and her husband work through the stages of grief, but more importantly she shares what, in trying to make sense of her beloved son's death, she discovered about opioid addiction. From brain science, genetics and inherited family dysfunction to the international drug trade, the staggering cost of treatment and the complexity of Big Pharma, Trang offers an honest and clear-eyed view of a public health crisis that became a family tragedy.
Reading has been a life-long joy, what I look forward to, where I take comfort, where my mind is stimulated, where my spirit is fed. Our home is overflowing with unruly stacks of books, sticky notes jutting out, underlines and notes making them uninviting for other eyes.
Writing is how my inner self is best expressed. It is the bridge between what has happened and how I think and feel about those events. With the simple action of writing, I am urging myself to focus my mind, listen to my heart, absorb my physical world and translate the entire mix into words.
My husband, John, and I lost our 25 year old son to an accidental heroin overdose.
In the wake of his sudden death, we wrote a journal every day for a year, recording our feelings of unbelief, anger, hope, despair, sadness, regrets: the process of grieving. Our musings are the spine that holds all the separate pages of our book together, as we recall the 10 year journey with our son and his battle with heroin addiction with hopeful attempts and bitter failures as he stumbled on a path for lasting recovery.
As we tried to understand why and how this happened to us, I dug into the past, searching for clues in our family, our community, and our society. We are passionately open and honest in writing about our failures and regrets because we are convinced that only by letting light into the secret and hidden places will shame and stigma disappear and lives be saved.
Our memoir is our gift to all those who are struggling with addiction, to those around them, and to all those who have lost someone they loved to addiction.