Winter vacation with the college kids is winding down, and I was glad that when Jim needed me to help him out with a quick trip into Roanoke today, one of them was willing to go along.
After our business was accomplished, we thought along the lines of, “Well, as long as we’re here…” and considered taking advantage of some of the things that the little city offers (like coffee shops) that one cannot find in the country. But what we decided to do was take a tour.
One of Roanoke’s local authors, Beth Macy, wrote a book last year that is kind of a big deal (which is kind of a big understatement). Dopesick talks about the opioid crisis and how it took root in the coal mining communities that aren’t too far from where we live in southwest Virginia, but also describes how heroin addiction has ravaged the lives of people right here in Roanoke’s suburbs.
Macy is a former journalist and a great writer. The book is expertly researched, compassionately written, and, to a parent, absolutely horrifying. I read Dopesick this fall, and our eldest college kid did the same while on winter break. Since we were in town today, we decided to explore the neighborhoods that Macy describes in her book: Cave Spring and Hidden Valley.
What did we find? Nothing special. In fact, college kid and I agreed that they reminded me of the neighborhoods near where she had grown up (and from which we had relocated this summer), in Fairfax, Virginia. And that makes the book even more terrifying.
You want to think that things like opioid or heroin addiction happen to people “over there” or who “aren’t like me.” But this book (it’s one of the best I’ve read), and visiting the neighborhoods described in it make you realize that it’s much, much closer than you might think.