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Monday, January 21, 2013
Author C.J. West: Is Love Stronger Than Addiction?
DINNER AT DEADMAN’S is a mystery published by 22 West Books. Here’s a brief synopsis of it: Lorado Martin has loved junk since his grandparents took him bottle digging in the backwoods of New England when he was a boy. The search for antiques and collectibles led him to a unique hobby: digging through the estates of the newly deceased, arranging the sale of goods for the heirs, and keeping the leftovers for himself. To make a living he builds and maintains housing for recovering addicts and along the way he’s employed a number of his clients. The men wrestle with the siren call of drugs and teach Lorado about the difficult struggle to stay clean one day at a time. When these two worlds come together, Lorado learns that not every elderly person dies of natural causes and that some estates are sold to benefit a killer. His latest project hits close to home. A woman he’s known since childhood haunts him from a fresh grave. Her grandson, an affable addict who has fallen off the wagon, stands to inherit a considerable sum whether he deserves it or not.
C.J. is here to discuss ‘Is Love Stronger Than Addiction?’
During my research for DINNER AT DEADMAN’S I learned a great deal about the power of addiction and the ways people get hooked on powerful narcotics. Every Internet chat room discussion and interview reminded me how addictive heroin is, and how destructive a drug habit is to families and neighbors. In all the sadness, pain, and loss, one story reminded me of the power of love and the strength of our human will.
To truly understand the power of love in this story, we need to start with the monster that is addiction. The first surprise in my research was that many people who end up hooked on heroin don’t start by experimenting with drugs. It is easy to see intravenous drug users as beneath us and unworthy of our love and support, but many addictions spring from injuries that require prescription pain killers. For many, the end of a prescription leaves them with a psychological if not physiological addiction and they seek relief through alternate means.
They buy unused pills from someone else’s prescription then progress to buying pills stolen from homes and pharmacies. Soon, pills aren’t enough to “get off E” (stop feeling sick). Addicts need more and more of the drug to get through the day without feeling ill. Many addicts rarely get high after using for a long time. They simply need the drug to function. As the need for the drug increases, users progress from pills like Oxycodone to shooting heroin intravenously.
At this point, the physical need is so strong that users will do anything for the drug. The desperation is hard to fathom. Imagine something so powerful you’d kill for. So powerful you’d get on your knees and beg for. Something you need so badly you’d give your body to anyone who asked if they promised you money to buy it.
One of the most difficult aspects of writing this book for me was creating realistic scenarios with my drug culture characters. After sitting across the table with family members and hearing the desperate and dangerous things addicts will do for the drug, writing these scenes sometimes made me feel physically ill because I knew they were playing out every day across the world.
When I was nearly finished with the book, and really struggling to come to terms with this problem, I remembered the story of a woman I’d met years ago. She married and had two kids with a man who later became addicted to heroin. We worked together and over the years I heard story after story of the problems he caused her.
He stopped working and continually stole from family members. He sold their electronics even after she’d thrown him out of the house. He broke into the houses of relatives, stole their cash, sold their electronics. He drove the children around town while he was high.
This story played out in real time for me. If she’d asked my advice it would have been to divorce him and keep him away from the children. But year after year she struggled to provide for the family on her own. She raised her children by herself and encouraged her husband to get help. Years later when he’d recovered and moved back in, I was in awe of her love, strength, and commitment, to see her marriage through such a tumultuous time.
You will see a glimpse of this woman in my character Cynthia during DINNER AT DEADMAN’S. She shows surprising compassion in one key scene given the circumstances. I hope you’ll give the book a try and see drugs and addiction in a new light.
C.J., thanks for joining us today and giving us a different perspective on love and addition. It is unbelievable to what extremes addicts will go to get what they need. C.J. is the author of seven suspense novels including THE END OF MARKING TIME and SIN AND VENGEANCE, which was optioned into development for film by Beantown Productions, LLC (screenplay by Marla Cukor).
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