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From a Place Far Away
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Please click here to view a two-and-a-half minute YouTube trailer for ACCIDENTAL ADDICT.
I hope this timely book gets widely read. Linda Crew’s experience has been shared by millions of Americans and many have lost their lives. The medical community has accidentally created an epidemic of addiction by overprescribing narcotics, and now everyone, including prescribers, needs to know how easily these drugs can destroy lives.
Andrew Kolodny, MD—Executive Director, Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing
After telling in lucid prose how she become an Accidental Addict, Linda Crew provides a prescription that all of medicine should heed: “A doctor should never prescribe a drug without an understanding of what it takes to get off of that drug, and a willingness to help his patient accomplish this.” One hopes that everyone who prescribes benzodiazepines and opioid painkillers will read this compelling memoir.
Robert Whitaker, Anatomy of an Epidemic
ACCIDENTAL ADDICT on Amazon
The ebook for your Kindle is available NOW. Print copies to come soon.
LETTERS FROM WAKE ROBIN FARM
October 3, 2017
When I was in the 8th grade, I decided to enter the city-wide essay contest sponsored by the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce on the theme of “What America Means to Me.” I set about this writing task with determination, congratulating myself on my rather scientific approach.
My method? I sat down and put on all my Peter, Paul and Mary records and copied out the ringing phrases that might work. Words. Somebody else’s words. Then I strung them together.
It worked. My mother was thrilled to open the local paper one evening and see a small headline: Linda Welch Wins Jaycee Essay Event.
My handwritten-in-pencil essay is tucked into a scrapbook she put together. Because she did this, I cannot bear to throw it out. I also cannot bear to read it. I mean, I literally cannot. I start in and just want to gag. The words were well-crafted for an eighth grader, I guess, but the essay contains nothing fresh, original, or anything that even represents my actual thoughts or feelings. Just one cliché after another.
I thought of that essay when NPR started playing President Donald Trump’s condolence speech on the mass shooting in Las Vegas. What a pile of crap! Somebody writes up a bunch of appropriate phrases, loads them on the teleprompter, and then he reads them in that sing-song, bored-with-it-himself voice. Something about we will be united by the power of our love? This coming from a man who clearly has no idea of the concept of love for anyone but himself?
It’s hard to know which is worse, this sort of stuff or all the times when he actually says or tweets what he really feels, giving us a horrifying look into the dark, empty void of his narcissistic soul.
He says the Mayor of San Juan, Yulin Cruz, “showed such poor leadership!”
I just want to gag.
Can’t somebody please find a way to free us from him?
September 5, 2017
The forests of Oregon are on fire, and we are sitting under a blanket of smothering smoke. My town of Corvallis, situated on the west side of the broad Willamette Valley, had been spared the worst, giving us only the sun as a red disk at rising as a smoke indicator. Then, Sunday, the overcast layer began to thicken, smell like smoke, and become truly oppressive.
It makes me think of the scenes I researched for my historical novel, Fire on the Wind, which details with an accuracy of which I’m proud the course of the huge Tillamook Burn of 1933. All the descriptions of the fire and smoke darkening the skies were taken from eye-witness accounts published in newspapers of the time.
One scene I wrote jumped to mind—that of a young farmwife on the coast, running out to greet the welcome rain pinging on the roof, only to find falling from the sky blackened fir needles.
So, last night, when my daughter—that’s her at fourteen on the cover of my book—texted that ashes were raining down on her Southwest Portland neighborhood, I felt like we were all living this story again. These would be ashes blowing in from the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia Gorge, blown east by that same drying wind from the desert that played such a part in the Tillamook Burn. My Mary, the model for Story Faye, the log camp girl in my book, is now thirty-one and pregnant. I want breathing her fresh air!
If you’re stuck inside, waiting for the skies to clear, you might find Fire on the Wind diverting. It’s such a fast read, in fact, that if you download it to your Kindle and start in, you’ll likely be finished long before the smoke over Oregon blows away.
I used this 16th century poem in my book and I thought of it again today:
Oh, Western wind, when wilt though blow
That the small rain down can rain?
Christ, that my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again……
Yes, please let it rain.
August 30, 2017
Life moved on quickly after the eclipse last week. People got in their cars and drove back north or south on I-5, south on 97, joining what proved to be the only real traffic jams caused by the celestial event. In the Willamette Valley, we turned our attention to the thick smoke of forest fires blanketing us, and tuned into the reports of devastation out of Texas thanks to Harvey. All the reports of devastation from Houston made the dire warnings of the effects of too many eclipse visitors to Oregon seem almost laughable.
Afterwards, authorities said they’d just picked that number—a million visitors—out of the air, and probably the fact that it wasn’t so bad is due to the fact that not nearly that many showed up. The predictions of traffic gridlock were so scary, we warned our out-of-town guests we wouldn’t blame them if they backed out.
Now we’re so glad they didn’t! Because seeing the eclipse in totality turned out to be amazing for everyone, and none of the bad things predicted came to pass. That afternoon, when it was over, I took my niece Mallory from Vancouver, B.C., downtown, and I had never seen so many people walking our streets. Happy people. The mood was totally celebratory. They came, they saw, they shopped for souvenirs.
A lovely woman from Davis, California, wrote a letter of thanks to our local paper, the Gazette-Times, for the hospitality she found in Corvallis. No, thank YOU, Stephanie. You and everybody else who showed up and played nice. Apparently nobody picked fights or started forest fires (Mother Nature handles that on her own), people didn't overwhelm the hospitals with fried eyeballs, and authorities in Central Oregon were reporting a surprising lack of residual trash.
Whether the viewing party was formally arranged as was ours, or ended up being an impromptu gathering of neighbors, it seems everyone felt blessed to be able to go outside and for a few minutes, share this amazing phenomenon with others.
Our farm is two miles from town, but just like my memory of the eclipse of 19790, at the moment of totality, we could hear the cheering.
August 16, 2017
Yep, my own hometown of Corvallis, Oregon, is sitting square in the path of totality for next Monday’s eclipse, and every day the news warns us that a million people are headed our way and surely all hell is going to break loose.
How come this didn’t happen with the eclipse of 1979? No internet? My husband and I don’t even know anyone else who even saw it. We, however, did.
It was February, so there was no way going to be a shot at seeing it from the rainy Willamette Valley. We decided to go to Eastern Oregon, looping up around the Columbia Gorge and then south. We booked a motel room in Cascade Locks a couple of weeks ahead, no issues, nobody even talking about it. Then, on the day before, we headed north from Corvallis on a scenic route through Silverton and the Cascade foothills.
Our troubles began when we hit Highway 26 at Sandy. We took a left and I was all for waiting until the helpful green highway signs, in which I have great faith, said something recognizable like “Troutdale” as a hint for when to turn right for the Gorge. But Herb felt that surely one of these other right turns must lead to the Gorge as well. Neither of us understood the geographical fact that the Sandy River was between us and the Gorge.
My husband took an impulsive right and soon we were lost. Or at least not making progress towards our goal. And here’s the thing: I was four months pregnant, and soon desperately bladder challenged. Herb was 29 and naturally had, as a young man, no inclination to stop and asked for directions, either to the Gorge or a restroom.
I do not remember how all that was resolved, only that eventually we got back on Highway 26, took the proper turn for Troutdale and eventually checked into the Cascade Locks motel.
It poured rain that night and we were fighting. I could not understand how I was having a baby by a guy who seemed incapable of saying he was sorry for being flat out wrong and making me suffer.
In the morning, still hardly speaking, we got up and drove east until we emerged from the rain to the dry side of the Cascades, then headed south. When we figured we were in the zone, we pulled off to the side of the road and climbed a small knoll.
As predicted, the moon’s shadow began to cross the face of the sun, and here’s what I remember: When the shadow totally eclipsed the sun, a great cheer rose from the neighboring hills, startling me. I hadn’t even been aware other people were standing out there until that moment.
Our spat was suddenly so yesterday. We were going to have a baby. Our first. And in spite of everything, we had managed to get ourselves to this spot at the right time to see this amazing spectacle. Together. We drove home happy.
So now, thirty-eight years later, we are ground zero right here at Wake Robin Farm and hosting family from Victoria, B. C. and San Francisco for the big event. Kids closer to home are still on the fence about whether to brave the predicted highway gridlock to come share this together. I cannot advise them.
We are stocking up on food, as suggested, and I am cleaning my house. It needs it anyway. I have complete confidence in the scientists that the sun will be totally eclipsed next Monday morning. I have no idea how the drama of a million people coming to Oregon will play out.
But I can be confident that whatever happens on Monday, on Tuesday, my front step bricks will be clean!
August 4, 2017
Brides of Eden was first published in 2001, before ebooks were a thing. I've finally now been able to make it available in an ebook edition that contains all the lovely historic photos of the original.
Check Goodreads for a lot of great ratings and reviews.
August 3, 2017
Yesterday’s front page article in our local paper, the Corvallis Gazette Times, reminded me of a story I’ve been meaning to tell. The headline reads “Corvallis police pack antidote to opioids.” The picture features a friendly looking police officer holding up a package of Narcan, and the article is upbeat about what this will mean in terms of lives saved from opioid overdoses in our town. Narcan (naloxone) instantly counters the effects of opioids and can miraculously revive a person just moments from death.
Now, to backtrack. A few weeks ago I flew to California to hang out with my old childhood friend at her oceanfront home in Santa Cruz. This is not Instagram or Facebook, so I’m not into posting vacation pictures in hopes of inciting envy. Hey look! I’m logging time in prettier places than you are! So I’ll just say it was lovely and only one final incident was negative and relevant to what I sometimes write about here concerning drug addiction.
On the way to the San Jose airport to fly home, we stopped at one of those huge malls. Right outside Nordstrom, as we approached, a young woman was absolutely freaking out. Three or four people were trying to restrain her, and others were watching from a distance, what I like to think hopefully of as respectful witness rather than just maudlin gawking.
“I said no Narcan!” I heard her scream. Or something like that. Something against Narcan, and the name of the drug I heard clearly.
I was one of the people who walked right past into the store, and would have looked to anyone watching like someone who couldn’t be deterred from shopping to show concern for a fellow human being. But that’s not what was going on in my head.
I wonder if maybe I was in a better position than the others present to have a feeling for what this woman was going through. “Take it easy,” the men who restrained her were saying. “Everything’s going to be okay.”
Well, no it wasn’t. This was not somebody overdosing. This was somebody who’d been jerked back from death and into instant opioid withdrawal. Narcan works by instantly pulling all the opioids from the brain’s opioid receptors. What I suffered over the course of months in coming off of Oxycodone, this poor soul was experiencing in an instant. The intensity of her physical and mental anguish haunts me still.
When we came out of the mall—we weren’t in there long, and since I hate malls, I don’t know what possessed me to agree to this last stop in the first place—an ambulance was parked there, presumably with this woman aboard.
There’s so much controversy about Narcan. In towns like ours, everybody’s feeling pleased that they’ll be able to save lives. In towns where the same people get saved over and over, only to shoot up again, patience and the good feeling of doing the right thing begin to wear thin.
But here’s the thing—unless they get that young woman to some sort of a rehab place right now, she WILL shoot up again. It will look to the outside world like just the stupidest decision ever after these nice people saved her, right? But after my own experiences, I see it differently. Any human in such physical and psychological distress will be thinking of only one thing—how to get out of it. And the most immediate way is a hit of opioids. Their brains are highjacked. This is not a moral decision. Unless the person is rather forcibly cared for without a chance of finding relief from agony by using again, yes, they will use. Addicts will be revived over and over until finally they overdose when no rescue Narcan is at hand.
Treatment. Loving, non-judgmental treatment. That’s what’s needed. Expecting somebody in this position to somehow get a grip on themselves is absolutely futile.
I wish somebody would read this and tell me they know who that woman was and that she’s clean now and on the road to well. Because I can’t forget her agonized cries.
July 8, 2017
Well, time flies! My little cover model for Someday I’ll Laugh About This, Gillian Stephenson, probably around eleven when she posed for me, just graduated from high school. Congratulations!
Coincidentally, I was just shipping another box of this title to the lovely sisters at Mari’s Books And…..in Yachats, Oregon. I wonder how many titles can claim to be sold exclusively in one store? I was going to write that the book is available on Amazon but nobody buys it there, but when I went to check I saw that, yeah, that’s right, probably nobody has ever bought it through Amazon. That’s kind of what a ranking of 8 million or whatever means! So, Amazon gave up. Can’t blame them.
So, this summer vacation story can be bought only in Yachats, where Mary and Mari, the store's owners, do a great job of hand-selling the book the way only independent book store owners can, doubtless pointing out to customers that Yachats is the actual setting of the book, renamed Perpetua for fictional purposes.
It’s certainly dated in terms of the technology available to my characters; the beloved beach cabin, Sea Haven, doesn’t even have a phone, and cell phones are still in the future. But the heaving emotions of puberty are still the same, and I was so sad to see that last summer, a teenage girl from Eugene died in a rolling-log-in-the-surf accident similar to what I describe in the climax. The need to warn of this Oregon Coast peril will never be out-of-date.
Gillian, my model for Shelby, is the granddaughter of my dear friend, Margaret Anderson, who has herself just released a memoir entitled From a Place Far Away: My Scottish Childhood in World War II.
I loved this book! Read it last night in one sitting and it was so soothing, such an antidote to the current state of political affairs and the degradation of our culture. So pleasant to read about decent people coping with the threat of war as they live through what will in retrospect seem rather idyllic childhoods.
Margaret is a wonderful writer, and she had me laughing out loud over and over, describing her childhood antics. It’s a difficult thing to write about oneself, and she pulls it off to perfection. Fans of her earlier novels—who are no doubt now reading these books to their own children—will definitely want to read From a Place Far Away and learn about the places and incidents that inspired her earlier and much beloved works.
From a Place Far Away is a gem. Don’t miss it!
July 4, 2017
I’m sure you all heard about Donald Trump’s fake Time cover, right? I’m not going to reproduce it here. I wouldn’t dream of featuring his narcissistic mug on my own website where I have control. Just looking at his picture gives me the creeps, thinking of all the vile, disgusting, misogynistic, homophobic, violence-provoking words that have come out of that mouth, never knowing but dreading how his next remarks will somehow manage to be even worse.
But may I share my own Time cover mock-up? It’s not hard to do! The main difference here is that when I hit on the idea of putting my son and his Chinese fiancé on a Time cover already bannering China ten years ago, I did it for the sheer creative fun of it, and the joy of celebrating this relationship. I didn’t send it out to the world and try to pretend my own son and his fiancée had somehow caught the attention of the media.
Happy 4th of July. As happy as it can be for our country having this clown in our highest office.
June 22, 2017
At the time I finished up Accidental Addict, I had only the kindest things to say in it about Benzobuddies.org, a message board for people trying to get off of benzodiazepines. Now I have a few afterthoughts and, as Rachel Platten puts it in my favorite line of “Fight Song:” All those things I never said, were wrecking balls inside my head.
It’s time to say them!
For me, it was a relief to sign onto the Benzobuddies board, to find that others were suffering from this mysterious discontinuation syndrome that most people could not get their doctors to even recognize. I was not alone! It didn’t take long, though, to clue into the playground nature of much of the discourse, and note how anger at doctors and a person’s situation could quickly translate to anger for others on the board.
Along with the sharing of comforting commiseration, a continual frustration against the medical community is voiced, and everyone laments our seeming inability to get the word out about the dangers of these drugs. Here’s where I thought I had a contribution to make. It seemed clear to me that people still in the throes of withdrawal and recovery from the brain damage done by benzos cannot be taken seriously by their doctors. It’s too easy for them to write everyone off as simply nutcases. My plan was to heal and then tell my story. Since I was already a writer, this assignment seemed like a no brainer. I innocently thought the fact that I had such a squeaky clean record for prior substance abuse made me an excellent poster girl for this issue. How could the plot be anymore straight forward? I was a solid person. Xanax and Oxycodone damaged my brain. I struggled to heal and finally did so, and without the help of any medical professionals. So, beware, it can happen to anyone.
It’s not like I was the only one to consider writing a book about this, though. In fact, it’s a popular topic, the books people on the board will write sometime in the future when they’re finally up to it. People float their ideas and collect endless encouragement. People compliment each other on their writing and say how wonderful these unwritten books are sure to be.
When I posted on the board that I was already writing a book, however, the moderators jumped all over me. I guess it was threatening, somebody going ahead and actually DOING it. I was told, for the first but not the last time, how seriously they take their rules. Got it. But I knew I didn’t need anybody’s approval or encouragement to tell and publish my own story, and that seemed to disturb them.
When I posted that I had indeed published Accidental Addict, the moderators removed my post, citing rules against linking to any commercial sites. Same thing if I ever said I’d done a blog post people might want to check out. Nevermind that there were no links. Never mind that the picky rules they would laborious write out were enforced only selectively, and others were allowed to post links to blog posts, books of interests, YouTube videos etc. When I would speak up about my book, the moderators—one in particular—would swoop in like a pack of the witch’s flying monkeys and disappear my posts, issue stern warnings against me.
I came to feel that the Benzobuddies board has rules, but the moderators have no wisdom in their “rulings.” And it’s not about these stated rules anyway. It’s about breaking the larger, unspoken rules. The consensus on the BB board is that we have nothing to be ashamed about and our story should be told, but people who actually dare to speak up, go out there and take this story public are penalized. I watched in dismay as a fellow BB friend interested in setting up a boots-on-the-ground group to help local suffers was reprimanded. What? She should have been encouraged. Privacy rules were cited, but what if people aren’t worried about privacy? What if some of us truly DON’T feel ashamed of the position we’ve been put in and actually mean it when we say we want to help educate people about the dangers of benzos?
The Powers at the BB board look askance at anybody who actually wants to try to help out in the wider world. This was most evident in their booting off of Monica Cassani, a San Francisoco woman who worked tirelessly for years to offer a website—Beyond Meds—which contained resources for people trying to get off of psych meds. The technical rule she broke, according to BB, was posting a link to her site. It was commercial, they ruled, because she had a button for contributions. Ha! As she put it, she didn’t collect enough for a weekly latte! Never mind. The real rule she broke was that, like me, she refused to kneel before the moderators. As one of the mods put it, “she was such a difficult woman.” Right. Difficult because she never signed onto the idea that the mods were all powerful and all-knowing.
In the end I was thoroughly excoriated for unabashedly using the term “addict” in my title. Reams (if that’s a word that can be applied to on-line posts) are written on the BB board lamenting the misunderstanding in the wider world between the terms addiction and dependence, as if avoiding the label of “addict” will help the slightest in speeding healing. People, I’m here to say that your brain doesn’t care what you call it, the physical effects are the same. I had doctors who treated me like an addict and doctors who insisted I wasn’t one. None were any help at all, so what difference does it make?
Yes, we desperately need the doctors to understand what’s going on here in both the benzo epidemic and the opioid epidemic, but in the meantime, shouldn’t everybody be encouraged to get their stories of iatrogenic addiction out there? My idea, in sharing my story, was to give people a heads up and let them know they better have their own backs in accepting prescriptions of any of this stuff. It’ll be great, someday, when and if doctors understand all this better, but in the meantime, save yourself.
Read all the cautionary stories you can find. The question is not whether you are officially to be labeled an addict; the question is whether the drugs you’re taking might be hurting you without your even realizing it.
Many people find help on the Benzobuddies board, and you may too. But please don't take what you read there as the last word on anything.
June 2, 2017
Apparently handsome actor Mike McGowan did a good job for Astro Zeneca in convincing people to plead with their doctors for Movantik, because they’ve come out with a new commercial featuring him once again as Frank, the construction foreman with opioid-induced constipation.
Absolutely shameless! Commercials like this ought to be illegal! Watch as Astra Zeneca cynically attempts to normalize addiction to opioid painkillers. The theme tag on this one is especially appalling, something about “Standing up to your opioid-induced constipation.” In other words, Don’t back down! Don’t be a wimp! Stand up for yourself! Be a man and bravely march in to your doctor’s office and demand another drug! The drug you deserve and are entitled to!
Please note here: sympathy for your constipation. It's really a bummer! And sympathy for your back pain too. Of course you need to be on opioids. That goes without saying, buddy.
But guess what? Don't be looking for any sympathy from the medical community for the effects of trying to get OFF of these drugs. By then you're an addict, and probably deserve it, right? Your doctor won't be able to wash his hands of you quickly enough.
The whole concept of Movantik is ridiculous in the first place. As an opioid agonist , it actually counters the effects of the opioids people are already taking. This means that one of the side effects is feeling like you’re in opioid withdrawal. Duh! If you’re going to go through all that, might as well bite the bullet, get off the opioids, and win the prize of being clean.
But no, the pharmaceutical companies would rather have you paying to take two different drugs which will fight it out in your brain and your body. This is not going to feel good. So why not be brave in a way that will not involve filling the coffers of Astro Zeneca and whichever pharmaceutical is selling you your narcotic of choice?
Taper off of your opioids. It may take awhile, and it’s not going to feel good, but opioids can actually make your pain worse in the long run, so if you kick them, you’ll eventually have less pain and be healthier.
And you’ll have better things to think about than worrying whether you can go to the bathroom!
I wish you good luck in finding one of the rare doctors who has the slightest clue what patients are being put through in first being prescribed these drugs and then being told to get off.