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LETTERS FROM WAKE ROBIN FARM

Support From the Beyond

Two years before he died at the age of 83, my Uncle Bill distributed copies of a book called The Four Agreements among family members. Inside he pasted a typed note: I believe this book contains valuable truths clearly stated. My hope is that you will find it so. Wm. E. Welch 2001.

It struck me as a bit too new-agey for me at the time, and something that could have been summed up in a magazine article rather than stretched into even a short book. Still, it was sweet of my uncle, and the agreements, conveniently summed up on the fly leaf, made sense:

1) Be impeccable with your word
2) Don’t take anything personally
3) Don’t make assumptions
4) Always do your best

A few days ago I took it out to read again and, honestly, with that message inside, it felt like his steadying hand reaching from Beyond in comfort.

He was my father’s big brother, and I have a picture of the two of them on a fishing trip to Alaska which now hangs in our Kings Valley cabin. A few years after my father died at the too-young age of 73, I was cleaning and found the picture on a top shelf. I turned it over and in my father’s dashed-off but artistic hand was a documentation of the trip that concluded with this: Bill is a very neat guy who loves you just as I do—Dad

Wow. Who knew deep cleaning a house could be such an emotional experience?

My dad and my uncle were the two children of Fay Eleanor, the beloved grandmother known to us as Deedee. I last saw her on my wedding day in 1974. She died a month later, and my mother said the Portland relatives reported she’d left a To-Do list which had my name on it.

On one of the healing meditation CDs I’ve been listening to during my recovery from physician-prescribed drugs, Belleruth Naparstek encourages the imagining of an emotional support team of people who’ve loved you in the past, those who love you now, and those who will love you in the future. I always get a kick out of that, conjuring the people who don’t even know yet how they’re going to love the heck out of you!

Those who've been trying to keep loving me now might be a little worn out with all this, though, so I’m calling on my father, my uncle and my grandmother as three who loved me in the past, and each morning when I’m doing yoga and turn to a left side plank, I raise my right arm and find myself saluting the lovely portrait which I recently had framed—my beautiful grandmother as a young woman.

Check it out, Deedee, I think each time. I’m doing my best!  Read More 
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ACCIDENTAL ADDICT is available on Amazon

Please click here to view a two-and-a-half minute YouTube trailer for ACCIDENTAL ADDICT.
ADVANCED PRAISE FOR ACCIDENTAL ADDICT:

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

Crew’s inspiring triumph over addiction and withdrawal is a lifeline for anyone struggling to recover from prescription painkillers or anti-anxiety medications…. a brutal eye-opener for bystander friends, family, and doctors at a loss for clarity and compassion who, inadvertently, reopen the dark, black hole of desperation. This bold memoir is a riveting roller coaster of devastating defeat, tenacious courage, and exhilarating joy, gratitude, and hope.
Gretchen Olson, Call Me Hope

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

Accidental Addict is an excruciatingly tender, necessary work, wonderfully written, so compelling, so honest. Incredibly personal and filled with love. The many, many people who don't even know this is happening to them will thank Linda Crew over and over.
Jane Kirkpatrick, Homestead

I found myself instantly drawn into her story, and her witty delivery kept me engaged. Definitely a wake-up call for all of us about the perils of painkiller and anti-anxiety medication use, and the way doctors have carelessly over-prescribed these drugs in the last few decades. A fascinating (and scary) read that won’t be easy to forget.
Margot Vance-Borland, LPC

Linda Crew clearly has a gift. Her memoir about the unrecognized epidemic of protracted withdrawal illnesses caused by benzodiazepines and other psychiatric drugs is written like a novel and, like a brilliant piece of fiction, gets under your skin…an important piece of literature that may help educate many.
Monica Cassani, author and editor of Beyond Meds, prize-winning web magazine

Linda Crew's Accidental Addict is a must read for all medical students across America, and physicians who treat pain will find this book very useful as they rethink the way they are prescribing narcotics....a superb book on an enormous medical issue of our time.
Mark Rampton, M.D., Family Physician at Corvallis Family Medicine

Addiction to prescribed medications, due to the actions of well-meaning medical professionals, has become alarmingly common across the country today. Linda Crew has written a compelling and bravely honest memoir of her struggle and recovery from the aftereffects of legally prescribed narcotic painkillers and benzodiazepines. Her voice is clear on their devastating impact, and her story is one that needs to be widely read and shared by both patients and providers.
Catherine Saeger, LICSW

If you believe that smart, strong, successful people who faithfully follow the rules, listen to their doctors, and have a solid and impressive support system of family and friends are not the “sorts of folks” who become addicted to prescription narcotics for post-surgical pain, then you’d best read Linda Crew’s Accidental Addict, a memoir that’s as harrowing, honest, and raw as it is timely. Crew writes with a ferocious energy, as though she’s determined to finish the book even as the walls of her own home are crashing down around her.
Rick Borsten, The Great Equalizer

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ACCIDENTAL ADDICT: a True Story of Pain and Healing....also Marriage, Real Estate, and Cowboy Dancing

I’m excited. I love crossing things off a To-Do list, and for almost four years now the only thing on it has been GET WELL. Now I’m crossing that off . FINALLY. I am so glad to be looking forward to a life that’s about more than struggling to recover from the nasty job opioid painkillers and the benzodiazepine Xanax did to my brain in conjunction with my total knee replacement surgery.

Maybe only someone who’s been through withdrawal from prescription drugs can fully understand what I mean by this, but that’s okay. I’m hoping my new book, ACCIDENTAL ADDICT, will help people understand what this long drawn out healing process entails. It's surely baffling to the loved ones of those in our situation.

More importantly, I hope people will read about my pharmaceutically-induced trainwreck and get the warning I never had. I like to picture somebody sitting in their doctor’s office being offered Xanax and going, “Are you kidding? You think I want to wind up like that woman in ACCIDENTAL ADDICT?”

ACCIDENTAL ADDICT: a True Story of Pain and Healing….also Marriage, Real Estate, and Cowboy Dancing. It’s gone to press—or however that should be put in the digital age—which is another huge item off my To-Do list!
To view a two-and-a-half minute YouTube book trailer,click here.

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The Death of Prince

When I heard Prince had been found dead, I right away thought: drugs. No, not necessarily a heroin overdose, but when people in ever greater numbers are dying too young–found dead—and there’s been no talk of going downhill from cancer, no car accident, well, the involvement of prescription drugs is certainly what springs immediately to my mind.

True, Prince’s autopsy report hasn’t yet been made public, but it wasn’t long before Percocet was mentioned, and today we get the story that Prince died just one day before a famous addiction specialist was scheduled to fly to his aid. This is revealed as a tragedy of timing, as if he missed being saved by just one day.

But it’s not that simple. When it comes to getting off narcotic painkillers, money’s little help. As I suffered through withdrawal coming off of Oxycodone after my knee replacement surgery, I’m sure a sympathetic doctor holding my hand and encouraging me would have been better than the help I got—which was basically nothing—but in the end, it’s all down to the addicted patient. The most famous, high-priced doctor around pointing out you have to stop taking the drugs will not spare you the horrors. Doctors don’t have a whole lot of tricks in their bags for helping people deal with this addiction—never mind that in so many cases the addiction began at the prescription pad of some fellow physician.

What they don’t talk about in most addiction stories is just how long a person has to feel perfectly horrid long after they’ve stopped “using.” Is this because so few people ever actually get off this stuff and have the story to tell? Even in tales of recovery, it seems to me the physical difficulties are downplayed. I wonder if it’s possible that addicts feel they’ll sound whiny if they talk about this. Maybe they think others wouldn’t be sympathetic because they are, after all, addicts?

Maybe that’s the way I felt before I went through this myself—as judgmental as the next person. Now I have nothing but the sincerest admiration for anybody who can get themselves off these brain-damaging drugs and stay off. Since I have nothing to feel guilty about, I have no problem speaking up and pointing out that withdrawal is truly hell, and our medical system better get its act together in a hurry to deal with restrictive new prescription protocols for opioids, and all the people who are soon going to be ushered off of their painkillers and into this horrid illness.

I’m hoping my upcoming memoir—Accidental Addict--will help shed light on all this. I’ve been receiving some wonderful pre-publication endorsements, including this one from Dr. Andrew Kolodny, Executive Director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing: "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."

So sad about the loss of the talented and popular Prince, but for every famous person who dies this way, there are thousands who die without headlines, becoming only another statistic in the CDC’s alarming new reports of the rising rates of overdose deaths from prescription drugs.  Read More 
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Fond Memories

A year ago today it was like spring, and I decided to try acting like a well person. I took up my loppers and headed out to work in my trees. About a half hour later I tripped, fell, and broke my ankle. It’s amazing to me how long it’s been since I’ve given that fully healed ankle a second thought. If only brains healed so quickly and efficiently. But that’s a long story, a book, in fact (coming soon), and not what I want to write about here.

It’s just that this anniversary reminded me of some unfinished business derailed by my accident. The previous day last year I received, out of the blue, an email from Thy Chan, known now as Tony Te, with a picture of himself as a child at Wake Robin Farm. Through the magic of Facebook, the internet, and a helpful sister, he’d found my site. I loved this—him writing that he had such happy memories of playing at the farm while his parents helped during harvest. This was during the time when the stories of families like his were inspiring me to write CHILDREN OF THE RIVER.

Now he works for a wedding photography company in Southern California. He's also an events coordinator, in charge of the Cambodian New Years Parade in Long Beach, the biggest new year's celebration in Southern California.

Thank you, little Thy, all grown up into Tony Te, for coming back for a cyber visit!

I also recently heard from some middle school students in Nebraska who were reading Children of the River and wanted to know how things had turned out for my Cambodian character Sundara. Of course Sundara is fictional, so the best I can do is to report the "happy endings" of the good lives being lived here in the US by the Cambodian refugees we met back then. I'm glad to say that every follow-up story I've heard is a good one, and reinforces the idea that refugees from other countries have helped make America strong. As my husband likes to say, "Bring 'em on!"  Read More 
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Young Critic Raves Over Old Book!

My husband Herb’s grandmother was first cousins with Marie Hall Ets, winner of the Caldecott Medal for children’s picture books, and Herb remembers as a child being taken to visit her New York City apartment, where he was impressed by the pet mice she kept in cages as models for her charcoal drawings.

Over the years he has searched out copies of her various books from antiquarian book sites, but recently, as it became time to introduce the star pupil of the Wake Robin Farm Daycare and Academy for Exceptional Grandchildren to her works, he realized he was missing his own childhood favorite, In the Forest.

When the precious copy arrived from a couple of nice-sounding ladies in upstate New York doing business as Book Rescue LLC and also Happy Dog Farm, Inc., (surely a story in itself) we couldn’t wait to see what our resident 23-month-old critic would have to say about it.

Five stars!

“Read again! Again! Start over.” One particular page fascinates him. “Go to the gooder page.” Something about the boy in the story trying to ascertain if one of the animals—a stork—was “real” seems to intrigue him. Maybe it’s all the discussion around here about the difference between the logo deer on the John Deere tractor and the “real deer” that come up out of the forest to graze in the yard. As we read it over and over and discussed everything, he finally looked at us solemnly and said, “We talking all about this.”

I love that Marie Hall Ets wrote and illustrated this book seventy-five years ago and today, despite the musty smell of the pages, her story is as alive and fresh as the day she finished her charcoal drawings and decided she had the words down just right. Wish she could see how beautifully and mysteriously her work still speaks to this child.

You have to hand it to the people who write, illustrate, edit and publish children’s books when they manage to nail it like this. The Caldecott Medal means nothing to this little guy, but he knows what he likes, and the people on the committee that year--all long gone, I'm sure--knew exactly knew what they were doing.














































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The Making of a Bi-lingual Child

WARNING! THIS POST CONTAINS BLATANT GRANDPARENTAL BRAGGING!

It turns out that raising a bi-lingual child in America is not as easy as I used to think. It’s not enough to have one parent speaking something other than English. That parent must carefully speak only the second language to the child on a continual basis to counteract all the English he will hear in his daily life.

In our case, the second language is Mandarin, and it’s our daughter-in-law, Ziwei, who has taken on the task of making sure our little grandson will have the benefits of both languages. This is not easy when he is in our English-speaking care each morning and she works full-time as a pre-school teacher.

Although we had believed Nolan was smart from early on—he sat in my lap and turned the pages of Home for Bunny at the age of five months—he wasn’t breaking any records for earliest first words. We read this was sometimes the case when a child is programming two languages into his brain at the same time.

Recently his language development has been exponential, however, with continual new words and combinations. He likes the word “compromise” and reconfirms daily that “raccoons nocturnal.” But his dad reports that he may actually be speaking Mandarin more correctly than English because of the simplicity of the Chinese language, at least so far as the grammar goes. Ziwei was putting on his walrus socks when he said in Mandarin, “Haven’t wear walrus long time,” which she reports is perfectly correct.

A couple of days ago this cutie was standing at his usual spot at our house— on a stool by the kitchen sink where he likes to wash and eat whatever garden produce his Ye-ye (grampa) has brought in. My husband said to me, “Will you keep an eye on him for a minute?”

“Well, of course,” I said, with the exaggerated enthusiasm you give a 21-month-old, not that it was the least bit insincere. “There’s nothing in the world I’d rather do this minute than watch this little guy eat your strawberries!”

Nolan turned from the sink, gave me a shy little half smile with his berry-stained cheeks and said softly, “Wo ai ni.”

OMG and be still my heart. Because I only know two phrases in Chinese. One is wo bu ming bai—I don’t understand—and the other is wo ai ni.

I love you.

Thank you, Ziwei!  Read More 
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Jennifer Anniston's movie "Cake"

I was intrigued when I heard Jennifer Anniston was making a movie—"Cake"—starring herself as a woman addicted to narcotic painkillers. Since I never watched "Friends" when it first aired, I had been finding Jen and the rest of the cast great company in the middle of the night as I suffered through withdrawal from Oxycodone myself, and I couldn’t wait to see how she would handle this drastically different role that currently hit so close to home for me.

The movie was supposed to come out in January, but week after week it failed to appear in our theatres. Or theatres anywhere. Finally it turned out it had gone straight to video. I watched it May, as soon as I could get it from Netflix.

Was it simply because I could so identify with the character’s misery that this film resonated with me? Did other people see only an unlikeable, bitchy woman for whom they could muster no empathy? By the revelatory ending, Jennifer Anniston had broken my heart.

I felt especially bummed for her as an actress, to somehow have her big shot at an Oscar be summarily dismissed this way. Seriously, I thought she was great. She had me in tears. It’s as if because she is basically so damned cute and has such spot-on comic timing, nobody wants to watch her step up to be front and center in a dramatic, decidedly non-cute role.

People often seem to think the rich and famous are too rich and famous to care about this sort of thing, but I’ll bet she felt really bad. Just wanted to point out that one person out here appreciated her efforts.  Read More 
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Cheryl Strayed's WILD

Cheryl Strayed is speaking in our town tonight, and people keep asking me if I’m going. I’m not, but only because I satisfied my curiosity about the real woman behind this book I so admired when I ran down and heard her at the Corvallis Public Library right after it came out. WILD was a big deal from the start. Now, with the opening of Reese Witherspoon’s movie version, it has become a media juggernaut.

Some people—other writers—resent Strayed’s success. Not me. Sure, I had a little trouble rooting for her in those first chapters. Why did she walk out on a perfectly good husband? Was she going to explain that? But before long I couldn’t help empathizing with her simply as a fellow human being, however flawed.

Here’s the thing that drew me into Cheryl Strayed’s journey of self-discovery: her kindness to others. A powerful book is not about being able to string nice sentences together. Plenty of people can manage that trick, but without heart, where’s the story? Cheryl Strayed has heart. She gives every individual she meets along the trail a break. For contrast, read Augusten Burrough’s memoir, DRY, where he actively sneers at each every single person he encounters in his life unless he is sexually attracted to them.

Yes, Cheryl Strayed hurt some people along the way. She shot heroin. She wasn’t too careful in choosing sexual partners. “Not a very good role model,” somebody actually confided to me. (!) So what? We’re sitting around this big campfire to share our stories, not set ourselves up as role models. How can you not empathize with someone so honest, a person harder on herself than on anyone else? I think this capacity in Strayed goes beyond her memoir. In her collected DEAR SUGAR columns she also shows a compassion for others, as well as a lot of hard-won wisdom.

True kindness and compassion for others is in short supply in this world. It should be valued. It should be spread around. Cheryl Strayed clearly does not need an endorsement from me at this point. Nevertheless, here it is: You go, girl! Read More 
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The Barbarism of Football

My heart breaks for the mother of 22-year-old football player Kosta Karageorge, who received from her son a final text message apologizing for being such an embarrassment, explaining that all the concussions he’d sustained had messed up his brain.

Of course everyone claims to be shocked by his suicide. As somebody suffering from temporary brain damage due to drug withdrawal, I wasn’t. Brain damage, whether sustained by a war injury, drugs, or a collision occurring during a game played for entertainment, has a weird way of making people want to kill themselves. Sadly, Karageorge is not a tragic anomaly. There are far too many sad stories, some of them suicides, of retired NFL players whose lives were destroyed because of the brain damage they were paid the big bucks to risk. Susan Karageorge’s loss of her son is truly tragic, but it did not come out of the blue. It was not a random fluke of the universe.

I’ve always thought football was barbaric. Having ruined my own knee by kneeling on a sewing needle at the age of fifteen, I could never fathom why anyone would deliberately risk these joints so important to simply walking around. What it did to people’s brains was even worse. I dutifully put together football-uniform Halloween costumes for both of my sons, but I never made any bones over being delighted they neither of them had the brawn to be recruited. I was pleased to have my children be all about their brain power.

Thirty years ago I wrote a passage for my first novel, CHILDREN OF THE RIVER, where the main character, a Cambodian refugee named Sundara, visits her American boyfriend in the hospital after he’s been injured and carried off the high school football field on a stretcher.

“You have a lot of pain?”
“Only when I move. It’s like this horrendous headache.”
“Then it’s true, what Ravy tells me? You hurt your head?”
“Yeah, just a slight concussion, it turns out.”
“But this is very bad,” she said softly, “to be hurt in your head. Jonatan, your head is the place of your soul, your life force. You must take care.”

Here’s the thing about brain damage, whether temporary or permanent: You can stand there looking just fine, but if your brain isn’t working right, you’ve lost it all.

Maybe it’s true what some say, that football is going to be the next tobacco. It should be. How about we smarten up, face the painful facts about football, and shift our culture toward something less barbaric? Read More 
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