Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we interviewed Patricia Street about her writing and her recently released memoir, The Last Stop, a painful yet thought-provoking memoir about her family’s dealings with her son’s heroin addiction. (Read the review here.)
After Pat married her high school sweetheart and gave birth to two sons, she began keeping a journal. Little did she know that many years later, that journal, combined with her son David’s writings, would turn into a memoir about heroin addiction. David, 25, became addicted to heroin in late 1999. For the next fifteen years, he rotated in and out of active addiction, recovery, and relapse, which led to multiple jails and treatment programs. David lost his battle with addiction in 2014. Pat was devastated and had to learn how to grieve his death after losing him to addiction. Wanting to help other moms living with the nightmare of addiction, Pat was motivated and began writing a memoir that details the intimate scenes of an addict’s lifestyle and a parent’s struggle to understand addiction. David’s story is a window into the tragedy and impact the opioid crisis is having on people across America. Addiction changes the addict and those who love the addict. Pat is a different person today, but she still enjoys a good book, a lively tennis match, the clicking of Mahjongg tiles, weaving baby blankets, long walks with her little terrier mix, and, most of all, spending time with her new little grandson born in August.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
My early experience writing was keeping a journal and writing poetry. After my divorce, finishing the college degree I started 20 years before was at the top of my list. I loved my job working as a legal secretary with an international law firm. I knew I wanted a degree in legal studies. At the age of 50, after nine years of attending evening and weekend classes, I graduated from George Mason University with a bachelor’s degree in International Legal Studies. My graduate writing project about whether the war in Afghanistan was a “just” war won my college’s highest award. It was then that I realized how much I liked to write and the power of language.
What does literary success look like to you?
I wrote The Last Stop to give an understanding of addiction from the perspective of both the parent and the addict. Literary success will come by helping others living with the trauma of addiction. My book is divided into two parts: Part one is a memoir and Part two is a collection of my son’s writings. I didn’t learn until after he passed how much he wanted to be a published author. Being able to help him accomplish that goal posthumously is a personal accomplishment.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing does both. When the words on the page are finally where I want them, I am energized. Getting there can be exhausting.
Would you rather read a book or watch television?
I enjoy television, especially when I want to lose myself without any effort. I prefer movies or a series. I read mostly to learn something. After a long day of writing, researching, organizing, and thinking, I cannot focus in and enjoy reading for pleasure or learning, my brain’s not there. I’ve surprised myself that I like audio books while I crochet/weave baby blankets. I choose audio books similar to TV shows and movies, I don’t want to have to think a lot. During the last three years while writing the book, most of my reading was about addiction. I look forward to getting back to reading for pure pleasure.
Tell us some more about your book.
My son’s addiction to heroin started when he was in his mid-twenties and lasted for 15 years. The memoir part of the book is written by me to give a parent’s perspective on addiction and to give his, the addict’s perspective, through his personal correspondence and essays. Our story unfolds as my son goes from being an average American kid who loves sports, racing around on his skateboard, and writing stories, to being a heroin addict. It is a heartbreaking journey as he takes us with him down the dark and dangerous road of heroin addiction. In 2014, my son loses the battle and leaves me to grieve not only losing him to addiction, but I had to find a way to grieve his death. Our story is written to give hope for families immersed in the life-altering aspects of active addiction, and empathy for those left behind when recovery stops being a choice.
How many rewrites did you do for this book?
What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
Families should never give up on their addicts. At the same time, they have to learn how to help their addicts – learning to cope with an addicted loved one is not intuitive. Here’s a sample from the book about what I learned:
If I could turn back time . . . I would immediately get better educated about opiates and opioids . . . I would learn to identify addict behaviors and how to best react to those behaviors . . . I would put into practice much sooner the steps to avoid enabling . . . I would put aside my shame and confront my son when he lied and manipulated me even if it meant revealing to the world that my son was a heroin addict . . . I would detach with love sooner . . . I would acknowledge sooner when my son was beyond achieving recovery . . . I would accept that living drug-free for my son was never going to be an option.
What makes this book important right now?
Our story is a window into the tragedy and impact the opioid crisis is having on young people across America. Death from drug overdose has risen exponentially, especially since the use of fentanyl has become more prevalent. On the day my son was found in 2014, the detective told me that they were seeing many more overdose deaths on the east coast because fentanyl was being mixed with other drugs, most times without the user even knowing. Because fentanyl is many times stronger than other drugs, it is often referred to as poison. I hope our story helps readers understand the deadly threat opioids are to our society.
How did you decide on this title?
In the memoir, I compare addiction to riding an old rickety out-of-control train to nowhere. Addicts and their families get off at multiple stops – active addiction, relapse, recovery, and death. Throughout my son’s addiction, we were constantly hopping on and off the drug train as he rotated through the addiction process time and time again. The train would slow down when he went into treatment or jail and recovery, and he would be clean of drug use for a while. I would breathe a sigh of relief and have renewed hope for sustained recovery. When he relapsed, we found ourselves back on the train speeding and swerving all over the tracks with no destination. For some addicts, the “last” stop is recovery. For my son, the last stop was death. Until the very last stages of editing, I had a different title, and then out of the blue, The Last Stop title popped into my head and I changed it.
What’s next for you?
I plan to publish the poetry I’ve written over the years. Writing the memoir was totally unexpected and pretty much began without me even realizing I was doing it. If I write another book, it will probably be non-fiction, or maybe historical fiction. For now, I’m enjoying having a new little grandson, my first, and I don’t want to miss anything!
Categories: BookView Review Interview