By luck, I happened across this non-fiction book that unravels the web surrounding the opiate epidemic in America.
Dreamland taught me compassion
Written by Sam Quinones, Dreamland is a well-researched compilation of stories that I couldn’t stop reading. The stories about the impoverished Xalisco Boys who started operating heroin cells, with a conglomerate’s business model, created mixed feelings in me.
I could see my desire for the boys to succeed grow, even though I knew that the product they were pushing was killing people.
Through understanding I could see how well-meaning doctors, looking to relieve patient’s pain could create a new “Opiates are safe” religion. Whilst GP’s latched on to the religion without question due to time constraints, and legal threats of under-prescribing for pain.
The only parties that were exposed, without mercy, were the pharmaceutical companies that sponsored the new religion. The physicians that sought to make a profit through pill mills were also scrutinized bluntly.
In-spite of the weight of the topic, Sam Quinones created a book that didn’t leave me depressed. Instead I felt my compassion grow for addicts and dealers alike. Dreamland did what any piece of art should do: invite the reader to view the world from another perspective.
The solution to the epidemic is presented
Quinones frames the problem with the solution to addiction and effective weapon against heroin. He starts the the book with a story of Dreamland, Portland’s community pool. The pool was the gathering point of families from all walks of life, where raising children was a community effort. It was the place people could share lives and walk together in support of each other.
In part four of the book, he links back to the essence and importance of community. He does so by speaking to the parents, officials, and doctors who are on the forefront of fighting addiction.
All of the front liners agreed that there isn’t a quick fix to battling addiction and repairing the damage done. The final page summarises the solution presented by a parent who lost his son:
“Nobody can do it on their own,” he said. “But no drug dealer, or cartel, can stand against families, schools, churches, and communities united together.” <<Dreamland-Banner.jpg>>
I found the Gospel in this
Something beautiful occurred to me just before the end of this, something that touched my heart profoundly. In spite of the extent of the damage done to so many lives, I couldn’t help but see God’s grace at work. I couldn’t help but think that death is losing, and that God’s resurrection power is at work in America.
In spite of the death that addiction ushered in, God resurrected the value communities and family. He brought back the belief that strength comes in numbers, and people standing together. I was reminded me that we’re made to do life in community. That there’s an immense value in becoming part of a local church that can keep an eye on you, and your family’s, walk.