Real people, real struggles with deadly heroin addiction

[Editor’s note: This is the fifth and final a series of columns on the perils of heroin. The first published on April 20 and has been the most widely read column of any published in The Bartlett Express. See the first column here, the second column here, the third column here, and the fourth column here.

Rick Jacobs
Rick Jacobs

This column is bittersweet. It is the last of my columns dealing with the perils of heroin.

When I approached Carolyn Bahm, the editor at The Bartlett Express, with my ideas for this project I don’t believe either one of us knew what to expect. She’s always been open to my columns and has never turned one down. But normally my genre has been fairly tame, about raising a family in this great city and sprinkled here and there with a dash of humor.

Not this time.

The Bartlett Express and heroin? Would our readers be open to such grave subject matter?

That question was answered when I posted the link to my first column on my Facebook page. Within 72 hours there were more than 1,000 shares. At last count the Express website had over 5,300 views of that particular column.

That incredible draw, I believe, was from a fictional letter I wrote very early one morning called, “Hello young person, my name is Heroin.” I felt despondent and discouraged, and the words seemed to just flow out of me. When I sat down to write the opening column it hit me that this letter might be a good way to begin the series.

It was. My words, apparently, struck a nerve. The feedback I’ve received reinforced the specific points I was trying to make:

Heroin is an extremely dangerous, addictive and deadly drug.

The epidemic is real.

Something needs to be done.

I could have approached this effort from a host of different angles, but I chose one very specific point of attack: Make people fear this drug the same way they fear death.

Heroin is not a recreational drug. You won’t be able to enjoy it on the weekends and then forget about it all week.

Try it once, and you’ll likely become addicted.

Once addicted, you’ll likely die.

And the life of addiction between those two points in time is a nightmare that almost defies description.

Now, I’ve never tried heroin, so why should you believe me?

How about I let those who know exactly what I mean finish this column for me. These are just some of the emails, messages and comments from real folks who responded to or shared my columns:

My brother passed away nearly three years ago in Bartlett of a heroin overdose.

My son was clean for three years and overdosed in December. My only solace is knowing he isn’t struggling every day to fight it anymore.

I buried my cousin last November. She was my best friend until the drugs took over. She battled addiction for years. It’s truly sad.

I have a letter very similar to the one at the beginning of this story. I keep it in a binder of notes, cards and other tidbits about my daughter before she died of a heroin overdose. Even knowing it, it still wasn’t enough. In the end it got her, just as the letter promised it would.

This devastating epidemic has affected my family as well as two of my three adult children. The tears and anguish they as addicts wanting recovery go through, and we as loved ones watching are seriously affected as well.

I remember when I realized it controlled me. Beautiful day, sick in bed withdrawing. My kids wanted so badly to just be outside and play with me, their mother. My mom asked me if I was going to get out of bed to spend time with my kids. I sat up in bed, sobbing, telling my mom I can’t, I just can’t. At that point I begged God to please let me live, or let me die, just please, please take me out of this hell.

My son is 27, two ODs, four detoxes this year, wants it so bad but hasn’t been able to yet. So sweet and creative. I hate this drug and the devastation.

I know your pain, Rick. My daughter is a recovering heroin addict. Her father and stepmother have temporary custody of her eight-year-old daughter right now. We have been through more than I could ever have imagined with her addiction. I pray for your daughter and for mine, that one day they will know freedom from this horrible addiction and can be the loving mothers that they can only dream of at this point.

I have watched my nephew go in and out of jail, his health go up and down. It’s just horrible.

My son is 24 and going on his second round of rehab and one OD. This is a drug like I’ve never seen. Yes it started with pills and progressed from there. This is hell on earth.

I’ve personally lost loved ones to this terrible drug and it breaks my heart every day to see such young people struggle with this powerful addiction.

It is truly an epidemic and we are losing our children every day. Thank you for educating people and trying to prevent others from going down this path. Praying for all who are struggling or love someone who is struggling. It is the most difficult journey.

I would like to thank those who spoke with me and provided incredible insight through their wisdom and experience, especially Bartlett Detective Mike Christian and Rebecca Kennedy. I am especially grateful to my daughter, Lisa, for being so open and honest about her addiction and her ongoing struggle with recovery. Your mom and I, and your kids, love you and refuse to give up on you.

Maybe, just maybe, you’ll beat this thing yet.

Heroin is a monster. It is killing our children.

It is time to kill the monster.

RICK JACOBS is an author, columnist, process server and family man who lives in Bartlett with his wife and grandchildren. Contact him at