Why I wrote the book by Philippa
Book Launch Talk
What follows is an abridged version of why ‘See you Soon’ was written and who it was written for….
The book is partly the story of Jim, our son who died in 2007 aged 21… Not the full story, after all I am only his mother and parents are often the last ones to know about what’s going on in their growing children’s lives… but the story as much as I have of it, and as much as I understand it. It’s the story of a sweet boy who grew into a lovely young man who died of heroin.
The book is also partly my story, of how Jim’s death helped me to learn to see in different ways, to become more aware of my attitudes and areas of ignorance, to take the challenge of sinking to what felt like the lowest depths and to wait for hope and the presence of God there.
I suppose my strongest motivation for writing stems from the fact that when Jim died, I couldn’t find anything like it on the market, and I couldn’t find anyone to talk to who understood some of the issues we were facing; sudden bereavement, of course, and also feelings of shame, failure and utter confusion on how it ever ended like this…. We weren’t, I thought, THAT KIND OF FAMILY…. Not the Kind to grow a heroin addict. (I feel ashamed to put such judgemental thoughts into words, but I’m trying to be honest here… I’m not proud of it). There are loads of excellent books written on bereavement, but there simply didn’t seem to be any that addressed loss though drugs or other addictions. In other words the year or two after his death were extremely lonely and I decided that I wanted to make a contribution so that maybe another mum or dad, brother or sister, needn’t feel quite so alone.
I am angered by the mixed messages our children continue to receive. Too often using drugs, having a spliff, sniffing cocaine is joked about in the media or made to sound cool in the lyrics of songs. Then the kids go into schools where they are given stark warnings of the dangers by teachers, and others. No wonder they are confused and some may be tempted to have a go, just to find out for themselves.
As far as I can see, and I am not a drug expert, whatever other ways there are of understanding addiction, it is also an illness that carries the risk of destroying a person’s life, and the lives of the people closest to them. It may have begun years ago with a wrong choice made for who knows what reason- and who among us, have not made some wrong choices through the years- but then it can gather steam and develop a power all of its own, which the person is often unable to withstand with all the painful knock on effects for their own lives and wider society.
There are other reasons I wrote the book. One was to challenge prejudice, my own included, about our attitudes to people who get involved with drugs. So often, you get the feeling that such a person is regarded as ‘just a druggie, just a junkie’ when the truth is, they are so much more than that. They are a person, part of a family, with their own story and circumstances that have led them to where they now are. No one grows up saying ‘I want to be a heroin addict’.
By writing the book, I highlight in a simple way that all drug users have stories, hopes and dreams. I know when Jim died, one of the difficulties I had was my own judgemental, not always generous attitude to drug users and I have had to face some of my own dark side, which I’d really rather deny. I hated that Jim died in this way… If he had to die at all, I wished it could have been something easier to own up to. That might sound bizarre for what could be worse than him dying? Bereavement is a lonely experience at any time, but feeling ashamed made it, if possible, even worse.
Somehow, though things would never be the same, wise people said I would heal and learn to laugh and smile again. At first that seemed unreal and almost disrespectful to my love for Jim, but now I know it’s OK. I know it’s not simply time that has done and is doing this. It is something much more profound than that, though hard to capture in words. I have heard it said ‘it is not time that heals but love’ and –whatever that means- I think it is true. It is love, in the deepest sense. Yes the love of family and friends around me, but also something more than this. If I try to put into words the inexpressible, I’d say it is the love that burns all around us, if we look around us, breathe it in, listen to it and listen for it.
I suppose a lot of coming to terms with the way things are now, has been about learning to live with the unanswered questions and holding the tension between believing ‘all will be well’ when life is screaming, ‘all IS NOT well’.
Who is the book for?
1. It is for others who are bereaved, through drugs or any other way, who just want to ‘talk’ to others who have felt as bad as they do now. That’s important.
2. It is for anyone who wants to support a friend or understand a bit more what they might be able to do to help someone going through bereavement.
3. It’s written to help others to voice their pain. For those who also feel ashamed about the things that have happened in their families, to begin to speak out and say it as it is. To break the silence that often lingers round shameful things, like drug abuse. A silence that may prevent families finding the support and help they need.
4. It’s written because I believe there is hope even in grim times, and I really hope that that message is conveyed through the book. It was never meant to be a misery memoir or simply a sad story but rather: to hold together pain and the possibility of hope, without providing easy answers.
And finally it’s written for Jim to say I love you. I am proud of you and yes, a little bit angry that it all had to end that way, ( ‘I told you drugs were no good, but in the arrogance of youth you knew better’) but hey- you know- I don’t reckon it is the end and your story, our story, goes on.