Why I Write About Immigration, Drugs, and Addiction

18 Jul

Announcements: 

Take Me Tomorrow released as an eBook, and I’ve already received two reviews from wonderful readers that I want to take a moment to thank today. If you post a review, please let me know at shannonathompson@aol.com, and I will be more than happy to share it right here on ShannonAThompson.com.

Chris Pavesic writes, “The story itself is fascinating. Thompson unravels the mystery slowly for her readers; I read it in one sitting.” But you can read the full review by clicking here. I’ll also be referencing a part of this review in today’s post.

Live. Laugh. Read. reviewed all of the characters individually (so beware of spoilers) but she wrote, “All in all, a great story with awesome characters who had each other’s backs in a unique dystopian world. I highly recommend Take Me Tomorrow to those seeking an interesting read with characters that you can love and a plot line that twists and turns.” Read the full review by clicking here.

But don’t worry! I also have news for fans of The Timely Death Trilogy. Camisado Mind interviewed me, and I discuss the latest developments of Death Before Daylight, book 3, which is slated for release at the end of the year. (Can you believe it?) The trilogy is coming to an end, but a new book is just beginning.

Thank you for reading!

Why I Write About Immigration, Drugs, and Addiction

Disclaimer: Just a fair warning – this post is controversial, but I will delete any comment that I consider to be bullying or purposely attacking certain people, specifically in regards to drug abuse and addiction. I encourage everyone to share their opinions, but please be respectful of others. That is my only rule.

As you can tell from my announcements, this week has been insanely rad. Take Me Tomorrow is officially available on Amazon and Smashwords as an eBook for $3.89, and the paperback will release soon – It’ll also be available at Barnes & Noble and other locations soon. But today, I wanted to discuss the content of my novel and mix it with comments from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and reviews. Before I go any further, I am going to be talking about controversial topics that I understand many won’t agree with. I am not attempting to have anyone agree with me nor change their views. I am only writing this piece to explain why I decided to write Take Me Tomorrow and why it is important to me as an individual in society. I have provided further links for more information, including my personal life, that reflects much of the research that went into creating my recent novel.

Take Me Tomorrow is a young-adult, dystopian novel set in a world where the existence of a clairvoyant drug has caused a massacre. In case you want the full synopsis, here is the link to Amazon.

So why drugs?

Understanding drug use is very important to me, although I will take this moment to clarify that I am not encouraging drug use in anyway. However, I think it’s very important to understand various aspects of drug use, including addiction, abuse, trafficking, and basic creation. Why do I think this important? Why did I include various topics about drugs in Take Me Tomorrow?

“About 570,000 people die annually due to drug use. That breaks down to about 440,000 from disease related to tobacco, 85,000 due to alcohol, 20,000 due to illicit (illegal) drugs, and 20,000 due to prescription drug abuse.” – National Institute on Drug Abuse

Photo from Colorado Mobile Drug Testing

Photo from Colorado Mobile Drug Testing

My mother is among those who have died from prescription drug abuse. She was college educated, worked at a law firm, lived in the suburbs, and she was 44 years old when she died in her sleep very suddenly. There was no warning, and – in fact – according to her autopsy report, she had not taken a ‘lethal amount.’ The amount that ended her short life was prescribed to her. That being said, she did abuse her prescriptions in the past, and I was very angry for a very long time. I had all of the stereotypical thoughts people who lose loved one to drug abuse have:

How could she choose her addiction over her family? Why didn’t she get more help? (Because she did get years of professional help) It’s her fault she’s an addict. She was weak. She loved her drugs more than us.

And a few years later, I got old enough to research and understand more about addiction and drugs, both legal and illegal. To be honest, I don’t see much of a difference between legal and illegal now. If you didn’t notice from my previous statistic, the same amount of people die from legal and illegal drug abuse a year, unless you include alcohol and tobacco into the legal statistic; then, more people die from legal drugs than from illegal drugs per year. (I told you this would be controversial.) Going beyond that, many illegal drugs were once legal, and many legal drugs today will become illegal in the future. In fact, did you know that cocaine and heroin were given out to children between 1890 and 1910? (Here’s a short article.) And that isn’t just the beginning of how drugs have affected our society. One of my favorite shows – America’s Secret Slang – has an ENTIRE episode dedicated to phrases we use that derive just from drug use, including “pipe dream” and “up to snuff.” They talk about both legal and illegal drugs, even mentioning how heroin was purposely named heroin to get buyers to believe they could be a “heroine” if they took this drug.

I don’t want to spoil my newly released novel, but Take Me Tomorrow discusses this as well as addiction.

My mother and I on Christmas, 1999

My mother and I on Christmas, 1999

My mother was an addict. She was dependent on her drugs. But her drugs were prescribed to her for various health problems, including Raynaud’s Disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, and nerve damage caused by a car wreck in which she broke her neck. Without her drugs, she was unable to move or function as a ‘normal’ adult, but there are many studies that go beyond this.

“It is often mistakenly assumed that drug abusers lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop using drugs simply by choosing to change their behavior. In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting takes more than good intentions or a strong will. In fact, because drugs change the brain in ways that foster compulsive drug abuse, quitting is difficult, even for those who are ready to do so.” – National Institute on Drug Abuse

Despite this, society often treats drug abusers like immoral and incapable individuals. Society portrays drug users as confused people on the streets, shooting up to get high, when in reality – many drug abusers begin with prescribed drugs. (Spoiler Alert) In Take Me Tomorrow, you will read about the fictional drug “tomo” that was originally created in pharmacies, but you will also read about addiction, abuse, and the consequences of it all. But I want to clarify one thing – I am not against medicine. I myself have two medications that I take on a regular basis – two I have to take just to eat food.

When I was seventeen, I went from 139 lbs. to 109 lbs. in three days. No one knew what was wrong, and I was in extensive testing for months before I found out that I have a tumor in my liver. It causes numerous problems, but – without getting into too much detail – my natural body rejects food now. So I am also dependent on a drug that helps me function like a regular human being who can…you know, eat food. Despite this, I am constantly trying to find natural remedies to help with my illness, and I am always trying to understand drugs, both positive and negative effects.

I could – quite literally – write books on this topic, but I decided to write Take Me Tomorrow to express the complicated world of drug use. I don’t want to spoil my novel, but you will see a character who is addicted for various reasons. You will also see violence associated with the drug, why the drug was made, who takes it, and how different types of people feel about it. I marketed it to the young-adult crowd, because of one simple fact:

“…education and outreach are key in helping youth and the general public understand the risks of drug abuse.” – National Institute on Drug Abuse

I hope that Take Me Tomorrow causes readers to understand everything they can about good and bad effects drugs can have, and I hope they research all that they can about drugs in order to understand how we can help more people. (Because – again – there are positive effects.)

But there are more topics that I cover in Take Me Tomorrow. I specifically wanted to focus on how youth is affected by drugs and crime related to drugs. I include immigration issues, as stated by Chris Pavesic’s review, “When reading Take Me Tomorrow, my thoughts drew comparisons between the current immigration crisis in the United States, where unaccompanied minors are illegally crossing the border in vast numbers fleeing faltering economies, rising crime, and gang activity in their Central American homelands, and the issued faced by Thompson’s characters as they flee similar situations.” My hope, when I included immigration issues, was to show that drug abuse is not only about drug abuse. It also affects other political issues that often pop up in the every day (and very real) world that we live in.

I understand how heated this issue can get. I – for one – followed Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death with a pounding heart. It hurt me to see people say his death didn’t matter because “he asked for it” – because I am a motherless daughter from a death that DOES matter for the same reasons. If you want to differentiate between her drugs and his drugs, I highly recommend you watch this full episode from Dr. Oz, because he talks about the LEGAL drug Zohydro that could spark another drug epidemic. I am sad to say that I am getting emotional just typing this article up because of how many people I know who have been affected by both legal and illegal drug use as well as the ignorance that has hurt them even more. In fact, when I learned about how my mother died from drugs, I started to lie about her death, and I told people my mother was murdered instead of from drugs because I was literally made fun of when people found out. (Disclaimer: Please, keep in mind that I was eleven years old at this time. I am ashamed that I lied like that, but it was my natural reaction to the severe bullying I endured after her death… And, yes, I was bullied because my mother died. In fact, I was told I was going to hell at one point.)

We need better programs, but we need more understanding first, and – if my novel can encourage one person to research both aspects – I can consider it successful. Until then, I understand how a reader might backlash against it. I understand how a dozen readers will become uncomfortable during various aspects of it. I did, too. I don’t want to see a young person addicted anymore than the next person, but that is why I included a young character who is addicted for various reasons, and that is why I wrote about this issue. That is why I chose to publish it.

Even though Take Me Tomorrow is dystopian fiction, I want readers to see the realities I’ve lived through – as well as the many thousands of people who have also become victims of drug abuse through many ways, whether it be personal or through the loss of a friend or through the struggles of a loved one.

On one last note, I could not include every aspect – every angle – that I wish I could have in this post nor could I include everything I wanted to include in my novel, but I hope that this is a fair explanation as to why this topic was so vital for me to cover in my writing career.

Thank you for reading,

~SAT

TMTready

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25 Responses to “Why I Write About Immigration, Drugs, and Addiction”

  1. Steven S July 18, 2014 at 12:52 am #

    I love you for writing this! My father’s drug abuse led to domestic violence in my childhood home and the consequential dismembered family that soon after followed. There wasn’t much support back then and my questions went unanswered because they, ultimately, were never asked. In more recent years, I’ve come to discover that someone very close to me has an alcohol addiction. Patience is crucial. I can’t wait to start reading Take Me Tomorrow. Take care.

    • Shannon A Thompson July 18, 2014 at 12:56 am #

      Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing your story! This topic is a difficult one to talk about so openly, but it’s important that we do. I, too, had many questions with no answers when I first started learning because no one discussed such things. I like to believe that – by discussing it – we can help others who suffer with those unasked questions.
      ~SAT

      • Steven S July 18, 2014 at 1:12 am #

        I’d like to believe that too. Hopefully an open and honest forum is just the catalyst someone needs to feel comfortable enough to ask those questions. For me, it felt as though it was swept under the rug and never to be discussed. Silence trumped sincerity and I only learned to bottle my emotions. I have more stories to share, but it’s past 2 in the morning here and my alarm begins taunting me at 7. So, I bid thee a restful slumber and the sweetest of dreams. Good night.

  2. Rachel July 18, 2014 at 2:57 am #

    Excellent post today Shannon. Looking forward to reading Take Me Tomorrow for more insight. It’s such a complicated and multi-faceted issue, that even putting words together coherently can be a struggle for me sometimes. I have to say though, the death figures surprisingly shocked me. Such a huge number of tobacco related deaths when cigarettes are still legal in comparison with such a (relatively) small number of deaths through illegal drug use. And, you make an excellent point in saying that drugs that are available today could be banned tomorrow, it happens all the time. I can’t say I overly research any medication I’m given, but I’m very wary of, “the Dr said it’s ok, so it must be ok.” Yes, they are working with whatever information they have available at the time, but that doesn’t mean it’s always “safe”.

    • Shannon A Thompson July 18, 2014 at 8:07 am #

      I’m glad you enjoyed this post, and I hope you enjoy Take Me Tomorrow. It is a very complicated, multi-faced issue. When I sat down to write this article, I had to make so many cuts I wish I didn’t have to make because of how complicated (and in-depth) one can get just discussing one aspect of it all. It’s very scary to find out a medication has so many problems! I remember – for instance – when I was a freshman in college that the Gardasil shot came out. It has killed 139 girls and paralyzed even more, yet doctors still don’t warn women when you go in to get it. (I think patients should at least get stats when it comes to something like that.) I believe many people find medications safe because they ‘should’ be able to find medication safe, and they should be able to trust doctors and pharmacists, but – unfortunately – things still get dangerous sometimes.
      ~SAT

  3. Val Vogel July 18, 2014 at 5:35 am #

    Shannon shares sincerely from her own personal experience and research. Her tenderness toward those caught on addictions, legal or illegal, is moving and insightful. Agreed, that medicines do save and improve lives. Agreed, there is much abuse in how meds are used, and I would add proscribed, in place of true counsel and support-structures. Thank you, Shannon, for your courage and compassion!

  4. Cassandra Charles July 18, 2014 at 6:19 am #

    This is a great blog post. You should definitely write about the things you want to, censoring your work would not be the right way to go.
    Someone is always going to be offended whatever you write. People will misconstrue what you say regardless of what it is you say.
    As long as you stay true to yourself, then that’s all that really matters.

    • Shannon A Thompson July 18, 2014 at 8:09 am #

      Thank you, Cassandra Charles! I recently wrote about how I almost didn’t publish this novel because of the controversy in it, but I am facing my fears, and I am going to remain true to my work. ::crossing my fingers::
      ~SAT

  5. Charles Yallowitz July 18, 2014 at 7:17 am #

    Did not know about the naming of heroin being connected to heroine. I always wondered about that. When you mention how people consider drug addicts to be immoral and incapable, it reminded me of how people treat those with mental disorders. I know a few people who turned to alcohol due to depression, but that’s the closet I’ve come to the situation you describe. Though it does sound like both issues have similar stigmas from those that don’t take the time to think about the person suffering.

    • Shannon A Thompson July 18, 2014 at 8:12 am #

      I definitely recommend that episode of America’s Secret Slang – they talk about “heroin” and “heroine” as well as many other words and phrases we use. Even if you’re not into that, it’s a great show for writers because it shows all types of our language and how it has morphed over time. Thank you for reading and commenting about how society treats those with mental disorders! Very true.
      ~SAT

  6. Jenna July 18, 2014 at 1:28 pm #

    This is one of my favorite blog posts you’ve ever written. I think this topic is one of the most under-discussed issues out there and there’s no reason for it to be. Before I was born, my birth mother was addicted to drugs. She suffered with schizophrenia/bipolar disorder and depression and even doctors just wrote it off as her being ADHD. She wasn’t officially diagnosed until after my sister was born three years after I was, and even then I think it took them a year or two to put a diagnosis with her condition. Because of this, she struggled really hard as a teenager. She became addicted to alcohol and LSD, among other things, and she ended up getting pregnant before she was even 18. Because of her addiction, my two older brothers, myself, and then my younger sister all have health problems. I, personally, take 4 medications a day (it used to be 6) because I have chronic migraines and severe joint pain. I also suffer from insomnia, depression, sleep paralysis, and then I’m missing my left arm from two inches below the elbow and on. Addiction doesn’t just affect the person that’s addicted, and society needs to be more aware of that. People also need to stop writing these people off as worthless because everyone deserves the best life possible, and we can’t give them that if no one will listen. I believe that there needs to be way more funding and programs for people with addictions, but a part of me believes that’ll never happen because if people aren’t addicted anymore then drug companies and the like will lose money. It’s a screwed up world, but I think those who are willing to make a difference eventually will. We just need more awareness.

  7. debyfredericks July 18, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

    Thanks for being honest enough to share your heart-rending story. I wish the best for your novel.

  8. Joe Hinojosa July 19, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    What a powerful piece. I worked for many years at a mental health facility, and many patients were drug users. The users ran the the spectrum from down-and-out losers to highly successful professionals. I applaud your courage to tackle such a complex and controversial topic.

    Sometimes we like to put things, including people, into nice, orderly compartments. People are impossible to categorize. Thank you for your work, and I pray that you reach and educate as many people as you possibly can. If I can be of service, please let me know.

    ~Joe~

  9. theowllady July 20, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

    Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.

  10. Elaine Jeremiah July 21, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

    Fantastic post Shannon. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us and for being so honest and open about the circumstances of your mother’s death. It can’t be easy for you, and I think you’re very brave to talk about it.

    Like you I’m on medication – I wouldn’t die without it, but I wouldn’t be well either. So I have to take it. That doesn’t bother me – I want to take it to be well. I’m glad that the medication you’re taking is helping you. Hopefully one day there’ll be so many advances in medicine that eventually drugs will be a lot more sophisticated.

    I think it’s good that you’re talking openly about the subject of drug addiction. I have to confess that while I do feel a deep sense of pity for drug addicts, I can sometimes end up thinking ‘they’ve got themselves to blame’. It’s an easy judgement to make, but as you so rightly point out there are so many reasons for people taking drugs/abusing them and it’s not a clear cut, black and white issue.

    So thank you once again for shining a bit more light on this issue.
    BTW I’m reading ‘Take Me Tomorrow’ and loving it. I’ll let you know when I write a review. 🙂

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Author Interview with Shannon Thompson: Take Me Tomorrow | Diary of an Eager Reader - July 25, 2014

    […] are real reflections on drug use in society. You can actually read more about this on my website: https://shannonathompson.com/2014/07/18/why-i-write-about-immigration-drugs-and-addiction/   What do you consider to be your biggest challenge and success in writing / publishing? My […]

  2. Q&A Shannon A. Thompson of Take Me Tomorrow @ShanAshleeT23 | Lit World Interviews - October 3, 2014

    […] SHANNON:  Take Me Tomorrow deals with many sensitive issues within society, including drug abuse, addiction, and immigration. I decided to write about these topics mainly because my mother was a drug addicted, and it ultimately killed her. I spent many years researching drugs, and that research developed itself into this novel. I actually wrote an article about this if you want more details: https://shannonathompson.com/2014/07/18/why-i-write-about-immigration-drugs-and-addiction/ […]

  3. Take Me Tomorrow | The Incorrigible Reader - October 13, 2014

    […] Shannon has written on the conversation and why she wrote Take Me Tomorrow! Check out her blog post about […]

  4. Book Review: TAKE ME TOMORROW by Shannon A. Thompson + Author Interview! | People Like Books - October 13, 2014

    […] SAT: Drug use is a very personal topic to me because drugs affected my life. My mother was a drug addict, and her addiction eventually killed her when I was eleven years old. Many have said writing about drug use in young-adult fiction is daring, but I was a preteen when I was most affected by drugs, so I find it an honest exploration of the reality many kids have to go through. I actually wrote more in-depth about this on my website: https://shannonathompson.com/2014/07/18/why-i-write-about-immigration-drugs-and-addiction/ […]

  5. Book Review: Take Me Tomorrow by Shannon A. Thompson | Write Out Loud - December 6, 2014

    […] author is quite candid about her reasons for writing Take Me Tomorrow in her own blog and leaves you in no doubt that she has a message to deliver in this book and the subsequent ones […]

  6. Q & A with Shannon Thompson | Books Everywhere - December 23, 2014

    […] Author: Long story short, my mother was a drug addict, and she died from her addiction when I was eleven years old. Through coping, I spent a lot of time researching about drugs, drug use, drug abuse, and more. Take Me Tomorrow was born. If you want the long story, I wrote more about this on my website: Why I Write About Immigration, Drugs, and Addiction […]

  7. Take Me Tomorrow by Shannon A. Thompson | A place to write, read, discuss and explore the literary world. - March 21, 2015

    […] The characters definitely came later. My father and I were discussing drugs and addiction and what it might look like in the future if we keep treating drugs and addiction how we treat it now. Drugs and addiction is very close to my heart. My mother died of a drug overdose, so I spent many years of my childhood trying to understand drugs – legal and illegal – and how they affect society. This post is probably the most important post I’ve written about Take Me Tomorrow: Why I Write About Immigration, Drugs, and Addiction: https://shannonathompson.com/2014/07/18/why-i-write-about-immigration-drugs-and-addiction/ […]

  8. #SATurday: Writing Update: Take Me Yesterday | Shannon A Thompson - September 12, 2015

    […] you want more information, I wrote an article a while back that gets in-depth about my reasoning, Why I Write About Drugs, Immigration, and Addiction) But, when it comes down to it, Take Me Tomorrow is my expressing a lot of pain I’ve had in […]

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