When I first went on the search of a book to review and saw Granville Street by Louis Lamoureux, I had no idea how my eyes would open in terms of substance abuse, especially as it relates to opioids. In fact, reading the story has made such an impact upon my thoughts that there is life before Granville Street and life after Granville Street. Yes, I'm serious!
Although aspects of this book are based in reality, other parts (some characters, for example) are fictional. Even so, each of the fictional characters relay the actual struggles addicts face on a daily basis - the bitter, inward struggle to stay free from (in this case) heroin.
Adam had just been released from prison. He was resilient and determined to win his personal war on drugs. He was proud that he had been able to say, "No," a few times, even when he came perilously close to shooting up in a bathroom stall - and that was after meeting a girl whom he felt he loved at first sight. It gave him a new lease on life, a renewed determination to stay clean. It goes to show how powerful such an addiction is that it takes over the best intentions an addict may have.
Adam was also very close to his father, David - who was firm and held his son accountable - yet never failed to lend support and tell Adam how proud he was of the strides he was making in his fight against substance abuse. After all, it was a journey David had never taken, thus never had anything to relate to in terms of understanding the ordeal his son faced every moment of every day. All he could do was offer support, guidance and unconditional love. I truly enjoyed reading the interactions between them. The love these two felt for each other jumped from the page and carved its way into my heart. I'm truly not sure I could ever forget this father-son relationship.
Camille - my heart ached so much for this young, recently divorced mother of two young daughters. Everything she did, everything she strived to be, centered around the two people she loved more than anyone, or anything, else. She remained clean for several years, then suffered a relapse which resulted in consequences she didn't want to face.
Of course, life as in fiction, at the point when things seemed to be turning around, someone decided it was time to throw some fiery darts and try to mess Camille's life up once again, to drive her back into the clutches of her addiction. I wept from everything she had to face, wondering how much she could endure, wondering if she would be able to withstand the pressure.
Gabby - downtrodden, a former school teacher living on the streets, no hope in sight - until Adam found her lying unconscious on the road and took action, even as other people continued to walk along, offering nothing more than a passing glance in their direction. Adam had just gotten released from jail and knew he could end up being in trouble by being associated with Gabby, but it was a chance he had to take. No matter what her lot in life was, at that moment, she was somebody, and he couldn't just let her die on the side of the road.
Gabby faced her share of troubles, too - even crossing some lines Adam and Camille had not. It seemed Gabby was the most addicted of the three but I'm sure that was because I met her at a different stage in her life. Unlike Adam and Camille, she wasn't a recovering addict; she was still using - so I had the disheartening opportunity of witnessing her desperation.
Of course, there's John - a lawyer who is convinced these addicts could fight their addictions if they exercised willpower. He couldn't get beyond all of the trouble they brought to their homes and families; in his mind, it didn't make sense how a person could volunteer to cause so much destruction when all they had to do was say, "No."
Well, I was a John and there's a large chance you may be, or have been, a John. I am thankful I have never cast verbal judgment on an addict but, in my thoughts, I have also wondered why they couldn't just stop, why they couldn't be stronger, why they continued to allow their addictions to become a burden to their families.
The cold, hard truth is this: they can't stop. With the best of intentions, they cannot throw their addictions down and walk away from them, and especially from something as brain-altering as heroin or opioid addictions. Yes, it alters the brain. It affects the way addicts make decisions. It affects the way they behave and how they respond to stressful situations.
Furthermore, suffering from an addiction to opioids puts an addict at an increased risk of becoming tolerant to the drug, meaning they need more of it to produce the same effect. In addition, they becoming physically dependent upon it and suffer withdrawal symptoms if the use of the drug is reduced abruptly. For repeat users, it often turns into heroin use disorder - a disorder in which the addict's main mission in life is to seek and use heroin. (I would invite you to read more about the subject by visiting the National Institute on Drug Abuse.)
Yes, I have been doing a little research because of the term overdose which I saw a few times while reading Granville Street. Even in this, I learned something new. I had always surmised that anyone who took an excess amount of a substance - whether it be pills or a street drug - would likely suffer an overdose. I figured someone would have to take a bottle of Ibuprofen or Acetominophen, or inject/smoke a greater quantity of an opioid. However, when it comes to something such as heroin, though the withdrawal symptoms are the stuff nightmares are made of when quitting cold turkey, the usual amount the addict was used to injecting or smoking before quitting could likely cause an overdose if they were to use again, even once.
Admittedly, this is the first time I have ever decided to do a little research prior to publishing a book review. It wasn't because I didn't trust the facts as presented; I just wanted to have a better understanding about the struggles the characters, my drug-addicted friends, faced in Granville Street.
The book showed me how families lived on the edge. It told me the struggles they had when an addict was desperate to have the substance they were craving, with some of the addicts becoming criminals so they could have access to the chemical one more time. It gave me the mental picture of addicts going to jail and being forced to quit their addictions cold turkey. Subjects I had never thought about had come to the forefront of my mind. Instead of having medication to help fight their cravings while in jail, thereby reducing the chance of suffering a relapse on the outside, it seemed an addict in prison (as depicted in this book) was released with a greatly reduced life expectancy - as in ten days or less.
I got to know three young people over the course of a weekend. These three young people never imagined taking an occasional painkiller would lead to a serious addiction which threatened to destroy them and their families. I'm sure if they could have gone backwards, they would have walked away the moment they were offered or tempted to sneak the first narcotic painkiller, such as Oxycontin. However, there was no going back - for them or their families.
There may be no going back - for you, or your family. Maybe you could read Granville Street and feel the author was writing about your life, or the life of someone you know. It is my hope and prayer that you are like me, that you have no personal idea of what an opioid addiction is like, that you don't have personal knowledge of how it wreaks havoc in so many aspects of your life, or the life of your family. However, there is bound to be someone who will have firsthand knowledge and, for you and your family, I can only hope and pray you win the battle so an opioid addiction doesn't claim your life, as it did one of the three young people I was getting to know so well, even growing to love.
I shall never forget Louis Lamoureux's Granville Street. I would suggest members of the clergy, educators, law enforcement officers, adults, parents and teens read the book. You never know; it just may change your outlook, or even your life. You really should think about visiting Granville Street's page on Amazon.
Norma Budden is an avid reader who enjoys sharing her thoughts about the stories she enjoys most right here at Budden Book Reviews.
However, she is also a Canadian author who makes her home in Arctic Canada. To take a look at her books, please visit her website at www.normasbooks.com.
Please note: there are Amazon Affiliate links scattered throughout Budden Book Reviews. Should you click on a link and purchase a title, a small fee will be paid to me for referring you to Amazon's site.