Journalist Jason Smith was addicted to opiate drugs for 17 years. It's the Placer Country native's focus of his book, The Bitter Taste of Dying. Clean now for three years, he shares how, like so many others, he initially became addicted to opiate painkillers after a football injury in high school. Sadly, "as a young teenager Smith had already been exposed to a heroin-inspired death at close range, but once the enveloping numbness of opiates hit his own bloodstream in college he was nonetheless seduced by a feeling that 'nothing matters' and 'nothing hurts.' His life was about to become a blur of slipping further and further into addiction," The Press Tribune reports. His book is a raw look at just how his life spiraled out of control after his addiction took hold. He talks about being a functioning opiate addict, "graduating from U.C. Davis with a History degree and spending three years as a drug-addicted teacher at Del Oro High School," and the dark side that eventually "and always" sets in: "homelessness, prostitution, corruption and organized crime circling around him."
And then, in 2012, he found a new addiction: writing. "I was living with my dad in Forrest Hill at the time, and I didn't have a job or career anymore, so the only thing I could really do to get out of the house was go to meetings or hang out at Starbucks," Smith remembered. "One day I just opened up a word document on my computer and started typing would later become the first chapter of my book. But at the time, I wasn't writing with any ambition at all, I was just writing because it felt good," he tells the paper.
At that time, Placer County was experiencing a huge epidemic of heroin and opiate use. As the paper reports, "during a six-month window in 2013 seven young people died of heroin or opiate overdoses in Roseville and Lincoln, and more than double that number nearly expired en route to South Placer hospitals." Addiction was becoming more of a local problem then anyone truly knew.
Smith saw what was going on even in his own backyard and approached the Tribune's sister newspaper, the Auburn Journal, where he comprised a three-part series about drugs and drug use. His words caught the attention of many because of the brutal honestly of his words and stories.
Eventually, he wrote a book. Today, he's hoping that book reaches an even wider audience. "I hope what addicts take away from the book is seeing someone starting out at zero and hitting a reset button on their life at 33, and then finding a different passion," he said. "For me it was writing, but it can be anything that makes you want to change for the better. Just hearing from complete strangers who connected with the book, I guess it's seeing something beautiful come out of something so very, very ugly."
By sharing his own experience, he's made a difference. When we talk, when we share, when we connect, it's a step in the right direction, a step toward fighting addiction.
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