Addiction is not something to be ashamed of, though I, and many addicts, have done shameful things under the influence of our addictions .
I have changed the names of many of the people in this story, however, generally because they were minors, or they asked me to, or I felt that mentioning them by name would hinder their recovery, or they are, in my opinion, ill, misguided or downright despicable. Some identifying details are also altered. There are no composites, or fictional characters. All of the anecdotes and characterizations are as true as I am capable of rendering them, and nothing is made up.
You will meet a character named Jason Tyler, for example. In 2002, when he was 34, his mother kicked him out of her house, which he had moved back into following a divorce. He and his dog, a pit bull mix named Sadie (real name; she's a heroine!), had befriended Carrick, then 17. He was clean-cut, and their relationship was clearly platonic. He, in fact, seemed sexless if a bit untrustworthy, like Eddie Haskell, the ingratiating teenager in the Leave It to Beaver.
Jason said he had been a heroin addict but had been straight for eleven years. He was a Jehovah's Witness, but not overbearing about it. He was a promising musician taking a course at Julliard. We let him live in our attic. In return for bed and board, he promised to drive Carrick to AA and NA meetings regularly. Instead, after picking up his heroin habit, he taught her to mainline and introduced her to his sources in Harlem and the Lower East Side.
Jason and I did, in fact, have two conversations that revolved around my using his name.
The first took place when I conducted two interviews with Jason while my daughter was in a re-hab. He told me he had introduced heroin to Hastings in 1988 (a revealing, if grandiose, pipedream) and gave me a rundown of the "posse" he ran with at the time, two of whom subsequently died from heroin overdoses. He asked me if I was using real names. I said I was. "I guess you know what you're doing," he said.
On the second occasion, another father in town asked me about Jason because his own daughter, who was a few months younger than Carrick, had started hanging around with him. I told him everything I knew. A few days later, Jason stopped me on the street, enraged that I had shared my impressions of him with another dad.
"Whatever happened to anonymity?" he asked, co-opting one of the guiding principles of 12-step support groups. Addiction goes a way toward explaining Jason's pathology but it does not excuse the harm he inflicted on other people. He has posted to a dicussion on this website that he is clean. As I have in the past when he's told me he was clean, I wish him the best in his recovery.
You will also meet a character named Pete Jackson. He is only a couple of years younger than Jason. He spent several years in state prison for selling heroin. A large marijuana leaf tattoo spreads across his left bicep and shoulder. When he was using and supplying Carrick, I had shouting matches with Pete in which we've both said things from our hearts that were hard and cold. The common ground, however, was that we both love my daughter. As I've gotten to know Pete, and watched him grow and struggle as a sober ex-con in a society that writes off men and women who have made mistakes in their youth, I've come to like him a lot. He is smart, loyal, witty, hard-working and well-intentioned. The dual stigma he faces as an ex-con and recovering drug addict dictates that I use a pseudonym for him, at least for now.