Lost No More, A Mother's Spiritual Journey Through Her Son's Addiction, by Marilyn Burns M.S., L.P.C.C. and Christopher Burns is the most compelling memoir on the subject of drug addiction and its effect on loved ones that I've read. It's no-holds barred and gut-wrenching, and the reader won't be spared. But at the end of the grueling feelings and processes, after the last page is turned, the reader also finds she has gained illumination and understanding about the devastation of the disease and the power that hope and faith can have in combatting it. One marvels at the courage it took to write this story, which turns out to be a one-of-a-kind primer on how to survive the unfathomable -- the loss of a child through drug abuse.
Most of the popular memoirs on drug and alcohol abuse such as Elizabeth Wurtzel's Prozac Nation, and Augusten Burroughs's Dry, were written by addicts and alcoholics who survived their periods of insanity and could recount them, looking back with wry humor and wisdom. Chris Burns did not survive his addiction, but it is clear his spirit lives on, and his mother, Marilyn, a mental health counselor, makes a valiant effort channeling it and her attempts to save her son, for the reader. A single mother who raised two sons on her own, she never let up trying to support and understand her son's multiple problems, which included ADD/ADHD and addiction to opiates.
After years of struggling with addiction, Chris succumbed from a heart attack induced by drugs in April 2007 at the age of 23. Anyone who has suffered from addiction or has been impacted by the disease knows that no amount of brilliant effort or consistent love can prevent the addict from using, unless he himself makes that choice. At the same time, it is deeply poignant to realize as one reads excerpts from Chris's letters to his mother, how much he wanted to stop abusing drugs and to become the healthy, happy young man he believed he was meant to be and how aware he was of the perils of his disease. This cautionary tale seems doubly tragic when one realizes how much Chris loved his mother and family and how much he wanted to survive addiction.
According to recent statistics, opiate use is up among youth across the U.S. Last month, the online version of University of Washington News reported that in 2009, 160 out of 253 deaths from drug overdoses in King County were from opiates. By comparison, in 1997, there were only 21 prescription-type opiate deaths in that county. A recent online post by Addiction Recovery Legal Services (ARL), a Web site dedicated to helping to families of addicts, states that "five people in Florida die every day as a direct result of prescription drug overdoses, including from hydrocodone (e.g. vicodin) and oxycodone (e.g. oxycontin)." At one point in his journey with drug abuse, Chris was in Florida, trying, but failing to get his life underway. One of the most powerful moments in the book occurs as Marilyn describes an instinctive search she makes of her son's apartment, a search that confirms her worst fears, leading as it does to the discovery, on her birthday no less, that her son is using heroin.
Lost No More is as much a story of harrowing loss as it is of relentless hope. While there is no longer hope for Chris's recovery from drugs, it is clear his spirit and power of love live on through his mother's words, his memory and the lessons of his experience.
Lost No More is available through http://www.amazon.com/, and additional information on the book can be accessed via http://www.lostnomore.us/.