It’s Not The Same

It’s all boiled down to one life. Not mine. My life only leaves tiny footprints for future generations. I’m keenly aware of where and how I walk.

Words have impact. Mine can cut sharper than a sword. Tonight, I hope they will.
Because I’m tired of being told to sit. Shush. Quiet. Just overlook what we don’t like to see.
Support? I carry enough needed for me, and for mine. I’m not looking for your handout, or your pity, or your bravado to scorch me. I’m selfishly looking out for all that is mine.

His life.
His future.
His everything.

In 2015, there were 944 reported overdoses and 70 overdose deaths in the county.

That is up from 272 overdoses in the county in 2014.

City officials say the average age of someone who overdosed in 2015 was 37-years-old. 58% of those overdoses were male, and 42% were female.

The average age of someone who died from an overdose was 38-years-old. 31% of the deaths were female, and 69% were male.

  • The Herald Dispatch, 2016

Sixty-nine percent are male.



The numbers sore.
The graves are being filled with my classmates, with my friends.

Natives, the ones who have lived here all our lives with no way out, will tell you the same thing over and over and over again:

“This isn’t the place we grew up in.
This place is not like it used to be.”



When everything you once knew has deteriorated? When friends abandoned home and relocated for better lives? You don’t blame them. Not one damn bit. You understand the need to leave. To journey beyond home, and the small town mentality, to grow up and start families elsewhere. Every day you envy their choice.

A few men and some poor decisions kept me home. I didn’t mind living here. I enjoyed college here. The people I’ve met here are my family, each holding slivers attached to heartstrings.

It’s home. It’s the smell of your grandparents’ home, and occasionally you catch a whiff, and you remember. You remember the good meals and the laughter around tables. I’ll always remember the place which made me who I am. I’m proud to be a daughter of Marshall University. Deeply humbled and honored the newspaper I grew up reading welcomed what I felt were underserving words.

I’m proud of my heritage. I am proud of my hometown. I am proud to have overcome so many odds. Ones which weren’t in my favor.

My struggle is no different than yours, if you were raised here.

Daddy worked two jobs, one as the school teacher and the other as the repo-man. Mama worked for the coal company and also worked with my father in the repo business. We’ve feasted. Some times we lived on soup. Mama called it famine weeks.

I know the sound a belly makes when it’s hungry.

Coal companies aren’t stable here. Not anymore. They load up and pull out. And they take what is in our land, all they can mine off our folks’ backs, and then they close. They leave poverty. Poverty is a messy plague. It spreads, and it will infect the locally owned businesses. It suffocates an economy into stagnation.

Don’t believe the liars at podiums. Wearing their Making-America-Great-Again hats, promising the moon. You can’t put coal back in the ground. Those jobs aren’t coming back. Job growth where I live is -1.08%, yea that’s a negative. It’s not a typo. Negative. Jobs are leaving.

Jobs aren’t the only problem.

Median income is around $28,600 year. Our food costs are normal. Our utilities have increased, yet our wages haven’t. Childcare is priced around the national average, yet many people are living in poverty. You pay the daycare. You pay the pre-school. That’s your child’s future. And his education is all that matters.

His future is what I’m worried about.

I’ve seen the overdoses today.

What is his future? All our children’s futures?

High depression rates.
Round and round.
The Merry-Go-Round keeps playing “Pop Goes The Weasel”.

I’ve buried more people around my age than I have grandparents or elderly people I know.  

The average age is 37 for an overdose victim in Huntington, West Virginia. I am 36.

The Weasel.
I don’t want my son to find pills. Or the needle. I want him as far away from addiction as we can run. 

This isn’t dramatic. This is facts. This is all my concerns combined with my hopes.

All those words you’ve read…
They weren’t written for no damn reason.
Purposely, strategically submitted with determination.
My future is my son.

I sold my life.
Because I’m begging to give my child better. To give him a piece of the home I once knew. The bike rides, the friends in the neighborhood, and the innocence which still exists somewhere in suburbia.

The ones who were raised here, got stuck here and are suffocated by poverty and debt…. the people who can’t just pick up and get out of town for awhile, or aren’t lavished with multiple vacations throughout the year, to the people who have family and friends still living on childhood streets…

It’s not the same.
It’s not the community we remember or expected to see.

This isn’t what I want for my child or his future.

It’s okay to say this. To admit unhappiness. It’s okay to not see the glossy good.

My son is a mountaineer. He was bred and born as a West Virginian, and he will know these hills the same way I know the dips and turns on Buffalo Creek Road. The same way I know the sound of cicadas singing in dusk’s summertime hours as they hover in Ritter Park’s oak trees. He knows that weird aroma hidden inside Camden Park’s haunted house. He knows how the thousands upon thousands pumpkins smell in October as they are lit at Kenova’s Pumpkin House. He knows all the good I am able to give him here.

I only wish I could shelter him from the needles on the streets. I want to never have to explain to him again that Daddy’s friend won’t be back. He went to Heaven. Or to have him listen to what seems to be an almost weekly question as I say “Remember (insert childhood classmate’s name here)? He passed away.”

There is good. There is bad.

To extinguish one and discredit everything we used to know about our home, to tell us what to say, or how to feel when some of us have lived here our entire lives. It’s wrong. We know this isn’t normal. This isn’t grandma’s house anymore. I can’t smell her chicken n’ dumplings.

To have a choice, and a voice…

Those things are all that some of us have left,
for ourselves, and our future generations.






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4 Comments on "It’s Not The Same"

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I also just wanted to say Fire Chief Rader is a true hero and inspiration. Thank you for all you are doing. I think you have the hardest job in Htown and they should treasure you like gold. Or at least like a Marshall University President or football coach, at least. Thank you for being a light in dark times.

The boys and I have spent the Christmas Vacation entertaining one of their friends who is 10 years old and just lost his mother. His father is in jail for robbery. His grandmother is over worked and overwhelmed, but has an amazing attitude. And he is a good boy, a good 10 year old boy who deserves a good childhood. My boys are 9 and 10 and have been taught about addiction since they were 2 and 3. When I told them about the death (on Christmas Eve) Dante asked, “was it heroin overdose?” They did their best to help… Read more »

My cousin’s wife’s is a phenonemal hands-on mom, who was always perfectly involved with her children. Her son was just released from jail and/or rehab (can’t remember which it was this time) but he’s been detoxing from heroin. None of us are immune. The perfect picket fenced houses can hide the white lines your child will snort up or shoot up. We DO have to speak up. We all deserve better. And I hear your voice, and raise mine alongside yours.

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