"You Suck" Letters
Mostly, we get very positive e-mail here at Heroin Helper. This is even true of people writing to correct errors on the site. Unfortunately, we get some very hateful letters. Surprisingly, these letters are usually pointing out some error that was have made. But unlike the nice correction letters, these letters are almost always wrong.
One needn't think very long before coming up with an explanation for this. Some people come to the site and are offended by the very idea of it. They hate it and their emotions run high. They search the site until they find something they "know" is wrong. What they "know" is common knowledge, so they let all their hatred flood over the network until it lands in my mail box.
And there it sits. It sits with a letter from a mother trying to come to terms with her son's overdose death. It sits with a letter from a user whose abscess has stopped oozing white puss and is now oozing green puss. It sits with a letter from a young woman whose husband's heroin use is out of control. It sits with a bunch of mail that deserves attention, screaming like a spoiled child...
I know more than you do! Nanny-Nanny-Nanny!
You bad, bad person you! You murderer!
Anyone who has ever done something that is open to public scrutiny knows that a thousand good reviews don't make up for one bad review. When I get these letters, I go to my wife and say, "Why do I do this? No one pays me for this. All I try to do is good and I have to put up with this?" Then she calms me down and I go back to work addressing the mail that matters.
Here's some of the mail that doesn't matter.
James Taylor's Fire and Rain is about his then girlfriend Susan [sic.] who died in a plane crash on a surprise visit to see him when he was recording his first album. Get your facts straight.
This is a thoroughly discredited Urban Legend. What I wrote above is correct and is based upon a couple of interviews from the early 1970s. I may have been reading between the lines regarding Suzanne being a junkie. [I have since taken this out of the article, but Taylor was there for heroin addiction so this isn't much of a stretch.] However, there is no question that he met her in a psychiatric hospital and that she killed herself. It hardly matters who Suzanne was; in the context of the song, she is simply a symbol of life's tragedies.
Are you fucking kidding? Most users of heroin never become addicts?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
FUCK YOU FOR SPREADING BAD-INFORMTION. [sic] THIS IS LIFE AND DEATH SHIT YOU ASSHOLE.
Heroin Helper helps thousands of heroin users and their loved ones every month. I am always interested in inaccuracies on our site. Should you have actual information, please forward it. I doubt this, however. I did not make up the statistic. It is based on a number of studies and surveys. If you consider this information "bad", you must believe that lies will keep people from using heroin. You are wrong, but you have the right to believe that.
You do not have a right to e-mail obscenities to me.
To be blunt, "Natalie Rinehart doesn't know her head from her ass."
I looked over the survey and for the length, it doesn't seem to centered on heroin use.
She propositioned the Addiction Treatment Watchdog Message Board for heroin users as well. A lot of people asked some intelligent questions about her why she was doing the survey and what some of her preconceived notions were. Read over her responses. [It is available at: I Need Help with my PhD Research.] It was disturbing to read some of her responses.
This letter is not directed at Heroin Helper, but rather Ms. Rinehart. Also, I wouldn't say that it "doesn't matter", because it provides some useful information. I figure it belongs here as well as anywhere.
I did go to the message board and scanned through it. I have way too many other things to read that are of much greater priority. Overall, I didn't see that her answers were particularly bad. I have a very low opinion of this field, and I thought her position was more enlightened than most. It is more enlightened than most drug users' for that matter. Plus one must remember she is a student--not the "leading researcher in the field".
However, your point is well taken, if crudely put. Anyone interested can check out the message board and see what Ms. Rinehart has to say. They can make their own decisions from there.
One point brought up in the discussion was that drug users are often requested to fill out surveys by researchers, but that the results are never reported back. Part of our agreement to provide the survey link was that a summary of the results would be published on Heroin Helper. Too little research is published online; you would think that scientists were getting royalties instead of having to pay journals to be published.
I understand that you are trying to have an "unbiased" information source about heroin, but I can't say that there was enough information on the "cons" of using. As a matter of fact, I found the site to downplay the seriousness of the issue and glamourize [sic] using. Perhaps I am just overreacting [sic] and I should just realize that like you said, it's "not really that bad."
Websites and books like yours glorify an alternate lifestyle that ultimately only hurts people. After reading through your site rather thoroughly, I am left with an air of nonchalance and apathy that is the same as dealing with an addict. I suppose there may be some bizarre subculture of people who live their lives as "chippers," but you and I live in the real world and we know that it would be nice, but that's just not the way it is for the majority of people who pick up a drug.
I believe in providing accurate information for people, users and non-users alike, but don't you ever feel guilty for painting such an altruistic picture? Perhaps your website is really just a commercial for books, and that's where the honesty begins, but frankly, I am frightened about what I might read. Most of all I am frightened about what the addictive personality might read and what triggers might be stimulated. I understand that I have the power to click on or off this website or choose to pick up or put down a book, but not everyone is as powerful.
You make some good points--points that have certainly come to my mind on numerous occasions. There is no doubt in my mind that the site has a negative effect. I justify publishing it by understanding that it has ten times as much positive effect as negative effect. One simply can't write about any subject of importance without having some negative effect. In our simplistic world, we too often take the stand "first do no harm" to the point that we do nothing at all.
Although I would like to think that Heroin Helper is a commercial venture, the truth of the matter is that it does not even bring in enough money to pay for itself. (And of the three books I have published, I have made a total $2750.) On top of this, I spend about four hours per day writing articles and answering e-mail--all for free. I receive about 10 e-mail questions per day. Over half of these are from friends and loved ones of heroin users. Of those I get from users, the questions almost always involve issues of safety.
I suspect that your negative reaction to the site stems from your having a philosophy that is absolutely counter to mine. You are correct that I don't think using heroin is a big deal. It is one of many human activities with many risks associated with it. I use this analogy too often, but think of rock climbing. Rock climbing is more dangerous than using heroin. Would you write this letter if my website were about rock climbing? If not, why not? Don't tell me because heroin is addictive. You only have to go rock climbing once to die.
You seem reasonable. I think you even see what good I am trying to do, if you don't agree that I am succeeding. Try to see things my way. But just like a drug user, I will not stop running this site until I decide that it isn't doing good. And it does do good. Information saves lives. Only 1 in 5 heroin users is addicted. I can't pretend it is otherwise. But you don't have to be an addict to die. You don't have to be an addict to be arrested.
I'm always interested in anything on the site that is incorrect. If you've found something that you question, please let me know. Regardless, I appreciate your taking the time to write to me. If you are inclined, please tell me what your interest is in this subject. Maybe you would be interested in writing something for the site? I don't agree with everything on the site.
I did not receive a reply to my e-mail.
Her last paragraph is very telling. All those chippers out there in the world are a figment of my imagination. In the "real" world (the one she lives in), there are only addicts. This seems to be the biggest complaint that people have about Heroin Helper: we tell the "lie" that most heroin users are not addicts. It is, however, a well documented fact that most heroin users are not addicted. But these complainers' fear and hatred of heroin is so intense that they cannot accept this fact; they can only scream and stamp their feet when it is presented to them. Acceptance of this fact would destroy their "real" world.
I am so tired of her final statement about addicts not being able to control themselves. This kind of infantilization of heroin users is one of my main reasons for starting this site. Heroin users make choices--for good and for bad. I am not ashamed that I work very hard helping people who are affected by heroin use one way or another. I'm proud of the work I do. I help people. Does she? Perhaps so. Perhaps she out there working hard every day changing the diapers of all those heroin addicts in the "real" world who are incapable of making their own choices.
sic: intentionally so written--used after a printed word or passage to indicate that it is intended exactly as printed or to indicate that it exactly reproduces an original.