On Pills and Needles, A Book Review
On Pills and Needles is a page-turner. Rick Van Warner writes about the pursuit of his own son who was swallowed up by the epidemic, and in this book, you’ll trudge with him on an emotional rollercoaster of reality. “Addiction is an equal opportunity problem that couldn’t care less about economic or family circumstances.” I think the reason I loved this book so much was that it is so relatable. It could be not only a book to enlighten someone who has not walked in these shoes, but it could also serve as a tool for someone in need of the “me too” experience. Rick learned many things the hard way, including that, “The razor-thin line between love and boundaries is a difficult balancing act…”
My heart was beating heavily through many parts of the book. I felt I had grown close to Rick’s son, Tommy. I didn’t know what was going to happen to him. He writes, “Neither his parents, counselors, siblings, nor doctors ever really understood the depth of the pain, insecurity, and hypersensitivity to others and the world in general that shaped Tommy as a person.” And you wonder how things like this can happen. Upon reading through the book you start to see how far mercy and love will go to reach a lost soul. Though Rick and his wife were not perfect and did make mistakes, ultimately their unconditional love for their son shone through the process made up of 13 relapses over years and years.
On Pills and Needles draws you into the story as if it’s happening right before your eyes. You also will find many statistics which may make you mad and want to take action or want to start including drug addicts (or any addicts for that matter) in your daily prayer life. It is a very real thing and it tears families apart, wreaking havoc in people’s hearts. Rick even goes into his past, how the actions of his own father affected him later on in life. And he writes about being bullied as a child, causing a super empathetic heart towards his son despite being manipulated repeatedly. “By the time I was nine or ten years old, my tears had turned to rage, and sometimes I’d try to fight back.”
The yo-yo effect that Rick so frequently brings up, is gut-wrenching. To watch someone want to get help only to fall back into old cycles is extremely devastating. Rick and his wife went through different phases of their own, as they tried to cope or fix Tommy. He touches on the facts about how his other children dealt with it. They are as much a part of this story as Tommy is.
As much as I don’t want to give the ending away, I will at least share with you that Tommy’s journey of overcoming something that had a grip on him — came over time and was not without discovering how he was wired, what his emotional needs required, and how he would best thrive if he were to not revert back to unhealthy patterns. He had to realize the triggers that caused him to continually stumble, and he had to take action.
All through this book, action was prevalent. Love was longsuffering, and the moral of the story is that all of it without acceptance of someone was like hitting a wall. This family did have boundaries but their relentless pursuit was powerful, their availability in times of need, moving. We may not all deal with such a hard road the same way, but there is much to learn here within these pages. I was moved to tears and saw myself in Tommy who was always longing for that something to feel like he belonged. He found it in a windy and uphill way, the future still unfolding.
Quote Love ♥
“Only by putting conventional wisdom aside and accepting our son with love no matter what were we able to help him inch forward. Tough love and detachment proved highly overrated with our tremendously sensitive son, serving to push him to the brink.”
“In our case, we discovered that family’s unconditional love and acceptance proved more powerful than any programs, group therapy sessions, medicines, or doctors in helping our son survive.”
“I felt that God was reminding me not to get too high or too low about anything in life…”
Rick Van Warner is a 30-year veteran of journalism, crisis management, and media relations. Rick was compelled to share his personal story to help other families after recognizing the endemic nature of the current opioid addiction epidemic. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Communications, Van Warner began his career as a daily newspaper reporter. Always willing to tackle tough challenges, he also volunteered as a social worker within the New York State youth justice division, where he counseled teens confined to group homes after committing serious crimes. Rick lives in central Florida with his family.
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Thanks for reading this review. On Pills and Needles was provided by Baker Book Publishing Group, Inc in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.