Jack Conroy was one of 60,000 to die of an opioid-heroin overdose in 2015,– more deaths than from all of Vietnam. But Jack not a lost kid. He was Barbara Bates Conroy’s son and the Conroy family had the means and the will to do anything to save him. They couldn’t. Jack had a gifted intellect and was a superb athlete. We know. As next door neighbors we knew him from birth, coached him as a very young soccer player, and saw him grow into a fearless stallion by his early teams. Jack felt he was invincible and could con all of us into believing he was clean even after 4 rehabs and serious brushes with the law. But as Barbara writes: “Mothers know”. Never a stoner, Jack looked like the fittest guy in town but underneath he was seized by opioids and then its cheaper substitute heroin. Barbara’s anguished,searing,pleading but always loving letters make up the core of this short book which you’ll want to read in one sitting. A surprise is that Jack wrote Mom back about his desperation to get out of his black hole. Those hand scratched letters expressed his real grief and fear. No excuses. No con. And so the Conroy family with all the means and connections to get Jack the best help in the nation kept trying until that April,1 2015 phone call came from San Diego to say: “Jack is dead”.
The power of this book is that there is no preaching, no excuses and no flinching from Barbara. It is once of those rare missives written from the heart, told with brutal honesty. Only at the end where she reveals her quest to find spiritual relief after Jack’s death does she ask us to think about what two decades of freely dispensed opioids from doctors and pill pushing drug companies have done to our nation. Now that it’s officially a national epidemic we’re deeply alarmed and Washington is spending billions to fight a problem that could have been squashed a decade ago except of course for all the money. Barbara never quit. She knew. If Dear Jack makes you want to string up the politicians and regulators and pharma company CEO’s who also knew and covered up you would be in good company. Families with addicts know this tale too well. Every parent should.