Telling a compelling story is always my first responsibility as an author; however, I’m from the school of artists who believe that art, at its best, can be a tool for social awareness and change. Raising awareness of the dangers inherent in the participation in collision sports – especially head trauma as it occurs in football – is the major goal of GOODNESS FALLS, but another issue I hope to illuminate is that of prescription drug abuse. In the novel, as for many in real life, the use of prescription drugs begins innocently enough, often as a means to mask physical pain and to allow normal functioning. These legitimate uses, however, often give way to masking emotional pain and mere recreational use, both of which often evolve into abuse and dependency.
Just as I’m not an expert on traumatic brain injuries, I’m not an expert in drug abuse. I’m just a novelist, a guy literally making shit up. Nonetheless, as a high school teacher, I have daily interaction with and insight into the lives of young adults that places me in a unique position. Although I find it dangerous and ill-advised to lump people of any demographic too neatly into a package, in my avocation as a writer, I try to use my position and these opportunities to educate the world at-large of the pressing issues in the lives of today’s teenagers. I’ve said many times that I write about young adults for adults as much as I write for young adults themselves. Outside of their own children and for only a brief period, most adults have little or limited contact with teenagers. As a result, they rely upon outdated notions and stereotypes with which they make mistaken judgments of young people. My goal is to provide these adult readers a window into the world of teens, a world that has changed drastically since these adults were teenagers themselves.
One of the recent and more pernicious changes in teenage behavior is in their use and abuse of prescription drugs. It is, however, far from merely a problem with young adults. The abuse of such drugs has grown increasingly-pervasive in American society, and for too many kids, because these drugs are doctor-prescribed, they lack the stigma of more illicit drugs. A mistaken notion of their being more safe persists, and their easy accessibility inside their parents’ medicine cabinets only adds to the dangerous perception of their being less dangerous. Not only are prescription drugs easily obtained, they can be consumed surreptitiously. They do not need to be lit, snorted, huffed, or injected – just swallowed. They are tiny and do not come packaged in some highly visible or difficult-to-hide container. They leave behind no smoke or odor, so they are very difficult to spot. Sadly, prescription drugs, seem almost tailor-made for the convenient abuse by teenagers.
In GOODNESS FALLS, the protagonist begins to consume prescription drugs in order to mask a head injury, the discovery of which would jeopardize his current position and potential for future success. He quickly finds himself in the downward spiral described above and in danger of losing far more than he fears.
My hope is that in reading the novel, young people and their parents will learn vicariously of the dangers of both repeated head traumas and prescription drug abuse. Armed with a fictional example of the ramifications of both, they can make informed decisions without having to actually be subjected to either.
The Fake Problems video below, “Songs for Teenagers,” was a major inspiration as I wrote GOODNESS FALLS. Listen to its lyrics, and I think you’ll see why.