My friend Elizabeth Hawkins stops in at Bacon today to talk about a book she calls a “jaw-dropping work of nonfiction.” The author will speak in Nashville tomorrow, May 7th – please, read on!

From Elizabeth:

For the last several years, I have had the honor of serving on the board of The Next Door, a local non-profit organization whose purpose is to empower women for a lifetime of recovery from substance abuse. CEO Linda Leathers recently described the work of The Next Door as follows:

“Addiction is an unrelenting disease that affects not only the addict but also the woman’s family and friends. The Next Door is passionate about returning women in our care to their families and communities with the knowledge to help fight this disease and to empower them to live drug and alcohol free lives in recovery.”

The work at The Next Door is not only inspiring but most importantly effective. To interact with the caring professionals and to observe the heroic courage displayed by the women in treatment has given me pause for gratitude that this organization is directly impacting our community for the better. I have tried to educate myself more fully about the pervasive problem of addiction and the related mental health issues. I recently finished reading a jaw-dropping work of nonfiction recommended to me by another member of our board – Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, by Sam Quinones.

I became especially grateful for The Next Door after reading this book! Dreamland is listed as one of the best books of the year in 2015 by Amazon and Audible (as well as many others) and was selected National Book Critics Circle Award winner for Nonfiction the same year. This tragic “Tale” described for me the root causes of the opiate epidemic in America today. Simply put, it all began with the problem of pain. The greed of corporate drug companies to “solve” the problem collided with the greed of drug dealers to “ensure” it, birthing the epidemic we are dealing with today.  

Mr. Quinones describes the rise of the Xalisco Boys from Nayarit, Mexico and their production and introduction of black tar heroin to middle class America. They fed off of the groundwork laid by big drug companies to produce and promote the closest thing to the “Holy Grail” of pain relievers – OxyContin. As misinformed pharmaceutical reps presented the drug as the “non-addictive” solution to physicians’ treatment for pain, abuse exploded and pill mills expanded in towns previously untouched by drug abuse. The Xalisco Boys took advantage of the predicament with a cheaper and more potent alternative to the expensive pills – black tar heroin. The statistics shared and the unravelling of communities described is stunning as well as heartbreaking.  

I came to better understand the motives of the thousands of young Mexican men streaming in to our cities to sell a sticky extremely potent substance to eager addicts. I also learned what roles drug companies, medical personnel, and pain clinics had in igniting this epidemic and what roles law enforcement, judges, and legislators as well as some physicians had in combatting it. I became much more compassionate and empathetic towards the addicts and their families and communities as I became aware of the vicious cycle of dependency, isolation, and destruction at every socio-economic level. I was cheering for those individuals, families, and communities who sought ways out towards recovery and renewal. With the abuse of and addiction to opiates at an all time high not only in our country but in our very community, I can’t recommend this book more highly.

The Next Door has invited the author, Sam Quinones, to come and speak to the Nashville community about this crisis on Tuesday May 7, 2019 at 8 AM at Belmont University. The event is free and open to the public but registration is requested at Please join us to continue this conversation!

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Elizabeth Hawkins is a planner and an achiever. She gets things done, and she doesn’t even break a sweat most of the time. But sometimes she does. She doesn’t pretend life is perfect. But she celebrates and appreciates the moments when things are good – the grace moments. She gets things right, I think: she does justice, loves mercy, walks humbly with her God.



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Needle and spoon image from (“What is black tar heroin”)

How Sam Quinones became a writer, an unlikely journey:


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