I was looking through the photos of Anthony Sowell's victims, and my heart dropped. More than half of them were described as women with histories of drug and/or alcohol abuse. Nancy Cobbs, Tonia Carmichael, Janice Webb, all dead, all with histories of drug addiction. I knew this, of course, but to revisit the information through a CBS photo slide show was unsettling. Most of the victims' families didn't suspect any unusual behavior with the victims until two, three and 12 months later. Man, I tell you. It breaks my heart how we often throw away members of our community who suffer from drug abuse. Don't get it wrong. I understand the need to wipe the hands clean of the emotional strain that accompanies drug-addicted loved ones. You either kill yourself helping them or not.
One of my cousins, a very intelligent, charismatic man, started to use cocaine at suburban parties and then ultimately became addicted to crack-cocaine and heroine in the inner-city. The family did everything in its power to help him. They provided money, food, lodging, prayer, bail, clothes, tough love, rehab, more money, more prayer. But when the pattern of drug use and its nasty friend, the con, became intolerable, most family members closed their doors and decided to let him meet his fate, in the streets. No one, of course, would imagine he would be brutally murdered.
The issue with my cousin is certainly different than the victims of Cleveland. He's a male, alive and rehabilitated. The victims were unrehabilitated women lured to their deaths by a serial killer. My point is one's life can't be structured around the drug-addicted. I understand why families and friends break ties with them and leave them to the stress. I guess it simply breaks my heart to know the drug-addicted can often become society's expendable citizen and there's nothing anyone can do.
Keith Josef Adkins is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and social commentator.