EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

June 7, 2014

Author challenges locals to join forces in attacking common woes

NORTH ANDOVER — Noted author Michael Patrick MacDonald issued a challenge to North Andover and Lawrence yesterday: Work together to solve common problems, such as drug abuse and the trauma that’s behind it.

After speaking to students in several English classes in the North Andover High School library, MacDonald met with members of the Lawrence Youth Team and several North Andover High School educators, including Justin Bilton, who arranged the author’s visit to the Merrimack Valley.

“You don’t want this conversation to end,” he said, after they talked about trauma and the resilience that’s needed to cope with it. “Who’s going to be the point person for North Andover? Who’s going to be the point person for Lawrence?”

MacDonald’s memoir of growing up in the Old Colony housing project in South Boston, “All Souls: A Family Story From Southie,” is a best-seller. He wrote about the prevalence of drugs in South Boston – as well as the code of silence, enforced by now-incarcerated mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, that forbade admitting that addiction was a serious problem in that community.

His neighbors denied Southie had a drug problem, saying “that’s those people over there,” referring to the residents of Roxbury and Mattapan. Yet many South Boston people died from drug overdoses and suicides.

Narcotics users are often scorned as losers and misfits who don’t want to do anything but get high. MacDonald offers a different take. People who use heroin and other opiates are in pain, he said.

“We are a traumatized society,” he said, and that is a cause of people using and becoming addicted to pain-killing substances.

MacDonald certainly knows about trauma. Two of his brothers, David and Kevin MacDonald, committed suicide. Frankie MacDonald, an up-and-coming boxer, died in an armored car heist. None of them lived to be 25.

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