'In Spite of Heroin'
"I wanted people to know that, growing up, my sons had every advantage without being over-indulged, and that if this could happen to our family, this could happen to anybody," said Dana Chase, as she held her newly published memoir, "In Spite of Heroin".
The Fargo native, who worked in Detroit Lakes during the time she was writing the book, put pain to pen in real time as she fought to save her twin sons from heroin addiction. It was a life this certified life coach never thought she'd be living, but it's one that she now believes she was handed for a reason: to write this book and to save others from similar pain.
Setting the stage
Dana Chase and her husband both worked as flight attendants in Fargo, raising their twin sons in what she says was a pretty loving, ideal situation for any child.
"My boys probably had more time with their father, who is an amazing man, by the time they were five than most boys have their whole lives," said Chase, "so they grew up with a great role model." Chase herself aspired to be a solid presence in her twins' lives, believing that positive thinking would bring a positive life and was goal-oriented and spiritual. Then, without any red flags or indications she or her husband picked up on, the drug use began.
"I believe it started with pot, then to painkillers," said Chase, who thought it was bad enough to know they were dealing with that, but things were set to get much worse when she walked in on something that turned her world upside down.
"I walked in on one of my sons with a loaded syringe," said Chase, who said that was in 2012 when opiate use wasn't in the news or even on her radar. Her sons were 18 years old. "I had no idea. I was aware of the painkillers, but to go from that to a loaded syringe was absolutely terrifying."
That terror she would face as a mother would quickly double, as she found out both her twins were heroin addicts. She couldn't know it then, but that innate fear would be her reality for the next seven years. They were years full of twists and turns and crimes and overdoses and suicide attempts - the sort of horrors and seemingly insurmountable trials that fictional novels are made of, only this one was real.
Chase, who had always been the sort of person to search for the purpose in things, had developed her own coping mechanisms that saw her through.
"Just like some people manage chronic pain - hip or back pain - my situation was managing chronic emotional pain, which I knew was despair," said Chase. "So once I framed it up that way, I made a choice to manage it and to find ways to continue to be in life and manifest miracles and attract abundance, and how I do that is very eclectic, very unconventional."
"There's a chapter in the book - the scene is Pelican Lake and it's the 4th of July - and it's in the thick of everything with my sons," said Chase, "and I realize on that night that maybe this happened to our family for a reason, that maybe I was meant to write a book that ultimately would help others."
Chase says she kept trying to make sense of the pain because it didn't make sense to her.
"Everything in the way they were raised was so contradictory to what our situation was, but I'm
very introspective and spiritual, and I wanted to put purpose to our pain and wanted something good to come from this."
Chase had decided to write a book about their family's experience, but was initially intimidated to start.
"I was well read and had very high standards for books, and so I wanted it to be a very good read, but I wasn't a professional writer," she said, adding that her sons were still addicts at the time, and so their family was still going through the painful twists and turns.
"It was hard enough to be living it, but writing a book about it at the same time ... I knew it would be tough because I didn't know what was going to happen or how things were going to end," said Chase, who said her sons' support of what she wanted to do helped her get started.
"From the very beginning they told me they thought something like this was really needed," she said. So, in November of 2013, she started the book.
"Part of this storyline is, as a mother... the guilt, the shame and the denial that I transcend," said Chase. "I know what a great upbringing they had, but as a mother it's hard to completely disconnect yourself from your children's choices - good or bad, and so that's a very poignant part of the journey."
Chase says she didn't want to just "spoon-feed" readers the bits of information about what happened during those drug-induced years, but wanted to provide hope and some insight into how she picked herself up day after day to still live her own life productively while still fighting a very long battle to keep her children alive.
"The book is a paradox of terror and hope," she said, adding that the book spans only two years, but the intensity of it was actually seven years.
"One of the ways I managed the despair was through my belief in duality, in that we are all human, but we're also a soul," said Chase, "and the human perspective in life is a lot about ego and personality and fears and assumptions and judgements and pleasing others, so a lot of people navigate through life from that perspective, but we're also a soul." And that, she says, is the part of humans that sees possibility and navigates with trust and love and believing that our lives are more than just the human condition.
"And so my capacity to be able to shift out of my human perspective and see things through my soul's perspective instead was absolutely essential because there was just every reason to believe my kids wouldn't make it out alive," said Chase. "I had to find someplace inside of me that believed I would survive the worst if it would happen."
For liability and privacy reasons, the name of her Detroit Lakes employer is changed in the book, as are the names of her sons, but their story, she says, is very real. She wrapped that book up in 2014, but says her hardest year actually came a year after that when her marriage fell apart, due largely she believes, to the pure stress they were both under. The book had been wrapped up even when the actual story hadn't.
"But the thing is, you can't end a book about addiction with a big, red, pretty bow," said Chase.
"It (addiction) can go into remission and never return, it can come back and take you out, or it can come back controlled, so it's impossible to write a book about addiction with a good, clean ending... like here you go, everything is good to go now."
But it is, she says, possible to provide inspiration throughout that story and end it with hope, and that is what she now hopes this book will do for others going through any type of despair - addiction or otherwise.
Today, one of her sons is fresh out of federal prison and living in the lakes area, while the other is set to get out of a North Dakota prison this month. Chase is well aware that anything could happen now, but says the one thing she's learned throughout this journey is that she must continue to "surrender" in order to live a life of peace.
"Surrender in that I really had no control over my children; I had to let go and trust that it's in God's hands and that I would handle whatever the consequences were," she said, adding that a lot of angst comes from people's desire to control the outcome of situations and to be attached to those outcomes. "Do all you can, do what you feel in your heart and head, but there comes a certain point where there's nothing more you can do, and you have to detach from the outcomes of things. If I hadn't done that, I don't think I'd be upright."
In the hands of readers
Chase self-published "In Spite of Heroin" through AuthorHouse, but now has a marketing team through them that is set to launch a publicity tour.
"They (AuthorHouse marketers) were astonished at the quality and the fact that it's so relevant, so they said it'll be advertised in the New York Times Book Review in early 2017," said Chase, "and that's where every person making a decision about what books to carry in their stores looks, so by putting it on there we're hopefully putting it on the fast track." Chase now has her book in a few local stores (including Emma Jean's in Detroit Lakes) and sells them on her website (chasedana.com), but is also doing book signings at various locations, including Vergas and Perham. (All book signings can be found on Chase's website.)
Once she is finished with her portion of self-promotion, she'll be teamed up with a publicist for 12 weeks for a global campaign in which 5,000 press releases will be sent out to English-speaking countries and attempts will be made to get on national programs to promote the book - a book Chase and her sons believe is much-needed with the opiate epidemic that has plagued the country.
"I know they (her sons) are so proud of me," said Chase, "and my hope is that this can save other families from the kind of despair that we've gone through."