Heroin addicts are rumpled, dirty and gaunt from life on the street and care only about feeding their addiction.
They are not auburn-haired, All-American girls with piercing blue eyes. They do not have stable parents and rural, middle-class roots.
But this is about telling the truth, and the truth is that heroin addicts can be anyone, anywhere.
Zoë Conley was 20 and from Trenton. Her parents, Mike and Sybil, run the Trenton Sun newspaper, where their daughter worked.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
They strive for the truth, as do most in the media. They had to tell the painful truth about their daughter’s addiction and how it led to her death.
There is a simple tenet among journalists: Tell the truth as plainly and honestly as possible and the best outcome should follow.
So the Conleys told the truth in their daughter’s obit. They printed the truth in their paper and its Facebook page. They issued a statement, because apparently the truth needs an explanation when told.
“If there are going to be fruitful discussions about public measures to fight addiction and especially the scourge of heroin and other opiates, they can only take place with the support of a public that understands the true costs of addiction and is willing to invest in treating it,” her parents wrote.
Stare into those blue eyes. There is the evident cost.
But there are many other costs that will continue being paid by her parents, her family, her friends and the professionals unable to save her. Even the drug dealers with the mark of another soul against them will pay a price.
The truth itself will have a cost. The conversation will have a cost, but maybe it will free someone else’s child.