I am from NJ. I work full-time in marketing as the key writer at a private college. I am a contributing writer for the Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, and Gannett Publications like the Asbury Park Press and The Daily Advertiser. My coverage of Hurricane Sandy was featured on USA Today, CNN, and in the LA Times. Since losing my cousin to a drug overdose in 2006, I have made it my mission to raise awareness through my writing about how drug addiction affects entire families.
Tell us about your book of poetry, Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately – what inspired you to write it?
My book, Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately, was the #1 new release in poetry by women on Amazon and I am donating 100% of the royalties to the Willow Tree Center in Morris County, NJ. Ever since losing my cousin to a drug overdose in 2006, I have made it my mission to give the families directly affected by addiction a voice. Our country is going through what the Center for Disease Control is calling the “worst overdose epidemic in history,” so I am just trying to do my part in combating the heroin epidemic.
My drive to make some sort of difference in the recovery and addiction community is what inspired me to put a book out. After a conversation I had with the Johnny, the founder of Radiant Skies Publishing Group, I woke up at 3am, drew the cover, and started putting the book together. I released the book 14 days later. The response has been so positive, and I am truly humbled. The book is styled after a vintage mixtape, with track listings replacing table of contents and “sides” replacing chapters.
How long have you been writing poetry?
I’ve been writing, in general, since I was 8. I was gifted my first typewriter from my parents when I was 10. I went on and majored in English in college. I always knew I wanted to write for a living. I always documented everything. I began to focus some of my time on poetry once Instagram came to be (@thealiciacook). The writing community there is huge and poetry fits in the small space Instagram allots.
You have also written articles for the Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, and Elite Daily – what topics to you enjoy writing about?
I don’t want to say I “enjoy” writing about drug addiction, because I don’t. I always say we are members of club no one wants to join. My joy from writing on such a sensitive subject comes once it is released and the emails from strangers battling this illness start flooding my inbox. I hear from addicts who just attended their friend’s funeral and admit to me that they used [drugs] in the parking lot of the funeral home. I speak with addicts who have been clean for years, addicts who have been clean for days and addicts who are still actively using and desperate to find recovery. I hear from parents who have lost their children to drug overdoses, who share with me the eulogy they wrote for their child. I hear from families who have gone into debt, going as far as taking second mortgages on their homes, just to keep their children in rehab. I hear from individuals who are in romantic relationships with someone suffering from addiction. I hear varying stories from people whose best friend, cousin, sibling, neighbor, aunt, or uncle has been in and out of jail, overdosed, or found recovery. I respond to every single email I receive because I know how important it is to feel less alone in this.
What’s the best advice that you’ve been given about writing?
“Write honestly.” Sounds easy, but it’s not. It is scary, at times, to be honest because once you put yourself “out there” on an issue or emotion, you can’t take it back. Suddenly, the public will know something very private about you. It took me a long time to stop reading the comment sections of my articles. I continue to write honestly, which is sometimes confused as fearlessly, because I know the people who need to read what I am writing, are able to do so.
Tell us a little more about your work as a Drug Addiction Awareness Advocate.
It’s who I am. It is woven into almost every response I’ve made in this interview. It amazes me how resilient humans are. I have seen many, like myself, rise from the ashes of their tragedy, and become a pillars of hope — advocates for change. Like many who have lost loved ones to this disease, I advocate knowing it will not change my situation. With every article published, my cousin remains buried, my family remains forever altered because of addiction. But do I feel hopeless? No. Because it is my hope that with every single article I write on this epidemic, I will not only spread awareness, but give others the courage or the “push” to speak up. I feel a shift lately — many families are speaking up, and quite loudly may I add.
How has it changed your life?
My experience has altered my life forever. My family’s makeup will never be how it was supposed to be. I am supposed to have a 29-year-old cousin, I don’t now. She has three nieces she’s never met. I lost her when we were 19. And the older I get, and the more I experience, and the more milestones I hit, it becomes more and more apparent to me that she should be here too. It is almost impossible to not draw parallels between her and me because we were so close in age and had a lot in common.
What advice or words of encouragement would you give to someone who might be struggling to find help amid their addictions?
For anyone battling addiction, I want them to know that I know they are battling an illness. Addiction is not a social disorder or moral failing. That being said, they need to get help immediately. As a loved one of an addict myself, I know that is easier said than done. The person battling the addiction must WANT to find recovery, or they never will. No family member or loved one can “fix” them. And then once clean, they need to make the decision every day to STAY clean – which will be hard some days, but not impossible. And while your loved one is taking the steps to find recovery, you need to find your own recovery too – there are support groups out there specifically for families battling addiction.
What brings you the most joy?
The ocean. A perfectly made iced coffee. Christmas music. My parents.
What do you love most about being a creative woman?
To me, that’s like asking “what do you love most about being yourself?” I don’t usually refer to myself as “creative” because it has just always been who I am. I love to write, and take pictures, and paint. I love the crazy ideas that wake me up in the middle of the night. I feel fortunate that I see the world a bit differently. So, I guess, what I love most about it is that it has been the most constant/reliable thing about me. I’ve grown, I’ve moved a few times, I have had ups and downs, and the one thing that has gotten me through most of my life is my creative outlets.