Local emcee shares his history of heroin abuse in new documentary aimed to curb one of the Commonwealth’s greatest killers

by | Dec 4, 2015 | POLITICS

More Virginians were killed in 2014 by heroin and prescription opioid drug overdose than car crashes.

More Virginians were killed in 2014 by heroin and prescription opioid drug overdose than car crashes.

For some that seems like an abstract concept, but for local Emcee Evan Barlow, it was all too real.

At 14, Barlow began experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Living in Frog Level Virginia, in a decent home with loving parents, he never understood why he loved getting high so much.

“I liked the feeling of not feeling,” he said in an interview with RVAMag.

Before long, the young musician had discovered his sick grandmother’s pain killer stash and began pushing the pills in exchange for weed.

Like a story all-too-familiar to so many after school specials, it didn’t take long for Barlow to find out why people were paying so much for the little white pills.

“I don’t know what it was that made me want to feel numb,” he said about how his casual use soon turned into an everyday habit. “Once I started using, I loved the feeling.”

When his grandma passed, the supply ran out. That’s when things got bad.

“[I was] dope-sick at 16,” he said about his first case of opioid withdrawal. “Wondering why I feel like shit. I didn’t have anything.”

He found himself breaking into a pharmacy to steal dugs. He robbed a neighbor, stealing their safe; all in the name of opioids and heroin.

He was a junkie before the age of 18.

Barlow went to his mother for support, but ironically that’s when things got worse. He was in and out of 13 treatment facilities from 17-20.

“It’s tough for people who aren’t an addict to see it cause they say ‘just stop,'” Barlow said. “But that’s the difference between a person with the disease of addition and not the disease.”

As with all addicts, it took hitting rock bottom before he could finally get clean. His bottom happened while he was behind bars.

He’d been sober a week thanks to the jail time, but he got a call that his mother was brain dead and soon died from a heart attack.

“At the time I thought it was my fault,” he said. “I thought it was from me cause she was 45. I took that heavy at the time. “

In reality she’d had a complicated back surgery about a decade prior and her body never really recovered.

Either way, that was the wakeup call Barlow needed.

He ended up at The Mcshin Foundation, a Richmond-based peer-to-peer recovery facility. He got his shit together and has spent the last three years turing that negative past into something positive – music.

“I got this message, let me start making music for people going through what I’m going there,” he said.

The above song, “The Fix,” is one of several tracks he’s released dealing with his addiction.

The opening lines are some of his most powerful, where he admits he was stuck needing a drug that was killing him slowly.

“I [couldn’t] live without it,” he said “but I literally won’t live if I continue to do it.”

He’s also taken to giving back at the The Mcshin Foundation, working as a peer counselor, speaking with young patients as they come into the facility, as they start their own recovery journey.

The work he’s done to help those in need didn’t go unnoticed. When Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and his office began working on a documentary showing how heroin and prescription drugs were harming, if not killing, Virginians, they reached out to Barlow to see if he’d share his story, and if they could use his music in the final edit.

Barlow jumped at the chance, saying he’d love to try and “make a change for people struggling, trying to get out.”

Watch the trailer for the movie below:

The documentary is available to everyone through youtube here.

Barlow’s not sure if the documentary will help, but he hopes it will. He remembers watching the same ‘Just say no’ videos in high school and middle school that everyone else does. But he hopes his message, one that’s coming from someone in a similar place, with a similar background, will help the kids relate.

He hopes to “get their attention before you start preaching.” he said .

“When you’re finished, if you connect with them, you don’t have to tell them ‘don’t do drugs’ they’ll stay away on their own.”

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner

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