In this week's feature story, "Smackdown," we chronicle the life of Angela Halliday, a self-described heroin junkie from Bethalto, Illinois, who's now facing drug-induced homicide charges for her alleged role in a drug deal that led to an acquaintance's fatal heroin overdose.
Halliday, a former dean's list philosophy student and crisis counselor, offers a candid glimpse into her drug use, which she refers to as "the best of times and the worst of times." Her thoughts on drugs and death might be disturbing to some people, but over the course of several interviews, Halliday defies any preconception of "dim-witted junkie" and displays instead a high level of eloquence and depth.
Our story also references Halliday's blog, which she created as a college student in 2006 and used (on two occasions) during the peak of her addiction.
The blog, which contains two webpages, can be found here.
It's interesting to note the darker turn the blog takes after she starts using heroin. It's clear Halliday always had a fatalistic streak ("Mandatory birthday post -- One step closer to sweet, sweet death," she writes in 2007). But her blog also illuminates a more hopeful side, in which she cites philosophers like Ernst Bloch, who suggested that humanity has a utopian purpose for which no one is aware. "I believe that human beings have an ethical and philosophical awareness that presents us with a teleological Idea of an ultimate good," she writes. "We are obligated to and responsible for keeping this Idea within the boundaries of the possible."
Contrast that with a few sentences written three years later, under the influence of heroin: "I would love it if the everydayness of life was enough for me, but it simply isn't. In fact, its unbearable. But with Lady H coursing through my bloodstream it just doesn't get any better, heaven on earth."
We asked Halliday how she's able to speak so candidly about the reality of heroin addiction when, until just recently, she only seemed to care about escaping from reality. She acknowledged the irony and admitted she's still trying to figure out the answer. She also indicated that she's learned more about herself during her three months in jail than she did throughout the rest of her life. She's been using her idle time to introduce women on her cell block to classic literary texts, which she receives in the mail from her mother. She recently coaxed one detainee to plow through all 800 pages of David Copperfield.
At one point in her blog (pre-heroin, again citing Bloch) Halliday muses:
"There are possibilities for the impossible in our future that our philosophies and theologies could never anticipate. Whatever gods may be, whatever rational or irrational principle that unites or divides the human race, whatever lies within the universe or beyond, it will probably look very different from anything we could expect. We would all do well to be vigilant, patient and humble. Something undetermined awaits us, hopefully something good."
With the possibility of a multi-year prison term, Halliday's words take on new meaning.