Dopesick

Dopesick

by

Beth Macy

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Tess Henry Character Analysis

Tess Henry is a young mother from the Hidden Valley region of Virginia and the daughter of Patricia Mehrmann. Tess first begins telling her life story to Beth Macy in 2015. The daughter of a local surgeon and nurse, as well as a star high school athlete, she eventually develops a $200-a-day heroin addiction in college after a routine visit to urgent care ends with her getting an opioid prescription. Like many young addicts, her good health helps disguise her addiction for a while, but eventually it becomes impossible to hide, particularly after she turns to theft to help pay for her addiction. She is caught attempting to rob a hardware store and gets sent to jail where she learns that she is in the second trimester of pregnancy. Although the birth of her son initially helps her center her life around a new goal, eventually Tess is back to using, straining her relationship with her family and starting a downward spiral. Jamie Waldrop tries to offer help to Tess through the Hope Initiative and even author Beth Macy blurs the lines between journalist and subject when she takes Tess to Narcotics Anonymous meetings. But despite brief periods of wanting treatment (often right after a trip to the psych ward), Tess seems unable to break her cycle of addiction. Eventually, she ends up going to a treatment facility in Nevada, where she seems to make progress, but once again, she just ends up back to her old habits in Las Vegas. The day after Christmas, Patricia gets the shocking news that Tess has been murdered in Las Vegas. Tess represents the complexities and contradictions of life as an addict. As the course of her life shows, although she had good intentions to be a better mother and daughter, she also frequently acted in ways that seemed to be against her own best interests—all motivated by her addiction. Macy tells Tess’s story to explore and humanize the tragic side of the opioid epidemic: how even young healthy people with good intentions and a support network are sometimes unable to win their battles against addiction.

Tess Henry Quotes in Dopesick

The Dopesick quotes below are all either spoken by Tess Henry or refer to Tess Henry. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
).
Chapter 10 Quotes

Tess was nearly seven months pregnant when she left jail in June 2015. For a month, she lived with her mom and tried to make a go of it with her boyfriend, the baby’s father—“disastrous,” Patricia and Tess agreed—before they found a private treatment center two hours away that would take Tess during her final month of pregnancy. Private insurance covered most of the $20,000 bill while her dad paid the $6,500 deductible, using the remainder of Tess’s college-savings fund. The Life Center of Galax was one of the few Virginia facilities that accepted patients on medication-assisted treatment (methadone or buprenorphine). Tess was now taking Subutex, a form of buprenorphine then recommended for some pregnant mothers. (Suboxone is typically the preferred MAT for opioid users because it also contains naloxone, an opiate blocker; Subutex, which is buprenorphine with no added blocker, was then considered safer for the baby but more likely to be abused by the mom.)

Related Characters: Tess Henry, Patricia Mehrmann
Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

I just left goodwill, can you please transfer $4 so I can get a pack of cigarettes please?

Related Characters: Jordan “Joey” Gilbert (speaker), Tess Henry, Patricia Mehrmann
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:
Epilogue Quotes

Tess was still homeless, and another week passed before she called Patricia with an address via a borrowed phone, possibly belonging to a current or former pimp. “Are you in danger?” her mom asked, and Tess claimed she was not, repeating a line she often said: “I’m a soldier, Mom. I’ll be fine.

“Yes, love.” Patricia responded. “But sometimes even soldiers fall.”

Related Characters: Tess Henry (speaker), Patricia Mehrmann (speaker), Beth Macy
Page Number: 304
Explanation and Analysis:

It was January 2, Tess’s birthday. She would’ve been twenty-nine.

Patricia tucked the treasures of her daughter’s life inside the vest—a picture of her boy and one of his cotton onesies that was Tess’s favorite, some strands of Koda’s hair, and a sand dollar.

Related Characters: Tess Henry, Patricia Mehrmann
Page Number: 308
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Dopesick LitChart as a printable PDF.
Dopesick PDF

Tess Henry Character Timeline in Dopesick

The timeline below shows where the character Tess Henry appears in Dopesick. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Tess Henry is a 26-year-old waitress that Macy meets in 2015. She is the daughter of... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Cycles of History Theme Icon
Tess’s family has a history with addiction: she has alcoholic relatives on both sides. A routine... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Cycles of History Theme Icon
Tess believes she became truly addicted when she started snorting heroin. Though she was able to... (full context)
Chapter 10
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Cycles of History Theme Icon
...getting started at right around the same time that Macy began following the story of Tess Henry and her infant son. After getting out of jail while seven months pregnant, Tess... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Cycles of History Theme Icon
Tess’s son is born two weeks early but very healthy, with no signs of NAS. He... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
The Value of Science Theme Icon
Tess’s goal in 2016 is to be a good mother. Her treatment with buprenorphine helps her... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
The Value of Science Theme Icon
...sons, they felt that the drug was too easily diverted to be used for abuse. Tess’s mother Patricia discovers that Tess has figured out how to abuse the drug, having relapsed... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
The Value of Science Theme Icon
For many months in early 2016, Macy drives Tess and her baby to Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Though Narcotics Anonymous theoretically approves of MAT, many... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Tess goes to a few more Narcotics Anonymous meetings, driven by Macy, but after four, she... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Cycles of History Theme Icon
In February 2016, Patricia believes Tess is using again, but her family disagrees about the best treatment methods. Eventually, Tess’s relapse... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Cycles of History Theme Icon
The Value of Science Theme Icon
Tess starts neglecting her son and eventually loses custody, with a judge awarding shared custody to... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
By May 2016, Tess is couch-surfing and using heroin daily. Her son’s father gets out of jail in early... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Tess’s son grows to be a toddler without her there to witness his milestones. By fall,... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
The Value of Science Theme Icon
The next time Patricia sees Tess is in an ad on a prostitution website. She has been able to covertly track... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Cycles of History Theme Icon
In October 2016, Jamie and Macy visit Tess in a psych ward, where she has checked herself in due to suicidal thoughts. Tess... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
But when Tess gets out of the ward, her moment of wanting treatment seems to have passed again.... (full context)
Chapter 11
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
The Value of Science Theme Icon
Tess’s loved ones create a five-page spreadsheet that they hope will guide her recovery. It’s early... (full context)
Race, Healthcare, and Criminal Justice Theme Icon
The Value of Science Theme Icon
...disagreements between the criminal justice establishment and the families of people struggling with opioids (like Tess) seem to only be getting more severe. Particularly during the Trump administration, government officials begin... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Cycles of History Theme Icon
Tess remains in contact with the Hope Initiative but is not among its success stories. In... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Patricia and Jamie arrange it so that Tess can go immediately from the hospital to treatment in Nevada, knowing that otherwise Tess will... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Cycles of History Theme Icon
Fighting the Medical Establishment Theme Icon
At the Hope Initiative, attention now turns from Tess to Tess’s friend Joey, who is in a similar situation. Joey tries to appear sober... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Cycles of History Theme Icon
...moved by Joey’s family. She can’t help wondering how she would feel if it were Tess’s funeral instead of Joey’s. She already knows where she will sprinkle Tess’s ashes if she... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Six weeks later, Patricia intercepts a message between Tess and a drug dealer in Las Vegas. She sends her daughter a letter to express... (full context)
Epilogue
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Cycles of History Theme Icon
From Las Vegas, Nevada, Tess texts about going back into rehab. Her mother, Patricia, has tried to get Tess into... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Cycles of History Theme Icon
Tess has made some troubling phone calls home where she seems to be high on meth... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
In the days leading up to Christmas, Tess sends Patricia scattered text messages, still vaguely promising to come home. She keeps putting off... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Cycles of History Theme Icon
...after Christmas, Patricia gets a call from the Las Vegas police department. Someone has discovered Tess’s body, naked and in a plastic bag, with blunt head trauma. The body and plastic... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Cycles of History Theme Icon
Police investigate potential gang connections to Tess’s death. Tess’s body finally comes home to Roanoke on December 30, 2017. It takes two... (full context)