Reflecting on the life of my beautiful daughter Lyndsey—a child we prayed to have, hard-won via IVF—I am truly grateful for all the special memories we shared together during her brief 21 years, before she went home to be with The Lord due to an accidental overdose in May 2019. While looking back through the multitudes of photos I have of our happiest times together, I am reminded of how truly blessed that I have been to be Lyndsey’s mum, her younger sisters’ mum, and a Grand Mum.
I will always remember well what a beautiful and loving daughter and big sister Lyndsey was and how she kept our home filled with the light and beauty of her creativity, her music, sports, her Children’s Christian Missions Club, and her amazing spirit up until she took the sad turn down the dark path of substance misuse during her middle school years. I was naive and completely clueless back then about the many factors that can lead a person to quickly fall into a deadly battle with addiction. Moms, please be warned and get fully educated on this!
In hindsight, many factors likely contributed to her illness. Hereditary predisposition being one of the factors, Lyndsey also experienced several life-changing events all around the same time, at 12 years old. She had also become quite ill with chronic strep and related illnesses and was given strong opioids following a tonsillectomy/adenoid removal, and soon after she was severely bullied at her new school. Our happy, outgoing, athletic cheerleader became friends with a group of teens who introduced alcohol and a variety of drugs. She quickly fell into the trap of self-medicating to ease her anxiety and sleeplessness. From that point, all our lives quickly became a blur of brokenness, fear, shame, and silence about what was happening. Lyndsey felt ashamed, judged, and trapped by the stigma surrounding addiction for 9 long years—and so did we.
Before we knew it, our happy home life began to shatter under the heavy weight of addiction. Over time, our whole family became broken: our relationships, our health, and our finances all became negatively impacted by the illness. Addiction breaks down families from every race, religion and socio-economic background. Sadly fatal overdoses are on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. We must help reverse this trend.
I believe we are one nation under a loving God, and we can come together across the aisles in Washington and come together in our communities, schools and businesses to end the stigma around addiction.
My daughter was a loving young Mom, and a Child of God, who deeply cared for her family, and especially her baby boy. She suffered so much anguish due to her illness and yet proper medical care was out of reach. Nevertheless, she fought very hard to get well for her son. She once asked me, “Why do people hate drug addicts? They just care more than other people do and cannot cope with it.” I hope that Lyndsey’s words and legacy remind us all to encourage those who are down and build them up rather than judge and condemn them for being ill. As more and more individuals recover out loud, more families will be protected or restored.
Connie Koch is a Shatterproof Ambassador. Want to join us? Learn about the program and apply today.