I write in loving memory of my beloved firstborn daughter, Lyndsey Koch (21 years old). I share my family’s story to help raise awareness and prevention of substance misuse. My precious daughter died May 6, 2019, of a tragic and horrific overdose. Lyndsey was a young, beautiful, funny, talented, bright and very LOVED young mom. She grew up surrounded by family, extended family and friends who loved her and supported her! She grew up playing tennis, piano, guitar, and ukulele. When she was young she was involved in church, vacation bible school, community service and missions clubs. She attended private Christian preschool and a Christian homeschool program through the fourth grade. Lyndsey always loved the beach and to be in or around the water whether it be in the pool, the lake or the ocean whenever she could. She was a very outgoing and social girl growing up and adored being surrounded by her friends.
Lyndsey was a long-awaited in-vitro child and was living a happy and sheltered homeschool life until the real estate market crashed in 2008 and that’s when everything in her young life changed. I had to return to work after being a homeschool mom for seven years, and we had to move from our home to a new neighborhood and a new school. Unfortunately, this was a very difficult transition for Lyndsey. She was severely and publicly mistreated by a boy she liked at the new middle school (he put her in a school dumpster and told her she was trash and she could not climb out without help from school staff!), and around that time she began hanging around new friends who were drinking, trying drugs of various kinds and making dangerous choices. Another young teen boy convinced Lyndsey to try huffing from a home air-conditioner tube and she woke up wet at the edge of a pond, with her clothes no longer on the right way and was afraid she’d been molested or worse and, looking back, that was the beginning of our long and horrible nightmare of our dear child misusing drugs, alcohol and (to my shock) other people’s prescription medicines like Xanax. I remember being shocked when Lyndsey said she didn’t want to have a big 13th birthday party that we’d been planning. I would later learn the hard way how she was trying to numb emotional pain with all kinds of substances.
Every year the substance misuse escalated and she and our family were put through the tumultuous and gut-wrenching battle of addiction. I was very naïve and had no clue that her substance use was getting to the point of deadly drugs that were easily available and around our seemingly safe, quiet little town of pleasant, neighborhoods and A+ schools! I was completely clueless about how to help Lyndsey -- nothing we tried seemed to help. We tried new schools and counselors, we sought advice from pastors, family and friends and doctors who prescribed various medications for ADHD and depression. We even tried a Christian boarding school for several months after Lyndsey went missing for a time, but drugs and alcohol kept creeping back into her life. It was crushing to watch our child spiral out of control again and again. Lyndsey lost many of her closest friends to drug overdoses during the last several years of her life, and even today many of her friends are still in danger.
Lyndsey continued to have lots of loving support up until the very end from our family, friends, and counselors and she found great strength from her relationship with her precious son Jaxton, who she loved more than anything. Sadly none of this was enough to prevent our tragedy. The deadly substances took over and hijacked her mind over time, wreaked havoc on her body, stole her dreams and ours and ultimately took her young life.
Lyndsey struggled with anxiety, depression, insomnia and several other emotional conditions during her teen and young adult years that worsened due to substance use. She did not feel comfortable with our extended family or friends knowing of her horrible struggle with addiction and, like so many families, we kept quiet due to the public stigma associated with mental, emotional and substance use disorders. Most everyone who did know of Lyndsey’s struggle recommended for us to use the ‘tough love’ approach with her, which did not help at all! Many judges, police and even treatment staff would often use this disturbing and belittling approach. We wouldn’t make a person with cancer feel harshly judged and mistreat them for having cancer, and young people with addictions shouldn’t be mistreated either.
Lyndsey was proud of all her clean drug tests; after her death, I found stacks of them! Through it all -Lyndsey was trying to be the best mom she could be although she was constantly feeling sick or anxious. She was absolutely wonderful with her son and she truly wanted only the best for him. Lyndsey and Jaxton had so much FUN together! Unfortunately, drugs took over her brain so that her decision- making skills were no longer her own! Everyone seems to think people choose to become addicted, but I promise you that no one intends to become addicted, and it usually begins as a way to cope with emotional pain from a traumatic event, depression and/or chemical imbalance, or hereditary predisposition.
Lyndsey’s was a long and horrifying 9+-year battle with addiction that impacted our daily lives and our whole family with many sleepless nights, dreaded phone calls, trips to the ER and several near-fatal overdoses over the years until the tragic overdose we feared came and stole her from us, and left her beautiful son without his mommy.
Now that we are left behind in our grief, like so many other families in this country, we have to stand up and fight for better awareness and prevention of this insidious epidemic! There have to be better and more affordable treatment options for those plagued by this type of illness. There has to be reform for better insurance coverage! The current protocols for law enforcement officers and ER Staff have to change as well. Lyndsey had been picked up by the police the day of her death, disoriented and unaware of where she was. The police officer took her phone, found my phone number and asked if I could come get her, but I was out of town so I asked the officer to please take her to the hospital and explained to him Lyndsey’s history with substance use. Unfortunately, the officer let Lyndsey go with her boyfriend. He later called me to say he had nothing to hold her on and said he could not take her to the hospital because she did not say she was suicidal. Lyndsey fatally overdosed just hours later. No professional sends a dementia patient back out on the streets after they’ve been picked up wandering around lost and incoherent of their surroundings, yet my daughter often was. Sending someone back out on the streets in this condition is negligent! Detox and treatment programs need to be held to a better standard too and have follow-up programs available for their patients.
If sharing my beautiful daughter’s story saves even one life, then it will have been worth it. I pray that our President, our lawmakers and elected officials, our police officers, our CEOs of insurance companies, hospitals, clinics, pharmaceutical companies, doctors, and parents will get educated and fight against this deadly, escalating epidemic!
Sincerely Heartbroken yet Resolved to Fight this Deadly Epidemic,
Connie, Lyndsey’s Mom