“I had no idea that ‘I love you’ were the last words my beautiful daughter would say to me, but I thank God those were the words.” Through sobs and tears, Cathy Hoskins shares the tragic story of her only child, Lindsey Nicole Rose, a talented, smart, and loving young woman who died too soon — after a five-year battle with drug addiction.

“If I don’t tell her story, how can I help save someone else’s child? I need people to listen. This isn’t a story about a drug addict,” Cathy says emphatically. “It’s a story about my sweet baby girl. Everyone says, ‘It can never happen to me.’ But it did happen to me. If another mom or dad takes away anything from my story, let it be that you need to communicate with your kids.”

Words of wisdom from a mom who knows firsthand the dangers of substance abuse, a problem plaguing many American homes. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that among people aged 12 or older in 2021, 61.2 million people used illicit drugs in the past year.

But there are people behind these statistics, and Cathy’s daughter Lindsey was one of them.

Lindsey was an outgoing, smart, happy teenager. She was a state champion gymnast in Virginia. She sang, played piano and flute, and was the light of her mom’s life.

But the happy times came to a screeching halt, and everything changed following a life-altering incident that caused Lindsey to question her self-worth. “We experienced firsthand the start of her downward spiral,” explains Cathy. “We noticed that her behavior changed, her appearance changed, and she began surrounding herself with people who were a bad influence on her.”

Cathy says things started looking up when Lindsey met Dave, a Marine who was back home after being honorably discharged from serving in Iraq. The two fell in love and got married. However, less than two weeks after their wedding, Lindsey found Dave dead from a drug overdose.  Dave became addicted to pain medications following an injury during his overseas tour.  

Lindsey’s grief was profound. Drugs quieted her heartbreak. After several years of trying to get Lindsey help, Cathy and her husband Stewart were relieved when Lindsey was approved to participate in Drug Court, a place to divert substance abusers from being jailed and to be part of a supervised, accountable treatment program instead.

“For one year, while Lindsey was in Drug Court, we had her back,” says Cathy.

But then, two days after Christmas, everything changed.

Lindsey said bye to her mom for what would be the last time. She went to a friend’s house, and Cathy recounts the details. “My niece heard over the police scanner that there were two drug overdose victims at a home close to ours. One victim was being transported to the hospital. The other was DOA — dead on arrival.” Cathy collects herself as she bravely cries through the rest of the story. “My Lindsey was the one in the body bag,” Cathy softly weeps.

The Hoskins family story is one heard all too often. The CDC reports that the number of drug overdose deaths increased by nearly 30% from 2019 to 2020 and has quintupled since 1999. Nearly 75% of the 91,799 drug overdose deaths in 2020 involved an opioid.

“I never thought I’d be advocating for other parents who are concerned about the possibility that their child could be doing drugs. But here I am,” Cathy explains with pain in her voice.

“Please know, I was so proud of Lindsey, I was never ashamed of her. Her story could be anyone’s. She was just like any of us, then something happened in her life that changed her. She wasn’t a bad person, she made poor choices, and she paid with her life.”

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If you know someone who needs help with an addiction, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).