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‘I saw someone I did not know’: York County faces, voices of opioid addiction battle

Opioids: Stories of loss, triumph from York County residents

Rock Hill, SC resident Melissa Boyd lost her brother Joe Davis in 2009 to heroin. Clover resident Amy Lynch battled an addiction to prescription opioid drugs.
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Rock Hill, SC resident Melissa Boyd lost her brother Joe Davis in 2009 to heroin. Clover resident Amy Lynch battled an addiction to prescription opioid drugs.

Six years ago, Clover resident Amy Lynch had prescription pills scattered throughout her house. She barely recognized herself.

“I looked in the mirror and I saw something I did not know,” Lynch said. “I didn’t know who it was; I didn’t know what it was and it scared me.”

On that day, Lynch said she dropped the bottle of pills she was holding, seeing them spill all over the floor.

“In that moment, I realized I was not me, that I was a monster basically, and that everything around me was falling apart,” Lynch said.

Lynch, now 42, stood as an addict in recovery to tell her story Tuesday. Lynch also stood as a wife and as a mother of two sons, ages 23 and 8.

With three years of being clean under her belt, Lynch spoke during an opioid summit at York Comprehensive High School. It was sponsored by the York County All on Board Coalition and Keystone Substance Abuse Services.

“I’m here to hopefully spread hope for all those who are out there suffering,” Lynch said.

Lynch’s battle with addiction started when she was just 8.

Lynch said she had easy access to drugs in her childhood home. Multiple family members, including her parents and grandparents, struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol, she said.

“I was born an addict,” Lynch said. “I was really born with not much hope. There was always drugs around the home.”

Lynch said she has a history of mental illness in her family. She said she has suffered physical, sexual and mental abuse.

“By the age of 12, drinking and smoking marijuana became a weekly habit for me,” Lynch said.

Lynch said knowing family history is crucial.

“People that suffer from trauma or mental disorders and then have it in their family, in their DNA, they are the ones who are most susceptible to it,” she said.

By the time she was 16, Lynch said she started using prescription drugs. Lynch said she preferred pills at that point.

“Anything I could get my hands on,” she said.

When Lynch became pregnant with her younger son, she had a medical condition that caused chronic pain, which worsened with a later injury. Lynch had constant pain and had trouble walking. Her doctor prescribed opioid drugs.

“What started off as one prescription led to two prescriptions, which led to three prescriptions, and all I ever did at that point was take pills,” Lynch said. “I had pills everywhere in my house. At the kitchen sink, at the bathroom sink, everywhere.”

Lynch said her addiction was fueled by her past, and led to more drug use.

“The prescriptions weren’t really killing my physical pain, it was killing the pain of my past,” she said. “For me, drinking and street drugs led to the prescription drug addiction. Chronic pain fueled that addiction, and my drug dealer was my doctor, basically.”

After that morning at the mirror, staring at someone she did not recognize, Lynch said she worked to get off prescription drugs.

“I don’t remember the first three years of my son’s life,” Lynch said.

After working to get off prescription pills, Lynch struggled with an addition to alcohol and marijuana.

“I thought I had beat recovery when I came off prescription pills, but I wasn’t really in recovery, because I was still using street drugs and I was still drinking,” Lynch said.

Lynch checked herself into treatment three years ago.

“That’s when my life really, truly started,” Lynch said.

Lynch is now a Keystone alumna, joining a group of people who have successfully completed treatment. She has been clean from marijuana for three years and has been sober from alcohol for two-and-a-half years.

“I’m standing up here today, on behalf of all those who cannot stand here today,” Lynch said at the summit.

Joe Davis, who lived in Rock Hill, is one of those people who cannot stand.

Davis died Oct. 4, 2009 from an accidental heroin overdose. He was 28.

Joe’s sister, Melissa Davis Boyd, shared his story Tuesday. His family hosts the annual Joe Davis Run for Recovery to spread awareness.

Boyd said her brother struggled with a 16-year addiction that started when he was 12, following a pattern in their family.

Joe started smoking marijuana with friends from school and began drinking, she said.

“I am the daughter of a narcotic addict, the granddaughter of an alcoholic,” Boyd said. “I am no stranger to the devastating effects opioids can have on individuals and their families.”

Boyd is a nurse at Piedmont Medical Center.

Boyd said the family tried everything they could to get Joe help, including rehab.

“With my dad’s history, he saw it coming, and he did his best to prevent Joe from going down the same path that he had walked,” Boyd said.

Boyd said: “Joe did not want to be an addict, neither did my dad. You can’t control your genes, though, and at some point there was ... an opportunity to try or use something that triggered the addiction cycle.”

In a journal Joe left behind, he detailed his struggles to stay clean, Boyd said.

“After 15 months of sobriety, all it took was that once last time,” she said.

Joe is not alone.

In 2017 in York County, there were 45 deaths involving opioids, seven of which involved heroin and 24 of which involved fentanyl, an extremely potent synthetic opioid, according to the S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services.

York County and South Carolina medical professionals, elected officials and community leaders discussed the rising problem of opioid misuse during the York County Opioid Summit Thursday.

Lynch has a message for those struggling with addiction.

“There is hope,” she said.

Lynch receives support from Keystone. She goes to therapy, attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, has a sponsor and is getting treatment for her mental health disorders.

“I don’t think people realize, that when someone’s going through a traumatic experience, there is help out there,” Lynch said.

While in recovery, Lynch has fulfilled a childhood dream by running a marathon.

“I found a way to love myself through Christ, I found a hidden talent I did not know, I married the man of my dreams and I own a business,” she said. “I feel so blessed today and I just pray that all those who are out there looking for answers - the answer is hope. Just don’t ever give up. There is a life in recovery.”

By the numbers

  • 5 million pain killer prescriptions are filled every year in South Carolina

  • 1 in 4 people who are prescribed opioids struggle with addiction

  • In 2015, there were more deaths from opioid overdoses than were from homicides

Resources

  • Keystone Substance Abuse Services: keystoneyork.org, info@keystoneyork.org, 803-324-1800
  • York County All on Board Coalition: Call 803-493-6950
  • Operation Medicine Drop: Drop unused prescription drugs at police departments throughout York County. More information: Call 803-493-6950
  • S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services: daodas.sc.gov, 803-896-5555

Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082; @amanda_d_harris
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