A mother’s nightmare

On Christmas Eve, a Columbus mom received a phone call she hoped wouldn’t come, but lived in fear it would.

Linda Hale learned that her daughter, Lori Lynn Hale, 38, was found dead of a heroin overdose at an apartment she shared with a roommate.

Lori’s death ended years of drug addiction and recovery attempts that had continued since her high school years in Avon, her mother said.

The family has what is left of Lori’s belongings — some clothing, long-ago completed recovery workbooks and notebooks and the last text messages she sent before she was found unresponsive in her Indianapolis home.

Officials told the family that Lori had apparently ingested heroin laced with the powerful anesthetic Fentanyl before going to bed, her mother said. Lori’s roommate, who had gone to bed earlier, found her unresponsive on the apartment floor — too late for the drug antidote Narcan to be administered, her mother said.

“I’m sure we only know half-truths,” her mother said of the overdose. “She struggled for so many years. Now it’s over. God is taking care of her.”

Family’s suspicions

Family members said they now believe Lori’s addiction to methamphetamine began sometime during her high school years, before she graduated in 1995 when the family was living in Avon, her mother said.But before she graduated, family members had not suspected their daughter or sister had started using drugs. Her mother theorizes that Lori’s constant wish to help people out led her to a group of friends who were using drugs.The Hale family moved around a lot for her father’s job with Public Service Indiana, and the family settled in Columbus in 1997.

“I’ve often wondered with all of our kids, if they were anxious to make friends as we moved,” Linda Hale said. “I wonder if they were trying to fit in.”

Looking back on that time period in Avon, Linda Hale said she now believes her daughter was addicted to meth while still in high school.

But the extent of Lori’s drug use and ways to get help for her was outside the family’s grasp.

Lori Hale was one of a set of triplets, and her siblings caught on to her drug abuse pretty quickly, their mother said.

It became more apparent to the entire family when she began missing family holidays and events where everyone was expected, and her absence was more difficult to explain.

“Over the years, there was a lot of anger from her sisters and her brother,” Linda Hale said. “They would ask, ‘Why do you let her do this?’ I couldn’t throw her out,” her mother said.

Four years out of high school when Lori moved to Indianapolis, her absences from family gatherings became even more obvious. Her mother said it became imperative that the family convince her to return to Columbus and get off methamphetamine.

She did return and went into rehab for awhile at Tara Treatment Center in Franklin.

Self-conscious about her image, Lori told her family that she needed to get out of Columbus because everyone in the city identified her as an addict.

“We tried to hide it for years,” her mother said. “We didn’t want anyone to know that our child had been using drugs for 15 or 20 years.”

A cycle of drug abuse and attempts at recovery ensued, from attending Narcotics Anonymous in Columbus to attempting to find help through Centerstone, a drug and alcohol outpatient rehabilitation facility with offices in Columbus.

“Lori tried. It wasn’t that she didn’t try,” her mother said.

The family repeatedly investigated having her try inpatient care over the years. But there was nothing available in Columbus, and all of the other places they looked at were out of their affordability range, Linda Hale said.

Her mother said she believes that if affordable residential care had been available in Columbus, the family might have been able to save her.

Her final move

Instead, eventually, Lori went back to Indianapolis and moved in with a person who was recovering from a pain pill addiction, her mother said.Initially, the two roommates worked toward recovery together, Linda Hale said.But Lori’s drug relapse involved heroin.

“She always said she would never do that,” her mother said. “I was shocked.”

Linda Hale said she did not know that her daughter was even considering using heroin before receiving the call about Lori’s overdose.

The family believes that her introduction to heroin happened during the time she moved in with the new roommate.

They speculate that Lori’s inexperience and lack of knowledge about substances being added to heroin led to her death, her mother said.

Her family suspects Lori ingested the heroin during the late hours of Dec. 23 without realizing it had been mixed with Fentanyl, a powerful anesthetic found in pain patches. Heroin alone, or in combination with other drugs, can lower breathing and a person’s heart rate to the point of death.

When medical help arrived in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve, emergency responders said it was too late to administer the opioid antidote that can revive people unresponsive from a heroin overdose.

Her entire family continues to grieve and deal with the anger that lingers over Lori’s overdose death and the reason behind it, Linda Hale said.

Family’s recovery

The Hale family has opened up to friends and extended family about what happened in Lori’s decades-long addiction struggle, which has been strangely helpful, Linda Hale said.“We didn’t tell anybody for so long,” she said. “When we finally told family and friends, it relieved a lot of stress.”The family had hoped that Lori would be able to eventually attend college or perhaps continue a career in welding that she was enjoying in Indianapolis.

Linda Hale recently wrote a letter to the editor at The Republic in response to a letter writer who alleged people who abuse drugs are stupid.

“It’s hard. People don’t have a clue,” she said of understanding addiction. “It just made me so angry. It’s a stupid decision, but Lori was not stupid.”

Linda Hale cautioned that learning of her daughter’s addiction changed her perception of what she thought a typical drug addict would be or how they would act.

“The truth is you don’t know who is doing drugs anymore,” she said.

Pull Quote

 “She struggled for so many years. Now it’s over. God is taking care of her.”

— Linda Hale, mother of drug overdose victim Lori Hale

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.