Statewide Addiction Recovery Advocate Bethany Morse, 34, Dies in Nashville
After she beat back opioid addiction, she devoted her short life to helping others do the same.
Tennessee addiction recovery advocate Bethany "Bessy" Morse, 34, died Feb. 2 at her home in Nashville. Friends said Ms. Morse died unexpectedly after experiencing several spells of hypoglycemia, or very low blood sugar, which research suggests may be more common in people who have battled drug addiction.
Ms. Morse found recovery four years ago at Nashville's Renewal House, a program for young mothers and their children. After getting clean, Ms. Morse pursued a bachelor's degree in social work, which she was one semester away from obtaining from Tennessee State University.
But she did not wait for a degree to do the work of helping others. Ms. Morse devoted her sobriety to trying to pull others out of the grips of addiction, becoming a statewide NarCan trainer and distributor with the nonprofit Tennessee Overdose Prevention; meeting with Tennessee and Mississippi legislators to offer firsthand accounts of the opioid crisis; ministering to Nashville's homeless population; and administering the 3,500-plus-member Memphis' War on Heroin Facebook page, offering support and helping obtain treatment for families.
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"She was an angel here on earth," wrote Tina Garcia, one of many friends who posted on a Facebook page devoted to Ms. Morse's memory. "The instant she became part of our life, everything changed. She loved those with an addiction when they couldn't love themselves. She gave them hope, opportunity for a better life, second, third, fifth, 15th chances ... whatever it took. To us parents, she held our hands, gave us strength, hope, anything and everything we needed. When the days were hopeless she gave comfort. I truly do not know how she did it, but she was ALWAYS there. For ALL of us. She saved countless lives."
Ms. Morse was one of the first to offer her image for a Tennessee Overdose Prevention billboard campaign proclaiming "#WeDoRecover." When asked whether she was embarrassed about her years as an addict and the impact on her family, she said, "I could be embarrassed, or I can use my story to help others." She shared her experience on banners and websites and at public events.
After the birth of her son, Tyler, now 5, who is autistic and nonverbal, she became a fierce advocate for his needs as well as for the autism community as a whole.
"Her life impacted so many people," said Tennessee Overdose Prevention founder Nancy Carter Daniels. "We all thought that we were her best friend."
In addition to the Facebook group, Ms. Morse's friends created an Apple Music playlist of her favorite songs under her name. Her funeral — held Friday afternoon in her hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi — was livestreamed on the internet, and friends hoped to make a recording available for later viewing.
"She had friends from all over who can't be there," Daniels said.