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Faces of Opioid Crisis: 29-Year-Old Loses Decade-Long Battle to Addiction

MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WATE) – After eleven years of battling, 29-year-old Rachel Ann Hodges, lost her life to addiction last weekend in Knox County, according to her family. They say she died in an “accidental overdose” Saturday.

Kim Lance, Rachel’s mom, went to see her daughter’s body in middle Tennessee Wednesday, before it is cremated, and called the experience “probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my life.”

Albeit difficult, Lance said she got a chance to say goodbye, and she knows her daughter isn’t struggling or facing demons anymore.

Throughout an eleven-year battle with addiction, Lance estimated her daughter checked-in to rehab nine times.

Part of the obituary she wrote for her daughter included:

“It is difficult to adequately capture a person in an obituary, especially someone whose adult life was largely defined by drug addiction. However, Rachel was so much more than her addiction…she was hilarious, warm, caring, beautiful, fearless, resilient, and deeply loved by those who were fortunate enough to truly know her. We are comforted in knowing that Rachel is now surrounded by light, free from the struggle of the disease that haunted her.”

The obituary also lists Helen Ross McNabb in Knoxville, in lieu of flowers, in appreciation for the work they do and the work they did for Rachel.

“The only one that really stuck with her was Helen McNabb,” Lance said.

She said many things about the program, including the one-on-one counseling, helped her stay sober for five months following her time there.

It was the longest Rachel had gone sober in the eleven years with addiction. They thought she had beat heroin.

“She really, really, really, wanted it, I just think the demons took over her because it’s a wicked drug,” Lance said.

Her daughter’s addiction, she explained, began at age 18 with “pill parties.”

Eventually, that turned to heroin.

She wants her daughter to be remembered for the positives, like her big heart, love for people and animals. Lance also wants awareness about what she sees as a disease.

She’d also like to see lawmakers contribute more resources and and education to the issue.

“People need to know this happens to all types of people in this walk of life. It can happen to anybody…I thought if Rachel’s face, her face, can save one person then she did not die in vain. She would be proud of that,” she said.

Rachel’s step-father, Barry Lance, said she’d light up a room, “when Rachel was Rachel,” referring to when she wasn’t under the influence of drugs.

“When Rachel was not Rachel, you did not even want to be in the same house with her,” he said.

Sara Hodges, Rachel’s sister-in-law, wishes she had gotten to know Rachel before the addiction. She also now feels the need to address obstacles she saw her sister-in-law face throughout her addiction.

“When she would get out (jail or rehab) there were no resources out there for her to stay on track and clean,” Hodges said.

She saw, because Rachel was convicted of a felony, she was limited on job opportunities, driving, and even housing.

Hodges said she’d like to see legislative help for those people, so they don’t fall on old lifestyles and old circles of friends.

Emilee Buckmeyer, Rachel’s step-sister, remembers Rachel before addiction.

She has fond memories of Rachel handing down clothes and sharing countless laughs.

“Seeing her take that turn was hard on everybody,” she remembered.

Buckmeyer also said she doesn’t want Rachel, a person she remembers for the good times, to be remembered for her struggles, but for being a good person who wanted to get better, but couldn’t fight it off.

The Chief Executive Office for Helen Ross McNabb said Wednesday: “When people lose someone and support our work. It means they see addiction as a disease,” he said.

If you, or someone you know are struggling with addiction and would like help, you can find out more information on their services here.

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