Hannah’s fight with heroin and the effect on a DMACC faculty member


Linda Koester
Psychology Faculty – DMACC

I walked past the flat screen in the hallway and heard the latest news…..addiction to heroin on the rise…..resulting in overdoses…..the statistics clearly have shown. “Hannah is not just a statistic”…..I muttered defiantly under my breath as I exited the building fighting back tears. Just days before, we learned that her body had been found in her car. She had been missing for six days. The coroner ruled it as an ‘accidental death’.

My mind flashed back to my beautiful 25 year old niece……so full of life. Memories of trips to the Rocky Mountains, campfires and hikes in the woods. Hannah at her 5th birthday party wearing her new denim jumper and matching hat. Memories……a trip to the Cosmetology school as Hannah proudly demonstrating her newly acquired skills styling her grandma’s hair, just a few short months ago.For the past 10 years I have taught Psychology classes at DMACC. Each semester we discuss substance abuse, binge drinking and addictions. I thought of all the young adults I have come in contact with over the years. There were many who admitted to substance abuse struggles that interfered with their academic success.  No doubt there were many that just disappeared from classes as a result of addictions.  I asked my sister if I could share Hannah’s story. She quickly consented in the hopes that it may have an impact on other young adults who may be spared the same fate as Hannah.

Here is her story.

Hannah’s Story

What a pretty face, that smile, those eyes…look closer she has two different colored eyes.  One has brown flecks, the other is hazel.  She is happy.  She poses for the camera; she adjusts her long dark hair, so pretty.  The lacy dress looks so elegant on her.  She often speaks about getting married one day.  “Mom, it is all about the dress, we can have my wedding in our backyard”.  So pretty, hair perfectly curled, makeup neatly applied with a last minute touch up of some lip gloss.

September 10th, 2016.  “Miss, you can’t go any closer to the car.  Why aren’t you helping her? Yes, we can see her in the passenger seat.  She is slumped over.  She’s gone.  You have to leave and speak with the detectives at headquarters.  “Does your daughter have any tattoos?  No.  How can we identify her?  Here’s her picture…no Miss, there is no facial recognition.  She has very long dark hair with some purple streaks underneath and pierced ears.”  My beautiful daughter, no it can’t be happening….

She was missing for six days.  She was found slumped over in the passenger seat of her car.  She was no longer recognizable, left alone, in a pool of flesh, rumpled clothing, with her long dark hair pulling away from her scalp.  This was all that remained of our beautiful daughter.   Not what she would have wanted, not what we could have ever imagined.  This wasn’t supposed to happen, so full of life, a future, a loving family and supportive friends.  What went wrong, how did this happen?

She grew up in Elizabeth, Colorado a small town bordering the Black Forest with pine trees, buff colored fields and expansive blue skies.  So peaceful, the kind of place you want to raise your kids, with small schools and friendly people.

Heroin statistics 1 in 4 who tries will be addicted.  4 million who have tried heroin equals 1 million becoming addicted.  Simply put, if you don’t try heroin you won’t succumb to addiction.  It is not worth it. Constricted pupils, loss of memory, itchy, nausea, vomiting, seems tired.

Heroin can be smoked or snorted.  Small glass or metal pipes look for small foils, straws, empty pens used to snort.

It gives you a sense of well-being and happiness, on top of the world kind of feeling.  By the way if you think you are in control, you are lying to yourself. The psychological term is ‘Adolescent egocentrism’ ….. an unrealistic view of being invincible…..you think nothing will happen to me.  It only happens to other people.  Hannah thought, “I got this…I know what I am doing, I am 25”.

Her breathing slows…no this is not what I wanted.  What’s happening to me?

I don’t know what Hannah felt at the end, I only know she did not plan to die that day.

Others who have accidentally overdosed, describe the pain. Your muscles lock up and your heart is beating so hard it hurts, like it is going to explode. “Wishing you could die cuz it hurt so badly.”

Another said when he overdosed on heroin he didn’t know it was cut with fentanyl. “Damn that ain’t heroin” he said to his friend as he collapsed.  Luckily for him, he was resuscitated.  They are also cutting heroin with rat poison and Drano cleaner, causing vomiting, convulsions, and death.

Speak up… don’t be afraid of your parents, they can handle it.  They are not prepared to lose you, they will fight for you, do anything for you.  They love you unconditionally.

I was left to write my daughter’s obituary…something no parent should have to do.

Hannah, her smile infectious, attitude sufficient, and beauty striking, you were gone too soon, we are left to wonder why.  Goodbyes hurt the most when the story was not finished…you should be here.

Cathy Hrabik (Hannah’s mother) 

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