‘She messaged me, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll be home in the morning.’: Mom tragically loses ‘beautiful’ daughter to heroin overdose

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“Ashlyn Marie Cannon, 18,  was a vibrant teenage girl. She was so excited to start her senior year of high school. She had big plans of enjoying all the senior activities and planning for college.

Teen smiling in selfie who will later die due to heroin overdose
Angee Penner

During her senior year she had her wisdom teeth pulled. I have so many funny videos from that day; all similar to the ones you would see on YouTube or Facebook. When we got home I gave her some ice cream and put her to bed. A friend of hers wanted to come see her. This friend had a history of bad behavior, in which Ashlyn was always overly concerned with. I remember Ashlyn sitting on the counter while I cooked dinner expressing worry for her friend in the weeks before. I gave her the advice to love from a distance but show support, and when she was doing good to spend time with her.

Teen holds up peace sign in selfie before overdosing on heroin
Angee Penner

Her friend was doing well at the time and we thought she could use the good influence of Ashlyn. I allowed her to come over for a couple hours.

I later found out this was a fatal mistake.

You see, while Ashlyn was still coming off of anesthesia and very ‘loopy,’ this friend cut out lines of heroin, and Ashlyn, not in the right frame of mind, partook…

I knew something was wrong with my girl… for a couple months, things didn’t feel right. My husband and I kept worrying something was wrong. She continued to come home by curfew, which was 10 p.m.. She continued doing her chores. She continued participating in family activities, but something was different. Her grades began to drop, she always had the sniffles and on occasion she was still asleep when I woke up (this was very odd because she always set her alarm to get up extra early for hair and makeup). I noticed she was going to school with her hair in a bun and sweatshirts… very out of the norm for my princess.

We were paying attention. I asked her multiple times what was going on. I knew where she was at all times and who she was with. It didn’t prepare us for what was to come.

On March 17, 2016, I got a phone call while I was at work. It was a friend of Ashlyn’s whom she had known since birth. She was mad over teenage drama at Ashlyn and wanted her to get ‘in trouble,’ so she called to tell me that she was on drugs. Heroin to be exact. You see, unbeknownst to me, heroin had become as relevant in these kids’ lives as marijuana was to kids in my high school days.

Ashlyn and I had a very long talk about what was going on. She was honest with me. She told me after that first try with heroin she woke up with a hole in her, being that she felt could only be filled with this drug. She knew where the kids that sold it hung out at her high school and she began approaching them. She told me heroin was done in the bathrooms, sold in class and shared in the parking lot. Her father and I immediately withdrew her from school and put her in a rehab located in Louisiana, 5 hours from our hometown of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. I remember the fear in her face as I left her there. I also remember pulling over to vomit as I left my little girl. I slept in her bed thinking the worst had come but thankfully was on the mend.

Ashlyn was released from rehab the beginning of summer 2016. She was positive about the future… so were we as her family. Ashlyn got a job with the help of her stepmother and began to have high hopes about the future again. Unfortunately, heroin had other plans.

Teen takes selfie in bathroom before her heroin overdose
Angee Penner

She relapsed quite a few times over the next year.

As her mother, each time was devastating. You believe each time is going to be the time they get it together and overcome this demon. Each time you are wrong. I had a tracker on Ashlyn’s phone for a while. When she left I would follow her. Our county, which encompasses Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has multiple hotels along a boulevard. I remember walking up and down the boulevard searching for her night after night. On the lucky nights I would find her and try to talk to her. I would tell her she is so loved and she is better than any addiction. She would listen and cry.

Heroin was always stronger than my love. She would tell me songs she listened to that reminded her of me and she would cry as well… longing for what was… reality is that what was, was something of the past… she was different now, we both knew it. I began to grieve the loss of my daughter whom was still alive. I started a Facebook page, ‘Stop The Heroin Epidemic, Horry And Georgetown County SC.’ My hopes were to find help to stop the epidemic, and support and help parents and loved ones like myself deal with the situation. I filed a judicial pick up order through a mental health facility. We had court the end of July 2017. I was trying to get her involuntarily committed into a 90 day rehab. Ashlyn wasn’t mad at me for filing the order. I actually drove her there.  She said she understood why I was doing it and that she loved me for it. That didn’t change the fact that she didn’t want to go to rehab again.

Once at the courthouse, two people talked with her and evaluated her. When we got into court the judge recommended outpatient treatment. She stated if Ashlyn didn’t comply she would be brought back and put into inpatient therapy. I told the judge I didn’t want to bury my daughter but her decision had been made. Ashlyn would die just over two months later. She would have still been in rehab had the courts listened to my cries.

There were many times when Ashlyn came home and wanted to get better. She cried to me multiple times about who she had become. She began hating herself. This ate me alive. We want our children to know their worth and know what they have to offer the world. I know first hand Ashlyn had so much to offer. She was a beautiful person, a beautiful artist, a beautiful writer, a beautiful daughter and a beautiful friend.

After a year and a half of on again, off again recovery, she called me and said she needed help. This is something she had never said. She had said she wanted to come home. She had said she hated her life. She had said she didn’t want to love like this. She had never said she needed help. She was home within 2 hours. She told me she wanted to move. She wanted different people, places and things. I agreed. We began to plan our transition to Ohio. My husband is from Ohio and we had visited a few times. She wanted to go to school of art, and she began making a portfolio. For the first time in a long time I saw her spark. We began packing, put in notices, found jobs, etc.

Mother smiles in selfie with daughter who will later overdose on heroin
Angee Penner

Ashlyn decided to go out with friends one night. That night turned into 8 days. We video chatted daily and she messaged me often. One October 4, 2017, she messaged me not to worry. She wasn’t doing drugs and she would be home in the morning.

I don’t know why but for some reason I cried throughout the night. I woke up multiple times hysterically crying. My husband tried to comfort me. I remember telling him something was wrong and that my world had shifted. I finally laid down again that night around 3 a.m. only to be woken by my doorbell at 3:44 a.m. I remember walking to the door and seeing a woman standing through the window. I thought it was Ashlyn. As I got closer I realized it was a woman and a man both in suits with badges. They were there to tell me my baby had died.

I will never know the details of that day, but what I do know is this: Ashlyn bought heroin and overdosed around 2:30 p.m., only a couple hours after we talked. My sweet girl went to the hospital as a Jane Doe. On the way to the hospital and at the hospital they worked on her and got her pulse back. She took her last breath at 12:08 a.m. on October 5, 2017.

Her cause of death was drug-induced cardiac arrhythmia. As her mom, I am forever stuck in that day. It is still October in my heart. I obsess about what her last moments were like… if she was in pain, scared, cold, if she wanted her mommy. I constantly long to hear her voice and look for her in crowds often. The thought of living life without Ashlyn is unbearable at times. She wanted to be a mother one day. She dreamed about a wedding. She wanted to share her art and love for interior design with everyone.

Ashlyn’s funeral was on her 19th birthday.

That one last high….That one last high destroyed everything good.. That one last high sounded like a good idea at…

Posted by Angee Penner on Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Ashlyn was loved, and so beautiful, and she was mine. Until the day I’m lucky enough to be with her again, I will grieve and hold an unfathomable amount of pain in my soul. She was mine and I was hers and nothing can ever take that away.”

Teen who overdosed on heroin as a little girl holding Valentines Day paper bag
Angee Penner

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Angee Penner of South Carolina. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best love stories here.

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