TUSCARAWAS COUNTY, Ohio — Several organizations in Tuscarawas County came together to launch Project Hope on International Overdose Awareness Day. It’s a month-long initiative aimed at better supporting those battling addiction.
A mother who lost her daughter to a drug overdose in 2016 shared her story publicly for the first time in hopes it can help someone else.
“Her laughter. Her curly hair as a child,” Marlee Beatty said she misses most about her daughter, Sarah Jo Moore Hostetler.
“She was a Girl Scout. She was an honors student. She was so smart,” said Beatty.
Hostetler died of an overdose six years ago at age 33.
“I know she was so desperate to get better,” said Beatty.
Hostetler’s youngest child found her that day.
“He had just turned 11 when he found her. But he told me he tip-toed upstairs because he didn’t want to wake mommy,” Beatty remembered.
Beatty said anxiety and addiction run in the family. She said a traumatic event when Sarah was a teenager and an abusive marriage may have contributed to her turning to pills, which eventually became an addiction to heroin.
“She was trying to cover up all of that so she could be who she wanted to be, and I don’t believe her intention was to be an addict. She wanted to help people,” said Beatty.
Hostetler was a nurse and Beatty said her three kids served as motivation to get better.
But it was their grandmother who ultimately raised them. Hostetler’s adult life became a cycle of of rehab centers, jail and prison. Beatty said Sarah wanted to be locked up so she could stay clean and appreciated court-mandated resources, but it wasn’t enough.
“She gave me the gift of those three kids and it was a distraction of what my daughter was going through, what she was doing. Will I get a phone call she’s found in a ditch somewhere?” said Beatty.
Beatty said she has suppressed her grief by putting the kids first and is just now starting to mourn.
“I don’t want to hate her,” said Beatty through tears. “It was the evil. It was the monster that was in her. Cause that’s not her. She was raised to be a strong, independent woman.”
This mom remembers her daughter as intelligent and caring. Writing was therapeutic for her.
In 2014, Hostetler wrote a letter to her mom from prison.
Beatty read part of it:
“I know the only way to fix this madness I’ve created is to face my own demons and fight through them. I need to deal with them. I get frustrated so easily at myself for not fighting hard enough. With each failure, I inherit another resentment to myself and guilty feeling. Why am I my worst enemy?”
Beatty was one of several speakers during the kick-off of Project Hope, spearheaded by Empower Tusc.
“She would say it’s about time we do something to stop what’s going on,” said Beatty at the podium.
Project Hope looks to educate the community on addiction and prevention methods. It started as an awareness campaign in 2020 after a record year of overdose deaths in Tuscarawas County.
Silhouettes placed throughout the county serve as a symbol of hope by representing lives lost and those who survived an overdose.
Beatty hopes programs like this make a difference and provide a better future for the next generation.