ANGOLA — The story plays out over and over.
A friend, a father, a daughter — a loved one who is struggling with addiction — dies from a fatal dose of fentanyl.
Saturday, family and friends of Rebecca Taylor of Auburn paid homage to a life cut short with a donation to Angola’s Alano Club.
Taylor, 26, a DeKalb High School graduate, died instantly on May 29 when she injected fentanyl.
Her unexpected death echoes similar stories that hit close to home: Zeb Hunter, 30, on Sept. 3, 2015 in Angola; Angola High School graduate Jocelyn Faye Lautzenhiser, 30, who died March 2, 2019 in Fort Wayne; Fremont native Pam McCoy’s daughter, Tarrah, on July 31, 2015 in Valparaiso due to an injection of heroin containing fentanyl.
Rebecca’s photo will not be alone on shelves of framed tributes at Alano.
She had been an addict for around eight years, said her family, and had been through three rehabilitation attempts.
“It started with spice/K2,” said her mother, Shawn. “It really messed her up.”
Rebecca moved on to pills, then cocaine and heroin.
“She was found with a needle in her arm at a friend’s house,” Shawn said.
Heroin is a plant-based drug that has been abused as an illegal substance for almost a century. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid painkiller 50 times more potent than heroin that is often mixed with heroin or cocaine or pressed into counterfeit pills — with or without the user’s knowledge, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The number of deaths involving heroin in combination with synthetic narcotics has been increasing steadily since 2014 and shows that the increase in deaths involving heroin is driven by the use of fentanyl,” says the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Rebecca’s family members said the injection of fentanyl that killed her was much higher than the lethal dose of the drug — 3 milligrams, according to the CDC.
Fentanyl is frequently used to “cut” heroin and stretch out the product for greater profits for drug dealers.
“As fentanyl is a fine powder, it is easy to mix into other drugs,” says an online newsletter by the Foundation for a Drug-Free World. “It looks identical to heroin, so users injecting heroin laced with fentanyl won’t know they’re injecting a lethal dose until it’s too late.”
Saturday, Rebecca’s mother and father, Preston, and her sister, Rachel Voelkel, gathered at Alano, 225 W. Maumee St., Angola, along with participants of the Waterloo Sunday Night Group — a 12-step group for addicts — and Bill Ramos, executive director of the nonprofit Alano.
Alano, in its fourth year in Angola, was created to provide a clean and safe environment for people in 12-step recovery. It opens daily at 11 a.m., closing at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and at 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
When looking for a place to pay tribute to Rebecca with a memorial donation, Alano was chosen as a space that is being used by recovering addicts from throughout the region. Alano was presented with a $315 gift card from Preston’s coworkers at Steel Dynamics in Auburn.
“A lot of people come here from Auburn,” said Ramos. He said he gets calls from throughout the area, with regular visitors from as far away as Fort Wayne and Ohio.
“There have been a lot of people who have turned their lives around because of this place,” said Ramos.
Alano is a support system for those involved in 12-step groups and dedicated to sobriety. Like many social organizations, 12-step programs suffered during state-enforced COVID-19 precautions. Rebecca, who had been sober since the fall of 2019, slipped without the support she was used to.
“She was struggling,” said Preston. “She was not going to her meetings.” While there was a virtual component provided in place of in-person meetings, Rebecca was not getting the same impact from them, said her parents.
“We did a lot of virtual throughout the COVID shutdown,” said Ramos. “There were a few people that stated that it wasn’t the same as that personal connection.”
Rebecca tried telephone and online therapy, said Shawn, but it wasn’t clicking.
“Her meetings meant so much to her,” said Shawn. “She would come home so happy from her meetings, tell funny stories.”
“And how everybody is so nice,” added Preston.
Rachel said Rebecca’s group helped her “hang on, stay sober.”
“We’re not shy about that anymore,” Rachel said. “She fought really hard and she was an awesome person.”