Exactly a year after Travis Lawrence died from a fentanyl overdose in May 2020, his loved ones came to the cemetery to celebrate his life.
As the sun went down they told stories about the 36-year-old construction worker who loved being outdoors fishing, camping, skateboarding and snowboarding. They lit candles, prayed and wrote messages on pink balloons released into the sky.
“We always stayed in contact, it didn’t matter what was going on in our lives,” his sister Chelsy Lawrence, 33, said later.
At the time of her brother’s death she was serving a 13-month burglary sentence in the Montgomery County Jail. There, she participated in the Jail Chemical Addiction Program, her latest attempt to overcome a heroin addiction she battled at the same time as her brother.
She was released to the House of Grace, a faith-based recovery home in Thorntown. Surrounded by other women struggling with addictions to drugs and alcohol, she said she spent the next nine months strengthening her faith. The women traveled to various churches sharing their testimony.
She graduated from the program earlier this month and wants to become a recovery coach or counselor.
“I feel the best way to keep my recovery is to give back and help other addicts that are struggling,” she said.
The Lawrences’ mother Dora Hardacker felt a similar calling — for the moms.
Hardacker shared her son’s journey for the book “Not in Vain,” which features contributions from more than 160 mothers who’ve lost children to drug addictions. She’s willing to talk to other women with children who misuse drugs.
“I don’t want anyone to feel alone because it is such a stigma,” Hardacker said.
Travis Hardacker loved sports. In high school at Southmont, he played a little football, but he was a very good baseball player, Hardacker said. He graduated with honors.
His battle with addiction stemmed from a sports injury, Hardacker said. He served time in prison for drug-related crimes and intimidation, according to records from the Indiana Department of Corrections. He survived multiple overdoses and underwent a series of rehab and detox programs, Hardacker said.
“I do believe God saved my child because he couldn’t [overcome the addiction],” Hardacker said.
For Chelsy Lawrence, being in recovery, she said, has brought her closer to God.
“I’m very grateful for the House of Grace because my relationship with God now has grown so much and I learned a lot about the Bible,” Chelsy Lawrence said.