Before dying of a heroin overdose on July 1, 23-year-old Delaney Farrell wrote pages of notes about her addiction and her attempts to get clean.
In one journal entry written on April 4, 2014, the Selinsgrove High School graduate describes how nearly five years earlier she first took heroin “as a joke.”
The teen’s life quickly took a dark and dangerous turn, going from snorting heroin to shooting up within three years of her addiction and even sharing needles with others.
How did a former cheerleader, soccer player and animal lover who writes about the love she has for her family, how “proud” she is of the way her parents, Bridget and Brian Delaney, raised her and “made it possible for me to have accomplishments” end up dead in a Williamsport hotel bathroom stall after ingesting a deadly dose of heroin?
It all began at age 13, “when something in my mind began to change,” Delaney Farrell writes of becoming rebellious of authority. Though her parents were always “encouraging” and she made it through high school, she was unable to escape the lure of heroin after trying it one time on a lark.
Bridget and Brian Farrell are sharing their daughter’s writings hoping it will benefit others struggling with similar addictions and shed light on an epidemic that some continue to ignore.
In a Nov. 18, 2013, journal entry, Delaney Farrell writes emphatically, “I want to change!”
A few months later, she describes shooting up heroin.
“It feels like the best thing in the world, but it’s physically the worst thing in the world,” the March 10, 2014, entry said.
Around the same time, Delaney Farrell writes in an undated journal entry, “My parents need cheering up more than anyone right now. They are so terribly sad to even think that their daughter is a heroin addict. I want to give them a relaxing day… no more… making them cry every day.”
In October 2015, Delaney Farrell was living at home in Selinsgrove when her father awoke to find her laying face down on her bedroom floor, unconscious after taking an overdose of heroin.
Emergency responders arrived within minutes and saved her life with a couple doses of Narcan, he said.
Much later, she confided in her mother about how serious her addiction had become at that point.
After being revived, Delaney Farrell asked the EMTs if she could change clothes before being taken to the hospital. It was a ruse. She took that time to shoot heroin one more time, Bridget Farrell said.
“Delaney wanted us to know how crazy and powerful that drug was,” said Brian Farrell.
The Farrells describe a funny, carefree girl who grew up on a farm in Selinsgrove and later in a spacious home overlooking the Susquehanna River on the Isle of Que with older sister, Anastasia, 26, and younger brother, Dillon, 22.
“She loved to be swimming in the creek, looking for crayfish. And she loved to be in the river,” Brian Farrell said.
Bridget Farrell remembered her daughter loving animals and wearing matching outfits.
“When she was in high school, she had 30 pairs of Nike sneakers with matching belts and purses,” she said.
Delaney also liked to write.
“She was no different than any kid,” said Brian Farrell.
Ebani Lewis, 23, of Selinsgrove, met Delaney Farrell in seventh grade and they became fast friends.
“She was very goofy and full of jokes,” she recalled.
But a few years later, when her friend veered to the party scene and Lewis got involved in athletics, they stopped hanging around each other but remained in touch.
In retrospect, “I feel like she thought I was going to judge her,” said Lewis, who was in denial about the extent of Farrell’s addiction until her death. “I just couldn’t believe it. I didn’t believe it.”
“I figured it out four years ago,” said Bridget Farrell. “I should have figured it out sooner.”
The sight of her beautiful daughter looking gaunt and unwell prompted her to question her middle child about her health.
The full breadth of her daughter’s addiction came soon after, when Bridget Farrell discovered some of her jewelry was missing.
“It absolutely killed me,” she recalled of her realization that Delaney was stealing to pay for a habit that at one point cost the young woman $200 a day, according to her journal.
Brian Farrell tried to work with his daughter to get her to give up on the drugs, watching her closely, chasing away suspected dealers from their home and surreptitiously administering drug tests he’d bought online, but Bridget Farrell said something more serious needed to happen.
“This was not something she could be talked out of,” she said.
For awhile the family didn’t talk to others about the ongoing battle that had consumed the entire family.
“We made excuses for why Delaney wasn’t at the dinner table,” said Bridget Farrell. “The stigma is that bad, and me being a mother… Of course I felt judged.”
During the summer of 2013, Delaney Farrell went into rehab for the first time at Marworth Treatment Center in Waverly.
Her first stint at Marworth lasted 28 days. One day after being released, Brian Farrell said, his daughter was using drugs again. Two more stays in subsequent years lasted less time. Delaney Farrell also spent time in at least three other rehabilitation centers trying to kick heroin, to no avail.
“This particular issue cannot be solved in 28 days,” said Bridget Farrell.
A mother’s intuition kept Bridget Farrell in a state of fear for her child.
“The pain I’m feeling today I’ve been feeling the exact same pain for the last four years,” she said, sobbing. “I knew it was not going to end well.”
Brian Farrell said he never gave up on his daughter.
“I knew she was a lost soul and in a lot of trouble. I spent a lot of time chasing her. I did everything in my power to try and save her,” he said. “I gave up on my work, on bills … The devil was stronger.”
The Farrells agree the only time they recall having a restful sleep and not being preoccupied with thoughts of their ailing daughter’s safety was when she was in jail on drug charges or serving a three-month stint in boot camp late last year.
“We went to bed thinking of her and waking up thinking of her. Being locked up was the only thing that kept her alive,” Bridget Farrell said.
Delaney Farrell did end up in Snyder County jail and state prison in Muncy last year on drug-related charges filed in Snyder and Lycoming counties and eventually placed in the State Intermediate Punishment program for low-level drug offenders.
The two-year program requires offenders to spend at least seven months in prison, a minimum of two months in a community-based therapeutic community and at least six months in outpatient treatment. The rest of the time is spent in supervised reintegration into the community.
She met Brittany Pate, 30, of New Oxford, while both were in Quehanna Boot Camp in Karthaus, Pa., last October.
“She was my bunkmate and we instantly clicked,” said Pate, who viewed Farrell as a younger sister. “We had a lot of the same beliefs. She was so happy, so young and beautiful. Everybody’s commenting on how beautiful she was, but she’s more beautiful inside. I can’t express that enough. She was always smiling, joking around, singing. It was hard not to love her.”
Like Pate, Delaney Farrell was very close to her family, particularly her father, she said.
Despite close relationships and an outwardly sunny outlook, she said, the inner struggle of an addict is powerful and soul-crushing.
“I know she never wanted to live that life ever again. She was tired. Once you use heroin, it is so hard to get away from it. It’s an ugly, ugly, ugly thing,” said Pate, who has relapsed twice since getting hooked on the drug in her late teens. “It’s a voice you can’t shut up.”
Heroin is pervasive in communities across the U.S., as evidenced by the opioid epidemic sweeping the nation.
“You can get it in New York, Selinsgrove, Cape Cod, anywhere,” said Brian Farrell. “There are hundreds of kids in our community who are using. You would think the community would be up in arms.”
Twenty-year-old Dillon Farrell said it was widespread among his high school classmates, some who began by injecting steroids. “That’s why I only have a small group of friends,” he said.
Bridget Farrell said her daughter is the third family member at her workplace to die from a drug overdose.
Delaney Farrell’s parents take some measure of solace in knowing she had a relationship with God. She wrote about it in her journals and in letters to relatives.
In a recent handwritten note to her grandmother on which she drew a rosary, she tells how she looks forward to attending church together.
“I have always prayed to God to bless over my family even in my darkest moments and throughout my addiction,” she wrote. “I prayed to God and know He loves me and has blessed me with a family that loves me and wants me home and to be better.”
Her parents say she prayed nightly.
“That is the thing that comforts me. I truly believe she is at peace,” said Bridget Farrell. “I think this (living with the loss of her daughter) is hell.
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