Emily’s Story: A sister’s battle with heroin

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MILWAUKEE -- From the beginning, Holly Hastings says her sister, Emily had a captivating smile and a big personality.

"Always had a smile on her face and could just brighten up the room," said Holly, Emily's younger sister.


Emily Hastings as a child

She tells FOX6 News it was Emily's relationship with heroin that eventually destroyed her relationship with her sister.

"This simple drug it destroys so many lives," Holly said.

Holly said her sister's addiction began at the age of 12 when she experimented with alcohol and marijuana. That led to ecstasy, acid and cocaine.

"I remember her telling me when she was 18 they had run out of crack so she tried heroine and that was kind of like the beginning of the end," Holly said.

Emily spent time in rehab. She was also arrested for possession of drugs and prostitution. During that time, Holly stayed by her side. She says she was in denial and often helped her sister against her parent's wishes.

"How could my sister be addicted to heroin?" questioned Holly "I’m not. We grew up in the same house to parents in Elm Grove. Nice neighborhood suburb. Dad's a doctor. Mom's a pastor. We had every single of the same opportunity."


Emily with her son

For about two years, Emily was clean and gave birth to a baby boy. But addiction crept back in and pushed Holly out.

"We ended up getting into a huge fight that night. She punched me three times in the face over it. She said all these mean things. I ended up pushing her out the door, locking it and after that I didn’t see her again. That was the last time I saw her," said Holly.

On August 31, 2015, Holly’s phone rang.

"When you’re close to someone who’s addicted to heroin, any time the phone rings or you see something on the news your first thought is, is that’s them."

Her sister, that once smiley little girl was a victim of heroin. She was found dead in a Milwaukee alley.

"The Emily who died that day was not my sister," said Holly.

Her death was ruled an overdose by Milwaukee Police.

"I could never imagine her as an old woman. I just kind of knew that this would be her fate."

In mourning, her family was searching for hope and found a website called "Celebrating Lost Loved Ones to the Opioid Epidemic."

"My sister Dawn who found the website online. She was searching for support groups," recalled Holly.

emily-16What Dawn found was a map developed by Jeremiah Lindemann. He is a software developer from Denver. It allows family members who've lost loved ones to addiction, to post their picture and story. You can also click on a state, city or town and read stories from around the country.

“Families contribute and upload a photo and a short paragraph about that individual person they lost," explained Lindemann.

There are about 500 posts on the website. That's just a small sample of the thousands of victims of the opioid epidemic.

The very first post is Lindemann’s brother, J.T. His inspiration for the project.

"He’s the reason why the map was started," said Lindemann.

There are posts from Boston, Wichita, Los Angeles and Canada.

"Some of them are a little startling but a lot are similar stories over and over again," said Lindemann.

There are two posts from Milwaukee. One belongs to Emily Jane Hastings. It reads, "6/3/85 - 8/31/15 Loving daughter, sister, mother and friend. She cared more about helping others than herself. Love and miss you forever Emily!"

Holly Hastings said, "the website is a really great thing because you can see them as people. They were loved by someone. Or many people like my sister."


It allows their family to connect with others and to tell Emily's story their way.

"I don’t want her to go down as, ya know, the criminal junkie found dead in an alley. I want people to know the Emily I knew," said Holly.

Lindemann hopes the website can be used as a tool to educate and create change in the world of opioid addiction.

CLICK HERE for a link to the "Celebrating Lost Loved Ones to the Opioid Epidemic."

Milwaukee Police say they are still investigating how Emily Hastings' body ended up in the alley near 36th and Florist.

They say her death is still under investigation.


  • Menomonie Home

    I have to post.. prayers and hope to so many with this problem… Families are torn apart little ones lose so much.. the user never finds peace in this life.. and no matter what you say.. Weed is a Drug and it starts when you are young and kills you with so much added to it..as you get older.. please be kind to these families… for one day you may need them to be kind to you.. in hopes of a better tomorrow with less dying of drugs ……

  • StopTheIgnorance

    Yeah, weed’s the real problem “killer drug” here. It’s just so addictive and harmful.

    I wish people would educate themselves and stop posting this ignorant garbage.

  • R.TVR

    You’re pathetic. Every one of these people who have lost a battle to addiction are someones child, parent, or sibling so I can hope that your self righteous family and you never are never touched by anything as real as this. You are the reason our world is turning into such a sad place.

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