The Rev. Paula Napier lost her 32-year-old son, Lincoln Nutter, to a drug overdose in June 2018. Napier, who pastors Canaan United Methodist Church in Charleston, W.Va., says she lives in the midst of the opioid crisis. “I think people need to know it hits everybody,” she said.
Story by Joey Butler, photos by Mike DuBose
April 30, 2019 | CHARLESTON, W.Va.
Early in the morning of June 26, 2018, the Rev. Paula Napier received the call that no parent is prepared for: Her son, Lincoln Nutter, had died of an overdose.
The toxicology report said he had 16 times the lethal amount of fentanyl — a synthetic opioid many times more potent than morphine — in his system. Lincoln, 32, had struggled with alcohol since he was a teenager. After hurting his back at a job, he became addicted to his prescribed pain pills. It escalated into whatever he could find, though he tried to stop, even going to rehab a few years prior.
“Nobody expects their children to die before they do,” Napier said. She had lost her stepfather in April and her ex-husband in May, and called the three deaths in as many months “a spiritual attack.”
“I kept hoping that he had grown out of his problems and we could trust him,” she said, but Lincoln actually stole medication from her a few times. “You just keep praying for them and hoping that they’ll get away from it.”
The Rev. Sheri Kernik, who said she “prays continually for people,” can relate to that ongoing hope for an addict to turn their life around.
Kernik has been working with addicts in recovery for almost 10 years, hosting Narcotics Anonymous meetings at her church, St. Paul’s United Methodist in Paden City. She is also certified to mediate support groups for the loved ones of substance-abuse sufferers.
But running a recovery ministry does not make one immune to the danger of addiction, as Kernik learned tragically. Her youngest son, Tony, died of an overdose in July 2018, not long before his 21st birthday.