Graduate Eric Lynch: How hitting rock bottom turned his life around

Eric Lynch

Sometimes, it takes hitting rock bottom to realize it’s time for a change. In Eric Lynch’s case, it was almost dying for the third time. 

Lynch, who grew up in Tucson, was the poster child of a good kid. He stayed busy with team sports—soccer, basketball, football and volleyball—and took part in orchestra, marching band, concert and jazz band throughout school. He enjoyed learning and was a good student. Then, during his sophomore year of high school, he was introduced to drugs.

He went from smoking weed for the first time to being an intravenous heroin addict within a year. For the next four years, drugs consumed his life. He spiraled out of control.

He was arrested more times than he can remember, spent time in juvenile detention, was suspended and expelled from school, spent his teen years on and off probation and was sentenced to house arrest with an ankle monitor. Despite multiple attempts at in- and out-patient rehab, he relapsed every time, eventually dropping out of high school entirely.

His addiction led to homelessness, sleeping on “friends’” couches, with a shallow existence and no foreseeable future. It took a third overdose and near-death experience for him to realize things needed to change. He might not be so lucky the fourth time.

Lynch called his parents—he was finally ready to come home.

Medicine helped him deal with withdrawals, and he slowly regained control of his life. He began exercising and switched to a plant-based diet, losing almost 90 pounds as a result.

He got his GED, enrolled in classes at a community college and worked a steady job managing a local restaurant while he saved up money to attend a university. He wanted to stay in state, and after visiting Northern Arizona University’s campus, he knew this was where he belonged.

Lynch reviews footage with fellow film makers.

He enrolled in communication and creative media and film classes.

“I knew hard work before coming to NAU, and I knew suffering before coming to NAU, but I didn’t know how much those experiences would apply toward my success at NAU,” he said. “When I needed to take 20+ units in a given semester, my previous experience working 50+ hours a week at a restaurant week in and week out gave me the ability to work hard every day in my classes knowing I was capable of incredible amounts of work. When I was sitting in the library until midnight or later, writing essays and taking quizzes I didn’t particularly want to, I would reflect on how grateful I was to be able to get an education, to be alive, to be on my own, to be in this position to succeed.”

I’d much rather be writing a 12-page essay on rhetorical criticism in the library at 2 a.m. than sitting in a jail cell suffering from withdrawal symptoms of a drug addiction.

During his time at NAU, Lynch has had the opportunity to travel and produce documentary films in other countries. He’s directed several films that have won multiple awards and was the president of the student-produced TV station, UTV62. This year, he was named a Gold Axe recipient and was inducted into the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

He will graduate Saturday morning with a dual degree in Creative Media and Film and Communication Studies. He will continue his education at NAU this fall as he pursues a Master’s in Communication with a documentary studies emphasis.

“By completing two bachelor’s degree, all whilst maintaining a 4.0 GPA, I have proved to myself and to the world that I am not my past mistakes. I am better than them, and I have grown and learned from them. Everyone in this life deserves a second chance, I am living proof of that, and graduating this May is the symbolic embodiment of what I have been trying to overcome for the last decade of my life.”

One month after graduation, Lynch will receive yet another endorsement for which he’s worked so hard—his 10-year sobriety chip.

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Carly Banks | NAU Communications
(928) 523-5582 | carly.banks@nau.edu