A night with Jill….for a Night with Scott

One of our Zoom classes was held by Jill Cichowicz, founder of the Scott Zebrowski Scholarship fund. She was incredibly moving and inspirational in discussion with our Lifers and because of her personal experience with substance use disorder is working tirelessly to help others.

Here is her story:

After Jill’s twin brother Scott passed away from an accidental overdose in February 2017, she partnered up with the McShin Foundation in August 2017 and created the Scott Zebrowski Scholarship fund for those suffering from substance use disorder. They have an annual fundraiser “A Night for Scott” and they host many different events to benefit those in recovery in Richmond. They try to help those in the community to help raise awareness, to help anyone they can, and to have more community involvement. They were voted the best charity in Richmond last year and have raised over $100,000 as of today.

People have asked Jill, “what do you know about addiction and addicts?” Why? Well, she doesn’t look like your typical person who has been through such a situation. Her and her family look like the “all American family.” Yet, she dealt with her brother’s addiction for over 20 years. Many do not know that he went to the Chesterfield County Jail and now Jill actually goes to that same jail to mentor the ladies in the HARP program every couple of months.

Growing up, there were 5 children in their family. They came from a big Catholic, military family. Scott was just a happy go lucky, cooky guy. Their dad was always a little tougher on the boys than the girls, he was hard but fair. During his high school years, Scott dated a girl and one night they got into a huge fight. She was killed in a car accident while en route to Scott’s house. That pivotal moment is when he started smoking marijuana, which wasn’t too odd during that time. However, he started going off track. He followed his brother to California and then started going to Vegas where he began ‘hard’ drugs. He then got a back injury and started doing oxycontin; after that he never got off pills. There was a time when he had had 4 different prescriptions going every week. After doctors realized he was being over prescribed, they stopped, and he went to a friend for ‘help’. This is when he received a pill laced with fentanyl. After taking that pill and grabbing a cup of coffee, he fell in the parking lot where he ultimately passed away.

Although he laid in the parking lot for 30 minutes alone, no one helped until it was too late. No one called his family or tried to contact them. Two days later, his mother reached out to the police because she knew something was wrong. “He laid in the hospital with a tag on his toe like nothing more than a junkie,” Jill shared with a cracked voice. They treated him like nothing, even though he had a car, a phone, and other indicators that he was a “somebody.” Scott looked like he was doing great on the outside, he managed gyms, he volunteered at churches. He gave back all the time, but he was covering up how he was really feeling. Jill finished with an old Facebook post from Scott. “…Stop blaming and complaining, just take a look within….God is amazing and will always help those who truly want to help themselves.”

Sometimes it is hard to truly understand the extent of someone’s addiction until it is too late. However, Scott’s memory lives on through Jill, and his story will continue to help others who are suffering.