by Jill Cichowicz
“I just want to see the twins turn 40,” my Father had eerily written to my siblings when we were 38 years old.
In my heart, I knew Scott would never see 40.
But I kept that to myself for fear if I said it out loud it would come true. We just celebrated our 40th birthday on June 24th this year and it was the hardest birthday I have ever had to face. Not for fear of becoming older, but because I had to go it alone.
We were twins and I liked sharing my birthday with Scott. It felt like we were in a secret group with just two members. Scott died on February 28,2017 from “Fentanyl Toxicity,” also knows as accidental drug overdose.
Drugs didn’t define Scott
He was so much more than that.
Scott was a nerdy kid with big glasses and wore sweatsuits every day of the week, never brushed his hair, etc.
He had a heart of gold and had my back no matter what. He always marched to the beat of a different drummer and he had a lot more strength and integrity than most. He blossomed into a handsome young man when we entered high school and had his sights set on the gorgeous young girl from Brazil.
They were head over heels for one another, despite the language barrier. I truly believe she was the love of his life at the tender age of 17. One day, she was coming to visit Scott at our house and was killed in a tragic car accident. Scott was utterly devastated and was never the same.
He should have sought counseling, but instead “sucked” it up and tried to move on. This is when the marijuana use began, which didn’t seem that startling since a lot of kids in high school were experimenting.
Fast forward a few years, Scott moved out to California. He followed my older brother and wanted to live the good life, and he did. He held very successful jobs in the gym business, loved living at the beach. Even more than that, he loved to party and hit the slots in Vegas!
He sustained a back injury and ended up abusing prescription drugs. He became a victim and it turned into the typical story you hear every day. I know some may not agree with the word “victim,” but he was prescribed much more than was needed by several doctors and became addicted. He was aware of his problem, but thought he could handle it.
My older brother in California tried for many years to help, but Scott didn’t think he needed it. After he was no longer able to get his prescription filled, he took a pain pill from his “friend” and it was a fake. He literally took the pill went into Starbucks, got a cup of coffee and hit the ground in the parking lot before he was able to get into his car.
Several witnesses watched him for a while
No one wanted to get involved.
Scott died on the curb at Starbucks.
I will forever wonder what were his last thoughts? Was he in pain? Was he scared? It haunts me to this day.
We hadn’t heard from Scott in two days, which was rare. My Mother knew something was wrong, I did too…but again, if I said it out loud then it would come true. My brother in California and my Mother called hospitals, police departments, all the Starbucks in the area
Finally, two days later my brother received the call and had to do the worst thing ever, break the news to all of us here in Virginia. I was the last one called. I guess everyone figured I couldn’t handle the news.
I ignored all the calls that came in as I knew something was seriously wrong. NEVER did I imagine that I would hear those words, “Jill, Scott passed away” I was in the car taking my oldest child to church. I literally got out of the car screaming and grabbing my heart.
I thought I was having a heart attack, couldn’t breathe and felt like I was dreaming. My whole world came crashing down that day and I have never been the same.
It took us months to even have a funeral for Scott
We just couldn’t face it and kept it private to just siblings and grandchildren. The day after, I felt so helpless and heartbroken.
I had to do something.
This could not be the end.
Scott was a beautiful soul who volunteered at homeless shelters, gave money and food to people on the street. He didn’t always have much, but he would give to you. He was flawed, like all of us, but he believed in giving back. That’s just what a I did. I partnered with The McShin Foundation and started the Scott Zebrowski Scholarship Fund. All proceeds benefited those suffering from Substance Use Disorder (SUD) when they are seeking the help they so desperately deserve.
In addition, I visit the ladies in the HARP program at the Chesterfield County Jail that is headed up by Sheriff Karl Leonard. I mentor and listen to their stories, give them hope that they have been given a second chance.
Our family hosted the first annual “A Night for Scott” fundraiser and we raised over $28,000! We have the next fundraiser set for 2/16/19 and hope to raise $40,000.
I can grieve also help those suffering not go through what Scott went through. My goal is to erase the stigma, raise awareness and try to give back as Scott would want me to.
I have a story and I will share it as much as possible to help others.