After he suffered an alcohol-related brain injury leading to his death in February 2018, Jay Gibson’s family wanted to shed light on his struggle with alcohol in hopes of helping others similarly challenged. They didn’t want the role of alcohol in his death to be overlooked, should his fatal fall be viewed as an unfortunate freak accident. They believe Jay clearly represents the dichotomy within so many battling substance use disorder, for whom reaching out and connecting with a formal, structured, program like SMART Recovery was just beyond their grasp. And they, like so many families, had grown frustrated by their failed efforts to help, coming closer to the belief that you can’t help someone who cannot or will not open and avail themselves to that help.
The depth and genuine love of Jay’s network of friends, in every place he had lived, overwhelmed his family with love and gratitude. His communities organized the celebrations of his life in Brooklyn, NY and Denton, TX. Not only did they embrace the choice of a SMART Recovery donation, they channeled their grief into the cathartic experience of actively fundraising in his honor as they came together to share their love, gratitude and loss.
Jay was 32, fun-loving, very social, had a passion for music and was a walking sports encyclopedia. It was hard not to love Jay. He had warm eyes, a crooked smile, gravelly laugh and his friends note his tremendous loyalty and generosity were a gift given freely without expectations. He was an empathetic man, rich in genuine relationships. Yet, despite the high stakes, his best efforts, and many recent accomplishments in his life, he lost his private battle against addiction. And that was the disconnect. He had so many people who loved, appreciated and admired him, who knew he struggled and wanted to help. He had even talked with loved ones about SMART Recovery, which appealed to him for its basis in science, and yet he couldn’t bring himself to prioritize and take that step in a meaningful way. In periods of remorse and depression following the many losses he experienced as a result of the disease, he would agree to take action, but when he was able to gather his strength, he would revert to survival mode (or so he thought), working to make ends meet, and the idea of reaching out would fade into the background. He would buy into the idea that this would be it – this time he would be stronger, wiser, and successful at keeping his demons at bay. He would do it without troubling others and without being “that guy” who wasn’t in control. So after his passing, the family agreed that, by suggesting SMART Recovery for any in-memoriam donations as they celebrated his life, they could subtly communicate their message as well as raise awareness of the resource.
The impact of cumulative donations and fundraising by Jay’s friends and family was the establishment of the SMART Recovery Jay Gibson Education and Outreach Fund.
Jay’s mother Lisa, said, “We want to help others who are struggling like Jay, and their loved ones, actually make that connection with SMART Recovery. Jay’s community made this Fund happen, organically, out of their love and grief. And we’re formalizing it by partnering with the organization to direct the memoriam funds toward raising awareness of SMART Recovery as a community-based (virtual and physical), volunteer-driven organization using proven methods that empower groups, individuals and their loved ones.” She added, “We hope to celebrate his birthday each year by coming together, remembering him and incorporating an activity through which we can replenish the fund and continue its good work!”
Jay’s partner, Madeleine, remarked “My hope is that through fundraising with SMART Recovery more people become aware of the organization as a tool rather than treatment. Like many of us, myself included, Jay had a difficult time accepting a challenge that required more than his self-control as the solution. However, through the support of a like-minded community we, as a collective and as individuals, have a better chance at overcoming the deep-rooted misconception that seeking aid reveals internal weakness or exemplifies failure. We can instead focus on understanding the courage required to utilize tools for the purpose of bettering our lives and those of our loved ones.”
“There is strength to be found in support and it deserves to be celebrated” Madeleine continued.
SMART Recovery thanks Jay’s family and friends for their bravery in sharing the reality behind Jay’s untimely death, and for establishing our Jay Gibson Education and Outreach Fund. SMART will continue to reach out and to connect with people like Jay, who have so much to offer and would benefit from support on their recovery journey.
You can make a donation directly to the Jay Gibson Education & Outreach Fund on the SMART Recovery website.
About SMART Recovery
SMART Recovery’s 4-Point Program® helps people recover from all types of addictive behaviors, including: alcohol addiction, drug abuse, substance abuse, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, gambling addiction, cocaine addiction, and addiction to other substances and activities.
SMART Recovery sponsors face-to-face meetings around the world, and daily online meetings. In addition, our online message board and 24/7 chat room provide forums to learn about SMART Recovery and obtain addiction recovery support.
Visit www.smartrecovery.org to learn more.