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First, there were the unanswered phone calls and the unreturned messages. Then more phone calls with the same results. Debby Kupec wanted to know why her nephew JP didn’t make it to alcohol rehab like he promised her. After he missed all of this year’s family Christmas events. After she confronted him in January when she saw he was drunk again. After she offered to drive him right then and there to a rehab center for the umpteenth time and he said no, he would check himself in the next day. She was upset and angry, then got scared and worried. It was time to the drive 1 ½ hours or so from her home to JP’s Chicago apartment. Then she’d ask him in person.

There was no answer to her knocks at his door. Not the first time and not later in the day either. Her thoughts slid toward the answer she so desperately wanted to avoid: something was real, real wrong. So, Debby took a deep breath and asked for help from the Chicago police, requesting a safety check on the nephew she’d had a special relationship with for a long time. From the start she was the “cool aunt” and JP nicknamed her Auntie-Woman. She responded with a nickname for him: Nephew-Son. The police came and did their job.

That was when she knew for certain that JP was never going to answer the phone again, or get up to answer Auntie-Woman’s concerned and loving knocks at his door. He was lifeless and alone in his apartment, and in one way or another addiction had scored another casualty. And that was when her world blew apart.

Today Debby has a new mission—make sure JP’s death was not in vain. Make sure that he is remembered far and wide as the loving, generous, engaging, talented, and smart man that he became after a rough start in life. Make sure that people know the stories that she and his other family members know.

Like JP’s decision to turn down a raise he was offered when he worked for Chicago’s Field Museum, instead asking the administration to split the money among the workers he supervised in the IT Department. Or the work he did for Senator Barack Obama’s campaign for president, helping with technology development and operations in ways that most certainly contributed to the candidate’s success. Debby refers to the picture of our 44th president shaking JP’s hand and thanking him for a job well done.

Ultimately, though, Debby wants the most well-known story of all to be that of JP deciding to turn his struggles with addiction into helping others who are also struggling. JP decided to pursue becoming a certified addictions counselor, Debby stood right beside him, and they got the work done for him to start a school program. JP’s life was turning around.

If only addiction recovery was a straight line from a person deciding to make changes, to getting help, to accomplishing those changes and living a more healthy and balanced life, then less people would be hurt. But that is not how it happens for many, including JP. They can take two steps forward, three back, then two more toward successful recovery. All of JP’s back and forth through the years hurt Debby in a way that has turned into a steely resolve. To help prepare and train people who want to help those battling addiction. That is why she is putting money on the table.

You see, a wonderful thing happened when Debby was scrambling to find the means of laying JP to rest, since he passed without leaving any money behind (in fact, there is another story—JP giving a homeless man he encountered near his apartment $8 of the $10 he had on him when he was going to get some food, figuring the guy needed it more than him). Debby asked a good friend of JP’s to help her set up an online Go Fund Me campaign. They let people know that donations would cover family expenses, and that any additional funds raised would support an organization that helped others recover from addictions—SMART Recovery. And once people knew they would be honoring JP’s desire to help others, the donations started pouring in. As Debby points out, people so loved and cared about JP they were happy to help create something good from the tragedy.

Debby is confident that the donation will launch a rippling recovery effort that will extend to individuals, families, and friends across the country and beyond. She is sure that it will create a legacy of JP’s wish to help others.

The extraordinarily generous donations from JP’s friends, in memory of his own giving nature, will help SMART Recovery offer training scholarships and materials to individuals who, like JP, want to help others. Becoming a SMART Meeting Facilitator takes time and effort, and resources that have now been added to the effort.

In the end, Debby says she feels just a little bit better about the tragedy, now that she knows JP’s passing has not been in vain.


About the JP (John Pol) Schneider Volunteer Training Fund

 

SMART celebrates Volunteer Month each April to honor the thousands of volunteers who work year-round to provide self-empowering recovery support in their communities. It is also an opportunity for us to recruit new volunteers to make SMART meetings available in more communities across the country.

JP’s family and friends have generously donated $10,000 in his memory to support SMART’s volunteer training program. In JP’s honor we have established the JP (John Pol) Schneider Volunteer Training fund which will be used to provide training scholarships and materials for new volunteers.

The social distancing restrictions currently in effect are creating unique challenges for those struggling with, and those in recovery from, addiction. By itself, social isolation is a known trigger for relapse. With so many recovery meetings around the country being shuttered due to stay-at-home orders, SMART is working to train new volunteers to provide virtual self-empowering recovery meetings via video conferencing. We anticipate a record number of new volunteer applications in the coming weeks. We are deeply grateful for the overwhelming generous support of JP’s family and friends.

More information about our volunteer outreach efforts can be found on our website www.smartrecovery.org/volunteer-month

 


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.

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