In March 2019 my youngest brother Scott G. Werch passed away from alcohol use disorder, also referred to as alcoholism.
He was just 53 years old, and he left behind three beautiful daughters, an equally beautiful grandson and granddaughter, his mother and three older brothers of which I am the eldest.
Scott was a navy veteran who courageously served on the USS Ranger aircraft carrier as a crash and rescue specialist.
His actions saved the lives of his crewmates who crashed and exploded their aircraft on the flight deck he oversaw.
He was an incredibly brave and strong person, but he was also extremely sensitive and gentle.
My brother began drinking early in his life and his brain disorder progressed rapidly.
He told me that during R and R while in the navy he would hole up in any nearby motel room at whatever port he was docked at and drink an entire bottle of vodka each night.
Vodka was his drink of choice because his crewmates and commanders could not easily smell alcohol on his breath.
Scott was in and out of treatment and recovery several times with varying degrees of success, but he eventually relapsed each time.
In the end he passed away alone in his apartment with two empty vodka bottles by his side.
As a youth, my brother was never given the opportunity to receive an evidence-based substance use prevention program that could have postponed or even prevented his illness.
Once his alcohol use disorder developed, he had access to very few affordable and effective treatment and recovery options.
I’m sure this sounds very familiar to those of you who are substance abuse specialists, as well as those of you who have experienced addiction in your families.
I share this tragic, painful, and preventable personal story with you to remind you that as substance abuse specialists, you should never think that what you do does not save and improve the lives of others.
Your work saves lives!
This truth should never leave you and in fact should be at the forefront of your mind every day.
What you do for youth, families, and communities is critical.
Our work in prevention can be difficult and frustrating, but I hope my brother’s story will remind you, as is does me, of your essential mission to protect and promote the health, wellbeing, and lives of vulnerable young people and adults in our communities.
Thank you so very much for all you do for others.
Let us know how we can support you and your life-saving mission to prevent substance use and substance use disorders by providing evidence-based strategies for all young people.
That’s why I’m here and that is why Prevention Plus Wellness is here.
Chudley Werch, PhD, CEO
Prevention Plus Wellness, LLC