Our founder and CEO, Gary Mendell, shares the story of how Shatterproof began ten years ago in August 2013.
My son, Brian, was a loving child, full of smiles and light. Like so many children, as he entered his teenage years, Brian tried drugs and alcohol. And like far too many, this led to addiction. For almost 10 years, Brian battled this disease and its cycle of shame, isolation, and failure. During that same time, my family and I fought to navigate the complex and confusing web of treatment programs and therapies. If you know someone who has struggled with addiction, you know all too well the pain and anguish of watching a loved one in the clutches of this disease.
Loving and compassionate, through it all Brian wished others did not have to suffer from this devastating disease. During a visit home in the summer of 2011, as we sat on our back porch one evening, Brian spoke about the stigma and shame he felt.
“Dad, 300 years ago, they burned women on stakes in Salem, Massachusetts because they thought they were witches. Later they learned they weren’t and stopped. Someday, people will realize that I am not a bad person. That I have a disease and I am trying my hardest.”
Brian Mendell, Gary's Son
This turned out to be my son’s last visit home. Four months later, in the middle of the night on October 20, 2011, I received the phone call that is every parent’s worst nightmare. Brian was dead.
A Father’s Promise
Brian's passing was and continues to be excruciatingly painful. Perhaps just as tragic, is the undeniable reality that it was not just addiction that claimed my son’s life. It was the shame he felt every morning when he opened his eyes that led him to wake up that morning, research suicide notes, light a candle and take his own life, alone.
In the aftermath of Brian’s death, I struggled to make sense of what had happened. After months of research and reflection, four facts haunted me:
- Brian died of a disease that afflicts more than 46 million Americans every day plus the tens of millions of family members that love them so dearly. That’s one quarter of American families.
- Like Brian, the majority of those addicted—nearly 9 out of 10—begin experimenting with substances before their 18th birthdays, while their brains were still developing. We as a society are not protecting our children when they are most vulnerable to becoming addicted and unable to protect themselves.
- Research exists that could have saved Brian and countless others like him but it has not been implemented throughout communities and healthcare systems.
- For every major disease in this country, there is one well-funded national organization—but not for addiction. Organizations like these are devoted to funding discovery and implementing protocols and programs related to prevention, treatment and recovery, and changing public policies and supporting families as they navigate some of the most trying times that they will ever face. For every major disease, but not for addiction.
Disquieted by this information, and inspired by Brian’s compassion, I made a promise to my son, to spare others this tragedy. From this promise emerged a vision to unite millions of Americans and empower them to create change.
At Shatterproof, we focus on key priorities that make a measurable difference in saving lives.
Changing the country’s consciousness will not be easy. However, with your help, we’re building a national movement to treat addiction like the chronic disease it is and offering evidence-based resources for prevention, treatment and recovery. This movement will foster tolerance and compassion, and dismantle the discrimination and judgment associated with this devastating disease.
Welcome to Shatterproof. I’m so grateful you’ve found us.
- Gary Mendell