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Home » Breaking his anonymity, man in recovery shares story of addiction at 'A Night for Scott' fundraiser in Midlothian – Richmond Times-Dispatch

Breaking his anonymity, man in recovery shares story of addiction at 'A Night for Scott' fundraiser in Midlothian – Richmond Times-Dispatch

From left, Dan Schneider from Netflix’s “The Pharmacist” and his wife, Annie Schneider; Carol McDaid and her husband, John Shinholser, founders of The McShin Foundation; and Miss America 2020 Camille Schrier line up for a photo taken by Megan Andre, a volunteer, during “A Night for Scott.”
You couldn’t see it on his face, but Lonnie Baldwin was filled with nerves Saturday afternoon as he waited to tell his story of addiction to an audience of 250 well-dressed fundraiser attendees at a Midlothian country club. He blinked the tears out of his eyes as he settled himself behind the lectern.
He had talked about his addiction numerous times before, how he got hooked on opioids after undergoing surgery on his hand and how he went from doctor to doctor across Virginia, lying about suffering an injury in order to get more pain pills. But those talks all occurred at Narcotics Anonymous meetings or recovery centers.
For the first time, the members of his audience weren’t all other people in recovery. What Baldwin, 57, did Saturday is known as breaking his anonymity.
He felt compelled to do so, because he had heard about Scott Zebrowski, the person for whom the event was dedicated. The similarities between Baldwin’s story and Zebrowski’s were eerily similar.
“The only difference is Scott died and I didn’t,” Baldwin said into a microphone. “I should have, several times.”
Baldwin
Zebrowski, a Richmond native, ruptured a disc in his back and was given OxyContin to handle the pain. Over the next two years, he became dependent on pills, though he lived a functional life and worked as a gym manager. On a February day in 2017, he purchased a Starbucks coffee, a cake pop and a pill that was later determined to be laced with fentanyl.
He placed the coffee on the roof of his car, collapsed in the parking lot and later died. He was 38.
Cichowicz
Each year since, his twin sister, Jill Cichowicz, has held a fundraiser called “A Night for Scott,” and the fourth annual event took place Saturday at Salisbury Country Club. Proceeds go toward a nonprofit that Cichowicz started, 2 End the Stigma, that benefits local recovery-focused charities.
Fatal drug overdoses increased in Virginia during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the second quarter of 2020, 647 people died from drug overdoses, a 41% increase from a year earlier and the highest figure ever recorded, according to the state Department of Health. Fentanyl caused or contributed to 72% of fatal overdoses last year.
Baldwin was the last of three speakers at Saturday’s event, following Netflix star Dan Schneider and Camille Schrier, Miss America 2020. Schneider’s son, Danny, was murdered in 1999 in New Orleans trying to buy crack. Unsatisfied with detectives’ efforts, Schneider investigated his son’s death and later helped authorities investigate a pain medicine doctor who prescribed a large number of opioids. His story was chronicled in the 2020 docuseries “The Pharmacist.”
Schrier has used her stature as Miss America to try to encourage empathy toward victims of addiction. Before she became Miss America, she was a pharmacy student at Virginia Commonwealth University. That’s where she learned about Narcan, the drug used to save a person’s life following an overdose. She learned how the drug is often misunderstood, and the people who need it are too often judged.
Baldwin, the man who broke his anonymity Saturday, judged himself during the throes of his addiction. He was constantly depressed and on edge, he told the crowd. He was ready to take his own life.
Then everything changed on a summer day in 1994. He was living in Spotsylvania County and, while driving down U.S. 1, he pulled up to a traffic light. In front of him, he saw a man the same age driving a truck, a little girl seated next to him. The two were laughing, smiling and hugging, and Baldwin realized he wanted the same thing for his own life. He thought about his children, Ashley, who was 3 at the time, and Tyler, who was 1.
Telling his story, he paused, struggling to get through the difficult moments. “We love you,” a man shouted to him.
Baldwin’s recovery began that summer day. He later attended treatment, and he gained hope speaking to other people in recovery. There he met Tonya, who later became his wife. His family lives and breathes recovery now, he said.
He thought back to the day in 1994 when he saw the father and daughter riding in the truck. He thought about how he wanted that happiness with his kids.
“Today,” he told the crowd, “I have it.”

Reporter
Eric Kolenich writes about higher education, health systems and more for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He joined the newspaper in 2009 and spent 11 years in the Sports section. (804) 649-6109
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From left, Dan Schneider from Netflix’s “The Pharmacist” and his wife, Annie Schneider; Carol McDaid and her husband, John Shinholser, founders of The McShin Foundation; and Miss America 2020 Camille Schrier line up for a photo taken by Megan Andre, a volunteer, during “A Night for Scott.”
Baldwin
Cichowicz
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