Stephen Schnellenberger’s Story
Stephen Schnellenberger, the eldest son of Beverlee and Howard Schnellenberger (Head Football Coach at Florida Atlantic University), was diagnosed with Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 2B Disease shortly after his birth in 1960. Throughout his life, Stephen’s resilience and strength in his battle against cancer won him the admiration and respect of all who knew him.
In his early twenties, Stephen faced the new battle of a crippling drug addiction. Aware of and concerned with his growing problem, his parents faced the task which confronts all families affected by this disease; convincing a loved one to seek help.
In 1983, just months before Coach Schnellenberger brought the University of Miami Hurricanes to their first national championship, the family checked Stephen into a treatment center. For the following 8 years Stephen remained clean from drugs and alcohol.
Stephen’s first relapse occured in 1991 and he suffered consequences far more serious than his initial addiction could have foretold. After his second admission to a treatment center, Stephen refused to pursue the discharge recomendations set forth by his therapists. These suggestions included following the guidelines and principles of Alcoholics Anonymous and its 12 Step Program, universally recognized as the foundational and most successful treatment of drug addiction and alcoholism .The next decade entailed endless rounds of treatment centers and half way houses, most of which did not adhere to the program of action suggested by Alcoholics Anonymous. Throughout these ten years, Stephen exhibited brief moments of sobriety during which his family would cautiously hope. Unfortunately, these hopes were always extinguished by Stephen’s increasingly reckless and long-lasting relapses.
Simultaneously, Stephen’s youngest brother,Tim was fighting his own battle with addiction. Tim entered his final treatment in 2000 and has remained sober ever since. As Tim’s determination to stay sober grew, Stephen’s condition deteriorated, devastating his family and friends.
One evening in 2002 when Tim was two years sober, he received a phone call from his father to come join him at Stephen’s home. When Tim arrived he found his father standing in the front yard and Stephen locked in his apartment smoking crack. With tears in his eyes Coach Schnellenberger asked Tim, “What do I do?” The support of Alcoholics Anonymous coupled with the work Tim had completed since leaving his rehab compelled him to say, “let Stephen find his bottom. When it is time, he will ask for help.”
In 2002 Stephen had his last surgery. Due to the cancer and other medical complications
he had his colon removed. After the surgery, Stephen went into a coma and remained in a partial vegetative state for six years. In March of 2008 he passed away surrounded by his family and friends. His drug addiction no doubt contributed to his detiorariting health. Faced with cancer and countless reasons to stay sober, Stephen could not overcome the obsession to use drugs.
Stephen Schnellenberger’s inability to maintain sobriety and find its acompanying peace is a theme with which many recovering drug addicts and alcoholics can identify. In Stephen’s case, as in so many others, it was not enough to stop drinking and abusing drugs. He successfully completed treatment time and again but always failed to follow through with the program of action suggested by Alcoholics Anonymous. In most cases the next phase after treatment is a sober transitonal living facility otherwise known as a half way house—the most vulnerable and critical stage of sobriety. This is the step that Stephen failed to take with conviction and, because of the absence of quality halfway houses, he was never inspired or compelled to follow through with Alcoholics Anonymous and the twelve step program of recovery.
Motivated by the lack of quality sober living options for men coming out of primary treatment, Tim Schnellenberger opened Healing Properties in 2002 with five beds. In the past seven years, Healing Properties has grown to sixty beds, including twenty-two female beds, and continues to be a beacon of hope for families and drug addicts in their journies to revovery .
As Healing Properties grew, Tim recognized the need to provide funding for those that could not afford transitional living. He set up an indigent program which enabled him to give transitional living to those who needed it most and could afford it least. Over the past eight years, Tim has seen the demand for scholarships grow exponentionally. Today one in four Americans seeking admission to a half way house cannot afford the cost despite the fact that it is the most effective and inexpensive component of recovery.
In order to honor Stephen’s memory and channel his tragic death into a positive force for change, the Schnellenberger family created the Stephen Schnellenberger Foundation for Sober Living. The Schnellenberger family is well aware of both the emotional and financial struggles every family faces when confronting the disease of addiction. With this awareness and experience, the Schnellenbergers are determined to facilitate transitional living for those individuals who are committed sobriety but lack the financial resources to achieve this vital goal.
Please join us as we seek to fight this ever increasingly difficult battle. Your gift will help a person who has already demonstrated the willingness to get and stay sober find a safe and nurturing enviornment in which the seeds of sobriety can grow and flourish.