In Memoriam: Worth Bolton

I recently attended the memorial service for Lyndin Worth Bolton and would like to share his obituary on this blog and write a few sentences honoring his life and work.

Worth taught in the addiction certificate program at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work and passed away at the end of 2019. I came to know Worth as a student at UNC, and I came to know his impact on our field once I graduated and became licensed through the board which he helped create in North Carolina. Worth’s memorial service featured several speakers from different parts of his life. Their stories taught me a great deal more about Worth and inspired me to memorialize him here, in a setting devoted to recovery-oriented thought and practice. The speakers represented many parts of Worth’s life and told the story of a father, a husband, a friend, a spirituality of imperfection, a joke teller, a truth teller, a decorated Army Ranger who served in Vietnam, a pioneer in the field of addiction treatment, an admired colleague, a respected trainer, and a teacher to hundreds of professionals throughout North Carolina. In sum, they told the honest story of a life well lived.

Worth had a nuanced understanding of addiction and recovery, and he once commented to a colleague that he knew he wasn’t actually in recovery because he still smoked cigarettes. When eulogizing Worth, this colleague shared proudly that Worth quit smoking four years before his death (first time, patch and gum, no lapses). I like the idea of him living his final years as someone who was, by his standards, actually in recovery.

The service ended with the presentation of the U.S. flag to Worth’s wife, Flo Stein. This silent and moving ceremony left very few dry eyes and served as a fitting punctuation mark to a service that so beautifully memorialized a legend in the state of North Carolina. I left feeling that I was a better person than I otherwise would’ve been if I hadn’t met Worth. His work will live on in the lives of those he taught and mentored, thus he will enjoy a certain immortality in the recovery community and in the intergenerational healing made possible through recovery. Below you will find the program from his service, which includes his obituary, the lineup of speakers, and a brief piece of Worth’s own writing.

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