Ohhhhhhhhhh my……should we DARE speak of these two medications? How big is the controversy over whether or not addicts are “clean” if they are on one of these two drugs or medications or whatever you want to call them. How about when you go to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and the Chairperson says “If you have used suboxone or methadone today, please refrain from speaking.” …..Narcotics Anonymous is full of opinionated addicts that know everything in the world about everything in the world. Don’t get me wrong……..I LOVE NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS. PERIOD. I LOVE NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS. That program saved my life and gave me a WONDERFUL life. It gave me friends. Friends that I never ever would dream of having. It gave me a husband and four children. It helped me go back to school and chase my dreams. I got a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology and went on to pursue a Doctorate. I worked steps with a sponsor. I went into Psychotherapy and my whole world and my whole being changed. Narcotics Anonymous was small and intimate. I met my husband. We were a part of helping NA grow in the Pittsburgh area. What a GIFT !!!
When I came to Narcotics Anonymous after being a patient in Gateway for 48 days, I was broken. I was excited to be clean for the first time in 16 years. It was a blessing. I was afraid of my own shadow. My self esteem was shot. My self confidence did not exist. I felt “dumb”. You know, “stupid”. Less than. Inferior. I was the kid in the classroom who KNEW the answer but would NEVER raise her hand because “what if my answer was wrong…I’ll look stupid.” During the last years of my addiction, I was living in the Hill District of Pittsburgh……in a shooting gallery. Girls were walking the street prostituting for money to support their habit. Not me, I couldn’t do that….do you know why I couldn’t do it? I couldn’t do it because I did not think I was “pretty” enough to be a prostitute. What man would PAY to have sex with someone as ugly as me? I was the HIPPIE in the 60’s & 70’s that was petitioning against the Vietnam war and didn’t even have a clue WHY or WHAT the United States was doing. I was a follower. The best follower around. Through a lot of therapy, a lot of meetings, a lot of step work, a lot of praying…………..I changed. I learned all about the little kid Roz……the teenager Roz…….the drug addict Roz………and now the new and improved ROZ SUGARMANN!!! ALLLLLLLLL BRIGHT & SHINY !!! I was 29 years old when I was introduced to recovery. It was a perfect gift from God. Perfect. It changed my life.
Let me talk about my dream. My dream was to be just like my psychotherapist. What I loved most about him was that he seemed like he was “okay”. Okay was something I wanted to be more than ANYTHING in the world. So I set out to accomplish just that. Narcotics Anonymous struggled through many growing pains back in 1983. It was such a blessing to be part of those pains. At one point I was sponsoring 23 women. Some of us did not believe people were clean if they were taking anti-depressants. I remember wearing a button that said “No Salt-No Pepper”. Lithium is used to treat bipolar. Lithium is a Salt. I told all of my sponsees that they were NOT CLEAN if they were on anti-depressants. I told them that they had to quit taking them. Later in my recovery I had many sleepless nights worrying that I might have been a part of one of those women committing suicide. We had Dr. Twerski come speak to us at a special meeting. His stance was “Narcotics Anonymous” states that we must abstain from all mind altering, mood changing chemicals. We then wrote to World Service Office to ask for their opinion. Their answer came back in the form of a letter……….it simply stated: “Narcotics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues.” BOOM……..
NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS HAS NO OPINION ON OUTSIDE ISSUES. Well its MEMBERS have ALL KIND OF OPINIONS on outside issues !!!
I had a private practice in Squirrel Hill. I had many clients. I had groups. I started to receive phone calls from addicts who wanted help coming off of methadone because their clinic would not take them off of methadone. Hence I had a brainstorm to open a methadone “detox” clinic. So off to Harrisburg my husband Sean and I went. Only to be shot down by the Department of Health. They told us that there was no such thing as an outpatient methadone detox and that methadone was used for “harm reduction.” Hmmmmm those two words literally HAUNTED me for the next TWENTY YEARS.
ADDICTION SPECIALISTS, INC. opened in July 1999 with 200 patients and a waiting list……….by April 2016 ASI had 610 patients; two full Partial Programs; over 400 patients in group therapy and Mary E. Steratore Inpatient Residential Program with 24 beds. Sean and I developed a program to help addicts use their methadone as a tool to get clean. We had the total support of Fayette County and were given the funding to FINALLY DO TREATMENT WITH METHADONE PATIENTS. Addicts on methadone were finally able to be drug free. The program we developed assisted addicts in coming off of methadone and/or suboxone in 9,12 or 18 months. Hence the creation of ASI’s 9-12-18 program. Addicts were getting clean and coming off of methadone. They were required to attend NA meetings. Interestingly enough if one would ask an ASI patient if they were going to meetings they would say ….”Yes I do, I go Harry’s meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays!” We had to explain that ASI group therapy is NOT an NA meeting. What I then began to realize was that ASI WAS THEIR NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS………because addicts on methadone or suboxone are JUDGED by people who are not on methadone or suboxone the majority of the time.
Suboxone is handled TOTALLY different by the government. It is a drug prescribed by a physician in his office. Methadone is given at a clinic. If an addict is on a CORRECT DOSE of methadone or suboxone NOBODY would be able to tell. Unfortunately, addicts have low self esteem and doubt themselves terribly.
I encourage them to hold their head up and DO NOT FEEL BAD because they are on Suboxone or Methadone. I have been JUDGED by MANY in Narcotics Anonymous for even opening my facility. I had friends who judged me and ended our friendship because I opened what they ASSUMED was a “methadone clinic”. ASI was a family…. ASI helped MANY addicts. ASI’s groups and treatment created a RECOVERY ATMOSPHERE for these addicts. ASI closing is a very, very, sad tragedy. 23 addicts have died since it closed. Closing ASI was a mistake. There is a piece of me missing.
Come on (People of) Narcotics Anonymous……..Open your heart. Stop judging others and let these people have a seat in the program. They feel bad enough that they are on a drug. They need to be needed; just like all newcomers.
If you or a loved one have questions or concerns about methadone/suboxone do not hesitate to contact me. Remember if you are on methadone or suboxone and not using any other illicit drugs you ARE clean, and it is NOBODY’S business. That is between you and your higher power.
“The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using.”
— Third Tradition (Narcotics Anonymous)