Most of us do not have to think twice about this question, we know…………
So, I remember walking into the doors of Gateway Rehabilitation Center on Dec. 13, 1983. I knew NOTHING about addiction as a disease and I knew nothing about recovery. I had never been in a rehab before this one so I was clueless about what was getting ready to take place. Little did I know that my entire life was about to change and that walking into Gateway on that day literally saved my entire life. I remember meeting Susan, the Family Therapist; John the young new handsome therapist; Jim one of the supervisor’s; Sharon the Director; Pam the head of nursing; Dottie my therapist; Bob the aftercare counselor; Larry the Head Tech and Steve, the night tech. I also met Mickey H. who was clean for 2 years and was in treatment in order to PREVENT a relapse. (This is a thing of the past………insurance would NEVER pay for that these days !) Gateway Rehabilitation Center was founded by a well known man named Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski…………..
Nothing short of a miracle worker & Master Expert in the field of addiction. His voice is soothing and calm. He knows this disease inside and out. He literally has saved MANY MANY lives. I am so very grateful that I had the opportunity to meet him, to know him and to work for him. Do yourself a favor and Google him ! Then read as much of his work and listen to as many of his videos that you possibly can ! That is for EVERYONE ! FAMILIES OF ADDICTS as well as ADDICTS ! He makes having this disease “ok”.
After about 4 days of being in Gateway, kicking heroin cold turkey, climbing the walls, tossing & turning, getting no sleep at all, being too cold, being too hot, body aches, stomach aches, nose running, trying to stretch my legs and them never stretching at all …………I was told by Mickey H. that I smelled like a leather wallet that was in someone’s back blue jean pocket for a whole day in 95 degree weather. I remember an interaction that happened between a patient and Dr. Twerski…………..the patient was holding his head and he said “why did I do that…………what is wrong with me…….?” Dr. Twerski responded by saying “You are an addict, that is what is wrong with you.” I stopped dead in my tracks with goosebumps running up and down my arm……..I ran to the pay phone and called by mother and my brother……..I said, “Oh my God, do you remember how many times a day, a week, a month, a year you people have said,’Roz, what is wrong with you….we never raised you like that.” “Roz what the hell is wrong with you, what the hell is wrong with you, what the hell is wrong with you……….what the hell is wrong with you Roz?” Well I said to them finally………..”I FINALLY KNOW WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME ……………I AM AN ADDICT, THAT’S WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME!!!” I was genuinely relieved !
But what does being an addict REALLY mean ? I was taught early on that addiction is a threefold disease—-physical, mental & spiritual. I was also taught that we are “born” an addict. I was taught that we are suffering mentally & spiritually as addicts BEFORE we pick up a drink or a drug. This theory means that as children we are not “OKAY” mentally or spiritually and we suffer until we take the first one…..the first drink or drug. I am sure you heard MANY addicts say, “I found my best friend when I took the first one……or i finally found relief when I took the first one………..or I fell in love when I took the first one…….” And addict describes their first high as the best they have felt EVER. So that first fix, drink, drug, pill or whatever it was, is the feeling that an addict has been looking for their entire life……….it filled the void of being mentally and spiritually bankrupt.We felt complete. I like to describe myself as a child as walking about with a “sick” feeling in my stomach.I remember always feeling like something was missing………….I never felt like I fit in……I felt like I was supposed to be doing something different than what I was doing.
I felt lost. I felt not good enough. Not smart enough. Not pretty enough. I felt worried all of the time. My father died suddenly of a massive heart attack when I was 10 years old. I have no memory of my life before his death. His death traumatized me. I remember from his death onward………….and at age 10 I began suffering from those feelings I mentioned above. I never felt like I belonged anywhere. I picked up marijuana at age 16 and I fell in love. I became confident. I felt pretty. I felt popular. I felt smart. I felt all types of false feelings !! The empty, sick feeling in my stomach was gone. And as long as I continued to use drugs, I kept that sick feeling at bay. I kept it away. I used drugs for 15 years. My family did not want me around. I never felt good enough to be part of my oldest brother’s family. I hated that feeling. Hated it. Drugs took it away. Totally.
Hence the DRY DRUNK……..or the addict who does not change………….or the addict who does not work the steps !!! So when I put the drugs down on December 13, 1983 guess who showed up? C’mon, guess !!!!! YESSSSS that’s right……….that scared, unhappy, insecure little 10 year old that picked up that marijuana. That is who showed up and oh boy, I was NOT happy. I wanted her to go away. I was sitting in group therapy in Gateway when that little girl showed up and I’m very very grateful that I was in group ! I completed treatment at Gateway and went home. No halfway houses or 3/4 houses back then. Straight to my home where I used and got high.
My journey in recovery began then.
The next 32 years of recovery were FULL. They were FULL of love, marriage, death, having kids, pain, happiness, growth, therapy, more therapy, getting a Masters Degree, starting a Doctoral program, working in the field, private practice, working at St. Francis, working at Gateway, having more kids and finally, creating ASI/MES….. (Addiction Specialists & Mary E. Steratore Treatment Center (named after my dear mother) MY DREAM. MY DREAM FACILITY. MY OWN. MY OWN FACILITY. Thirty two years in recovery. Kids grown. Family raised. My own family. I had built up and earned the respect of my family. I had worked so very hard on myself in therapy and in school and was able to hold my head up and say,
“I’m Roz, I’m an addict”…………. without feeling less than or ashamed. What a WONDERFUL FEELING. And on October 8, 2015 the FEDS showed up at ASI and on April 30, 2016 the Department of Health SHUT DOWN ASI & MES and here I am…………. 32 years clean…………..feeling the same way that I felt on December 12, 1983 ….the day BEFORE I went into Gateway……less than, broken, afraid, not good enough, not smart enough, and worst than ever I have that SAME SICK FEELING IN MY STOMACH that I had growing up………………..that only a DRUG COULD TAKE AWAY!!!!!
But wait ! I might have to go to Federal Prison for two years too.! At 61 YEARS OLD AND
32 YEARS CLEAN ! When they shut us down, we lost everything. And within days of being shut down my husband was diagnosed with Lung Cancer…………….. we lost and are continuing to lose EVERYTHING. After 20 YEARS in business. WHY ? WHY was it even NECESSARY to SHUT US DOWN?? I am SURE I sound like a BROKEN RECORD ! But I cannot believe what happened…………..It just was not necessary to get rid of the place and have all of those good people lose their jobs and for all 624 drug addicts to be put in the street. Where is the justice?
I was so very proud to be an addict at one point in my recovery. I was so very proud to be clean and to be involved in Narcotics Anonymous. I changed my entire life and my entire self as a result of my stepping foot into Gateway and getting help. It was the absolute best thing that ever happened to me……………..and I had a dream. (I sound like Martin Luther King)………………………….but for real, I had a dream. So so so many addicts were calling my private practice and asking me to help get them off of methadone. Telling me that their clinic does not help them come down. I knew this was true because I was stuck on methadone for many years in my addiction and I was taught NOTHING about getting clean and recovering ! Not one time was I told about Narcotics Anonymous. It was DOSE and GO. Period. I’m proud to say that ASI created the name “Dose & Go” clinics…………which is what they all are.
ASI was NOT a dose & go methadone clinic. Here is what took place and this is why its closing down was a TRAGEDY. See, ASI was NOT just a place that addicts came to get methadone. ASI was a TREATMENT CENTER. A FULL SERVICE TREATMENT CENTER. Plus Uniontown’s Narcotics Anonymous was a DISASTER………………it consisted of Saturday nighters who were totally against addicts on methadone or suboxone. So as a result, instead of our patients being welcomed into Narcotics Anonymous, they were shunned. They were told that they were not allowed to speak in the meeting because they were on methadone or suboxone. It was a nightmare. So as a result ASI became these addicts support group. In essence, ASI became these addicts 12 Step program. It is where they got support and love and acceptance and help and guidance. It is where their recovery began. They KNEW that ASI staff was there for them, no matter what. All the way to the Janitor. The office staff was their support. The counselors were their support. The nurses were their support……………….and unusual as it is, the OWNERS were their SUPPORT TOO ! The owners, the supervisors, the billing staff, the doctors, the PA………….ALL ASI STAFF WAS SUPPORT FOR THE PATIENTS. My FAMILY was SUPPORT for the ASI patients. We were a FAMILY. We cared. The patients felt a sense of belonging. We all genuinely cared about the ASI patients and their well being. This was NOT just a CLINIC that shut down. This was a FAMILY that was TORN APART. And it was a FUNCTIONAL FAMILY NOT A DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY. I am quite sure that there are some haters out there who would say that we were a dysfunctional family; however, I consider myself an EXPERT in the field of addiction as well as in the area of family addiction issues and we were FAR from a DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY ! WE WERE AWESOME !
SO what HAPPENED ? Well, that is a $64,000.00 question. And I do NOT have the total answer to that. But I will. Because I’m not closing this door. I am NOT closing this chapter. I will be writing a book soon. And MORE than the truth will be in that book. It will be something that EVERYONE WANTS AND NEEDS TO READ !!! TRUST ME !! You are JUST going to have to be PATIENT !!! Everything you ever wanted to know about addiction in a repressed area but were afraid to ask !
Now my reality is that I am back to where I was 32 years ago. BEFORE I got clean. The feelings are all there and I feel like the same little girl I was BEFORE I got clean. The difference is that I have four fantastic children who love us very much. They were raised with a God and with a program. Somehow, we raised them with love, respect, compassion, integrity and as “givers” not “takers”. The Sugarmann’s will survive this tragedy………….please pray for us and we will continue to pray for everyone who is struggling with this disease.