I ask myself this question every day since the clinic got shut down.
When my therapist asked me what my first childhood memory was, I realized that I only had ONE childhood memory………and that memory was of my fathers sudden death of a heart attack when I was 10 years old. I don’t remember anything before I was 10 and I don’t remember anything after I was 10 until I smoked weed for the first time at age 15. So there are a LOT of gaps in my childhood……..but one thing I do remember about growing up was a FEELING I had. And that feeling was one of being “less than” or “not good enough” ALWAYS.
I remember vaguely never feeling like I was smart enough or pretty enough. Once I started using drugs I believe I felt the same way, but it just didn’t matter ! I faked it ! I talked to everyone and I wanted to be liked. I acted one way and felt another. I had a great bluff going on ! Once I got to rehab and I got clean, I was sitting in group therapy and WHAM….that feeling came over my entire body and mind and I burst into tears. I was clean and I was in touch with how I felt. I hated it !
WHERE DID IT COME FROM? WHY DID I FEEL SO BAD? I learned as I progressed in my recovery and in my therapy that I was given that message by my family. Don’t get me wrong, my family loved me very much. They just didn’t know any better. They didn’t know that telling a little girl that she needed to lose some weight gave her a complex about how she looked. They didn’t know that constantly asking a little girl what was WRONG with her would make her feel like something was WRONG with her ! They didn’t realize that they used the word SHOULD constantly and that word IMPLIES that the person is doing things the WRONG way………..or that the child makes the wrong choices constantly. I grew up in a very Italian family…………I always said I suffered from the disease of addiction AND the disease of Italianism. Don’t get me wrong, I was very proud to be Italian. I thought it was great ! In fact, we were raised to believe that people were either Italian or WANTED to be Italian ! I could go on and on about being Italian and being raised in a family who thought the only way in life to do things is the way our family did them….and everyone else was crazy ! I remember having meatloaf in the High School cafeteria and being so upset because I never saw meatloaf made with gravy. Our meatloaf in my home was a long, thick meatball with spaghetti sauce on it !!! Our stuffing in our turkey was a round think meatball stuffed inside the turkey !!! EVERY MEAL HAD RED SAUCE !! And I was taught that our family did things the RIGHT way and everyone else did things the WRONG way !!!
Unfortunately, when my father died, my immediate family was turned upside down. And everyone felt sorry for me. Poor Rozzie. I could “feel” the sympathy when everyone looked at me. My environment was depressing. My mother was depressed and my brothers were married having their own families. My oldest brother had a wife and three kids. My sister in law didn’t like me. How does a grown woman not like a 10 year old kid ? Well, I found out that it wasn’t me she didn’t like, it was the fact that my brother felt as though he was responsible for me and my mother and my sister in law was a jealous. Our family was quite dysfunctional. In all areas. Anyway, a child needs positive reinforcement…..there was not much of that being passed around. I’m in no way looking for anyone to feel bad for me. I just know that I ALWAYS felt inferior !
And as I continued my journey in Narcotics Anonymous working the 12 Steps and going to Psychotherapy once a week for years and years and years, I worked so very hard on becoming self aware and I was bound and determined to GET HEALTHY in ALL WAYS..not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually ! I talked about feeling “not good enough…..inadequate…..” I learned that it was something that ALL ADDICTS felt and it was something that was reinforced by my family without them knowing that is what they were doing. I needed to empower myself……….but HOW ? The more I learned about ME, the more I had a strong desire to CHANGE …………… The only thing that made me FEEL OKAY was HEROIN !!!!!! When I did a bag of heroin, I felt RELIEVED !!! I no longer felt depressed or less than or angry or sad or ugly or fat or dumb or unliked …………….I felt RELIEF !!!!!
After I got married, I was bound and determined to move to Hampton Township and try raising my kids with RICH PEOPLE !! I wanted to see if I could FIT IN !!! OH MY GOD what a NIGHTMARE !!! ALL of those FEELINGS of being LESS THAN came FLOODING back to me ! As I tried to be a FOOTBALL MOM and we bought a big, beautiful home on a cul de sac……..thinking to myself that if the neighbors REALLY KNEW who I was or WHAT I was they would not want their children playing with my children !!! And then I went on to Duquesne to the Masters Program and the Doctoral Program and I had MORE FEELINGS or being LESS THAN and INADEQUATE…………..and I literally FOUGHT through ALL OF THOSE FEELINGS……and I CRIED THROUGH THEM…………..
And then I worked in the field of addiction as a therapist. I worked at St. Francis and at Gateway Rehabilitation Center where I was a patient 10 years prior. And as I continued my recovery and my therapy I STILL had days that I felt LESS THAN………that miserable sinking feeling in my stomach that I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t good enough to be a therapist, I wasn’t good enough to live in Hampton, I wasn’t good enough to be a mother, I wasn’t good enough to be a wife, I wasn’t good enough to HELP anyone. …………and then I decided that I wanted my OWN FACILITY……….. and I worked day in and day out to open a program. And my husband and I, after 2.5 years of working every day and every night we finally opened Addiction Specialists, Inc. in Uniontown. We cried together when it finally opened. We were so very proud and so very happy.
And then…………..I realized that I was an administrator…YUCK ! I thought to myself, “Oh no, I have to talk with all of these NORMAL people who think that they are better than drug addicts………” I started to get very nervous and I decided that I wasn’t going to tell them I was an addict. Ya right, that didn’t work !!! Addicts are very INTUITIVE. They FEEL very deeply. They KNOW when someone is judging them. They KNOW when someone is looking down on them. They KNOW when people don’t buy the “Disease Concept”. They KNOW when others are looking at them like they are low lifes or criminals. No matter HOW MUCH people deny it. No matter what they say. It’s a feeling that the addict has……it’s very difficult to describe unless you have felt it yourself. See, here is what happens for the drug addict when they are in treatment………….especially if they are in treatment at the “methadone program”…..
First and foremost the addict is terribly afraid to stand up for themselves. The “normal” staff knows this. The addict is afraid that they will be thrown off of the methadone program. They are DEATHLY AFRAID of this…..and unless you have ever experienced a methadone withdrawal, you have no idea how BIG that fear is. So, instead of standing up for their rights, they let the “normal” people walk all over them. The addict does not have LOW SELF ESTEEM, the addict has NO SELF ESTEEM. So they would not THINK of standing up for themselves. So they STUFF their feelings and they get angry. They keep repeatedly doing this until they explode and by that time, they are too angry to speak in a normal tone. And the staff takes advantage of them. Being an addict myself, I am 100% in touch with what they are feeling. In the meantime, I was treated like a low life drug addict by MANY employees of the Department of Health and MANY employees of Value Behavioral Health. As I said, I am quite intuitive and I KNOW when someone is looking DOWN on me because I’m an addict. And THIS is partially the reason that ASI was SHUT DOWN………..because I, being an addict, had no business owning a facility like this…
Let me tell you THIS little story. There was a woman that worked at VBH, (the insurance company that we were contracted with for payment of services to the welfare recipients in the clinic….) she did not care for me ONE BIT. We had ended the meeting at my inpatient facility and she was still there speaking to one of my staff and I was speaking to another VBH employee. I was talking about where I worked in the past as a therapist and she over heard me say that I worked for Gateway Rehabilitation Center for many years. She then looked over at me, and so rudely interrupted my conversation and said, “WHERE did you say you worked Roz ? Did I hear you say you worked at Gateway?” in her more than snotty tone. I responded, “Yes, I said I worked at Gateway, why?” And she said, “Oh REALLY ? I would NEVER expect that YOU would work at GATEWAY……I thought that you worked in a prison system somewhere…..!” Well let me tell you that the other three people in the room looked like they saw a ghost ! She could not have been any more judgemental, condescending or critical if she TRIED. I was angry. And here comes that FEELING again…..of being less than, not good enough, not smart enough, not professional enough…….just a junkie, like everyone thinks.
THIS is what the addict experiences ALL THE TIME. More times than NOT. Addict s are discriminated against on a daily basis…clean or not. Addicts live in fear of being judged. Addicts in treatment are treated like ‘junkies’ and many staff members should not be working in the field of addiction because they don’t BELIEVE that ADDICTION IS A DISEASE. And the WORST PART ABOUT IT is that the ADDICT CANNOT DO ONE THING ABOUT IT because they are AFRAID.
When you tell an addict to call the STATE and file a complaint it is a JOKE. They KNOW that they will not be listened to. They live in fear. Fear of being judged. Fear of being told on. Fear of their PO. Fear that they will lose their job. Fear that they will never GET a job. Fear that they won’t get their methadone or their suboxone. Embarrassed that they are an addict. Embarrassed that they are treated like they have a moral deficiency. I KNOW THIS TO BE TRUE and WHY do I know it? BECAUSE REGARDLESS OF HAVING 33 YEARS CLEAN WITHOUT A MIND ALTERING OR MOOD CHANGING CHEMICAL SINCE DEC. 13, 1983; I AM STILL TREATED LIKE I HAVE A MORAL DEFICIENCY. LIKE I’M A LOW LIFE. AND NOW, LIKE I’M A CRIMINAL. No matter how hard an addict works on themselves, they always have to live with other people’s ignorance and other people’s judgemental attitudes and condescending nature.
And now………………here I sit…….just celebrating 33 years clean a few days ago……my treatment center that was open and helping to save addicts lives for the past 20 years…..was raided by the FBI…..then raided by the Department of Health……..raided by the DEA……and then ABRUPTLY and UNFAIRLY SHUT DOWN BY THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH. And how do I, Roz Sugarmann Addict FEEL ??? I feel LESS THAN. I feel NOT GOOD ENOUGH. I feel like a LOW LIFE. I feel like a good for nothing JUNKIE that is 62 years old and lost EVERYTHING. At the BOTTOM…lower than EVER. And why do I feel like that even if I KNOW that ASI was a GREAT FACILITY that did NOT deserve ANY of this……..why do I feel like this? I feel like this because…
My name is Roz and I am an addict.
Thank you for listening…all of you. And thank you for helping me through the most difficult time in my life.