“Long Time NO Blog”

March 24, 2018

So I decided I should touch base with all of you who so generously and so kindly have followed “aheroinestory.com”. I am sorry to have fallen off the world of blogging, however I was not given a choice in the matter. For reasons that I will explain at another time. I was told to “refrain from blogging” about the daily happenings in the world of “Alderson Women’s Federal Prison”. So I refrained. It was in everyone’s best interest, as it was put to me. On some level I agree, on other levels I do not agree. However, I am scheduled to go home to Pittsburgh, PA on June 19, 2018. That is my top priority now. To get home in one piece with my health in tact.

Once I get home I will be able to go into depth about the many events that have transpired. You will be reading my blog or my best selling books! Stay tuned, one way or the other.

To say the least, I have met some very interesting women in here. A hand full of them will remain in my life forever. This experience is something that is extremely difficult to put into words. It is however, something that needs to be talked about. And I plan on doing that!

This blog, my readers, and my family are the reasons that I so graciously made it through the past 7 months. As you know, I had written a blog a few months ago, that I was forced to delete. There has been a series of events since then that I have agreed to not discuss in my blog for several different reasons. At some point I will be able to share this information with all of you. Now is not the right time.

In hindsight, I can see that writing has allowed me to preserve my sanity and it has made my time go quicker. That is a blessing. I just realized that being able to write in my blog from the beginning of my sentence has kept me focused and grounded as well as in this reality of actually being in prison.

I have met phenomenal women here. Women who I would have never had the opportunity to meet anywhere else. I feel a spark with some of them. A spark that says “we were supposed to meet; our paths were supposed to cross!”. Only in prison. Only in Alderson Women’s Federal Prison.

So yesterday, the Thursday flight came in from Oklahoma. Meaning that the new inmates were on their way in the door. So here comes Lacey! Everyone is hugging her and she is excited to see the entire unit. She is very cute with a bubbly personality. She was Roya’s girlfriend in the county jail. So I introduced myself and said, “well, uh this is a bit awkward, but God forbid I ever come back here on a violation and everyone is so happy to see me! I am not real sure how I would feel about that!”. She responded, “Yes, I know what you mean. I started my bid when I was 18 years old. I am 33 years old today. I was given a 10 year sentence for robbing a bank. I was with my husband who was 24 years older than me. I was an angry, rebellious kid. I was always being put in the SHU. Always getting in some kind of trouble. I started using heroin in prison. My life started to really go down hill fast”.

“Have you ever gone to rehab Lacey?” I asked. Her response was, ” Well this is my third time back here on a violation. They were all three dirty urines. Now this time I turned myself into my PO. My Po said this is the behavior he wanted to see, and he would work with me to find a rehab that would take me. Instead, he sent me a letter in the mail telling me to appear in court. I knew what this meant and it was not good!”.

So now I am baffled. Once again, this pretty attractive young girl has spent 12 years in Federal prison with not once chance to attend rehab to treat the disease of addiction that she is clearly suffering from.

What is wrong with this picture? Something is very wrong. It is 2018. in 1954, the American Medical Association declared addiction as a disease. Why is this so difficult for people to understand?

Lacey went on to explain that she was introduced to Narcotics Anonymous in prison. She celebrated 18 months clean in the program. She is aware that the program works and she knows she will need to jump back on board to get clean and stay clean again. When sharing with another addict how the program works, there is a deep level of understanding that takes place. A common bond. It is the therapeutic value of one addict helping another. If lacey commits to staying clean and taking direction one day at a time, she will thrive in the NA program here. Lacey has committed to coming with me. Let’s see if she follows through!!

So I was here at Alderson for about two weeks when Ms. Kitty told me there was a girl in my unit who has been at Alderson for many years, and that she was interested in making extra money by doing my laundry.  Her name is Brandy A.

She found me in the microwave room. I was ironing my pants and I heard, “Hey are you Sugarmann? Are you sure you should be ironing while you are falling asleep?” I have had a sleep disorder since I was 1o years old when my father passed away. The past two years have been extremely stressful. I spent those years waiting to go to prison. My world had fallen apart. When I arrived at Alderson I was unable to walk without a cane. I would fall asleep while standing or sitting. I was terribly unhealthy.

I looked at Brandy and we laughed. She has been my guardian angel throughout my time here. She is God’s gift to me. Brandy is here and she is a first time offender. She was given 15 years. Her mother left her with her father when she was 9 years old. I can’t even imagine that. What the hell was her mother thinking? Brandy got involved with an abusive man at the age of 14. She had three children to him. She finally left him and raised her children on her own. She began cooking methamphetamine to support her family. She was then indicted for conspiracy to manufacturing. First time offender, never arrested for anything, never in rehab. The judge sentenced her to 15 years in prison. Jesus. When the judge said 180 months in prison, Brandy’s father hit the floor of the courtroom. Brandy’s ex-husband stepped up and took care of the children. She is grateful for that. Brandy is not the norm when it comes to being a prisoner. She works in the facilities. When she works, she works. She does landscaping and can drive every piece of John Deere equipment there is! She takes care of the compound when it snows. They wake her up at all hours of the night and she goes! Brandy is one of the few inmates who has changed her life on her own. She stopped using drugs while in prison. That is a major accomplishment. She keeps her distance from people and she doesn’t get too close. You can count the people she chooses on one hand. I can see how this happens. She has good clear boundaries. She is a true loyal friend. She is very trustworthy. After what I learned about friends and loyalty the past two years, she is breath of fresh air.

Brandy is a God sent to Roz Sugarmann. I am her prison mom. She cooks for us every day. Cafeteria food is awful. I lost 50 pounds between September and February. Brandy has been locked up for 10 years. She has never had the opportunity to learn about the disease of addiction. She gets 300 minutes a month on the phone and she divides them between her dad and her kids. She skypes them once a week. Her kids LOVE her and they miss her very much. They need their mom. She has maintained as consistent of a relationship with them as she can. I respect her for not giving up. So many other mothers have done just that. Brandy completed Alderson’s firefighter program. She is a certified Federal Firefighter. That is a major accomplishment too!! For the most part, the staff here at Alderson respect her.

I told my family that Brandy will be coming to Pittsburgh at some point! I am more than sure that if I bright only one person home from prison with me they will be grateful! LOL only ONE !!!

I  have many more phenomenal women who I have met in prison. Brandy has become family. The others have crossed my path each for a different reason. I am getting excited about coming home. The simple thought of driving out of the gate gives me goosebumps. and puts a lump in my throat. This has been yet another one of God’s experiences that I have to figure out for myself what the lessons are.

The mail has dropped off over the past few months. It is okay though. I know it is difficult to write letters on a regular basis. My main concern while I am here is my family out there- at home. This has been very hard on them. Harder on them than on me. They have had to realize what life is like without their mother. It has been almost like a death. They have grown in ways that others don’t have to until they lose a parent. I guess what I am saying is.. if you are a friend of mine or “were” a friend of mine and you think of me now and then. Please replace the thought of me with a phone call or a text message or anything you can to let my family know that you are thinking of them. It will mean the world to them. It will also mean the world to me.

I am excited to come home. I am excited to go back to work. I am excited to see my family, my dogs, my cats, my house, my patients, and their families!!!

God Bless You All!

Til my next blog…..

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Just an update on Prison Life…

December 1, 2017

“Mum, I didn’t get to talk to you much during that skype yesterday, but I just wanted you to know that you don’t have to worry things will work themselves out. Remember how you felt when we finally got to go on vacation for the first time and how relieving it was? I’m just saying you guys have a habit of getting through times like this and it’s times like this that make you and Dad who you are. I’m gonna go now. I love you. Nick.”

I can’t tell you how much it meant to get this email from my son Nick. He’s special. Nick has epilepsy, and he has had it since birth. For those of you who know Nick, you know what I mean when I say “there is only one Nick Sugarmann”. He literally has a heart of gold but enjoys arguing more than he enjoys anything in life. Thanks for making me smile Nick. It isn’t an easy thing to do these days— Smile that is.

The holidays in prison is not something I wish on anyone. It is sad. So many women in one place who are not with their children or their family. My head was in the sand all of these years, like so many others. I’ve balanced out a bit, at first I was anxious and trying to adjust being on another planet in a totally unknown culture. My mind continually spun and I couldn’t eat or sleep. Never have I been treated so poorly for no reason whatsoever. i used to think, “well, if you break the law then you don’t deserve any thing good.” I learned quickly that this is so untrue. Because someone is doing prison time doesn’t mean they broke the law. Yes, that’s what I said. Because a person is in prison does not mean they broke the law. The majority of inmates took a plea. I took a plea. I took a plea because I was told if I went to trial and was found guilty, that I could be sentenced to 10-15 years. “WHAT?” So, I took a plea, even if I knew I shouldn’t. I agreed to a two year sentence because I didn’t want to take the chance on getting 10-15 years. How is this fair? I don’t get it. Regardless, these private prison “camps” area  waste of money and totally useless in the area of any type of rehabilitation for both drug addicts and white collar criminals.

I owned a full service addiction treatment center for 20 years. We treated more than 3,000 addicts. We helped many addicts get clean and learn a new way of life. There was no good reason to shut ASI down. The real crime is that my family is suffering and will continue to suffer until I am free. I will have been locked up for 9 months when this is all over. They are struggling every single day and I am stuck in here worrying about them every single day.

I worked in the kitchen up until yesterday. Today I started working in the prison gym. THANK GOD. Everyone works in the kitchen for 60 days when they get here. I was there 80 days. The place started to grow on me even though I was there 8-9 hours a day and spent 3 hours every day doing absolutely NOTHING. It was torture. Two days ago, the main guard of the night glared at me all day and on into the evening. I had several inmates come to me and tell me about him watching me.

So towards the end of the evening he walked up to me, pointed his finger in my face and said, “Hey, you, why don’t you just stand here and watch the paint dry on the walls?” I looked at him and shrugged my shoulders and said, “Okay”. He didn’t like that. He said, “Really? Okay? Well don’t you dare expect a bonus or a raise as long as I am in here!”

Well I became enraged. I said, “Look here, in order to get a raise or a bonus you have to receive a PAYCHECK. That $5.25 per month you give me is not a paycheck. I am a VOLUNTEER here. Me and every other inmate here is a volunteer. We do NOT work here. You’ve degraded and humiliated me enough!” Then I proceeded to walk over and face the wall so I could continue watching the paint dry.

A few of the women shuffled me out of there at the end of the night because I could not afford to be taken to the County. The next day, with the suggestion and guidance of some long time inmates I wrote a BP9 on the guard. When I gave it to the counselor she immediately took me out of the kitchen and placed me in another job. This abusive guard worked at an all male prison and one of the prisoners hit him over the heard with a steel pipe. They left him for dead. He has a steel plate in his head and he was moved to Alderson Women’s prison!! What kind of sense does that make?

Not every Alderson staff member behaves like him. Unfortunately, nobody should behave like that. There are several that do. They talk down to inmates and humiliate them. They degrade them. It is unbearable and it is unnecessary. This is inhumane. Anyone who works for the Federal Government should be ashamed of themselves. And I mean that.

I have to get through the month of December. The anniversary of my father’s death is December 6th. 53 years ago. Sean’s birthday is December 10th, my clean date is December 13th, and Christmas  !!! Then 2018!! THANK GOD!

I have begun to write a book. I wrote the first chapter. I am very excited that I got started. I can’t stop writing. I have been talking about writing a book for quite sometime. I cannot wait until it’s completed. It is definitely going to be a Bestseller! haha!

I am sponsoring 8 women in here. I am not sure when or how that happened. It is definitely God working in my life. It is also a huge struggle. This is the most pain I have experienced clean. I don’t understand what the lesson is for me yet. I am more than sure he has a reason for me to be here. There is something here for me to experience or find out. I hope to discover what it is very soon. I am praying for God to reveal to me the meaning of all of this. It is my hope that all of this pain is what will give me a new life and an unforgettable spiritual awakening. These women in my life, this horrible place, these past 2 years of tears and tragedy, and losing everything all over again. It is explosive and heart wrenching. As I said before, the pain is absolutely unbearable. I can’t imagine not having a God in my life.

Thank you all for your ongoing love and support. Please pray for my family and me. That we continue to overcome this monumental disaster. I love you all.

 

#Wave #GameChanger

Please God, is it Time for me to Wake Up Yet?

November 11, 2017 

I hit a wall in here this week. An emotional wall. I get up everyday at 6:30AM. EVERYDAY. This place is spread out over many hills. The mail hill has to be walked at least three times per day in order to get to the mess hall. I am very tired. Physically exhausted. I work in the kitchen from 9:30AM to 6:30PM. Every inmate MUST work in the kitchen for 60 days. My first two weeks I was placed in the Medical Center to work. Once they realized that I had medical experience they took me out of there and put me in the kitchen! Ridiculous.

I’m going to talk about ME today…. it’s my turn to share….

I want to come home. I am tired. Mentally and physically. I am worried about my family. It is all like a bad nightmare that I can’t wake up from. I have not felt this level of powerlessness since I was in labor delivering my children. I am angry. I am tired. I am frustrated. My family is actually doing time. They are the ones suffering. I have helped others all of my life and now….. well, I apologize for whining and complaining about my life. I really do. I just felt the need to dump. I think what truly saves me is that I know in my heart that God is in my corner 100%. That at the end of the day, God is there for me. While I know that he doesn’t give me anymore than I can handle, I am still flawed and human. I still “feel”. Right now, I feel sad, angry, hurt, betrayed, abandoned, and emotionally beat up. Since ASI/MES closed their doors on April 30, 2016, we have been suffering. There have been more than several OD’s and deaths of our past patients and this is constant. I am surrounded by addicts in here who have no clue that they do not have to live like this anymore. Is it really my responsibility to carry the message in here? I really am tired of fighting.

When I was using I was never in this position. Ever. I had no idea that ANYONE ANYWHERE in our country was being treated like this. I feel like an idiot. Like my head was totally in the sand. I can’t seem to put the pieces together.

Do you know that I get paid $5.25 a month? I bet you didn’t know that, did you? These inmates actually look for better jobs that pay maybe $20 a month. Maybe you think that “criminals” should be grateful for anything they are given? If you think that way, I will pray for you. Mind you… this is supposed to be a “Camp” for non-violent first time offenders. Better known as, “Camp Cupcake”. Not hardly.

So I will be here worrying about my family until June 2018. Wondering what the next step will be to put us back together again. Our life was yanked out from under us. After 20 years of helping and giving. Yanked out from under us by more corrupt people than I could ever believe.

I could be home on an ankle bracelet. These camps need shut down and send everyone home on a bracelet. Ankle bracelets to go to work and pay taxes. We would be worth more to the government. We are a total waste of money, and a total waste of time. I don’t understand the purpose of these camps. It makes no sense at all to put white collar criminals in the same institution as drug addicts. It’s like they throw people from all walks of life that are between the ages of 21 and 80 into the same institution and act as if they have absolutely anything in common. It truly is a nightmare. And NOW, there are absolutely no programs; no classes or courses; no trades to choose from; nothing at all to help the inmates to re-enter society. This is a sad state of affairs to say the least.

I am trying to sleep, but I am still in the bus stop. I was supposed to be out on November 6th. They didn’t get around to moving me yet. There is a new woman in the bus stop and she won’t stop snoring. If it wasn’t for bad luck I wouldn’t have any luck. So at 7:00AM I will go see the counselor and see if they will move be back into a cubicle. Everyone is done on prison time…. NOT regular time! Prison time means hurry up and WAIT! (Now I know how my husband Sean felt all these years waiting for me haha!!)

So have you ever seen “Orange is the New Black”? It is a great show and a great story. It is what happens here and it is so very accurate about what is going on in Alderson Women’s Prison Camp. It is pretty much the exact same at Danbury, which is the women’s federal prison in Connecticut.

This is a secret. This prison camp is not something that anyone discusses. It is not openly talked about anywhere. Women that have been to prison do not usually share about their time incarcerated. The reason? Shame.

I am so frustrated with all of this. On December 13, 1983 when I entered Gateway Rehab, My eyes began to open. The “fog” began to lift. I began learning about myself and the shame I was carrying around. The shame of not being good enough for anything or anybody. The shame of being an addict. The shame of feeling less than everyone around me. Where did this powerful feeling come from? A feeling that only “drugs” could take away. Then the drugs stopped working. I was left with myself. So I worked the steps with my sponsor and I went to therapy every week without fail. I prayed daily and asked God to help me change. Guess what? It worked. I changed. My life got better. I went back to school. I got married. We had children. I continued to change, the shame lessened, and I started to hold my head up. I walked standing with my shoulders back and my head up. One day I looked in the mirror and I felt proud. Proud of who I was and how much I changed. Proud of having a loving and caring relationship. Proud of my education and my career. Proud of our four beautiful children and who they were. Proud of building a life from the bottom up.

Saying, “Hi, I am Roz and I am an addict” no longer had any shame attached to it.

Then one morning the shame was back and it was back in full force. My head became so heavy I could not lift it. My world was crashing and my feet were coming out from underneath me. I could not put the brakes on. The shame was back. Do I use or not? Do I keep fighting or throw in the towel? I lost my business and all of the wonderful people I met as a result of the business. I lost my livelihood, my career, and everything we worked so hard to build. I could feel myself losing my self-esteem, my self-confidence, and my pride. Was I going to lose my clean date? Was I going to lose my dignity? Was I going to lose my family? My home? I was losing all of the material things I worked so very hard for. Now the emotional and spiritual loss? Was I losing that too? After all, I was going to PRISON. How much can one person swallow? Prison brings such a negative connotation. It is so very overwhelming. I worked so hard to release myself of the shame I felt while growing up. The shame I felt from being so different than the rest of my family. Roz was the drug addict, and now she is in prison. The shame came back, and it came back strong.

So here I am. In prison, overwhelmed and trying to put the pieces of the puzzle back together. One day at a time; one minute at a time. I am starting to release that shame. It is not completely gone, but I am getting back to where I was before this nightmare started. I have a new energy. I am ready to move on. I managed to  weather my birthday in prison. I received so many cards and letters from people in Pittsburgh. It was heart warming. The girls in my unit sang happy birthday to me. Brandy decorated my bed with beautiful hanging butterflies that had positive messages from the women in the unit on them! My first and last birthday in prison! I am going to make sure of that.

Thank all of you at home and those of you who are supporting my blog. I truly can’t wait to come home and see all of you. You are my strength and I thrive on hearing from you.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

xoxoxoxoxox

#GameChanger #Wave

November 3, 2017 … Happy Birthday… in Prison!

“Sugarmann, let’s go, you have a visit,” the guard yelled as I just started my shift in the kitchen. “Great I can get a day off of working in the kitchen– Thank God!” 

I got dropped off at visitation. There was Nick, Sean, Maria, and Talia!! It was so great to see them. Anthony was missing though. I miss him so much. I miss my family. My heart aches when they leave. This is very difficult. I never want to do this again. I went back to my unit after the visit only to find my bunk 100% decorated in paper butterflies hanging from strings! Each one had a hand written message from the women in the unit. Brandy did the decorations; she made dumplings and baked me a birthday cake!! They sang Happy Birthday to me and I suddenly realized that I had NO camera. I could not take a picture of my bunk with the butterflies or the birthday cake that was baked in the microwave out of Oreo cookies and coke!!! NO CAMERA. There were no pictures of my 63rd birthday. Because there are no cameras in prison. There are no iPhones in prison. There is no Google in prison. There is no Facebook in prison. There is nothing here in prison. The women in my unit made my birthday bearable. I am so grateful to have these women in my life.

There is however, ONE Narcotics Anonymous meeting on Tuesday nights in prison. I chair the NA meeting this month of November. We do the readings and have a speaker share for approximately 20 minutes and then members comment. Christine spoke for me this week. She is a registered nurse who lost her license and is doing two years in prison. I walk up and down the unit every Tuesday starting at 3:00 pm, yelling that the NA meeting is tonight at 6:00pm!! Meet at my bunk to walk together at 5:30pm. And I tell them: “Chase your recovery the way you chased your dope…. if there was a pound of heroin or a meth lab at the bottom of the hill you would run there… NOW get your asses up and let’s go to the meeting!!!

Last night there were 10 women from my unit walking to the meeting together. It made my night!! These women have never been to an NA meeting or to rehab. So I shared that I am 63 years old and 34 years clean and my first time in prison. I have spent the last 35 years helping people. And I was helping people when the FEDS busted into ASI on October 8, 2015.

Does society know what is really going on with the sentencing guidelines? The mandatory minimums? The non-violent/ first-offenders?

Brandy from North Carolina was sentenced to 15 years for a drug charge, manufacturing and distributing methamphetamine. She has 4 children. She had three years knocked off of her sentence giving her 12 years to do. She has never been to rehab. She has no knowledge of the world outside of prison. I keep picturing a little 8 year old kid using a cell phone and how a grown up like her is going to manage coming out of prison.

Bella, also from North Carolina was sentenced to 12 years in prison for conspiracy. I just read her paperwork from the courts. Oh my God she is not an addict and she never touched a drug. Her boyfriend who she lived with was a drug dealer. Bella was arrested and basically charged with conspiracy for “knowing” that her boyfriend was selling drugs. 12 years in prison. She does not even qualify for the RDAP (Residential drug and alcohol program) ! That is offered to addicts in prison and they are given 18 months off of their sentence! Bella does not qualify. This was her first offense and it was non-violent. She has been incarcerated for 10.5 years.

Gena is from Texas. She is serving 13 years. Gena was clean in recovery for 10 years and she relapsed. When she used, she started cooking meth and she caught a charge. First offense- 10 years clean, sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Kelly is from Florida. They call her “wink”. She is getting released on December 13, 2017 (my clean date!). I sponsor her. She will have served 17.5 years once she is released. She will be going to Tampa to a half-way house. This was a first offense for her also. She is extremely intelligent and has lost 17.5 years of her life. She is very active in NA in Prison. She is working the program. She has just started her 4th step. Her desire to stay clean and recover is awesome. She is a breath of fresh air!!

These are just some of the women I have met in here. It makes no sense to me that these women have never been in any trouble at all, and are punished to this degree. There are murderers who have been given less time than these women. Child molesters who have done much less time. The system is flawed. The government is flawed. It is upsetting to know that their are 1,100 female inmates in Alderson Women’s Federal Prison who are so unfairly mistreated. Who knows this is happening? Who even cares? What is the answer to this? It is unfair. The reality is: If these inmates would have been given a slap on the wrist and then promised to be given this hard sentence if they repeated the offense a second time I would bet everything I love that they would NOT repeat the offense. Why is it so harsh??? It makes no sense at all.

So I will have spent my birthday in prison, along with Thanksgiving 2017; my 35 years clean anniversary; Christmas 2017; New Years; and Anthony’s birthday.

I AM READY FOR 2018!!

Thank each and every one of you for writing to me and for remembering my birthday. All of you from the ASI veterans page are in my thoughts and prayers on a daily basis. You are making my time tolerable. PLEASE keep writing and PRAYING for my family and me.

God Bless You– I love you all!!