Treatment centre aids in living sober life

NANAIMO – Collect call to her parents from a pay phone 15 years ago was Lorelie Rozzano's first step toward a new life.

Lorelie Rozzano’s phone call to her parents 15 years ago set her on the path to recovery from addiction. Rozzano is now a drug and alcohol counsellor who wrote a series of books about her experience.

Lorelie Rozzano’s phone call to her parents 15 years ago set her on the path to recovery from addiction. Rozzano is now a drug and alcohol counsellor who wrote a series of books about her experience.

A collect call to her parents from a pay phone 15 years ago was Lorelie Rozzano’s first step toward a new life free of the manacles of addiction.

Rozzano, 37 at the time, had run out of friends and family willing to help her out. Her boyfriend, who often bailed her out by paying the rent when she spent all of her money on booze and drugs, had left her, she had lost her job and she didn’t have a land line anymore, so she walked to the nearest pay phone to make the call.

Her parents had told her not to call them for help any more unless she wanted to go into treatment for her addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Rozzano’s father hesitated when he realized who the call was from, but accepted it to hear his daughter say the words he had wanted her to say for so long: “I’m ready.”

“My greatest love was addiction, it no longer was people or life,” she said. “Treatment is about the scariest thing an alcoholic or drug addict will do. You have to admit you have a problem and you’ve spent all these years trying to show everybody you don’t. That pay phone call was the beginning of a whole different life.”

The very next day, Rozzano was at Edgewood treatment centre.

But while she recognized she was at a low point, treatment was only a last resort after other options had run out and she went into the program with the intention of just staying a few days.

“But the strangest thing started to happen for me,” said Rozzano. “I started to wake up to the truth of what had been going on in my life.”

Edgewood staff encouraged her to start thinking about what she had been doing and why and she realized that her life revolved around alcohol and drugs.

For example, Rozzano was caught drinking and driving and her solution to ensuring that never happened again was to give up driving.

She would schedule appointments in the afternoons because she didn’t feel well in the mornings and often avoided events that did not involve drinking.

“For the first time, I wasn’t able to BS my way through anything,” said Rozzano. “The relief I had in becoming well was actually what I had been looking for in drugs and alcohol.”

Rozzano, now 53, is writing a series of fictional books about addiction, the first of which, Jagged Little Edges, comes out in January.

She is also an admissions coordinator at Edgewood, having dedicated herself to working with others struggling with addiction shortly after finishing the program herself.

The 80-bed residential treatment program is based on the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and includes a medical component: the facility has on-site detox services, a full-time physician, two psychiatrists and 24-hour nursing, which allows Edgewood to take people who need detoxification services.

“It’s the first step in a treatment process,” said Lorne Hildebrand, executive director.

Treatment centres don’t often offer detox as well, so what often happens when people go elsewhere is they finish a medical detox program and then face a long wait to get into treatment, during which time they relapse, he said.

What is also different is new intakes are accepted continuously and many people coming through the doors don’t really understand the depth of their illness until they have been there a while and see someone new coming in, added Rozzano.

People stay in Edgewood’s in-patient program for an average of 56 days, although length of stay varies depending on the person, said Hildebrand.

He said what Edgewood treats is the disease of dependence as opposed to drug and alcohol abusers, the difference being that abusers are able to stop when they see negative consequences from their behaviour, while those with the disease of dependence cannot.

About a third of Edgewood’s in-patient clients will continue on to the facility’s 30 off-site extended care beds, which will soon be in a new building being constructed on site, for additional support.

“No matter how good the treatment is, if you don’t do lots of good follow up work afterward, it’s not good treatment,” said Hildebrand. “The longer the support … the way better chance you have.”

Because a lot of Edgewood’s clients come from all over Canada and even the world – and include famous athletes and musicians, among other celebrities, although they aren’t mentioning any names – the organization has an online aftercare program, satellite offices in Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria, and Edgewood-trained counsellors it contracts with in almost every major city across Canada.

Hildebrand said returning the addict into a healthy family environment is important and the six-day adult program and four-day children’s program allow family members to examine how they’ve been affected by their loved one’s addiction. Hildebrand acknowledges that the Edgewood program is expensive, but the Edgewood Foundation tries to raise money to sponsor people.

“The unfortunate thing about this stuff is it is a very treatable disease, but it’s expensive and time consuming,” he said. “It’s under-treated and there’s lot of people out there that need help but don’t get help. The bulk of those people hold down full-time jobs.”

John Horn, the City of Nanaimo’s social planner, said Edgewood raises the profile of the community, given that people come from all over to attend its residential program. The facility also takes some of the pressure off the public programs, freeing up space for people who can’t afford to pay the fees at Edgewood, he added.