Courtland Milloy: A Case Study in Successful Drug Rehab

By Courtland Milloy
Wednesday, August 12, 2009

After being hooked on drugs for nearly half her life, Rozetta Boggan, 56, has been drug-free for seven years. No more crack cocaine. No alcohol. No heroin. She has her own apartment in Alexandria and a job setting up displays at the Washington Convention Center. No more hanging out in crack houses, no more dealing to support her habit.

For those who never had a problem with substance abuse, that might not seem like a big deal. But with billions of dollars being spent in a futile effort to stop the flow of drugs into the United States, Boggan and others like her have achieved a victory that's truly worth celebrating.

"One night, I'd had enough," she told me recently. "I was just sick and tired of being sick and tired. Then, out of the blue I said, 'Lord, please get me off of drugs.' "

In 2000, not long after that prayer for help, Boggan was convicted on a federal drug conspiracy charge and sent to the Alderson women's prison in West Virginia. She took advantage of the prison drug treatment program and regularly attended 12-step self-help meetings.

"For the first time, I got honest with myself," she recalled. "I admitted that I was an addict and that I couldn't stop using on my own. I started listening to other people's stories about their battles with addiction. It gave me hope. Sometimes, when I'd call my girlfriends back home, they'd say, 'I've been clean for six months,' and, 'You know so-and-so is clean.' That would encourage me because I didn't want to be the oldest thing out there in the streets, 50-years-old and still on crack."

None of that is to suggest that prison is a cure; the point is that drug treatment programs work -- wherever they may be. The only question is, why do so many nonviolent drug offenders have to go to a federal prison to get state of the art care?

Boggan was a small-time street dealer who sold $20 to $50 bags of crack to feed her habit. The conspiracy case against her stemmed from her introducing a customer to a dealer who sold bags that weren't much larger -- $100 and up.

Nevertheless, she was sentenced to 15 years in prison. That's far more than some dealers get for possessing and distributing pounds of powder cocain e .

Boggan had a right to be peeved. But instead of showing self-righteous anger, she opted for peace of mind. She took responsibility for her role in the predicament and kept the focus on developing a set of principles by which she could live in harmony with others.

Gratitude, not resentment, was her watchword.

"I felt blessed," Boggan said. "I thanked God for sending me to prison."

For good behavior and completing the drug treatment program, she was released after seven years.

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