Meeting People Where They Are
Profile: Bill Rose with CADA
William E. “Bill” Rose Jr. has been the executive director of CADA (The Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse of Northwest Louisiana) since 2012, overseeing the organization’s 15 programs in four facilities that provide substance use treatment for adults and adolescents. With Rose at the helm, CADA has become a leading provider of addiction-related prevention, education and treatment in the state of Louisiana.
In addition to adult residential and outpatient treatment, CADA is one of the only providers in Louisiana to treat pregnant women for substance use disorders, and also accepts women with their dependent children up to 12 years of age.
More recently, CADA is the first organization in the state to get a Crisis Outreach Team out on the streets, reaching out to those who need opioid-specific treatment.
“The Crisis Outreach Team educates health-care professionals, educators, law enforcement and citizens using relevant, evidence-based information,” Rose said.
“The team distributes NARCAN, a nasal spray that saves the lives of overdose victims, and Dispose Rx packets used to dissolve unwanted opioids so they won’t fall into the wrong hands.”
Much of Rose’s insight into addiction and recovery comes from his own history with drugs and alcohol. “I am 31 years sober, and I’m grateful to all of those who walked this path before me and showed me the way,” he said. “This is the way I show my gratitude for those that have provided me with this opportunity to help others find their paths to recovery.”
Rose was born in Okinawa, Japan. His parents divorced when they moved back to Shreveport, and his mother enrolled her children in an African-American Catholic school where she also taught. “She isolated us from the world in a lot of ways,” Rose said. “There was a lot of organized crime and gambling going on then – a lot of violence towards African-Americans. My mother isolated us from that world in a lot of ways to protect us, and it separated me from other cultures and races. We were taught a sense of our community through our church life, our neighborhood and our home life.”
Part of what defined Rose growing up was his mother’s cancer. “She struggled with cancer for years,” Rose said. “She had 17 or 18 surgeries, but she made it known to us that at some point she was going to die. She was preparing us for it, and those were the kinds of things that were baked into the cake for me. She wanted me to be prepared.”
Rose was first exposed to substances at around 12. “We had early exposure to peer influence with a cousin who liked marijuana and beer,” he said. “We were altar boys, and we set up the altar for communion so we had snuck wine before. But my cousin was a couple of years older and he would come over, and we’d hang out in this huge dirt basement under our house, smoking weed.”
It was when Rose got to college, however, that his substance use escalated. “I was the first of my siblings to go to college, but when I got there, I started using and drinking more, smoking more marijuana and taking diet pills to stay up all night. I withdrew from college my junior year when I got the call to come home because my mother wasn’t going to make it. She died right after I got home, and that’s when my using really sped out of control.”
Rose’s grandmother and other family members put together an intervention to force him into treatment, where he encountered a world of ideas that contradicted important messages his mother had instilled in him. “My mother had always taught us you don’t talk about your business outside the family,” he said. “I remember sitting there in my little counseling group thinking, ‘The expectation here is for sharing. My mother taught me not to trust people, and you want me to share my innermost secrets?’ I somehow knew I was at a crossroads and that I’d probably die from my addiction.”
“Even when I got sober, I still didn’t know what I was going to do,” he added. “I had squandered my opportunities in dope houses and bars and crack houses. It really went against everything I was taught. Everyone had thought I was going to be the big shot who would take care of everyone else. Instead, I was in trouble. I had legal problems – and a whole lot of guilt.”
“Someone suggested that I do service work, so I started volunteering at a detox center,” Rose said. “I was offered an opportunity as an aftercare specialist. About six months later I got a full-time job as a direct care tech working with adolescents. I never chose this path. It was God doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself.”
Even working in recovery, Rose still struggled. “I remember I was about four years sober, and I was on the fence,” Rose said. “I was married at the time, with a beautiful wife, cute little kids … I had bought a house and new cars. I remember being at my wife’s office in downtown Shreveport, in the back parking lot, and thinking, ‘I could throw myself off that building.’ I realized later that I had never done any work on how to deal with that guilt and unresolved grief. It was one of those things I refused to talk about in treatment.”
Rose made the decision to end his life, and he told his wife. “She freaked out,” he said. “She sent me back to the unit where I’d been going on weekends to help other patients. I remember thinking, ‘I do this all day every day, and here I am as a counselor thinking about killing myself.’” “There was this guy there that day that I had always hated,” Rose said. “I had felt like he was attacking me in group. But this particular day, he could see this expression on my face, and he asked, ‘Are you all right?’ I dropped it all on him. And he became my sponsor.”
Rose’s sponsor taught him how to do a living amends, to write a letter and visit his mother’s grave. “I received some closure,” Rose said. “This weight was lifted from my shoulders. That was just one of the skills he taught me. I remember how as a young therapist, I started using some of the things that I learned from him, using my training to help people work through grief, shame and guilt.”
“Now, I have a broader perspective on life,” Rose said. “As I talk to people who need our services, it kind of gives me an advantage or a little more insight as to why people do what they do based on what they’ve learned. That’s why I love therapy. We get to the why.”
“We need to meet people where they are,” Rose said. “We have been trying to provide traditional approaches to nontraditional communities. Communication is one way to knock down barriers, but we need to make every effort to ensure we’re speaking the same language. We create this system that is so different from where some people come from. As we counsel people, we need to understand that our counseling is not from their perspective unless we meet them where they are.”
For help or for more information about CADA and substance use disorders, visit www.cadanwla.org or call 318.222.8511. You can follow CADA on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CADAofNWLA.
– Susan Reeks