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Back at Old Job, Roggin Has New Life : Television: Sportscaster returns after completing a chemical-dependency program in Orange.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Although viewers might not notice because of the makeup he wears when he’s on the air, there is new color in Fred Roggin’s face.

The Channel 4 sportscaster, who went back on the air Monday night after completing a 21-day chemical dependency program, says he also has a new outlook on life.

In the office of Reed Manville, Channel 4’s general manager, Roggin talked about his problem and what he learned while at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange. He completed the program last Thursday.

“I went to college for three weeks and got the best education of my life,” Roggin said. “The most important thing I learned was, it’s not so bad to have a problem, but it is bad not to admit it.”

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Roggin tried to keep his problem from friends and colleagues, continually denying to them--and to himself--that he had a chemical dependency.

During the interview, Roggin declined to go into specifics, but the indication was he’s had a problem with drugs and alcohol for some time.

A year ago, he went to Hazelden, a chemical dependency center near Minneapolis.

“I went there on my own, for an assessment and an evaluation,” Roggin said. “I didn’t tell the station that I was going.”

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Roggin went at the start of a scheduled month’s vacation but spent only four days at the center.

“I thought--and incorrectly, I might add--that I could handle it on my own,” he said.

When he returned, he told John Rohrbeck, then the general manager at Channel 4, he had gone to Hazelden to deal with personal problems caused by stress.

When his vacation ended, Roggin went back to work at the same hectic pace he had observed before, doing the Channel 4 sports, plus taping and producing his national show, “Roggin’s Heroes.”

Worse, he drove himself.

“I wanted to be perfect,” he said. “Now I know it’s OK not to be perfect, that everyone has faults and you have to admit those faults.”

Roggin also learned that, in his effort to be perfect, he was anything but.

“It was a horrible cycle,” Roggin said. “I was on a treadmill that was going 120 m.p.h. and I was going 100 m.p.h., trying to keep up. Every day the treadmill would be going faster.

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“I’m not proud of what I did. But thank God I had the courage to end the nightmare.

“With the support of friends and people who love me, I fortunately had the strength to seek help and get healthy.”

He had another scheduled month’s vacation, beginning March 4. But this time he sought the station’s help. He met with Manville on the afternoon of March 4.

“I went to Reed and told him I had a problem and I needed help,” Roggin said.

Manville made arrangements to have Roggin admitted to St. Joseph and drove him there that night. Manville was a frequent visitor during Roggin’s stay.

“Reed has been more than a boss, he’s been a friend, a good friend,” Roggin said.

Roggin said he is involved in a 12-step program of rehabilitation, and that “I’m now taking life one day at a time.”

He knows he must fight every day against a relapse.

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His employers--Channel 4 and MCA TV, the distributor of “Roggin’s Heroes"--have been very supportive. That support may disappear if there is a relapse.

Said Channel 4’s Manville: “You can draw your own conclusion, but Fred is a highly motivated pupil.”

Said Roggin: “This may sound strange, but I enjoyed my stay at St. Joseph. It’s not a prison.”

Roggin said his turning point was the report that he was in a drug rehabilitation center. A story first appeared in the latest edition of The Times on March 11, a week after he had been admitted.

Other media outlets picked it up, and there was a follow-up story in The Times.

“I was absolutely terrified about the story becoming public,” Roggin said. “I thought everyone would hate me.”

He found out otherwise. Manville let him know that the first batch of calls to the station that morning were mostly positive.

“Something I’ll always remember about that day was a counselor hugging me and, with tears in his eyes, saying, ‘You’ve just turned the corner. Welcome to a new life.’ ”

Roggin said a few days later another patient, a stranger, stopped him in the hall and hugged him. “He told me that after he read that I had sought help, it gave him the strength to also seek help.

“People with this problem have a common bond. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a doctor, a lawyer, a sportscaster and or whatever, or how much money you make, you’re a human being with a disease.

“Admitting that I have that disease is the most important thing I’ve ever done.”


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