Training and Support

By Patricia McArthy

Recovery provides a tremendous opportunity to explore and cultivate new parts of ourselves and new ways of living. Many people in the early stages of recovery forge new friendships, try out new hobbies and work to establish new, healthy daily practices in their lives. It’s a time of great change and self-discovery, a chance to reimagine life and what you want it to be. While in recovery, you may decide to pursue a new career or learn a new skill or trade. You also may want to integrate hobbies and relationships from your pre-recovery days with the new passions and friendships you’ve discovered during your
recovery journey.

Fortunately, there are a wealth of resources in Maine that can help you feel connected again in healthy ways and keep you on track. It’s crucial to seek those out, says Steve Danzig, executive director of ENSO Recovery, which operates outpatient opioid addiction programs in Westbrook and Sanford, recovery residences in Sanford and medication-assisted treatment programs in Maine jails.

“Getting into recovery is a total change of lifestyle, where people have to let go of familiar activities and hobbies that are closely identified with using,” says Danzig, a licensed clinical social worker and licensed alcohol and drug counselor, among other designations. Finding new pursuits and seeking therapy and support are particularly helpful in the early stages of recovery. “Developing a new sense of community is what fills people’s souls,” Danzig says. “That community will help keep you going and rekindle that spirit.

“People really need access to that. Whether it’s yoga or Reiki or AA meetings or rock climbing — putting new things together to start to feel fulfilled is so important,” he says. “You can’t just remove something and not put something in its place.”

There are many different avenues that people in recovery may want to consider while working to create a new life. For starters, Danzig and others highly recommend the Portland Recovery Community Center, “which lets people access all kinds of help that creates a sense of belonging and kinship with other folks.”

Portland Adult Education is another wonderful community resource that can be particularly useful for people in recovery, says Executive Director Anita St. Onge.

“The focus of our work is for people who may have struggled with getting a high school diploma or equivalency because of addictions and other reasons,” she says. “We help people to gain whatever they need to advance in their lives through education.”

Portland Adult Ed also has a college transition program that includes help with financial aid and career counseling, a learning lab for people who can’t attend traditional classes but still
need support and a network of other Cumberland County adult education programs that share resources. The program also offers a vast array of health and wellness and enrichment courses.

“This is a place where there’s no right or wrong door,” says St. Onge. “You come in where are you are, and we try to get you to where you want to be to meet your goals.” That’s the idea behind an innovative partnership between the Bangor Area Recovery Network and Eastern Maine Community College, too. They’ve teamed up to offer a free threemonth course that introduces people in recovery to EMCC. The course covers everything from the process of enrolling to seeking financial aid and completing FAFSA forms to learning how to read a syllabus and respond well to a writing prompt.

Four students completed a pilot program this spring and loved it, says instructor and social worker Brian Welsh. Two of the students say they’ll enroll at EMCC this fall, and two plan to do so later.

“The biggest thing they gained, I think, is confidence that they can do it. And the biggest thing we’re offering is compassion,” Welsh says. “We’re working with each student as an individual, helping them to see their needs and support them. We recognize that they are extremely capable and resilient people overcoming significant challenges, and we
respect that.”

New Ventures Maine is another resource offering tuition-free programs for people in work and personal life transitions, including people dealing with addictions and working through recovery, says Executive Director Gilda Nardone, who has been involved with the organization since its inception 40 years ago.

New Ventures helps people who are trying to figure out their career moves, educates people at all economic levels and situations about financial matters, and offers many other services. Students can apply to take part in emergency savings and other matching programs Nardone notes.

“We help people figure out what’s next,” she says. “And we offer support and guidance while they’re figuring it out.”

Have a lot on your mind and want a venue to express it? It’s easier than you might think. The Portland Media Center offers a series of classes that can lead you to broadcasting your very own television show on a Portland public access channel in short order. “Anyone is welcome to come in here and learn to use our equipment and take our studio classes,” says Executive Director Tom Handel, noting that most initial instruction is free for Portland residents and non-residents can qualify with a simple $30 annual membership. “It’s a great place to be creative and feel connected.” That ability to make connections has been crucial for Tia Cobb of Windham, who was led into recovery by an instructor at Spa Tech Institute in Westbrook. The school offers training for careers in healing professions. Cobb, 33, has completed massage and polarity therapy programs there and will graduate in November from its cosmetology course. She’s been sober since 2012, after a SpaTech instructor she confided in suggested she attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

“Spa Tech is a life-changing place. It’s a healing school with healing modalities,” Cobb says. “I’ve felt extremely supported there.”

Good opportunities are waiting for people who can start committing to feeling better, says Danzig. “When people start to get into recovery, these situations will present themselves,” he says. “It’s about having the willingness to follow an opportunity and about getting out of your comfort zone to try to do something different. People start from wherever they are to put the pieces together, and I think the biggest piece is willingness.”

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