As Jessica Truman reached one year of sobriety in November 2017, her next steps were daunting: Rent an apartment, get a car, find a job and reunite with her three children – all while paying legal restitution.
Community played a leading role in Truman’s journey to sobriety, and, as it turns out, community also was there for her in those terrifyingly exciting and overwhelming next steps.
“When I first got sober, I was at PRCC (Portland Recovery Community Center) a lot because I couldn’t get into a sober house right away and I couldn’t get high there,” she says.
“There are just people who you see working so hard in their recovery – here and volunteering and putting their heart and soul into it,” said Leslie Clark, executive director of PRCC. “Jess was just working her heart out to make it all work.”
A year after she got sober, Truman dropped by PRCC and got some exciting news.
“She couldn’t believe she was getting a car,” Clark said. “Because she knew it would change everything.” Recycled Rides is a program through
the National Auto Body Council in which insurers, collision repairers, paint suppliers, parts vendors and others collaborate to repair and donate vehicles to deserving people and service organizations. Since 2007, more than 1,000 cars have been donated through the program, including three through Phil O’Connor of R.P. Bell Collision in Saco.
“They take a car that was in a wreck and totaled out and volunteer theirtime and resources to fix the car,” Truman says. “Then they go through PRCC to figure out somebody to give the car to. They said it was because of me helping other people in recovery and because it would change the direction I was headed in.”
“It’s our way of giving back,” O’Connor says. “We pick a charity, and for the past three years we went to PRCC and gave a car to them. We’re giving to something that is part of our lives. My daughter has been an addict since she was 15, and she still struggles with it. She has helped with the giveaways.”
The giveaways are community celebrations, with the recipient, their family and representatives from all involved organizations, including PRCC, R.P. Bell, Geico, Berlin City and LKQ Auto Parts.
“It’s very emotional seeing these women getting themselves in a better position,” O’Connor says. He’s asked the three recipients – PRCC happened to choose a woman three years in a row – to write him and his wife a letter a year later with an update on their lives.
“They want to see whether what they’re doing is making a difference – and it absolutely is,” Truman says. “I wouldn’t have been able to pay off all my restitution for legal issues and get an apartment and a car all at once. And living without a car is damn near impossible, especially with children.”
While she was in a sober living home in Portland, she was only able to see her kids – now ages 17, 9 and 8 – for about an hour a month for a year and a half.
Then, all at once, in February 2018, she received a 2013 Toyota Camry with just 40,000 miles on it, moved into an apartment in Brunswick and, most importantly, was reunited with her kids, who had been staying with her parents in Gardiner.
“It was incredible,” she says.
Within the recovery community in Portland, she met and fell in love with Cecil Solaguren, who was on a parallel journey of recovery – and is a manager for MaineWorks (which provides construction, manufacturing and road-work jobs for people in recovery). They married in September.
The Solagurens live – and drive her kids around – in Brunswick. She commutes to a full-time housekeeping job in Portland, where she manages to give lifts to people in recovery who don’t have vehicles.
“That’s what friends do,” she says.