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Sober living comes full circle
katahli stieg
Written by Amy Paradyz

Biddeford couple invests in the lives of people newly in recovery

For someone right out of rehab, getting their finances in order enough to rent and furnish an apartment and set up utilities—all while keeping focus on their ongoing recovery—can be too much.

“What I needed was someone to manage some of those things,” says Daryl Blums, who lived in three sober houses in his late 20s. “Then I was able to focus on myself and my recovery.”

Daryl and his fiancé Katahli Stieg, who have been in recovery for 7 years and 3 years, respectively, co-own and manage two, 10-bed sober houses in Southern Maine: one for men and one for women — under the company name New Hope Alliance.

“It doesn’t matter what people have done in the past or what they used,” says Katahli, who is on call 24/7. “It’s about whether they are willing to do what it takes now.”

“We’re providing a safe, clean, low-barrier place to live with a framework which residents can use to grow into their recovery,” Daryl says. “There are certain expectations. When you move in, you’ll probably share a room with somebody. You’re going to be drug tested at random. You’re expected to seek employment and to do some 12-step work or engage another recovery pathway.”

Each house has a manager who has been in recovery for at least six months. In addition Katahli and Daryl provide oversight and screen potential residents to be sure they are serious about recovery.

“The hardest part,” says Katahli, who runs the women’s house, “is wanting recovery for people more than they want it for themselves. I could not do this if I did not have a solid recovery program behind me. It can be difficult sometimes, but so rewarding when I get to watch other women overcome the many obstacles in early recovery. We can’t do it alone; I’m grateful to be able to now give support to other women, just like others so graciously did for me.”

Katahli was 25 when she came into recovery, and never having known adulthood without substances, she didn’t think it could be fun. Happily, she has discovered otherwise.

“I hear women talk all the time about being able to laugh like they’ve never laughed before and that was my experience too,” she says.

“When you’re in a community with people in recovery, you get to have sober experiences and it feels new and exciting, like you’re living it for the first time. I can remember my first sober dance with the women in my old sober house, or the first New Year’s Eve spent with people in recovery. Recovery creates connection and unity— having family dinners our old habits with healthy new ones.”

Living in a New Hope Alliance structured sober house requires drug testing and curfews, attending two to four recovery meetings a week and participating in house check-ins and weekly dinners. People who are serious about recovery but are on probation, in drug court, or on medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for substance use disorder are welcome. Residents who have been in one of these sober houses for 30 days or more can request permission for an overnight away to visit with their family.

“Each sober house has its own character and its own decorum,” Daryl says. “It’s a living organism with people coming in and out.

Some leave out the front door with their head held high, and some leave out the back with their head hung low. It’s easy for me to feel defeated some days, if someone isn’t doing well, but when a person succeeds and and going to meetings together. It’s a time to come together and support one another.”

Residents move in with just personal things such as clothes and toiletries—and and participating in house check- ins and weekly dinners. People who are serious about recovery but are on probation, in drug court, or on moves on, it’s one of the best feelings we get to experience!

“What we can do is give people the basics needed to thrive, and from there they can choose to build a life in recovery they can be proud of and — in my case — never believed was possible.”

Amy Paradyz

Amy Paradyz

Amy Paradysz writes for Journey, Maine Women Magazine, Green & Healthy Maine Homes and the Portland Press Herald. She has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She lives in Scarborough.