BANGOR, Maine — Addiction recovery has a hidden face, and some may be surprised to know that the people living across the street or sitting next to them at a restaurant are in recovery for alcohol or drug addiction.
“There are thousands of people in the Bangor area who are in successful recovery,” said Bruce Campbell, chairman of the Bangor Area Recovering Community Coalition, host of Thursday’s second annual Summit on Addiction Recovery. “They tend to blend into the working part of society, but they’re out there. They’re really unseen, unsung heroes.”
Campbell, who himself began on his road to recovery on Aug. 1, 1985, said he is not alone and that his goal is to get the community more involved in supporting those trying to better themselves through recovery.
“What we’re trying to do as a coalition is raise awareness and change the face of narcotic [and alcohol] addiction,” he said. “‘Supporting Recovery as a Community Responsibility’ that’s our core message” and is the title of this year’s summit.
One way to do that is show those suffering from addiction that they too can escape addiction’s grip through positive role modeling and access to resources.
In fact, three of the seven conference panelists — Shawn Yardley, the Bangor Health and Community Services director; Deb Dettor, the Maine Alliance for Addiction Recovery coordinator and Joanna Russell, the Tri-County Workforce Investment Board director — told the gathering that they are in recovery.
That fact was greeted by applause from those gathered for the daylong conference. That group included “folks who are dealing with [addiction recovery] personally, or people dealing with it professionally,” said Steve Faloon, public health educator for Bangor Region Public Health and Wellness.
“People in recovery are still seen as addicts,” Dettor said. “There is still a stigma.”
Brenda Harvey, commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services; Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, chairwoman of the Joint Legislative Appropriations Committee; Sen. Richard Rosen, R-Bucksport, who sits on the appropriations committee; and Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross also sat on the panel.
The morning panel session focused on funding recovery programs with shrinking resources and increased need. The afternoon session focused on hopes and solutions.
“It’s been a bleak financial picture,” Harvey said, adding that since 2002 the DHHS’ budget has been decreasing steadily. She said her goal is to maintain and “not reduce what is available for treatment.”
The summit was coordinated by the Bangor Area Recovering Community Coalition with assistance from the city of Bangor’s Health and Community Services Department, local business and corporate sponsors and advocacy partners, Campbell said.
“This is the most unique and compelling public health event of the year,” Faloon said. It has “become center stage for the discussion of how we use limited public resources to meet our commitments. It’s about the community coming together to help support each other.”
Lee F. White, a coalition member who has been in recovery for 27 years, said even small things, such as talking about addiction and recovery and being a good role model, play a big part in supporting recovery efforts.
“It takes a community to support those who are in recovery,” she said.