BANGOR, Maine — One of the most common tools in addiction recovery is the 12-step program most commonly practiced by Alcoholics Anonymous.
Addicts can meet and discuss their struggles with others in recovery who are going through the same things. The meetings are anonymous and frequent, but often short.
Where can addicts go when AA meetings are over? Whom can they turn to for support once those doors are closed?
A group of community members that has been meeting for the last 18 months has been debating those same questions and is ready to launch its answer: the Bangor Area Recovery Network.
The newly formed nonprofit membership organization will hold an open house next Thursday at its location at 611 Hammond St. Its founders hope the center becomes a go-to place for recovering addicts.
“For many years, there hasn’t been a place for people to go that’s safe and inviting,” said Shawn Yardley, a board member for BARN and himself a recovering addict. “My goal would be to create a big tent that could accommodate all levels.”
Jean Rideout, also a board member and a recovering addict, said the network brings addiction away from the dark basements typically associated with Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous and into the open.
“It’s important to show people that not everyone [struggling with addiction] wears a trench coat and carries around a brown bottle,” she said.
The Bangor area has not had a place that caters to recovering addicts since the 24-hour Club on Lincoln Street was shut down two years ago after police broke up an illegal poker game. Yardley said the former VFW hall in Brewer used to host social events until the building was sold.
There has been a clear void.
“A bunch of people got together and started brainstorming. Soon we were incorporated, then we got our nonprofit status, and now we have a doorknob,” Rideout said.
Many of the people behind BARN know addiction intimately. Yardley, who has been sober for 23 years, is the perfect example of someone the public might not expect to be in recovery. By day, he is the director of health and community services for the city of Bangor and father of seven children, but he wasn’t always able to manage his addiction.
“The more I worked to control it, the more it controlled me,” he said.
One of the goals of Bangor Area Recovery Network is to complement, not replace, the work of 12-step programs. Yardley said he and others respect the tradition of those programs but they don’t always work for everyone. In some cases, addicts need more support.
Yardley remembered a friend of his who recently sought treatment for addiction to painkillers.
“For the first six months, he was going to [NA] meetings, but he would come by my house after and stay for several hours,” he said.
How the center evolves depends on its members, most of whom will be sought through word of mouth. Yardley said the center did receive some private startup funds but will be funded through membership dues, donations and grant funding and also will rely on volunteers.
“What we would like to see is some real support from the community and from members,” added Rideout. “We don’t want to become a treatment center, but that is not the only aspect of recovery.”
Anyone interested in learning more about BARN can attend the open house at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, July 15.