Erin Ehlin is from a very small Maine town where there weren’t opportunities to be part of a recovery community. But she found one in a former furniture store in Brewer, at the Bangor Area Recovery Network.
Ehlen, 41, of Bangor introduced herself Thursday at the Second Annual Healing Service at St. John Catholic Church on York Street in Bangor as a drug addict and an alcoholic.
“The BARN has saved my life many times. My sister was not so lucky,” Ehlen said. “Recovery overcomes the shame, the guilt, the pain and all that comes with addiction.”
Her sister, Melissa Ehlen, died of a heroin overdose in 2017, she said after the service.
“I’ve been in recovery since May 7, 2018, and just passed my one year anniversary,” Ehlin said. “I wanted to be here to let people know if I can do it, they can do it. I didn’t know about the BARN or the recovery community in Bangor.”
She said that she wanted to offer hope for people struggling with substance use disorder. That and remembering people such as Melissa Ehlin was the reason for the healing service, organizers said. This year’s service drew about a quarter of the crowd as last year’s, which included about 500 people.
This year, the program began with an informational session before the service in the church fellowship hall that included a demonstration of how to use the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone. Information on treatment available in Greater Bangor and how recovery works in the brain also was presented.
“Substance use disorder is a chronic disease and it responds to treatment in ways similar to how the body responds to other chronic diseases,” Dr. Noah Nesin, vice president of medical affairs at Penobscot Community Health Care, said.
Gordon Smith, the state’s director of Opioid Response, which is a new position in Gov. Janet Mills’ administration, said the governor agrees with Nesin’s view.