Recovery Story: Honoring Sobriety Central, Maine

Categories: Inspiration, Recovery

Following is a story of recovery written by Ruth Riddick. We are sharing stories of recovery throughout September to celebrate Recovery Month. If you have a story to share, please email

What’s a nice girl like you doing in a rehab like this?

That’s what I might have asked myself sitting in detox at Mercy Hospital’s Recovery Center if I hadn’t been around this block several times already. Two hospitalizations and one 30-day residential in my native Dublin followed by a research visit to Dr. Evans’ Charm School shortly after arrival in Portland. But who’s counting? Addiction is a disease characterized by, among other insanity symptoms, relapse.

But is it relapse if you never really quit?

I had to ask this of myself because I never met a counselor who put the question quite so bluntly. Perhaps they trusted that a sobriety sponsor would ask it for them? Shirley did, before we had our first coffee together: “Do you have a problem with alcohol?” That was sort-of easy – YES! “Are you willing to go to any lengths to stay sober?” “Um . . . what does that mean?” (By now, of course, I knew better – I just said “Yes.”)

And, so, I got sober in Maine. One day at a time. Wherever my travels take me today, I always honor Maine as a great place to get sober, a place where there’s a deep grassroots commitment to recovery. Truly, it’s a privilege to return to Portland every year to share my sober anniversary and, more recently, I’m delighted to embrace a service opportunity at Crossroads.

That’s good news, but what does it take? Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, who famously gave us the stages of grief response, writes that “unconditional love is the only force which heals.” Well-motivated individuals aside, I did not find this love until I came to Maine. Of course, alkies clinging to our bottles are hard to love; in my alcoholic willfulness, I was a tough nut. But not too tough for you.

The recovery community here – professionals included – embraced me as just another drunk needing to be loved until I could love myself. This wasn’t a “tough” love (which so often masquerades as torture; I’ve experienced that too). Nor was it a “permissive” love, which is equivalent to neglect. Rather, this love is empowering and based on the healing principle that we are interdependent. It takes a community . . .

And, living in community, where no grief is too big to be shared, I can be happy and heartbroken and responsible and fun and smart without alcohol.

As a member of that community, there are also dilemmas: Do I disclose that I’m an alcoholic? (A friend, himself in AA, advised me to leave that key fact off my medical profile.) What do I risk by speaking out? (Employment, insurance, social esteem, sobriety?) By writing about my experience, am I being prideful, or do our stories serve a greater good? If I don’t put my face on sobriety, how can I challenge the stereotype of the “hopeless drunk” (a label with which I was tagged by someone who might have loved me)?

Together, we’ll figure it out. In Maine.

About the writer: Crossroads Board member, writer, educator and activist, Ruth Riddick is a former reporter for Mainebiz. Her work appears in the Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing and her third poetry collection, The Bodies Within, will be published next year.

Thank You

This was definitely a life changing experience. The staff was wonderful and I am leaving here sober, happy and healthy. I thank everyone for their love and care.”
– Back Cove Women’s Residential Program Client

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