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Becoming a Recovery Ally : No special skills required

submitted by Amy Clark

When the opioid crisis hit my family it did so with the force of a wrecking ball, destroying everything in its wake. My family was lucky; our story has a happy ending. In the years since, as I watched the crisis continue to ravage the Bangor area, I have constantly felt compelled to give back, in support of families like mine.

It seemed like an impossible idea; after all, I am not a social worker or a medical professional. I did not know anything about addiction, and outside of my family I had never even met anyone who identified as being in recovery. I didn’t think that I had anything to offer. And then, a friend gave me a tour of the Bangor Area Recovery Network (BARN).

The first time I walked into the BARN, I knew it was unlike anywhere I’d ever been. At the time, there was no full-time staff. Almost all the work was done by volunteers, and they were completely self-funded. It was inspiring, the amount of love and commitment that went into such an accomplishment. I remember the first thing I said when I left was, “I honestly didn’t know there were that many good people in the world.”

I began volunteering, serving on committees, and trying to learn everything about the recovery community that I could. I was able to share my family’s story with the BARN’s monthly Addiction in the Family meeting for affected others.

What I remember most about my family’s struggles was the deep loneliness that I felt.

Although I have always been lucky to have amazing friends, none of them understood what we were going through. The way addiction hung over our family was like a black cloud. We lived every single moment of our lives wondering “What’s next?”

Groups like that didn’t exist when my family needed them. As I sat for the first time in a room full of people who totally understood what I went through, I immediately understood the importance of connection and community, not only for those in recovery, but for their friends and family as well. A few months later, one of the creators and facilitators of the meeting moved out of the area and asked if I would be willing to take over for her. I was surprised, honored, and honestly, a bit terrified.

Two years later, I continue to co-facilitate this now bi-monthly meeting and have just begun my second term as Chair of the BARN Board of Directors. I have been able to learn so much in that time, not only about addiction and recovery, but about service, advocacy, strength, and resilience. I have met the most amazing people who have dragged themselves out of the depths of hell and became healthy, happy people, who do all that they can to help others just like them. This place that I went hoping I might be able to inspire one person with my family’s story, ended up inspiring me more than I ever expected.

After years of believing I couldn’t help, I now support people in recovery, work to have a positive impact in my community, and help families just like mine. Anyone can be a recovery ally, all it takes is compassion, empathy and a willingness to show up. No special skills required.

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