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Radiant in Recovery – Danielle Ward

Issue 32

Stories Restoring Hope

by Jamie Lovely

This May, Danielle Ward will be receiving her Associate degree in Mental health and Human Services and celebrating 5 years of sobriety. Her achievement reflects profound personal growth and a deep commitment to helping others navigate recovery.

Danielle grew up in Warren, Maine, in a family impacted by addiction. Looking back, Danielle can see how early traumas influenced her: “I’ve learned a lot from Dr. Gabor Maté, who talks about trauma being the root of all addiction.” At 21, Danielle started a 17-year opiate addiction.

During this time she got married, had three kids, and found herself continuing to use to avoid the withdrawal that would interrupt being a mom and wife, despite desperately needing help. “I felt I couldn’t go away to treatment because my kids needed me.” As she reflects on those years, she recalls feeling emotionally lost and trapped in a cycle that seemed impossible to break.

When this cycle left her facing a prison sentence, Danielle chose to use newfound clarity and sobriety to change her life and help others do the same. In prison, she enrolled in college courses, became a recovery coach, and joined the Opportunity Scholars program. “On the outside, I was a mother, a wife, someone in active addiction, but I had completely lost myself.”

By throwing herself fully into recovery and learning, she found her passion again. Another way she accomplished this mental and physical change was through practicing and becoming a certified yoga instructor through a yoga training scholarship from Sea Change Yoga in Portland.

Today, Danielle lives in Alyssa’s House in Camden, a sober house for women in recovery. By putting her recovery first, she can be there for her family and her community. “It’s incredible hearing my kids say they are proud of me. I can teach them that mistakes don’t define a person — it’s what you do with those mistakes.” For Danielle, showing up for others has included recovery coaching in jails, recovery centers, and the treatment and recovery court system.

In the Opportunity Scholars program, Danielle advocates for legislative issues, gender justice, pretrial system change, and the same educational opportunities that changed her life. Danielle’s goal after graduating is to become a Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor and to provide trauma-informed yoga therapy.

While she pours herself into connection and change, she keeps up the self-work, gratitude, and reflection that keeps her sober. “One thing I have learned throughout my recovery process is that you have to feel the pain to heal the pain.”

When a Restorative Justice Project event brought Danielle back to the county she was charged in, she was recognized by the chief of police. Her experience is a beautiful example of restoration. “I told him who I was today and that I’m proud of myself. He had heard about the work I was doing and told me that the county welcomes me with open arms.”

Danielle’s advice to others is simple yet powerful: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Maine Voices of Recovery is a series written by Jamie Lovley and created by Penobscot Bay Community Health Partnerships with the help of the community. The goal of the series is to share the hope of recovery, dispel misunderstanding about substance use disorder in the state of Maine, and record stories of how long-term recovery works.

Jamie Lovley
Jamie Lovley
Jamie Lovley, a graduate social work student in the Midcoast and working at a residential treatment facility, is the Substance Use Prevention Specialist at Knox County Community Health Coalition. She’s passionate about writing recovery stories that fight stigma and inspire hope.

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