Malerie Lockhart works at the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center (MCRRC) in Belfast through Volunteers of America as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC). The MCRRC provides treatment, education and vocational opportunities for incarcerated men with the hope of reducing recidivism.
Malerie believes people deserve more than just a second chance. “I’m a believer in second, third and fourth chances. I was given more chances than I probably deserved. It may take more than one, but it is worth a person finding a better life and better version of themselves.”
Growing up Lamoine, Malerie felt uncomfortable in her own skin and, from a young age, eager to rebel. She first experimented with substances at 13, moved out at 15, emancipated herself at 16, and by 19 she was using heroin and other substances regularly.
“I was trying to escape,” she recalls. “I had hated myself for so long, it scared me to find out who I truly was.”
After her first rehab stay, Malerie tried to give up drugs but still drink alcohol. She received an OUI and lost her license not long after. “I thought it was all Maine’s fault. I sold everything to buy a one-way ticket to Florida. I had $200 to my name to start fresh, and, in that month, everything turned upside down.”
It was in Florida, sitting in a jail cell, that Malerie realized that the same discomfort that pushed her to seek substances all the years before was her only companion. “It made me realize that I would have a problem with all substances for the rest of my life, and that something had to change.”
In 2013, during a period of sobriety, Malerie had her first child. During the next two years she navigated early motherhood, an abusive relationship, substance use disorder and another pregnancy. After losing custody of her children for a time, she fully threw herself into recovery.
“I had to change everything this time,” Malerie says. “I had my children depending on me.”
For Malerie, this involved medication-assisted treatment (MAT), inpatient care, outpatient care, and counseling.
“MAT was not a drug to me at the time, it was a tool that helped me get through the roughest, most crucial part of early recovery,” she says.
Today, Malerie’s children are 7 and 9. When they drive by the site of the since-closed residential treatment facility called Hills House in Ellsworth, her oldest faintly remembers living there.
“Relapse is a part of my story; I’ve celebrated one year twice,” she says.
Over time and through hard work, Malerie regained self-love and relationships with family.
“Accountability means following through over and over to prove my word meant something. When my parents told me they trusted me again, it melted my heart.”
Today, Malerie is actively working toward her LADC licensure to continue to help others in drug and alcohol treatment.
“I have so much in my life today,” she says. “I’m proud. I wanted to get my degree, and my CADC, and I saw them through.”
Malerie sees her work as a chance to plant seeds of hope for the future.
“It can be difficult when you want to help others who aren’t quite ready for help yet. You don’t know what obstacles someone has had to overcome within themselves just to get to where they are at.”
Malerie’s love for family and passion for her career remind her of just how far she’s come, and keep her motivated to stay sober.
“I want to help other people find their path. No one’s path to recovery looks the same, but there’s always some way to connect and relate.”