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Sarah Siegel

Issue 5

I grew up on a tiny island called Cliff, off the coast of Portland in Casco Bay. A great deal of my childhood was steeped in the magnificent beauty that Maine’s wild places offer. I enjoyed nature, fishing and playing with my beloved cat, Lady.

I started drinking alcohol at age 9 to dull constant psychological and emotional pain, even though I had no idea at the time where it came from. However, it’s clear now looking back, that I hated myself for most of my life. I felt painfully out of place wherever I went and desperately wanted to be liked by older kids, who seemed so much cooler than me. By high school, I had found harder drugs, and the summer I turned 18, after barely graduating, I packed up my car and started a road trip that took me coast to coast four times over two years and to every continental U.S. state.

There was a long stretch of time during those two years that I was homeless, spare changing and hitchhiking. Also during that time, bI found heroin and crack. I finally returned to Maine to learn that my Mom had reported me a ‘missing person.’ I did whatever was needed to survive and was barely hanging on to life. I used to live and lived to use, and began working at clubs to support my habit.

I kept on going even when I didn’t want to.

I eventually went to countless treatment centers, detoxes and programs, in an attempt to stop the machine of addiction that was destroying me. These included experimental treatments for Opioid Use Disorder outside of the country. There’s so much more to my story, so much suffering that I can never fully convey the depth of. However, my story didn’t end there. During the years when I was in and out of treatment, I repeatedly found a small community of people in recovery wherever I went, who loved me during a time when I couldn’t love myself – when I didn’t know how to love myself. I really believe it was because of their support that I got my first real foothold in recovery. Beyond this, I used many different tools and healing modalities in the first years, and I still do today. Most importantly, I kept on going even when I didn’t want to.

Today, I am writing this from my kitchen, after helping my three beautiful children get out the door for school. I’m now an Ordained Interfaith Minister and a Mindfulness Meditation Coach. I write and offer wedding and funeral ceremonies, which I love doing. I love walking beside people as they experience both intensely joyful and profoundly painful moments, as these are times that stand out from the daily routines and give us opportunities to reflect on our path thus far.

I have found so much meaning through studying the world’s religions and reading about countless humans who have found peace and personal transformation by walking different spiritual paths. I have a very deep mindfulness meditation practice cultivated over many years. While I don’t sit on my cushion every day, I do practice mindfulness as I go about my daily activities. And in this way, I’ve learned to calm my fight-orflight response and connect to an inner sense of peace that exists regardless of outside circumstances. I still get anxious and triggered, but I know how to tend to myself amidst it. I no longer need to hurt myself or pick up a substance to cope. In fact, this December I will celebrate 12 years in recovery!

I recently accepted a job as a recovery coach and couldn’t be happier about it. There is a new, inclusive, compassionate, strengths-based recovery movement taking place in our state, and it is incredibly exciting to be a part of it!

This spring, I also had the great honor of becoming part of the Journey magazine team and have loved writing for such a special publication – the first of its kind in this country! Journey spreads the message of “hope and freedom from addiction.”

If there’s one thing you take away from my story, it’s that recovery IS possible, regardless of how dark it may get or how impossible it may seem at times. We DO recover, and I am only one among many who have found lasting freedom from the bonds of addiction. You can too!

Many blessings on your path.

Sarah Siegel
Sarah Siegel
Sarah Siegel is a recovery coach at Crossroads as part of an innovative project with Portland Recovery Community Center. She has been in recovery from opioid use disorder and substance use disorder since 2007 and from working the sex industry since 2003. Today she is a mother, interfaith minister, meditation coach and writer.
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