By Leslie Clark, PRCC Executive Director
Let me start with a confession. Not so many years ago, I didn’t even know what a recovery community center was. I’d been driving by the newly started Portland Recovery Community Center (PRCC) on my daily route, and noticed the building. I’d been hearing casual conversations about what was going on there and how wonderful it was, but I just didn’t get it or understand the need for it. I’d been in active recovery for many years but had never heard of a recovery community center. Was it another AA clubhouse? No (but there are some AA meetings there.) Is it a drug counseling center? Not at all (but, there are people in recovery who have taken peer recovery coach classes and can help.) Was it a drop-in center? Nope. (You can definitely drop in anytime, but be prepared to actively participate in your own recovery journey, including the potential of volunteering.)
Today, I know a lot more about recovery community centers and their history and growth in the United States. I am blessed to serve as the executive director of PRCC, which is also the home of the Maine Recovery Hub for recovery centers throughout Maine.
I could have never known when I first walked through the doors of the PRCC and felt its welcoming magic that I would become its first executive director and a huge champion for recovery community centers.
What is a recovery community center and why do they matter? Recovery community centers are formed by people in recovery, for people in recovery. They exist to provide peer recovery support services, educate the community about addiction and recovery, and promote the positive benefits of recovery in order to reduce stigma. They serve as community centers for people in recovery—providing a place for people to gather and create a community that includes everything from support groups for people in recovery and their families, to advocacy activities and recreational and social events. Many recovery community centers like PRCC are independent nonprofit organizations. Others may operate with a sponsoring organization. What they all have in common is that they share some core ideals and values.
There are many pathways of recovery. Recovery community centers support multiple pathways of recovery and provide a place for people to explore, create, and find the supports that work best for them. These might include 12-step meetings, SMART recovery, Recovery Dharma, Wellbriety, yoga, HOPE, art and music groups, or other established as well as newly emerging ways of finding health and freedom from addiction.
Recovery is supported by connection with others. All humans have the inherent need to belong and to connect with others.
Isolation goes hand-in-hand with substance use disorder. Forming connections with others who have shared similar experiences creates community, magnifies hope, and provides vital support and opportunities for mutual healing. We find ourselves through our community of belonging.
Recovery is a lifelong journey sustained by hope, gratitude, and service. Recovery is not a linear process and is based on continual growth throughout our lives. The process of healing provides opportunities to improve health of mind, body, and spirit, and to help others. We share our stories, our experiences, and our hope to help others and to continue our own journeys in wellness.
Recovery involves addressing discrimination and transcending shame and stigma. Recovery is a process by which individuals, families and communities confront stigma, overcome shame, and stand up for others. Recovery community centers provide community education, speaker opportunities, and advocacy for just policies and increased resources for treatment and prevention. We rebuild our own lives, and use our recovery to help build healthy communities and contribute to positive society. We may volunteer to serve on advisory councils, boards, task forces, and committees at the local, state, and federal level.
In the past three years Maine has grown from having just two recovery community centers (PRCC and the BARN) to having ten, and the number is increasing. In late 2017 PRCC became its own independent nonprofit organization and our board set a bold vision—that every person affected by addiction in Maine will have direct access to a local recovery community center that provides support, education, and individual resources that enhance their ability to heal, strengthen, and grow in their recovery pathway, throughout all stages of their journey. The state legislature and the governor’s office have been extremely supportive in providing funding to start new centers and championing peer recovery support services, recognizing their unique and important role in helping people find and sustain recovery.
If you are interested in volunteering, finding a recovery community center near you, or starting one in your own community please call PRCC at 207-553-2575 or visit us at www.portlandrecovery.org.