Portland agency opens sober house for women

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PORTLAND — A new sober house in East Deering is aimed at a portion of the population the operators say is frequently underserved: women in recovery.

“There is a dire need for resources for women, a real lack of quality and affordable sober living beds. It is rare to find the two together,” Oak House Program Director Kerry MacDonald said Sept. 26.

Home to eight women, Oak House is the first sober living home opened by the nonprofit The Family Restored, which helps individuals and families in active recovery from substance use disorders.

Residents at Oak House are primarily scholarship recipients from The Family Restored, which until now had simply funded treatment stays for people seeking recovery.

“What we are trying to do is remove the biggest obstacle for people to maintain a model that can help them be stable,” MacDonald said.

Family Restored scholarship recipients must be ready to join a 12-step recovery program and possibly relocate for six months, and MacDonald said living arrangements at Oak House are just as stringent.

Residents must be part of a 12-step program and have a sponsor within a week of moving in. They are also required to work, volunteer, or be in school for at least 20 hours a week.

The home is completely abstinent, which rules out medically assisted treatments for opioid addiction recovery.

Oak House is also open to women just released from incarceration, MacDonald said.

The residence is more than just someplace to go; MacDonald and Family Restored board member Tom Mahoney said it is a place to rebuild lives and relationships.

“More and more families are dealing with addiction in one way or another,” Mahoney said. “Part of the issue we face is, how do we get rid of the stigma and recognize it as a disease?”

Residents can also get help with other facets of their lives, such as managing finances. Meditation and yoga classes are offered, too.

MacDonald has been sober since 2010, and is also a founder of Beacon Recovery Services. She said she moved to Portland eight years ago and “barely lived paycheck to paycheck.”

“I put myself in the position by wearing out all the help I had received previously,” she said.

Once a college athlete and engaged to be married, MacDonald said she knows of the spiral of addiction and, as importantly, the place where recovery begins.

“I had everything that would qualify as being joyous, happy and free, but I was miserable,” MacDonald said. “My personal experience was (recovery) came from a place of desperation.”

Whatever place the residents may find their impetus for recovery, MacDonald said she wants to foster it.

“The transformation happens if someone is active and engaged,” she said. “That is why I do this, it is the change in someone’s spirit.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Oak House Program Director Kerry MacDonald said Sept. 26 the new sober house in Portland brings structure and stability to its women residents.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.