By Joan F. Simoneau, Community Reporter
Marlborough – Michael C. lived a normal life for many years until a few years ago when marijuana use, abuse of prescription pills and untreated depression left him homeless and without contact with his two young daughters. He had no place to call home until one day he wandered into the Recovery Connection, and his life began to change.
He stopped into the center during the day and was living in a homemade teepee in the woods at night.
“I started to listen to people at the Recovery Connection and I eventually got sober and went to live in Roland's House [Homeless Shelter]. I knew I couldn's do it alone and the people at the Recovery Connection let me know I wasn's alone,” he said.
Michael said his recovery was not easy, but he stayed on the right path. He is rebuilding his relationship with his daughters and sustains his recovery by continuing to give and receive support at the Recovery Connection.
Peers Helping Peers is the concept that has made the center successful from its beginning in October 2008. Angela Dalessio is the program director.
“We want everyone to feel safe here and to build healthy relationships,” she said. “Then they are better able to focus on education, employment and healthy family relationships.”
Dalessio recently won a leadership award from the Association for Behavioral Healthcare, for her advocacy and leadership in providing services to individuals with addiction.
Staff members wholeheartedly embrace the “People Helping People” focus and guide the individuals into various activities and member-driven services that are planned and put into place for the peers – by the peers. Everyone is invited to attend weekly community meetings and participate in the process.
“Everyone has a voice and their voices matter,” said Peer Coordinator Kelly Averill, who, along with Peer Coordinator Brandon Tupper, work with members in entering detoxification programs, enhancing job skills, job searching and housing programs.
“We want to empower all who walk in the door to feel valued and to build a new life, with confidence,” Averill said.
Community Resource Coordinator Frank Azzariti said there are many opportunities for individuals to help others and give back to the recovery community.
“We bring resources from the Recovery Connection into the community and vice versa.”
For many this becomes a key to sustaining their own recovery and gives members a voice in designing activities that address their needs and interest. Co-owners of Breathe Wellness in Marlborough, Meg Francis and Beth Ferruccio, volunteer their services at the Recovery Connection by giving classes in meditation and yoga.? They said it makes them feel good.
Located at 31 Main St. in Marlborough, more than 1,100 diverse members in recovery from alcohol and/or drug addiction are served monthly through the program. Also available are Twelve Step Fellowship meetings and recreational activities such as the popular Game Night, held each Friday. The Recovery Connection is hosted by Spectrum Health Systems, Inc., a nonprofit substance abuse and mental health treatment provider operating in seven states.