Knox County Voices of Recovery is a series written by Jamie Lovley and created by Knox County Community Health Coalition in partnership with the community. The goal of the series is to teach the community about recovery, dispel misunderstanding about substance use disorder in the state of Maine, and record stories of how long-term recovery does work. All names have been used with permission.

For Bangor native Kimberly Cote, recovery has been a part of her life since she was a child. As early as seven she remembers her father bringing her to recovery meetings with him. He has since been in recovery for 33 years, and Kimberley has been in recovery for 16 months.
“My view of an alcoholic was my dad drinking all day and not coming home at night. So, I didn’t think I had a problem, but now I realize alcoholic drinking is also getting blackout drunk whenever you do drink.” For Kimberly, trouble with other substances didn’t start until she was 30. After a divorce and the birth of her fourth child, she began regularly using heroin.

In 2015 she was incarcerated and spent four years in prison. She attended recovery meetings again in prison but relapsed shortly after her release. “I lost everything within three weeks. I was homeless. I wanted to end my life.”

Kimberly knew something was seriously wrong with her health when she lost 80 pounds in just four months. “I thought, If I go back out, I’m not gonna survive. I had to do something differently this time.” That’s when Kimberly called her dad and admitted she needed help.
Her father brought her to the Park Unit, where Kimberly detoxed for two weeks. “The doctors told me I would have been dead anyway in six months from my body shutting down.”

During these two weeks, Covid-19 took hold in the United States, and suddenly rehab centers stopped taking new residents. Because of this, Kimberly found herself going straight from detox to sober living at 63 Washington in Camden.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, recovery meetings across the state and country were no longer held in person. This was a huge loss of support to Mainers with substance use disorder. Knowing her recovery relied upon the support she had around her, Kimberly attended 8-10 recovery meetings remotely a week, including one created on Facebook by her family and friends. “Allowing love for myself and for others into my life has been a huge part of my recovery. The biggest reason I used was to avoid feelings and letting people in. The moment someone cared about me I would do something to get them out of my life.”

When asked where Kimberly thinks the community could better support those in recovery she answered, “Having a safe place for people to go where the doors are open is so important. We need more places like the BARN in Bangor, where someone struggling can say ‘I need help,’ and find someone trained to handle the situation.”

The Bangor Area Recovery Network, or BARN, is a substance-use recovery community center in Brewer that brings together people of all specialties to create a diverse and strong support system. The BARN offers over 100 meetings a month, recovery coaching and sober living. Its location is open 11 hours a day, and it is a beacon of light for people in recovery in the Bangor area.

Today Kimberly lives in Camden and works as a housekeeper. She is excited to hopefully move to her own place soon, where she could invite her children to come stay and visit. However, this next portion of her journey also presents challenges. “I’m concerned that when it’s time for me to move out in the next six months or so, landlords won’t want to rent to me because of my record.”

In Maine, felony drug charges make someone automatically exempt from all low-income housing. This barrier can make it much more difficult for people in recovery with drug charges to get back on their feet. “People change. You can’t always judge someone by what they did five or six years ago.”

Kimberly will not soon forget the group living dynamic of 63 Washington made her feel safe and supported, even during the isolation of the pandemic. “I tried so many times to do it on my own and would last a week or two. I will forever be grateful for this place.”

Jamie Lovley is substance use prevention specialist for Knox County Community Health Coalition, a division of Penobscot Bay YMCA, and in partnership with the community. For more information about this project, call 236-6313, ext. 4, or email jamielovleykcchc@gmail.com. If you have a problem with substance use, call 211 for Maine resources that can help.