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. Knox County Voices of Recovery: Stories Restoring Hope

CAMDEN — Theresa Mastricolo is the house manager of 63 Washington Street in Camden, a historical home that has carried on its legacy of supporting women since 1886. In the 20th century the stately house was a home to elderly women, and today it is a home to support women navigating recovery in the 21st century.

“Sometimes people ask us when we are going to start to have women come live here, and that’s when I get to tell them women have already been living here for the past two years,” Theresa explains with a proud smile. As house manager and friend, Theresa gets to be there with women from all over Midcoast Maine who come to have a safe, stable place to restart their lives. The residents of 63 Washington Street are all ages and from all walks of life but have the uniting factor that they are navigating sobriety and recovery from addictions. “The first year of recovery is like infancy. Everything is new again, it can be exciting, but you’re relearning how to do everything.”

The uncertainty of the early days of recovery is something that Theresa is not unfamiliar with. Four years ago, she set out on her own journey of recovery and set into motion a process that led her to Camden and then to 63 Washington.

Born in Pennsylvania, Theresa describes becoming a “fantastic” drunk in the 90s. “Alcohol was my main love, and I loved it more than anything else in my life.” That was until Theresa hit her own rock bottom and ended up in detox and rehab after moving to Maine with her family. From that point on, she knew that getting help and getting sober was the best thing that could ever happen to her.

In the early days of her sobriety, she found her footing by attending Camden’s many public recovery meetings and taking things one day at a time. Soon however, she realized that one major part of her recovery journey was missing, the satisfaction of giving back to others. In recovery groups this concept of service to others is a cornerstone, and Theresa believes that helping others in their road to sobriety is the common denominator in successful long-term recovery.

This is why when she heard about the Mid-Coast Recovery Coalition purchasing 63 Washington Street to turn it into a home for women in recovery, she jumped on the opportunity to volunteer. If you know her personally, and have seen the strength and compassion she carries, it will come as no surprise that she found herself in the role of supervising manager only months later.

“Before I went to detox, I was drinking in my bedroom alone at night in the total isolation that addiction brings. It starts out usually pretty social, but usually by the end of your addiction when you’re about to get off the rails, it’s isolating. So, the fact that I now get to be connected, as this integral part of people’s lives is amazing,” Theresa explains, her face beaming. “I was a drunken restaurant manager from Philadelphia and now I get to be on this beautiful journey with these women.”

“I get to see them pick up chips and celebrate months and years of recovery. I see them get reunited with their kids, get relationships back, jobs back. I see them go to school and achieve goals they thought were beyond them. I promise them they will get everything they lost back and more, and they do.”

Theresa describes addiction as a hole in a person that starts with a lack of self-love. Addictive behaviors, whether it be shopping, food, sex, or substances, share the same inability to love oneself, and that is why recovery tells newcomers, “Let us love you until you can learn to love yourself.”

This focus on unity, community, transparency, and supporting one another makes 63 Washington a beacon of hope not only to others in recovery, but to the entire town of Camden and beyond. In the wake of a pandemic that tried to divide us all, we could all learn to be more loving, accepting, and connected with each other.

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.