Nine months ago, Holly Gartmayer‑DeYoung of Eastport had a premonition. She needed to get in touch with her son. So she headed for where he lived, homeless and addicted to drugs, in Long Island, New York City. It took 24 hours before he finally responded to her text messages and agreed to meet. On September 15 she and her son, Matt, were among the estimated 100 people who took part in a Walk for Recovery in Machias.
"I think it was a miracle that he even said let's meet," says Gartmayer‑DeYoung, remembering that the she and her son had dinner and talked about addiction that weekend before she returned to Maine. She says she brought her son information on programs to assist him in getting clean, but she recognized he had to decide for himself if this was what he wanted. She was driving on I‑95 across the Piscataqua River Bridge back into Maine when he called her and said he made the call and would be enrolling in the Arise Addiction Recovery program in Machias. He already has a job as a carpenter and plans to stay in the area after graduation in October. "I feel good," he said as the walk was about to begin.
Other walkers included Jeannie Vose and her boyfriend, Reb Brown, both of Machiasport, who walked in memory of Vose's son, Ian Parker, who died from an overdose in 2011 at the age of 27. Vose said she found it comforting to be with others who have had similar experiences, and she hoped the walk would give hope to those in recovery.
Tristan Nelson and Sara Johnstone, both of Jonesboro, led the walk from Station 1898 to Bad Little Falls Park carrying a banner that states, "Walk for Recovery. Together we recover. Break the silence. Break the stigma." Nelson said, "We've been in recovery ourselves." Clean for 17 months, he said, "I think the best weapon we have to fight addiction is awareness." Johnstone, who has been clean 14 months, said, "People need to see there is hope." Both said they were pleased to see such a good crowd. "When I was actually using it didn't seem like anyone cared," said Nelson.
The walk was organized by the Community Action Team, which evolved from forums held last fall, says Abby Frutchey of Northfield, one of eight team members. "We're trying to break the stigma, let people know there's help and hope," says her husband, Brian, another one of the team members. Both are also in recovery. "This is awesome. I didn't expect this big of a turnout," he said.
Once the group reached the park, everyone lit candles and stood together. "It's awesome to see something like this in this town," said Paul Trovarello, who runs the Arise program. "There's a family dynamic here. This is what it's going to take to defeat addiction."
Brian Frutchey invited all the participants to speak about their experiences if they wished. Several of those who spoke said they had lost more than one person to addiction. A couple of them thanked everyone for being there to offer support and encouraged them not to abandon addicted loved ones.
"It's really a family journey, and it requires love and compassion, not judgment," Gartmayer‑DeYoung said.