Mother’s Day at Hills House



By Barbara Norrie

Mothers come in a multitude of varieties. Motherhood means, for the average mom, dealing with a plethora of crises on a daily basis on a good day. If you add to that the disease of addiction, and the extra struggles that go along with that, it ends up being unmanageable for most, and tragic for some. For those who have hit bottom, gained strength borne of love and of desperation, there is help.

Open Door Recovery Center of Ellsworth has been helping individuals and families affected by substance abuse since 1984. Barbara Royal, with the help of clinical staff, has been the executive director since the beloved founder Bill Hills passed away in 1999. In 2016, the message of hope and recovery was made more accessible with the inclusion of the Hills House Program designed specifically for pregnant and parenting mothers.

Some women have suffered unspeakable trauma and adversity. Women of all ages face these obstacles, ranging from physical, domestic and emotional abuse to human sex trafficking and child abductions, to the loss of their children. These women are mothers with the disease of addiction, in which substance abuse is only one of many symptoms. They each endure their own haunted past as well as the stigma of being an addict along with the judgment of society as they attempt to walk the path of recovery.

Hills House helps each woman on an individualized basis, which includes 12-step recovery and peer groups. Some women arrive at the program without their children, with hopes of regaining custody, regaining purpose. Some women are offered the option in prisons and hospitals; some come straight from the streets, fresh from the throes of active addiction.

The one thing all these women have in common is a desire to be present in their children’s lives. From that one common desire they muster all their strength, determination, humility and willingness to support one another as they learn to balance recovery and motherhood, both of which are lifelong endeavors.

Hills House’s staff members watch the growth in the moms as well as the children on a daily basis. Suzanne Torrey, RN, says “It has been a pleasure … As a staff member, I am proud to be a part of [the women’s] recovery and lives.” The mothers and their children learn and grow together, and prepare for healthy new lives. Torrey says the women are “given the support to recover as individuals and, in turn, prosper as parents. Mother’s Day definitely has significance here.”

One mother talks about the lifelong support she has found saying, “The moms I’ve met at Hills House are there for me even after completing the program. They understand addiction and continue teaching me about recovery.” The commitment this program has to treating each woman who comes through makes it “a one-of-kind,” says one client, “I have been to other rehabs and none compare to Hills House, [the staff members] love their work and truly want the best for their clients. I was able to keep my son with me from birth and was able to stay [at Hills House] three months past my discharge date, so that I was able to secure a safe home for us to transition into.” Another mother speaks about her hopes: “I’ve worked so hard to overcome my past and become someone my children can be proud of. I can leave with hope, knowing that I don’t have to face the future alone.”

So, just because these ladies are not the stereotypical embodiment of MOM, the fact remains that they are mothers of precious children who need them. These women are the epitome of courage, strength and motherly love. Addiction may have brought them places they never normally would have gone, but love and recovery have brought them to places they never dreamed they could be.

Barbara Norrie, 28, a native of Hartland, is a special assignment reporter for The Ellsworth American. “I gave birth to three beautiful boys, ages ranging from 8-2 years old. I’ve struggled with addiction for most of my adult life. Recovery has changed my life and the lives of my children. I am honored to have had the privilege of witnessing firsthand how the Hills House program has positively affected the lives of the women and children who reside there.”

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