Portland, Maine: The Best City for Addiction Recovery in New England.

Portland, Maine: The Best City for Addiction Recovery in New England.

Maine has paid a high price for the opioid epidemic. Since 1999, overdose deaths have increased by more than 500 percent, giving the state the eighth highest mortality rate in the US. 

However, Maine’s tale is not one of dread and gloom. Quite the contrary. As it turns out, young individuals in addiction recovery from all over the country are flocking to Portland to recover from substance misuse disorders. They come here to improve themselves, to educate themselves, and to find work. 

 The state’s largest metropolis has developed into the Eastern Seaboard’s top recovery hub. Local recovery activists report that the sober-living community in the greater Portland area has grown from a few scattered houses a decade ago to about 100 today. The neighborhood has developed a reputation as a safe haven for alcoholics and addicts attempting to defy bleak statistics, with half of those who join recovery relapsing at some time. 

 As a result, sober living young individuals from as far afield as Tennessee, North Carolina, and Florida are fleeing to northern climes in search of recuperation. 

“Portland has become a mecca of recovery on the East Coast,” says Aaron Shepard, director of The Plymouth House, a treatment and addiction recovery clinic in New Hampshire. The 12-step-based sober living organization spearheaded the charge, beginning in 2009 by sending recently recovered addicts and alcoholics to Portland sober living. 

“It just kind of happened organically. Portland is a manageable city with employment opportunities and a decent cultural life,”Shepard asserts. And there is such a solid recovery community. The people who are going there are being taken care of.” 

Sean’s narrative stands in stark contrast to the never-ending news coverage of the terrible drug epidemic. In 2015, the 36-year-old, who requested anonymity, ended up in a highly controlled Portland sober-living community. He had overdosed on heroin, naloxone had saved his life, and he had served time in prison for drug trafficking. He’d been homeless on multiple occasions. Sean has created a career in Maine after four years of sobriety, most recently landing a job as a shipfitter. 

“I’ve been to the end of the road,”Sean explains.  “People like us have lived f—ed up lives. We can’t just go to a 12-step meeting and get better.” 

 While troublesome sober-living communities in other states have garnered national attention, Portland’s sober houses have remained remarkably devoid of police involvement and controversy. The proprietors would like it to remain that way. Numerous organizations have banded together to promote optimal practices in the mostly unregulated sober-living industry. Thus far, everything has gone swimmingly. While code and law enforcement officials have closed a few properties over the years, they assert that the majority have been decent neighbors. 

“You’re going to have a couple of bad actors in the mix,” Michael Sauschuck, who served as Portland’s police chief from 2012 until August 2018, says. He is now Maine’s commissioner of public safety.“Once in a while we’d get a complaint from a neighbor concerned about a ‘new’ sober house in their community. Well, it’s probably been there for 10 years. “ 

Sauschuck collaborated with recovery activists and operators of sober-living houses, maintaining an open-door policy and assigning a full-time liaison to the community to an officer. 


Additionally, state officials point to the migration of young people as a good element. The majority of residents of sober houses are in their twenties and thirties. Many of them are remaining in Maine to attend universities and colleges while they heal. Additionally, they are settling in to establish careers. This is an excellent result for a state with a median age of approximately 44. Maine is losing baby boomers quicker than it can replace them. Simultaneously, demand for social services, senior housing, and medical care is increasing. 

 Emily, 25, moved to Portland three years ago to rehabilitate and recover from years of serious drug use, which resulted in her dropping out of college and becoming unemployed. She has been accepted into a prestigious university’s pre-med biology program after nearly three years of abstinence and maintains a 4.0 grade-point average. 

“I am absolutely staying in Portland,”  says Emily, who requested anonymity due to career worries. “I believe I’ve found a good place for healthy growth in the things that are important to me: recovery, school, work.” 

 State officials assert that people who remain in recovery and work in Maine benefit the economy. 

 Behind Bars, a Rebirth 

“We’re glad that our state is a place where people with substance use disorder are able to enter recovery. And we look forward to having them engage in the workforce when they’re ready. We’re focused on growing our workforce and it’s critical that we get as many people into jobs as we can,” Commissioner of the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development, Heather Johnson, states. 

 Nonetheless, many entrants to recovery face impediments imposed by criminal records. Because the majority of firms would not accept convicts, stability and recovery are difficult to sustain. Margo Walsh, creator and owner of MaineWorks in Portland, pioneered a new employment model eight years ago, offering jobs, health care, and financial assistance to persons reentering the community following incarceration or coping with prior offenses. Walsh employs between 40 and 100 employees and specializes in gardening, construction, and road building. 

“MaineWorks is there to help people move past the stigma of their past,”Walsh explains. In the majority of cases, “MaineWorks is there to help people move past the stigma of their past,” 

 There are further hurdles to healing that advocates are attempting to overcome. Sober living is frequently prohibitively expensive, and almost all sober houses are for-profit. Certain Portland-area residences charge between $3,000 and $5,000 per month for superior activities that include rock climbing and room-specific flat-screen televisions. The majority of activities are lean, costing between $450 and $2,000 per month. 

 The Family Restored, a Portland charity founded five years ago, assists families in paying for treatment and sober living. The charity was able to award $151,000 in scholarships in 2018 by raising cash through an annual silent auction and a 5K run. 

 The proprietors of Portland’s sober-living houses have united to confront another issue: the absence of sober living laws. There is no federal control and, in the majority of cases, no state oversight. This creates an opportunity for dishonest players. The proprietors established a chapter of the National Association for Recovery Residences, or NARR, in Maine. NARR established the Standards & Certification Program in 2011, which establishes an ethical code of conduct and quality, access, and choice standards. Today, 21 sober-living homes in the Portland metropolitan area are NARR-certified. 

Sarah Coupe, co-founder of the chapter, intends to recruit additional owners. According to her, sober living can act as a lifeline between treatment and independent living. Grace House for Women, her three-house sober-living community, offers a highly structured program based on the 12-step model of recovery. She describes it as a safe space for women to reintegrate into the mainstream community. 

“We belong in a neighborhood. We need to reduce the stigma,” close to alcoholics and addicts, even those who are in recovery, Coupe says. “We belong in a neighborhood. We need to reduce the stigma,” 

Our sober house directory is a fantastic resource for finding homes, but ultimately it is up to you to discover the ideal one for you. While accreditation and a professional outer look are a wonderful place to start, you should do further research before making a decision. Don’t be scared to ask any questions you may have! While many homes provide excellent sober living, we have a particular fondness for Vanderburgh House, which we attribute to the fact that they assisted in the creation of this directory. 


If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to run a sober house, we recommend you to contact Vanderburgh Communities, which was the first organization to give sober living charters in the United States. They can answer any questions you might have. Maintain your composure and take things one day at a time! 





  1. Recovering from Addiction in Portland, Maine | Healthiest Communities | US News 
  1. Losing Our Minds: Brain Drain across the United States – Losing Our Minds: Brain Drain across the United States – United States Joint Economic Committee