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Three women with addiction-prone pasts open Millinocket recovery center

Pir2Peer is a new recovery center on Central Street in Millinocket. It means 'person in recovery' to peer, since the founders all have past connections to addiction.

MILLINOCKET, Maine — Sunlight floods the front room of quaint wooden building on Central Street in Millinocket Wednesday morning. 

Inside, a group of three middle-aged women pay no attention to the icy winds outside -- instead, sitting on donated couches and chatting, while mixing together freshly-brewed coffee and powdered creamer. Michelle Anderson, Ginger Collins, and Velma Rudge are on a mission -- and it's a really personal one.

1009 Central Street is the newest recovery center in Millinocket, called Pir2Peer -- coming at a time when these women say the support in this rural part of Maine is necessary. Perhaps, they know best -- all three have fought their own personal battles with addiction to either drugs or alcohol, and now, they're on a mission to help others. The space is not finished yet, but it has exciting potential.

"It all rested with each one of us individually but very heavily -- that we were called to do this," Collins, the President of Pir2Peer, told NEWS CENTER Maine. 

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Anderson, Collins, and Rudge met at a recovery support group, and from there, they decided to take a class at the Bangor Area Recovery Network to become recovery coaches.

"We decided to sign up. We said, 'Oh, heck -- why not? What are we doing? We’re not doing much. Sure, we’ll do it,'" Collins recalled. "That started this journey."

That journey started last March, and just about a year later, it's finally taking flight. It means a lot to these women who have experienced tough pasts with substance abuse.

"When you do bad stuff your whole life, the scales tip," Anderson, the CEO of Pir2Peer and a former heroin addict in San Francisco, explained. "You can’t undo any of the bad stuff, so all you can do is good stuff."

Rudge, the Secretary Treasurer for Pir2Peer, has also seen addiction from a mother's perspective, watching her daughter struggle for a long time.

"I didn’t want any other parent to go through what I went through for my child," Rudge told NEWS CENTER Maine tearfully, later proudly noting that her daughter has now been clean for seven months.

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Their mission began with five-hour long weekly meetings at a kitchen table -- and now, they have moved into their new space, which officially opened to them last month. The women say they're hoping to offer a variety of services, like recovery coaching, training for recovery coaching, coordinating of counseling and other resources -- but mainly, they want to provide people with a place to talk, share their stories, and connect to others.

"We all like to think we got it -- 'I got it, I got it!'" Collins imitated. "But we don’t, and sometimes, it’s the hardest thing to admit -- that we need help."

It's why Pir2Peer is important, especially to a rural community like Millinocket, where help isn't always readily available -- and people are already taking to the support being offered by these women.

"I had a lady at 3 o’clock in the morning inbox me, 'I need your help,'" Rudge said. "Of course, I talked to her -- talked to her for about an hour."

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These women are in the process of trying to become 501(c)(3) certified. It's a long process -- and an expensive one -- but they say that every struggle is worth it, knowing what good it may do for others in the long run.

"It’s just like a dream, and I go sometimes, 'I need to pinch myself -- like, this is real?'" Collins smiled.

"We didn’t set out to do this, but nobody else was doing it -- and really, that’s the bottom line," Anderson added.

To learn more about Pir2Peer, or to donate to their cause, you can visit their website or Facebook page