Vineyard House grad stories grip the crowd

Island community toasts recovery at 22nd annual Water Tasting.


Recovering from addiction is invariably a long and hardscrabble affair for everyone involved, so the opportunity to float in the sea of serenity at the annual Water Tasting event to benefit the Island’s sober house is special. 

And the 22nd annual Water Tasting to benefit the Vineyard House evoked that reaction from many of the 250 to 300 people on the lawn of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum Thursday night as they looked over spectacular vistas of the Vineyard Haven waterfront.

Board president Jane Seagrave offered that perspective in brief introductory remarks: “Addiction is a disease of isolation, so let’s enjoy this opportunity for fellowship — and great food — tonight.”

Vineyard House is a sober living residence serving the Island community of Martha’s Vineyard for the past 22 years. The new campus in Vineyard Haven opened in late 2014 to accommodate up to 18 men and 7 women in separate houses. Residents pay rent to live in a supportive environment, and are expected to work, attend 12-step meetings, and contribute in other ways to the community. The attractive campus also includes a separate administrative building and conference room available for community recovery activities.

The Vineyard House has evolved from a group of essentially make-do houses to a clean, make-you-feel-good environment in which to put a sober life back together. Kate Desrosiers, executive director of the sober house, says the house is generally full, with a waiting list. Desrosiers did not reference the point, but veteran sober house volunteers often fretted about low occupancy issues before the new campus was available.

One veteran volunteer, Island builder John Early, was a prime mover in fundraising for the new campus, and on Thursday Seagrave announced that a new community meeting room has been named for Early, who is retiring from the board.

These days, residents have about 7,000 days (more than 19 years) of sobriety collectively in a given year, Desrosiers said Thursday night. But she noted that recovery is measured in days, and told the crowd that a day of sobriety at the Vineyard House costs $45.

“Residents pay rent, about $18 a day, and we raise the other $27 through events like this and donations. So you can provide someone with a day of sober living for $27,” she told the crowd. The Water Tasting raises about $65,000 a year, so fundraising is a key part of administrative life at the Vineyard House, Desrosiers told the Times on Thursday.

Both Seagrave and Desrosiers emphasized they see a remarkably improved rate of success — measured in Vineyard House residents rebuilding successful lives — in the new environment. If you ask longtime supporters and fans of the Water Tasting, the success stories are the draw.

Longtime supporter Mike Cassidy, a builder and craftsman from Edgartown, said the stories matter: “The event always includes real stories from residents. I like the fellowship and celebratory nature of the Water Tasting, but listening to residents speak makes the event, I think.” Max, a woman in her 40s and a former resident, said she became an addict at age 12. “When I was in enough pain as an adult, I asked for help, and you were there for me,” she told the crowd.

So Max had that long, hardscrabble recovery journey, but has come out the other side. A bright, articulate person, Max said, “I came here as an adult. I didn’t know how to shop, do laundry, pay bills. I didn’t have those skills,” she said in humorous self-deprecation. “I know today that [people in recovery] deserve beauty, respect, and second chances. You taught me, and you value me today, you ask for my input on how to do Vineyard House things better. You let me come home, and I’m grateful.”

Danny, in his mid-30s, is perched on two-plus years of sobriety, or as he puts it, “892 days today.”

“You taught me how to get well and stay well, to be accountable to the house team. I made my bed every morning for 18 months. This [living at Vineyard House] is the best decision I’ve ever made. My kids are back in my life. I have a job, bought a truck. You gave me a safe place to figure out how to become the person I always wanted to be,” he said.

As Cassidy said, those stories are the keys, and why people like Jan Buhrman put on a five-star restaurant feast on an economy budget, why Big Sky Tent Co. provides a ginormous tent edifice for short money, and why the M.V. Museum donates its property. 

In all, nearly four dozen Island institutions, artists, companies, and organizations supported the 2019 event as sponsors, donors of cash and services, and silent auction items, ranging from big hitters like premier sponsor Rockland Trust, M.V. Bank, Cape Cod 5, and Cape Air to other local businesses. including Mocha Mott’s and Tabor Tree Service. It’s also why Island Food Products donated the water, and Net Result prepared and sent over the raw bar.


  1. Don’t forget this Sunday night, July 28, is a very fun concert fundraiser with a Ben Taylor and others at the Tabernacle to help addiction issues. Tickets at

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