As with most everything else, COVID did a number on the Red House’s opening and building programming, but now the peer recovery support center — under the auspices of M.V. Community Services — is thriving, with its doors wide open. There are around 150 members who come to take part in any number of its offerings — yoga, music, art, movie nights, AA meetings, recovery meetings that are not related to the 12-step program — body, mind, and spirit stuff. Or not that “stuff” at all. Sometimes, staff says, just being there with that open door is what someone needs.
The staff is relatively new, with Stacy Wise as community engagement outreach coordinator, Adam Gendreau as program director, and David Ferguson as program coordinator with Robert Cropper at MVCS overseeing the Red House.
The house itself is open and bright, with lots of windows and a huge kitchen. There’s a great room with musical instruments and plenty of books on the shelves. There’s computer space to focus on working on a résumé, finding resources, or signing up for healthcare. Outdoors there’s a patio and a fire pit for chilly evenings. It’s a comfortable, welcoming place.
The real beauty of the center is summed up by something Wise said when the Times visited last week: The Red House exists “knowing that the opposite of addiction is connection, fostering connection within the recovery community, all kinds of recovery, not just substance use disorder.”
Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, they host Recovery Cafe from noon to 2 pm, with free lunch and conversation. Veggie lasagna was on the menu last Friday, made by Wise and served up by members.
“We’re here to facilitate,” Wise says, “we’re open to anyone in recovery … There are multiple pathways of recovery. We have one meeting for all types of recovery, Wednesday at 5 pm. It’s detrimental when a lot of the attitude is that ‘This is the only way that works,’ when in fact we have to embrace multiple pathways. What works for you may not work for that 18-year-old that comes in off the street. We’re all peers, there’s no hierarchy here. No matter what, somebody in recovery is going to be here to help you.”
Ferguson said he hears members talk about how grateful they are to make new connections, to make friends at the center, all the time. “I think it’s great that people in all stages of recovery have a place to come to,” one of the members said. “If you need someone to talk to, there’s always somebody here that can talk to you.”
Plans were being made for a Saturday brunch, Ferguson plans to teach an art class, and the upcoming Sunday morning included a series on the correlation between substance use, mental health, and spirituality.
May is mental health awareness month, so the center was hosting a Sunday speaker on shamanic healing, “talking about living the life you came here to live,” Wise said, “reclaiming your soul, really.”
Lunch was self-serve, with bread and salad to go along with it. A few of the members lingered after the meal was finished, cleaning up and chatting about the Red House and what it means to them.
One member explained that she ended up moving to the Island full-time from Maryland during the pandemic, after spending summers here for years. Working remotely and tied to her computer, she said the Red House helped her retain her sanity during the lockdown.
“This space has kept me from going crazy this winter, because I’m attached to my computer all day, every day. It’s been nice to have a coach to talk to … I’ve incorporated a new and wonderful community in my life.”
The recovery support center has grown well beyond a place to hold 12-step meetings, instead serving also as a place to gather, to hang out.
Another member said that she isolates herself regularly, and the Red House helps her with that. “Especially when you live alone and it’s bad weather, you stay more isolated,” she says. “When you have lunch with people you enjoy, it just turns that day around, and you take that feeling home with you.”
Part of the struggle for those in recovery or those who want to work toward recovery, the staff said, is that you need human connection, not necessarily a series of phone numbers to call. At the Red House, they said, “people here will help you find a way.” And if you’re worried because you have children around the house and no time to get away, bring them. They’re welcome at the Red House too.
Wise has worked in recovery since 2016, part of MVCS’s first recovery coach training, and said her latest role is very fulfilling.
“This is just beyond my wildest dreams, seeing changes in people,” Wise said. It’s a welcoming place, whether you are in recovery or, as Wise called it, “sober curious.”
“Sobriety is fun,” she said; “we laugh all the time.”
The Red House peer support recovery center is open every day. Visit bit.ly/redhouserecovery
for more information.