REGION — Glenn Gordon of Rumford has watched the evolution of addiction and the treatments for them over the last 35 years. An outreach clinician with Oxford County Mental Health Services and liaison to help people with addictions navigate resources, Gordon understands how frail the line to recovery can be.

Glenn Gordon works with Oxford County law enforcement as a liaison for people seeking help with drug and alcohol addition. Supplied photo

His own experience with alcohol and drug addiction began when he was a young teen. His first experience with recovery happened when he was 20, after he was spent time in jail. Seventeen years later he relapsed, and sought recovery again in 2008. He has been sober since then.

He was not the kind of kid one would expect to become an addict. By his own definition, Gordon was just a nerdy kid. He had not experienced childhood trauma. His family attended church. His childhood and social life were pretty much run of the mill.

Gordon began using as a social experiment with pot, a way to fit in. He liked smoking pot and all of a sudden he did fit in. But then he migrated to other drugs.

“I got involved with drugs and alcohol when I was about 13, I grabbed onto it with an enthusiasm that probably most of my classmates did not,” Gordon said during a Zoom interview Monday afternoon. “Within a short time I was using drugs and alcohol daily, and then getting in trouble with the law. I was in and out of psychiatric institutions.

“By the time I was 18 I was selling drugs in jail. And as I hit 20, I hit bottom. I got sober, and was clean and sober for quite a while, more than 17 years. I hadn’t had a drink, mostly with the help of 12-step programs.”


But during his thirties, Gordon found himself in a period of disillusionment and frustration with the direction his life was going. He began to drink, thinking to himself that maybe he wasn’t really an addict. He was wrong, and struggled to live with drinking for another five years.

“I hadn’t drank in like 17 years and within two weeks I was getting called into the office and asked, ‘what are you doing?’” he said. “I was already getting in trouble. I ended losing pretty much everything. My house, my family, my kids, my job. I was on the skids. For a little while I had a car, sleeping in parking lots. I joined a YMCA and took showers there before work. Trying to act okay. I hadn’t lost my job yet so I was trying to make it look like nothing was going on.

“Then I came back and got sober again, and I’ve been sober for 13 and a half years.”

These days, Gordon is committed not just to his sobriety, but to helping others in search of it. Late last year he joined the Maine OPTIONS Initiative (Overdose Prevention Through Intensive Outreach Naloxone and Safety) as a liaison to Oxford County’s law enforcement agencies. When police officers and sheriff’s deputies have contacts with people with substance abuse issues, Gordon’s business card is included in a packet of recovery resources the departments provide.

It is a new program, with one clinician in each of Maine’s 16 counties. Before the OPTIONS initiative got off the ground Gordon’s work was done by volunteers. Now, he is Oxford County’s dedicated addiction coach, building an official network of help and establishing relationships to support those ready to seek sobriety.

“I do some coaching,” Gordon said of his work. “There is some case management. Often I help people with barriers that can prevent them from seeking treatment. They may be in jail, they may homeless. It is a complicated process.


“We look at it in simple terms like ‘put down the drug’ or ‘put down the drink’ which at the end of the day is the answer. But sometimes if someone is in a tough living situation, that needs to be addressed before you can gain any traction with their substance abuse problems.”

Being the first in the position, there were no procedures in place when he started last November. The county program is modeled after one used by the Portland Police Department. The first order of business was to adapt an urban program to work in a widespread rural region.

Gordon also focused on aggregating recovery resources into a bank of sorts, establishing a network that those seeking recovery could easily navigate. He met with each law enforcement department in Oxford County to introduce himself and explain his role as a liaison to them.

“There was no framework in place,” Gordon said. “We had goals and targets and spent about five to six weeks building that base.”

Gordon’s first contacts through referral came to him on Dec. 30. In February and March his phone began ringing more often, at least three times a week. And in June he began hearing from as many as five or six a week. Since January he has worked with 88 people seeking help through the law enforcement referral plan.

His work with clients varies according to their individual needs. Some pursue resources Gordon has introduced them to. Some choose not to move forward; these he will continue to check in with so they know he will be available when they are ready. He currently works with 30 people directly in some capacity, whether daily or occasionally.


“Progression is different for each person,” Gordon said. “A person’s recovery is what they decide it is. There is no judgment on what they choose, I just want them to know that when the time comes they want to talk, I am here.”

Treatment options have expanded over the years. When he was younger, there was generally one medical treatment for alcoholism: Antabuse, which would make a person violently ill if they drank while on it. In the eighties Gordon said that in Maine only Mercy Hospital in Portland had an in-treatment program.

“Today there are so many medications available to help with addictions,” he said. “In the eighties I don’t think there was one methadone clinic in the state. There was not that much heroin or opiate abuse in New England in rural areas. Treatment has changed because drugs have changed.

“There are more avenues for treatment too, from a seven-day detox to longer term programs, to sober living, a growing option in Maine. It offers different levels of care and staffing; basically it is people living together in a house trying to get or stay sober. It has support in a communal setting, access to counseling and treatments, and also help getting a job.”

In the past when Gordon worked towards his own recovery, he looked to 12-step programs. He continues to attend meetings for his personal but also his professional benefit.

“It’s what I do in my personal life, but also for work,” he said. “The whole premise of staying sober, and this is my experience and my belief. If you want to achieve long term sobriety, the way to do it is to pass it on. Pass it on to the next person in line. Otherwise you’re wasting it, or you’re gonna lose it.

“That’s my driving force. It’s what I do.”

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