Recovering: A Portrait Series

Substance abuse, addiction and overdose deaths are increasing throughout the United States. Within this environment, and as our local headlines are full of deaths, busts and arrests, New Hampshire has become a national focus of attention. Some research estimates substance abuse and addiction to be at 1 in 7 over the age of 12 — more than 40 million people — in the United States. New Hampshire ranks badly among the states, with some of the highest levels of teen alcohol and drug use.

These headlines and statistics give but a cursory glimpse of the suffering experienced — mostly silently — by those with this affliction. Many of these lives are destroyed, some irrevocably: fired from jobs, homes and vehicles repossessed, marriages ended, child custody revoked.

But some are willing to leave behind the anonymity that has shrouded this disease in secrecy. Below are those who are bravely confronting both their addiction and the cultural stigma about who and what kind of person an addict is.

Each individual here has an entirely unique history: family, traumas, choices, substances, rehabilitations, relapses. Some have been substance-free for a year; some for 30. But they all identify as addicts in recovery; they are profoundly grateful for their present lives; and they are keenly aware of the vigilance required to maintain it.

Elizabeth Fossum

Portsmouth, nutritionist and Renaissance woman

“When I started my recovery, I had no idea I was an alcoholic ... I thought an alcoholic was someone who had DUIs, who couldn’t keep a job, who was on a park bench and who couldn’t stop drinking.”

Alex Ray, Holderness

Founder and owner of The Common Man Family of Restaurants

“I guess I had what I’d call a slow progression from those high school days that you found your first beer with friends to three-and-a-half years ago when I ended it ... It got a little bit worse every day and finally I said, ‘That’s enough.’”

Matthew Marisseau

Manchester, carpenter and owner of A Weekend Project

“Life was really good, and I picked up a drink and, within 10 months, I absolutely destroyed my whole life again.”

Dr. Cheryl Wilkie

Senior vice president and director of The Farnum Center

“[In recovery] I saw people that lived lives like mine ­— I mean, there was a lot of violence, a lot of craziness that went on — and they were sober and sane. So it gave me hope that if they could do it, maybe I could too.”

Mike Goff

Manchester, pastor of Great Exchange Church

“I’m just grateful that that part of my life is over. I didn’t think it would ever be.”

Larry Gammon

President of Easter Seals NH

"I was a constant liar. All of us [addicts] lie. We are accomplished liars. That's one thing that sobriety does for you. You don't have to lie anymore.”

Seeking help?

Here is a sampling of recovery resources that are available in New Hampshire:


We invite you to share these messages of hope with others and share your own stories of how addiction has affected your life. Send comments to or leave a message in the Facebook comments below for publication online and in a future issue.

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