BREWER – A man who has worked in the White House and now is a lawyer stopped by the Bangor Area Recovery Network (BARN) in Brewer to talk about his previous struggles with alcohol and drug addiction.
He now works with politicians in the state of Washington to help those in the same position he was in years ago.
Local politicians, police officers, and those who have struggled with addiction themselves came out Thursday evening to hear Christopher Poulos share his story.
“Bringing everybody together is the purpose of tonight,” said Poulos.
Originally from Portland, Maine, Poulos grew up in a single-parent home with a family history of addiction. His substance abuse started in his teens, and at 25-years-old, Poulos ended up in federal prison for selling drugs to support his own habit.
“The problem of addiction is regularly showcased and what often isn’t is the other side,” he said, “and that there’s millions of people in this country who have been able to heal.”
Poulos found that healing in Maine through the 12 step recovery program and peer mentoring.
At one point homeless because of his addiction, Poulos credits his grandmother taking him in for helping him heal.
“If I didn’t have the help that I did, I don’t know that I would be alive today,” said Poulos. “What actually helps me stay sober and sane is by sharing what was shared with me.”
But Poulos isn’t just talking about his experience, he’s taking action. After serving his sentence, he overcame stigma and got into law school, interned in the Obama White House, and now works as a lawyer.
His message of not giving up on people caught the attention of Bangor Mayor Ben Sprague and Brewer Mayor Jerry Goss, who invited him to speak at the BARN.
“There’s a lot we can learn from people in recovery,” said Sprague. “I think those are some of the most important perspectives – people that have gone through it and have a story to tell, and Chris’s story is full of hope and optimism.”
Poulos currently works on a reentry council in Washington state, where he lives now. He advises the state government on how to develop policies to help those formerly incarcerated readjust to society.
“To be actually able to get housing, able to get employment, able to get treatment, so that once someone’s debt to society has been paid, there’s a chance of success,” said Poulos.
Back to spread his message and see family in his home state, Poulos is trying to pay his success forward. He said now that he’s back in Maine for a short time he’ll be spending Friday with his brother, who is also now sober after overcoming addiction, and his mother.