Recovery is a Transformation – September 2020


Recovery is a Transformation

As the leaves begin to fall and the chillier air moves in, it’s easy to think about summer memories: vacations at the beach, lazy days at the pool, and delicious food on the grill. For some, Autumn can bring about a bit of sadness as days become shorter and school starts up again (even if it is virtual). But it can be a beautiful time too. Not only do leaves begin to transform into gorgeous colors in September, but a figurative transformation also happens in September. It is National Recovery Month, and in a society where the opioid epidemic is claiming thousands of lives each year, we need renewed hope that recovery is possible.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “National Recovery Month is a national observance held every September to educate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with mental and substance use disorders to live healthy and rewarding lives. Now in its 31st year, Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those living in recovery.”

Rage Against Addiction’s mission is to “provide Awareness and Support to anyone affected by drug and alcohol abuse” and not only do we take great pride in those people we’ve directly helped but we are also proud of those in our community and around the world who have found recovery. But we know it’s not easy. Recovery is a lifestyle, not a moment in time. It requires minute-by-minute emotional and mental work. There is no one-size-fits-all way for someone to begin his/her recovery journey. Individuals may begin on a M.A.T. (Medication Assisted Treatment) plan; they may be forced to detox to get into a rehabilitation center or because they’re incarcerated; they may find a sponsor or a therapist, or both or none at all; they may go to NA or AA meetings; they may read medical journals or the Bible. Whatever way they begin the journey doesn’t matter. What matters is that they’re willing to fight, even when it becomes difficult, because they’ve finally realized that they are loved and valued.

Jeannie Mullins, 56, is an amazing example of resiliency and recovery. She is a former resident of Elkton, MD, and she is currently living in the suburbs of Harford County, MD at Daughter’s House, the first sober living house operated by Rage Against Addiction.  She arrived there a few months ago after being homeless for several years and after suffering a childhood filled with domestic abuse and trauma. She tried alcohol at twelve years old when a group of older kids offered her a drink. “I instantly felt better,” she said of that first try. “That was the ticket. I was not lonely. I wasn’t thinking about getting beat [at home]. I was free.”

As the abuse at home continued into her teen years and into adulthood, so did her drinking. When she had children of her own, she stopped the cycle of abuse, but she kept drinking because it made her feel good. “My fears went away,” she said. “But my kids saw way too many things they shouldn’t have.”

She eventually turned to drugs and ended up homeless in Elkton, MD. She was also diabetic. She lived on the streets, in the woods, and in tents behind a shopping center. During this time, her son was also using drugs and was homeless. “He was a bad addict. I thought I was gonna lose him. Why he’s still here, only God knows.”

As time went on, so did her drug and alcohol use. “I was ready to die,” she said of that time. “There was really nothing left of me.” At one point, she ended up in the hospital for a diabetic-related leg wound, and when she was released about four months later, she found herself back out on the street.

It was there that she felt the beginning of something positive. “A really nice lady gave me a blanket. It was freezing and it was horrible, and I was gonna die…but she kept me alive that night. She made me feel worth it.” A police officer put her in a cab and sent her to Harford County where she had a network of supportive people. She had a history with this particular officer, and looking back, she realizes he was hard on her because he cared. “I was ready to give up,” she said with a hint of sadness in her voice. “But he provoked me into living and to do something with myself.”

Jeannie found her way to Rage Against Addiction’s two sober living houses after finishing a program at a local drug and alcohol treatment center. She initially began at Sister House but ended up at Daughter’s House. “It’s beautiful here. It’s my peace and my God. I can get up every day and just breathe in the beauty and be grateful to be sitting right where I am.”

Jeannie’s progress has been a team effort. Rachel Bongiorno, Daughter’s House Program Director, has been heavily involved with Jeannie’s development since the beginning. She has helped Jeannie get to and from doctor’s appointments, and made sure she was on the right amount of medication to manage her diabetes. Rachel even helped her find a newly furnished apartment that will be move-in ready soon. She provides mental and emotional support and has given Jeannie a purpose. “I did not know how to handle and manage my chaos and she still helps me today. She is my angel on Earth.” Carlie Pennington, a Peer Support specialist, and Wendy Messner, Founder and Executive Director of Rage Against Addiction, have also played important roles in Jeannie’s recovery. “I owe them my life,” she said with a smile through tears. “I am fifty-six years old and I have never ever had hope in my life. Ever. But now I have so much hope…how the hell did I end up there? God, Rachel, Carlie, and Wendy. That’s how.”

Through more tears, she said she is excited about many new things, including seeing her son get married in October. Looking back to the time when they were both using drugs and homeless, she never dreamed they would both end up in recovery. But she now knows it’s possible for anyone to recover from addiction, including her. “There’s still fight in me,” she said proudly of her transformation.

Jeannie believes that the patience, encouragement, and support provided by Rage Against Addiction have saved her life. “I said to Rachel, ‘I don’t how I can ever repay you.’ And she said, ‘you can do something…just stay.’ That’s all she said. So that day I made a commitment to someone that had all my faith in me…I’m staying. I made a promise to her.”

If you’re struggling with addiction, please remember that recovery IS possible. But it can’t be done alone. There IS help. There IS support. Addiction is isolating but recovery doesn’t have to be. Surround yourself with positive influences and environments. Change your negative way of thinking, even if it means seeing a therapist who specializes in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and unhealthy thinking habits. Attend NA or AA meetings, and connect with a sponsor. Practice self-care, including but not limited to yoga, exercising, eating healthier, taking up a new hobby, meditation, taking a walk, or reading a book. (Oftentimes, people use drugs and alcohol to deal with things like stress, trauma, mental illness, etc., so replacing substances with positive self-care techniques is essential to a successful recovery journey.) There is no right or wrong way to begin the road to recovery. It may be grueling, but it’s worth it for a happier and healthier lifestyle. If it becomes exhausting and overwhelming, and you want to give up, just remember Jeannie Mullins’ remarkable story and the powerful message from Daughter’s House Program Director Rachel Bongiorno: “Just stay.” WE DO RECOVER.


Community Resources

​*Please be aware that some policies, locations, programs, and contact information have changed due to COVID-19 protocols.*

Ashley Addiction Treatment: An inpatient treatment center that personalizes clinical programs based on individual needs. Located in Havre De Grace, MD. Please visit here or call 800-799-4673 for information about online and in-person meeting services.

Celebrate Recovery: A local support group for those with addictive behaviors. Located in Bel Air, MD, and Joppa, MD. *Online meetings are still available.*

  • Mt. Zion Church in Bel Air, MD: Contact for more information about online meetings.
  • Mountain Christian Church in Joppa, MD: Please register here to join. *Please check out the updated information regarding meeting details.*

Daniel Carl Torsch Foundation: A non-profit organization that provides drug overdose awareness and prevention, and offers Naxolone training. Located in Timonium, MD. Please visit here or call 443-554-6150 for more information.

GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing): A local support group for those who have lost someone to addiction. 

  • 7:00pm on the 2nd Wednesday of each month. *Please wear a mask and practice social distancing.*
  • Located in the Education Building at Mt. Zion Church – 1643 Churchville Road, Bel Air, MD 21015
  • Contact for more information.
  • The private national Facebook group is available. Please visit here to ask to join.

The Klein Family Harford Crisis Center: A clinic that provides immediate care for mental health and addiction. Located in Bel Air, MD. Please visit here or call 410-874-0711 for information about online and in-person meeting services.

Loving An Addict: A local support group for family and friends of those in active addiction.  

  • 7:00pm every Saturday. *Please wear a mask and practice social distancing.*
  • Located in the Education Building at Mt. Zion Church – 1643 Churchville Road, Bel Air, MD 21015
  • Contact for more information.

​​​​We serve locally but think globally. For counseling, or for addiction, substance abuse disorder, or mental illness treatment, please contact your area’s health department, county government, hospital, or law enforcement agency.


Get Involved

Email Mia Ellis at to share your story of recovery or loss of a loved one. Don’t forget to include a photo!

(RAA reserves the right to edit for content, grammar, spelling, etc.)

Email Carlie Pennington at for more information about a birthday fundraiser that will benefit RAA.

Rage Against Addiction Programs

Daughter’s House: A program that includes two sober living houses (Daughter’s House and Sister House) located in the suburbs of Harford County, MD that is designed to assist women who are transitioning from substance abuse treatment. Click here to visit the Facebook page.

HALO (How to Live Without Our Addicted Loved One): An online grief support group. Click here to ask to join the private Facebook page.

RAA ABC (After Baby Care): A program that provides newborn-care items to mothers in recovery. Please send monetary donations to:

Rage Against Addiction (Rage ABC)
P.O. Box 1
Forest Hill, MD 21050

Rage Club: A program offered for children who are touched by substance abuse disorder. Click here for more information.

Rage Against Addiction Board Members

Wendy Beck Messner
Founder and Executive Director

Amanda Buddenbohn
Vice President

Tara Kuzma
Chairman of the Board of Directors

Rachel Bongiorno
Recovery Coach and Daughter’s House Program Director

Tara Slaughter
Family and Recovery Resources and Support

Carlie Pennington
Peer Support