Mindful Maggie: An addiction success story

By on November 1, 2017
Maggie Hunt has turned her addiction recovery into a passion for helping others. Photo provided by Janice Ballenger

This is one story in a series on addiction written by Janice Ballenger, who works at Retreat at Lancaster County, a 175-bed inpatient addiction center in Ephrata. She has a burning passion to raise awareness and offer hope to those in active addiction and recovery, as well as to their families and friends through true local stories. This is the story of Maggie.

Maggie lived the typical life of a child growing up, but she wasn’t always mindful. She was a child growing up to become an addict, living with divorced parents and one brother, Danny. Maggie would play with her little shih tzu, Sammy, as she sat on her bed dreaming of becoming a ballerina. She loved when Sammy would play with her long, brown pigtails. Because Sammy filled Maggie’s life with happiness, she would sneak him pieces of her favorite food, pizza. Her mother was a full-time working mom and her father was a drug addict, so meals weren’t very typical. They were pretty much fending for themselves, but they were used to this and figured that’s how everyone lived. But there was a huge void in Maggie’s life that Danny and Sammy couldn’t fill.

So, she turned to drinking alcohol around the age of 12. By 16 she was doing harder drugs, with her father being aware of this. He thought she was only popping pills, so she manipulated him into giving her some of his narcotic drugs, which he did, hoping she wouldn’t do anything really bad. At 18, Maggie was forced into a treatment center due to legal issues. Bouncing from center to center, she was in 10 different facilities in a short amount of time. It was difficult for her to make and keep friends, and the void in her life was still there. She felt that having a boyfriend would help fill the void. That didn’t work. Her breaking point came after an overdose, which she luckily survived. She decided that was it! Having been given a second chance at life, she didn’t know if she’d get a third. She entered another treatment center, vowing that this one would be the last one.

She completed treatment and moved into a recovery house for extended treatment. There she learned how to make her bed, cook and, most importantly, how to be responsible. Realizing that staying free of alcohol and drugs would be a lifelong pursuit, she was terrified to leave her comfort zone and enter the real world. It was a difficult navigation. For most addicts, leaving treatment and/or a recovery house is when the recovery journey truly begins, and it is often the hardest part of sustained recovery.

Knowing that she needed continued support, Maggie was mindful to regularly attend alumni meetings. They served as a beacon for connection and a center of sobriety and healthy living. She found a sponsor and has since sponsored others in their recoveries. Maggie’s enthusiasm, willingness and ability to motivate, engage and support her peers helped her gain self-confidence and realize that she wanted to help other addicts. She has been clean since July 6, 2009. But she is very mindful that this did not come about easily, and it will remain a challenge for the rest of her life. Maggie is appreciative that her mother was always her biggest supporter. Her father is a newbie in recovery and is showing her that AA and working the steps works.

The year 2011 brought big changes into her life. She had a son, born to a sober mother. She claims Luke’s birth as one of her greatest blessings. That year Peter Schorr of Retreat at Lancaster County offered her a job as a clinical aide. She loved the extreme interaction with the patients and knew that she was finally able to help others that were struggling. Through additional schooling and hard work, she was promoted to shift administrator, where she did a lot of crisis intervention and made executive decisions when needed. Maggie radiates with sunshine, caring and deep strength. Her long brown hair flows as easily as her contagious smile. Enjoying her new found life, she later met and married her present husband. They have two young children, Jesse and Rylee.

On the verge of receiving her bachelor’s degree, Maggie Hunt is now the corporate alumni officer for Retreat. Realizing that the alumni are important stakeholders in everyone’s future, as well as advocates and ambassadors nurturing the spirit of recovery, she has put her heart into the program. She loves helping people, celebrating their sobriety milestones, watching them think that they can’t do better in life but then turn around and do it! She loves seeing the promise of life come to them. But she remains mindful of her beginnings and rejoices in her present. Maggie knows that God can move mountains, but you often need to bring the shovel.

She shared some direct quotes from alumni members:

“I’ve been clean since I went into Retreat while pregnant,” says Alyssa. “There I learned that I was going to have a baby girl. After my successful discharge, social services got involved to make sure that I didn’t relapse after her birth. They sent me for drug tests, which I always passed. I’d love to be able to help other expecting or new mothers struggling with addiction. Helping others helps me just as much. Being pregnant adds so many extra emotions and struggles to the process of getting and maintaining sobriety. Not enough people talk about it and not enough people feel comfortable coming forward to get help because of the fear of being judged. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t just go away when you get pregnant, no matter how badly you wish it would. Asking for help is going to be hard no matter what. On May 14, 2017, I gave birth to a beautiful daughter who weighed 8 pounds, 8 ounces and was 19½ inches long. When she was born, her cord didn’t have any drugs in it except Subutex, which was prescribed. She remained in the hospital detox for two weeks and now is a healthy 4 month-old precious baby. I am blessed beyond words that I chose to reach out for help. Every time I look at my beautiful daughter, who already has a hint of red hair, just like I do, I am reminded of this.”

Troy writes, “Hello alumni family! Still happy and clean 17 months! I have a full-time job and I finally have a car! It’s not the Mustang of my dreams, but I’m working towards that. Living life beyond my wildest dreams. Sending love to all of you. Thank you for your continued support.”

Jeffrey shared, “I was actually invited to my parents to celebrate Thanksgiving with our whole family. This is the first holiday that I remember. I said the prayer and I meant every word that I said. I am so grateful to my rehab, my sponsor, my meetings and the alumni. I’m never at a loss for someone to talk with when the going gets tough. Yes, the going still gets tough, even after four years. We had a great day. Then they invited me to come back for Christmas! I am truly blessed. We do recover!”

Janice may be reached at janiceballenger@yahoo.com.


  1. Rosemary Weidman

    November 2, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    Wonderful, hopeful story. I wish Maggie and her baby all the best.

    • Janice Ballenger

      January 17, 2018 at 10:51 am

      Thank you, Rose. Maggie is great!

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