As the New Program Director of Living in Recovery, Julie MacDonald Brings Experience and Excitement to the Role  

Julie MacDonald is the program director of Living in Recovery, a program established in 2018 to provide a variety of non-clinical, peer-led support, educational, and social options for the recovery process. The program, funded by ServiceNet and located in Pittsfield, supports all pathways and stages of recovery and emphasizes making the recovery experience engaging, fun, and sustainable.  

As a person in recovery herself for the last three decades, Julie began her career in clinical work as a substance use recovery counselor before becoming disheartened by how insurance and other roadblocks hindered the process. She left the field to pursue other interests, but as the years passed and the opioid epidemic hit, Julie was pulled back into recovery work. When she learned about Living in Recovery while working at ServiceNet’s emergency shelter in Pittsfield, she was immediately excited to become part of an innovative approach that embraces ownership and inclusion in the recovery process. 

“Living in Recovery is peer-led, peer-directed, and peer-driven, meaning that our members are the ones making decisions about what happens here. And that is beautiful in many ways,” Julie says. “When we bring peers together, and they’re in charge of directing their recovery and what they do in their recovery, that can empower them.”  

Julie also appreciates how Living in Recovery values various pathways to recovery and multiple entry points and methods. This can include supporting medication-assisted treatment, programming that explores different spiritual concepts and ideas, recovery yoga, social programming, and much more.   

“In recovery, there is no one cookie-cutter approach,” Julie says. “We are all individuals, coming from different backgrounds, different belief systems, and different experiences. And we want to offer programming that respects those differences.”  

Living in Recovery also emphasizes the social aspect of recovery and the value and need for peer support as people learn how to enjoy their lives in new ways—offering everything from music events and bingo nights to cookouts and more.   

“When people come into recovery, there’s a very set way that that they were likely living,” Julie says. “But when people put down alcohol and drugs and everything that goes with it, there are suddenly holes in their life. It took me a year and a half to dance sober. And it took all my friends to pull me up on the dance floor because I didn’t think I could dance without something medicating me. So, the social aspect is a way for people to network, not only for support when they’re struggling, but also when they want to have fun.”

For Julie, this work is profoundly satisfying. She feels lucky to have come full circle in her professional journey and is enthusiastic about what is next, including expanding the program’s reach further into the community.   

“I started this recovery journey 32 years ago,” Julie says. “Professionally, I’ve held many different jobs during that time, but my heart has always been with people who are struggling, helping them to see a different view and perhaps different potential that they might have.” 

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