Breaking the cycle of addiction is taking on a different twist along the shoreline of Connecticut.
Densed trees, a pastoral meadow, and a hodgepodge of creatures fortifies the more than 200-year-old Wildwood Farm, formerly known as the Chittendon House in Madison. The oversized home is what attracted Dr. Michael Hinkley, or “Dr. Mike”, to his patients.
The psychotherapist bought it to nourish a addiction recovery program like no other.
“Recovery at Wildwood Farm is a queer normative extended sober living program. Queer meaning it’s inclusive of all LGBTQ people. The norm here is to be gay or trans or non-sexual, non-binerary.”
Dr. Mike says sexual orientation and gender identity are risk factors that can often be overlooked. He points out that this is critical, because people facing sexual orientation or gender identity issues have a higher rate than average of drug addictions, and relapse.
“Even if they come in thinking that’s not an issue, in time they eventually say wow, I’ve never dealt with that level of who am I as a person.”
Daily meetings break barriers. A once static circle is now more cohesive.
“In addiction, people often have isolation and here we’re trying to pull them out of isolation and feel affirmed in their gender and sexual identity, which takes time.”
16 months, and Tom still calls Wildwood Farm home, “I identify as a gay man, so I identify as gay.”
Tom says he now understands how it impacted his alcohol addition early on.
“Teens are going to parties to meet boys and girls and less to focus on the party aspect of it. That wasn’t an option for me. Nobody knew, so I would focus on the partying side of things. I never thought it had impact, but I think I’m learning that there is some trauma related to pretending to be someone else for a long time.”
That structured program includes the unexpected.
“They didn’t mention doing farm work, so when I got here it was a little shocking,” Tom said.
That farm work, along with painting award winning art, have lead to a year of being sober.
“I found in sobriety, finding new things to do,” said Tom. “You have to replace something that was the center of your life with something else.”
Not everyone at Wildwood Farm identifies as LGBTQ. Ann is an ally, embracing the diversity of those living there.
“I didn’t know what to expect so I didn’t have expectations,” Ann said.
She too is a recovering alcoholic.
“Because it has always been my mission in life to help people, and this is just adorable [a goat is cuddling with her]. If this is a reflection of what people can have in life, everybody should have it.”
Dr. Mike said it’s about creating a friendly and embracing environment.
“The first thing I hope we do is they experience love. That they come and they are accepted and we appreciate. I think if I want to live, I need to remain sober and I think right now this the place where I need to be.”
The twelve-step program includes yoga, daily counseling, and more on the grounds of Wildwood Farm. It’s where Dr. Mike says someone can tell their entire story with people who have no judgement.