Members of Portland’s recovery community will gather Saturday at the Sahara Club to celebrate the life of Mindy Armstrong, a registered nurse at Mercy Recovery Center, who had a passion for helping others recovering from alcoholism and addiction.
Ms. Armstrong, who helped many in the Portland area to get sober, also struggled with addiction. She took her own life, and her body was found on Feb. 10 in her Portland apartment. She was 60.
The nurse’s sudden death came as a shock to many in Portland’s recovery community.
“It’s made people step up their game,” said Lisa Silverman, a friend who worked with her at Mercy Recovery Center. “Anyone on the fringes who has heard about Mindy has said what can I do to make sure this doesn’t happen to me. It’s about asking for help even though you feel ashamed.”
Ms. Armstrong dedicated herself to helping others consumed by the disease. She was an R.N. at Mercy Recovery Center in Westbrook, the largest substance abuse treatment center in Maine. She worked in the detox unit assessing patients, doing intakes, and steering people on the path to recovery.
Glenda MacLachlan, who worked at Mercy for 20 years, said Ms. Armstrong was an extraordinary nurse. She recalled the day Ms. Armstrong saved a young man’s life.
“He fell out of the car, blue in the face,” MacLachlan said. “His friend was screaming and before I knew it Mindy came flying out of the front door. She got on her hands and knees and did mouth to mouth resuscitation and brought him back to life. She didn’t hesitate. She just saved that young man’s life right there on the spot.”
Ms. Armstrong was a member of the Maine Medical Association’s Medical Professionals Health Program. The organization provides support and advocacy to medical professionals struggling with addiction or mental health issues. She worked directly with medical professionals to make sure they got the treatment and services they needed.
At Mercy, she was also a clinical instructor for nursing students from the University of Southern Maine.
Ms. Armstrong was remembered by friends this week as a fireball of energy. She was described as fun-loving and free-spirited. She loved dancing and attending concerts. She loved to have fun and never took herself too seriously.
“She was like a freak of nature …like a storm that wasn’t going to hurt you,” said her friend Zoo Cain, of Portland. “She was one of those people… very vulnerable, but very outspoken. Mindy would give a voice to the downtrodden. She could lift the spirit of a room. When she walked in a room, she wasn’t very quiet about it. She wasn’t quiet about anything except for her death.”
Vincent Dufort, her husband of nearly three years, opened up last week about her life and untimely death.
Ms. Armstrong grew up in Stockton, Calif., and graduated from Lincoln High School. She went on to nursing school at the University of Nevada, Reno, and graduated in 1977. In 1993, she received her master’s degree at California State University in Sacramento. She spent her career working in hospitals and alcohol detoxification and rehabilitation centers in Maine, Massachusetts and Antigua.
Dufort met Ms. Armstrong on Facebook in early 2009. At the time, she was working at Crossroads Centre, a drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation center on the Caribbean island of Antigua. In May of that year, she moved back to Maine.
“She had a lot of energy. At the same time, she had a sadness to her,” Dufort said. “I miss her energy. She got me started with running. It was one of our first connections. We ran together. We did a lot of dancing and had a lot of fun.”
Ms. Armstrong struggled in recent months with her own sobriety. Dufort said she stopped going to 12 step meetings and didn’t reach out for help.
She is also survived by a niece, Nicole Horton, of California; and a close friend, Shawn Wilson, of Kansas City, Mo.
A celebration of her life will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Sahara Club on Washington Avenue in Portland. Another memorial service is planned for 2 p.m. March 22 at Old St. Paul’s Church on Congress Street. A potluck will follow.
Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: