Steven Berry had a grayish, scruffy beard with long, dark hair pulled back in a ponytail.

His right arm was covered with tattoos. He wore a baseball cap, smoked cigarettes and drank coffee. And lots of it.

Berry was an active member of Portland’s recovery community who had a passion for helping others struggling with alcoholism and addiction.

As Berry worked to maintain his own sobriety and help other alcoholics, he was suffering quietly from his own battle with depression.

Berry died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his camp on Bonny Eagle Pond in Buxton. Police were called to Berry’s home on Jan. 14 and discovered his body. He was 50.

“He was really trying to be the man he wanted to be,” said his girlfriend, Christine Carland of South Portland. “He was really trying. He was showing up, but he really struggled picking up the phone to ask a man for help. It’s so important to ask for help.”

Berry was remembered by loved ones Wednesday as kind, loyal, thoughtful and compassionate. He was a gifted artist, whose drawings ranged from crows to images celebrating his Native American heritage.

He loved riding motorcycles and had a slight obsession with the rock band Journey.

A longtime Portland resident, Berry had a soft spot for people struggling with alcoholism, addiction and mental illness. He was known to walk around the Old Port and frequent local coffee shops to sit and talk with people.

Berry grew up in Portland and attended Deering High School. At age 17, he dropped out of school and began working in the kitchen at a home for the elderly. There, he met a girl and started using drugs. At 18, he married her. The marriage didn’t last.

In the years that followed, Berry’s drinking and drug use progressed. He was arrested multiple times and spent time in jail and federal prison.

His sister, Lisa Berry of Portland, said he got help for his mental health issues in prison. When he was released, Berry transitioned to sober living. He got a job and started to rebuild his life, she said.

Berry earned his GED and enrolled in Southern Maine Community College, where he obtained an associate degree. He was accepted into the University of Southern Maine and recently completed the requirements for a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science.

“I was so proud of him,” his sister said.

For the past year, Berry was a care associate at Day One’s residential facility in Hollis. He worked with young men, ages 14 to 20, in substance use treatment.

Sue Miller, operations coordinator for the Hollis residence, said Berry had a profound impact on the boys. Miller said they respected Berry and appreciated his wisdom about recovery.

“Steve loved these kids and he made that very clear,” Miller said. “He was direct, but kind. He was really good at calling them out on their stuff. … He was good at reminding them that nothing would change if they didn’t do something different.”

Miller said the boys have groups led by clinicians twice a day. She said it’s been an emotional week.

“It’s very sad for them,” she said. “They knew Steve was a positive support for them and they are missing that. … He was someone who was moving forward in life in positive ways. It’s incredibly sad that he’s not with us anymore.”

Berry was a spiritual person who loved being in nature. Tom Kane, a friend and father figure to Berry, said he loved being on the water. He said Berry liked taking his dinghy out on Bonny Eagle Pond and visiting islands on Casco Bay.

“That’s where he found the sunlight of the spirit,” Kane said.

Berry struggled over the past few months. In November, he found skunks living under his camp. In December, his heat stopped working and his pipes froze. Berry was recently staying with his sister in Portland.

“I tried to reassure him that everything would be fine, but he got darker and darker,” his sister said. “On Thursday morning, he plopped down on my bed and I said, ‘Do you feel better today?’ He said, ‘I don’t feel like living any more.’ ”

She said her brother recently started taking a new medication and had an appointment to see his therapist.

On Jan 12, Berry drove to his camp in Buxton and took his own life.

“He should have gone to the frigging doctor,” his sister said. “God damn it! Why didn’t he go and get help? I’ve never seen him like that in my life. It wasn’t even him.”

Kane called Berry twice on Jan. 12, but he was unable to reach him. He had encouraged Berry to get outside help. He offered this advice to people struggling with depression.

“Don’t keep it inside. Ask for help,” he said. “When you express it, you take the power away.”

A celebration of Berry’s life will be held from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 28 at the Sahara Club, 57 Ashmont St. in Portland.

Anyone feeling depressed, in despair or having suicidal thoughts may call Maine’s 24-hour-a-day crisis line at 888-568-1112.

 

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