Recovery Spotlight: Ashley B

My Name is Ashley and I am a grateful recovering addict and alcoholic. My story is long and complicated so I’ve gone back and forth trying to decide what’s most important to share with you. There are many things I decided to leave out but I hope what I share can reach at least one person that needs a little hope.

Growing up my life was very chaotic and difficult. My mother was also an addict and alcoholic. Because of her addiction and lifestyle there were a lot of men in and out of our lives, a lot of things happened to me and in front of me that no child should ever endure. My peace of mind was stolen very early on in life. When my mom was intoxicated she was very mean and abusive, as a child I felt a lot of loneliness, fear, anger, and pain.

School was always a struggle for me, I got teased and bullied on a daily basis. I didn’t put forth any effort on my school work because I felt like it didn’t matter I wasn’t worth anything anyway. The first time I tried to commit suicide I was 13. I was broken and didn’t know how to keep going. My Mom couldn’t deal with me so she sent me to my aunt and uncles for about a year. The second time I tried to commit suicide I was 15 and took my first drink soon after that. I drank to get drunk from the very beginning. I got sent away again, I felt unwanted and not good enough. Soon I started to dabble in drugs while alcohol stayed my first love. I dropped out of school and then became homeless at 17. I was using anything and everything that would take me out of me. I was empty and broken. My addiction put me in many dangerous and violent situations time after time.

When I turned 18 I started working at a Gentleman’s club in West Virginia, which only fueled my addiction. I got attention and free alcohol and made a lot of money to support my habit. My mom and I started using together which only made things worse.

At 21 I caught my first criminal charges for stealing to support my addiction, I got off with a slap on the wrist and probation but a year later I was in handcuffs again. This time I didn’t get off as easy, I had to serve time, I sat in county jail in the worst withdrawal I had ever experienced. I was coming off of methadone, heroin, crack, and alcohol. I wanted to die. My Mom got arrested soon after and we were locked up together for several months. When we got out we both went right back to drinking and the drugs soon followed. Then I found out that I was pregnant, I stopped the drugs right away but struggled with drinking. But I still stayed around the same people and toxic environments and before long I was using drugs and drinking while pregnant. The guilt and shame was eating me alive, I didn’t want to hurt my baby but I didn’t know how to stop. I called my probation officer and asked for help, she agreed to help me and we started looking for treatment options. But the first few months of my pregnancy was chaotic and blurry, before I could get into treatment I was arrested for some very serious drug charges and was facing 25 years in prison. By the Grace of God I was allowed to go to treatment. I went to a long term treatment center for women with children.

I went to court to face those charges 4 days before I gave birth to my son. That judge said he saw hope in me and was going to give me and my baby a 2ndchance but I had a lot of time over my head, one mistake I would serve it all.

During my pregnancy I was on methadone and lowered my dose as much as I could but my son was born methadone dependent. Thankfully he only had minimal withdrawal symptoms but that wasn’t something he should have had to go through at all and watching him in pain because of me broke a piece of my soul. I hadn’t accepted that I was an alcoholic so when I got out of treatment I continued to drink. I told myself that my problem was drugs not alcohol. I had gone back and forth between methadone and Suboxone for years, I was terrified to come off of everything and go without having something in my system. My second pregnancy was the same, I hated myself for it but couldn’t stop drinking and using. My youngest son was born almost 7 weeks early, Gods favor was on him as well. Only by grace do I have two healthy boys.

My mom had moved to Florida and gotten sober and asked me to move there. I was dead inside and needed something to change so I packed up our lives and got on a plane with a 6 month old baby and a 2 year old. Terrified and feeling more alone than ever I took a leap of faith. My mom started taking us to her church and I found a relationship with God that I didn’t know was possible. But I was still sick and hadn’t given my will up. When I left Maryland I was receiving OxyContin and Percocet from a pain doctor, but in Florida things are different and the pain doctors wanted more than double the money, so I got on Suboxone again and shortly after back to methadone.

Being in Florida with my mom felt like a second chance. She was really my mom this time and I got to know who she was sober and she got to know me, we grew very close. She was a daily part of me and my boy’s lives. They loved their me maw and she definitely loved them. But about a year and a half later my mom relapsed, after a night of drinking and getting high she showed up at my house intoxicated and we fought about it for most of the day. I managed to get her home and then did everything possible to avoid dealing with her anymore that day. The next morning there was a knock at the door, the police had been trying to find me all night. My Mom had lost control of her car, she was in the trauma ICU. When I got there the doctors told me that the nature of her injuries were not survivable, she was brain dead, that she would never never again talk or laugh or even regain consciousness, the woman I knew, Gail, My mom was gone. Our family flew down from Maryland, we all sat in disbelief and heartache. We made a decision that she had suffered enough and it was time to let her go. My heart was broken, as I sat there and watched as she took her last breaths every memory I had of us good and bad flashed through my mind.

I did all the things a daughter should do, I planned the funeral, packed up her things, made the calls. But when that was done I was lost so I did what I had always done, I drank. For about a week my focus was drinking to forget, to forget that she was gone, to forget that I refused to answer the phone, to forget that I couldn’t save her. Someone in my life pointed out to me that I was doing the very thing that killed her. By God’s grace I haven’t had a drink since. But I used my methadone to numb it all out.

About a year later I had some heart issues that I’ve had most of my life flare up worse than ever before and I had to have surgery for the second time. But this was the worst episode I ever had and I thought I was going to die. I started getting severe panic attacks, several each day. I became afraid of everything, I was trapped inside my own mind. My doctor prescribed Ativan which drove me further into my numbness. I spent the next 3 years standing still, I was stuck. My heart problems didn’t get any better and I was hospitalized over 20 times. I was wrapped in constant fear.

I decided it was time to come back home. I consequently made a decision to get off the methadone and Ativan and tried to wean myself off, it didn’t go so well, I needed help. So I went to the ER and was admitted to the psych unit for 6 days where I continued to detox. I had been telling myself that I wasn’t using because I was only taking what was prescribed, but that wasn’t true. It doesn’t matter if it was prescribed, I am an addict I use anything that’ll take me out of me and that’s what my pills did. From the psych unit I went to a 28 day rehab, something clicked this time. I knew I had to do something different, I was sick and tired of living this way. My counselor suggested that I consider a halfway house. At first I refused, there was no way I was leaving my kids that long. But I knew this time had to be different, I had to be willing to do whatever it took so I agreed to go. Part of the halfway house was intensive treatment 4 days a week, daily AA and NA meetings, and individual counseling. I got a job at a restaurant a few blocks away. I got a sponsor and started working the steps, I started to see a change in myself.

At 6 months clean I was served with paperwork stating that my step sister had filled for custody of my boys. During my stay at the halfway house my communication with my children got more and more sporadic, there was always an excuse of why I couldn’t see them or talk to them. I was only able to see them 5 times in the first 9 months. After the first few months I wasn’t able to talk to them on the phone at all. This was the hardest thing I’d ever been through, being separated from them has been excruciating. At court it was decided that my step sister would get temporary custody of my oldest, and custody of my youngest was given to his father. I told the judge I wasn’t ready to be a full time mom again yet. That was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make but I had to be completely honest for them and for me. I get regular visitation now and we get a chance to rebuild our relationship.

I completed the halfway house and aftercare a few months later. I continuously put in the work on the steps with my sponsor and see the results of that. The past year has been the hardest of my life but no matter how hard it is or how much pain I’m in, today a drink or drug isn’t the answer, God and the 12 steps are. I take suggestions today and do my best to give back what’s freely been given to me. By the grace of God in a few days I will have a year clean and sober.