- Friends & Family
- Mental Health
Submitted by: Susanne Johnson
On July 5th, Ashley celebrated three years of continuous sobriety. Alcohol was always her main pain, although she tried other substances along the road. At a young age, she used to be allowed to enjoy a wine cooler or similar drink on New Years Eve with her family, but her regular drinking started at about age 15. Both of Ashley’s parents are alcoholics, she saw drinking as a normal activity her whole life. Her sister also had troubles, but also entered recovery later on and celebrated a year last January.
“In school, I was attracted to the kids who did all the bad stuff,” Ashley explains about her beginnings of trouble. “I watched what my parents did, mostly my dad. When I was a kid, I thought drinking was totally normal; it was all I knew. I was self-harming and cutting at a very young age before the alcohol came into play. This was my first addiction. Once I got a little older, I noticed that I was different than all the other kids my age and around me. I was afraid to voice my concerns, but I knew already in teenage years that I might be an alcoholic. I was very young and wanting to have fun, but I always had that gut feeling that I was facing a big problem. The big book says that there is a line that you cross from where the progression starts. I believe I did not have much of a progression, I started off as a black-out drinker. I always needed more.”
As a black-out drinker, Ashley had that bad wake-up several times where she didn’t know where she was or knew the people around her. At one time, she was in downtown Fort Lauderdale to have some fun and next thing she knew was waking up in a hotel in Miami. She had no car at this time and no idea how she even got there.
She went to treatment in 2007, she was Marchman-Acted by her probation officer. Prior to this the court forced her to attend 12-step meetings. She had no desire to get sober or attend any facilities. She remembers her first 12-step meeting after all of her legal issues that she attended on her own in a little church. That day, she arrived at the parking lot and saw all of the people going in and she felt so scared. She almost didn’t go inside. Once she was in the room, she raised her hand and said that she was an alcoholic. It felt good in there to her. She still has the big book that she received that day, which is falling apart by now, but she loves it, because it was her life saver. At that meeting, Ashley finally found that she was not alone anymore. She found people with the same problems, the same disease and the same struggles. It felt good to her to be there.
Ashley didn’t stay sober at first. She was still on probation and mandated to go to some meetings. She attended meetings here and there, but just couldn’t stop totally yet. The day finally came that changed her life, as she drove the wrong way on a one way street and had a collision that sent a man to the hospital. Luckily he was without major injuries. It was one of the first eye-opening events in her life regarding her alcoholism. The disease forced her to keep drinking for another six months before she finally made it into long-term recovery. She got sent home from work smelling of alcohol at age 26, and reached out to a friend, asking her for help. She has been her sponsor in the 12-step program ever since.
“The man I sent to the hospital is on my amends list. I haven’t made it so far yet. There is a lot on it. I had a lot of alcohol related outbursts, one day I even beat up my roommate for not giving me my alcohol, which got me also in legal trouble. I’m nervous to make those amends, but very excited at the same time,” says Ashley, “I know it will feel good and I know it’s the right thing to do.”
Ashley tried twice to go to college, but always spent more time partying and drinking than studying. She didn’t make it. She worked as a server, as it suited her lifestyle at this period in her life. “I had cash in my pocket every night and went straight after work to the bar across the street and gave it to them,” she mentions.
Her parents kicked her out during her drinking times. Today she knows that it was important and that they had to stop enabling her alcoholism. Her father, a retired police officer, had her even arrested once at age 18. Today they can laugh about it, their relationship has drastically improved.
“I was never married. I had boyfriends. If one relationship wasn’t going the way I wanted, I already had the next one waiting,” she says, “I cheated and wasn’t a good girlfriend to any of them. Thank God I don’t have to go back there. My recovery is based on the 12 steps; I was with my sponsor every single day for a year and still have almost daily contact with her. I went to a halfway house when I was six months sober. I still live there and I now help those who newly arrive there.”
Ashley is in school again today and studies art education. She loves to be creative and does painting, collaging, and all kinds of crafts. To someone new, she loves to say, “Everything that your head is telling you is not true. We are not bad people. Work the steps and get a sponsor, be honest with yourself and your sponsor.” Ashley once thought that her sponsor was crazy; she couldn’t believe that those 12 sentences had the ability to change her life. She is certain today that the steps work. It’s hard to explain why or how– just give it a try, be open-minded and open-hearted.”