I felt as if drinking was the only thing that kept me sane

I was born and raised in New Orleans, attended a local catholic high school, and graduated from a local catholic university on the dean’s list.  My mother raised three of us on her own as my father worked offshore.  She instilled strong values, morals, and ethics, and gave us all the love we wanted—still does to this day. When I first choose to drank, I was 13 years old.  I had just been accepted into the first 8th grade class at my high school, and I was heavily involved with my ballet studio.  There was a student at my studio, who was also a senior at my high school, and instead of taking her freshman little sister out for a traditional night on the town, she chose me.  Our night involved gallons of daiquiris, me getting sick, passing out somewhere, being hung over for class the next day, and loving that feeling the day after.

My other classmates were envious of my night, and I chased that feeling for the next 21 years. All through high school, I managed my drinking—saving money here and there just to be able to buy what would get me through the weekend.  My alcoholism blossomed as I felt the need to drink whenever I was to be in a social situation.  It’s all that I would look forward to throughout the week.  My high school career was marked with excellent grades, scholarships to colleges, and much family pride.  My family really thought I was meant for great things in life, be it as a ballet dancer, a doctor, or perhaps even biologist.  I felt as if I were meant for great things.

The next logical step was college, and so I continued along the path others choose for me.  I loved college, but more importantly, I loved the college life.  Even though I was in a significant relationship with my high school sweetheart, I began to experience the power of manipulation.  Away from my family and friends, I realized quickly that I could use my prowess to get what I wanted, love and affection, since my boyfriend was in another state.  My actions brought about a sense of incomprehensible demoralization that I quickly pushed away by excessively drinking.  I could always blame alcohol for the reasons behind my actions.

What first brought me ease and comfort quickly became my scapegoat. My disease progressed when I returned home after a year and a half because the boyfriend missed New Orleans.  I complied, as is the common thread throughout my life, and I finished school in the expected amount of time.  He chose to go to graduate school and so I moved to California with him—my now fiancé.  I began to watch his life expand while my feelings of loneliness and disappointment took over.  I was 2,500 miles from my family, I didn’t know anyone but my fiancé and I did not take any action towards a career.  With a full degree in Criminal Justice, I decided to work in a printing press warehouse driving a forklift, and the highlight of my day was always drinking at the bar right next to warehouse.

At the time, I only drank.  Strangely enough, I would go to the bar saying I would just have one to relax and the next thing I knew, I was driving drunk back to my apartment.  I felt as if drinking was the only thing that kept me sane.  It relieved me of the bondage of depression, loneliness, anger, confusion, and—for a brief moment—I wouldn’t feel as if I were meant for something more, something bigger. My marriage lasted less than a year, and in 2004, our seven year relationship ended.  I finally felt free.  I had moved my life from coast to coast for this person and I was finally making a decision to be on my own.  I found a job as a paralegal, and I was brilliant at it, and just as my career began to soar, so did my drinking.

Two years later I found myself on the kitchen floor in my dark apartment devastated and overwhelmed with depression over a relationship and my first thought was that if I took my life, he would feel as bad as me.  Much to my chagrin, I didn’t succeed at this and I ended up in therapy.  My therapist recommended Alcoholics Anonymous, but I recommended to her that I wouldn’t drink if I were happier.  My argument didn’t win out, and I was willing to try anything to keep from feeling the way I was.  For the next two years, I fully participated in the program and felt as if I finally belonged somewhere.  That however my life turned out, it was going to be just ok with me. Those feelings of uselessness disappeared and I felt as if my career was on the upswing.  I started working longer hours, going to fewer meetings, and no longer keeping in touch with my sponsor.  When the economy crashed, I moved back to New Orleans.  I felt as if I could give alcohol another chance.  It was as if I were reuniting with a lost love. Right when those feelings of uselessness started to creep back, alcohol was right there to quiet them down.

So started my six year relapse, and it took me to worse places than I could have ever imagined—including picking up a bit of a drug problem with heroin.  This new addiction plunged me into a two year downward spiral that landed me into Grace House.  Inpatient treatment was an option I was not willing to put on my list, but, after seven days of detox, I decided I needed anything to keep me away from drugs and alcohol.  The fear was too great.  I didn’t want to live and I didn’t want to use or drink. On August 6, 2014 my mom dropped me off for intake at Bridge House and so began my journey.  At 34 years old, it feels like I am finally growing up to be the woman I always wanted to be because of the therapeutic community at Grace House.  It was not my plan to start my sobriety on July 30, 2014, but for all intents and purposes I should not be alive to even tell my story.  In one hour, I totaled my car, admitted to my mom that I was a heroin addict, and agreed to start detox at my brother’s house.

Thankfully he started his recovery in June of 2013; the hand of Alcoholics Anonymous, fully stretched through my younger brother.  Many fellow addicts steered him to reach out to Grace House because of someone else they knew who went through the program or just how the program has reached out to the community. Today, I am absolutely grateful for the community that I am a part of here at Grace House.  The staff and the clients are my elephants that circle around me and love me until I can love myself.  I have learned that I have a bad disease and Grace House is helping me get better, rather than being a bad person trying to be good.  My goal here at Grace House is to constantly give back what it was so freely given to me.  My name is Ashley F., and I am an alcohol and a drug addict.  Just for today, I am grateful and proud to be a part of this program. Ashley F.

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