When Ashley sat down to tell her story, she immediately told me that "hers was not as bad as others." She felt others deserved to be heard more than her. Ashleys mother began drinking at 16, became an alcoholic, and was pregnant with Ashley at 20. Ashley began drinking at 16, became an alcoholic, and was pregnant at 20.
Ashley's family was considered affluent. Her father was never in her life, and her mother had remarried. She lived in a beautiful home and to outsiders her life
seemed idyllic. Inside, there was turmoil, fear, dysfunction, and abuse. Ashley raised her younger sister and sacrificed her whole childhood to looking after her. Her childhood was nonexistent. She turned to alcohol and became a runaway to numb the pain.
She first ran away at 16, and had a number of abusive relationships. Ashley felt she didn't deserve anything better. She went to Pennsylvania to live with a
boyfriend who was abusive. She stole drugs from medicine cabinets and kept on drinking. She moved to an apartment on top of a bar and her drinking became out of control. She started going to work impaired, calling in sick, and, ultimately losing her job (which she loved) altogether. Then, she realized she was pregnant and "rockbottom" rushed up to meet her.
In Ashleys own words, "I was homeless, in denial about being pregnant, addicted, and at a crossroads in my life. I remember waking up every day thinking that the pregnancy would just go away. I remember pushing it to the back of my mind and not facing it." Ashley was getting no prenatal care for her baby and no care for herself. And then, her mother came forward to help Ashley find a place in which to get help. They searched and searched, and finally went through Catholic Charities who sent her to the Diocese of Metuchen who put her in contact with the Center.
Ashley describes the day she came to the Center:
I cried all the way to the Center, cried through the interview, and then I cried because I was afraid. But I also knew that the day I arrived at the Center I was finally home. If it had not been for the Center for Great Expectations, I do't know what would have happened to me. I am so grateful. I think of what might have happened to my baby and I say a prayer of thanks. He probably would have been taken from me forever. I can't think about that, it is too painful.
Incredibly, Ashley's mother also sought help right after Ashley came to the Center and is still sober today, working to put her life back together. Both women are working independently towards sober and better lives.
Ashley has applied to Naomi's Way — a 3/4 house where she and her son (soon to be born) Bryce will live. Ashley is going to go back to school for a Liberal Arts degree and has decided to be a drug/alcohol counselor.
Ashley's philosophy is:
No one understands this issue better than someone who has been there. I want to help others through it. I am grateful I will have the chance thanks to the people and programs I experienced at the Center.