This is my little girl. This is the person I see. I look at old pictures trying to find something that should have given me a clue as to what her future would be. I thought if I did the best I could, Ash would have a happy life, however that would look to her. Even after her difficulties in high school, the fire, and the loss of another relationship, I still remained optimistic and had faith.
We had done the best we could after the fire. My son created a blog about Ashley’s recovery. I believe it to be the best blog I have ever read. The love, concern, support, the heart his words conveyed…people looked forward to reading it daily.
I was fortunate enough to be able to move to Charlottesville into an apartment with Ash for a year and a half. We would be close to her doctors as she needed pain management, skin grafts, physical therapy, and plastic surgeries. That experience is another whole story. The point is, we muddled through with lots of tears but also a lot of laughter. Keeping the humor at 3AM while dressing wounds for hours was crucial.
Eventually, I was able to move back home. It was over a year after the fire when we attended our first burn survivors conference in North Carolina. Ash met a burn survivor there to whom she eventually became engaged. She did move to California with him and the wedding plans were moving forward. We had even gone dress shopping. I recall how she was sick the day we were visiting the bridal salons and vomiting in the bathroom, trying not to soil the dresses.
She seemed better after lunch and blamed it on a flu. Later, I found she was in need of drugs. Did I see it or suspect it? No.
Some time after, I had a call from her fiance that she had kratom delivered to their home. She obviously did not want him to know. (More on kratom later.) I cannot remember all that transpired as I was a continent away but her abuse of pain killers led to their break up and she was in California without a job and needing to find a place to live.
It was so hard and I kept remembering how she woke up after a month long drug induced coma to find life as she knew it had disappeared. Her dreams of marrying Brett and having babies, moving to Blacksburg, she was in nursing school, working part-time, and performing again. Gone. Of course she was depressed. Still recovering physically but emotionally, I cannot to this day imagine what it was like. Self medicating.
Ash did not want to come back to Virginia as she said bad things happen here. Yes, bad things happened because of choices she made. After my son and another friend spent some time with Ash out in California, my son told me we needed to stage an intervention with her.
This was at Thanksgiving. I was so happy that both my children would be with us at our log cabin in West Virginia playing games, laughing, hiking, and just being together. The realization of what I heard hit hard. This was not going to be the quintessential Thanksgiving holiday.
It is difficult to understand addiction until it smacks one in the face. We look at events in our lives from our individual perspectives; what we have experienced. I did not drink in high school but that changed with graduation, turning 18, and heading to college. I never wanted the kids to know that I had smoked pot, thinking that they would think it was okay for them. I could take it or leave it, never craved drugs or alcohol. Even though there is alcoholism on Ashley’s paternal side (I did question to see if it was on my side too but found no evidence of it), my feelings were that we had discussed it and the sadness of this disease. Denial? Sure. It was painful and unbelievable that my daughter (face it, we can always see the innocent child in them) had to suffer with this. I remember her telling me at the time that she was proud she had never done heroin. Hard to believe now, but I took comfort in that it had not gone that far. That did not last long.
There are so many experiences but I wanted to get to our introduction to rehab facilities. We had no idea where to begin so, of course, began the Google searches. There are so many rehabs in California that it was overwhelming. I was researching intervention specialists, the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Program, certifications, licensing, reviews, and specific rehab centers. Most of the programs I found were anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 for one month. We made phone calls to further research the facilities, willing to pay anything to help her beat addiction. Beat addiction? Almost laughable if not so painfully tragic.
December 12, 2010. Two days before her twenty-eighth birthday. It feels like so long ago. So much had happened between the fire and this point. So much has happened in the last seven years. We finally decided on a treatment center in the Lake Arrowhead area of California. It made me nauseous to think of my girl going there. Her brother was taking her so that helped.
There would be an initial screening evaluation, individualized family treatment, group therapy, recovery planning groups, twelve step meetings, individual counseling, alcohol and drug education, treatment planning review, relapse prevention, psychodrama, and grief and loss counseling. Breathalyzers, alcohol and drug screening, and a list of rules and expectations. Rules, not Ashley’s favorite thing.
She went through detox and much of this I cannot really describe. I wasn’t there. Would not have wanted to see her go through detox after what I had seen her go through physically and emotionally from the fire. I just have read in books and heard that it is absolute hell. Vomiting. Uncontrollable shaking. Body needing to be plunged into a tub of ice water. Still, I would have taken her place.
Shortly after arriving, Ash told me she had a concern about joints made of spices that were being sold at a gas station and, of course, the product was not allowed in the facility. Ash was concerned about temptations and talked to the “boss” of the rehab. I was told a house search was conducted and there was a client with a quantity of it. I applauded Ash for taking care of herself. What a great first step and I was encouraged.
My memory on some of this is fuzzy. Ash may need to clarify some of it. Shortly after that incident, while visiting family for the holidays in Ohio, I got the phone call that she and another client were to go to a gym but ducked out and went to a bar instead. There was also the time where she was allowed to go down to the docks on the lake and met up with someone who had alcohol.
Disappointed but still believed she could do this. Surprisingly, they kept her at rehab. It would only be a couple of weeks and I would be going out to see her for the family program at Betty Ford. I had no idea what that was going to be like.
I wish I had written more down at this time. It was so scary and so hard to believe it was my child. But like I have said before, “Why not her? Why not me? We are no better or different from anyone else. It happens.” I had to keep picking myself up for her. I thought this would be the worst we could go through, she would finish rehab and work here program.
This was no way the worst.