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Ashlea Leslie

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.”
 

I share this quote because it holds so much meaning to me. Growing up in a wonderful home with loving parents is something everyone wishes for, and for me that was reality. My sister and I were raised to know right from wrong, we were raised in love and compassion. When I turned 14 years old my life was turned upside down. My dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and high hopes of chemo and possible radiation being the treatment. During his first surgery, the doctors came out to speak to us as a family, breaking the news to us that the cancer had spread throughout his body. Stage 4 cancer is all I really remember them saying in this moment. My dad continued treatment and we placed our faith in a complete healing. For 11 months we would watch him decline after every treatment but continued clinging to a healing. On July 21st , 2003 I would celebrate my 15th birthday surrounded by loved ones in our home. The following day I woke up to my family coming together surrounded by the bedside of my dad. We held his hand until his last breath.

While attempting to learn how to live our lives without my dad, life would be shaken all too soon, again. One year and one week after the death of my father I was across the road from a scene full of ambulances and police cars. Not knowing at the time what was going on, but was soon informed of the death of my Uncle (my dad’s brother). The emotions of sadness consumed me. I wish I could say things slowly got better, but that’s not how it happened. Everything I had ever known in my life fell apart. From family to friends, life as I had known it would never be the same.

My senior year of high school was a tough year to say the least. We put our house up for sale and moved to a new town. Weeks before graduation I was excited to graduate and start a new chapter in my life. Only I was faced yet again with death. A knock on my door late one evening in May 2006 would shake my world yet again. A lifelong friend of mine breaking the news of a car accident my cousins had been in. My heart sank knowing something was wrong. He drove me to the hospital while I called my family to meet and also the place we would find the news that my cousin had been killed on impact in the accident. Breathless this time. My mind could not process what was really going on. How could this be happening again filled every thought. I felt like I had lost everything. I lost loved ones, I lost friends, I lost family, and I lost the “true love” relationship I had been in for 5 years. Knowing the extent of my depression, I started seeing a psychiatrist and began taking prescription Xanax. I also began socially drinking which was not something I ever thought I would do. The combination of the two substances eased my depression. I began to party a lot which led to me being introduced to pain pills. It started off small with hydrocodone but quickly led to OxyContin. I thought I had found everything I was missing in life until I came across Opana. This is where everything changed. Before I knew it I was in full blown addiction. I could not hold down a job. I needed the drugs to keep me “normal.” I used drugs to celebrate. I used to mourn. I used to have a good time. I used to relax. I used in hopes to be able to live and I also used in hopes maybe I would die. I became a tornado in the lives of my family and friends causing damage everywhere I went. The drugs consumed my every thought, my whole being. I could not go without it and I would do anything I had to in order to get it. Multiple arrests and institutions would become my life in between the fixes. I was broken. I was lost. I was hopeless.

My last arrest would be the turning point in my life. I was granted one last chance in addiction treatment. I entered the doors of Karen’s Place on July 22 nd , 2013 (10 year anniversary of my dad’s death) bound in chains. I was bound by depression, bound by drugs, bound by death, and bound in legal issues. I won’t lie and say I wanted to be there because I didn’t, but I was for the next 100 days so I had decided I would make the best out of a bad situation. Day by day I changed and one by one the chains were being broken. I found peace. I realized that I can be happy. I found myself. I found amazing friendships. I found my husband. I found hope and I found the strength to continue putting one foot in front of the other! The Lord restored everything the enemy planned to destroy in my life. I have replaced depression and drugs with a Savior who loves me! I am blessed to be able to share my story with others in hopes that they can find this freedom!!!


Describe your aha moment?
My aha moment came a few weeks into treatment during an inner healing session on forgiveness. I walked away a changed woman with this verse etched in my heart. “Peace I leave with you; My [perfect] peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid.
[Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge.]”


Describe the feelings and emotions while in active addiction?
Broken. Numb. Angry. Selfish. My addiction had completely taken over. I was no longer a loving daughter, sister, or friend. I had become a lying, manipulating, thief. My addiction told me that everyone owed me something.


What is the driving force that keeps you going when times get tough?
Worship, my personal relationship with Christ, and sharing my experience, strength and hope with others.


What advice do you have for the addict that is still struggling?
It doesn’t have to end like this. During my addiction I had accepted I would always be an addict and that was all I’d ever. But let me tell you this, it’s all lies!! There is freedom to be found, and we can recover!!


What obstacles or roadblocks have you encountered along your recovery journey?
Death. I had only been clean about 7 months when I had multiple encounters of losing close friends and loved ones, yet again. I found myself in the same pews in the same funeral home, consumed in the same sadness as years before. Only this time something was different. I had a great support system and tools to get me through.


What is something you want people who have never struggled with addiction to know?
Addiction does not discriminate. It affects each and every one of us somehow, someway. Education is key.


What advice do you have for family members of person in active addiction?
Do not give up even when it means “tough love.” Learn healthy boundaries. Don’t blame yourself, it is not your fault and there’s nothing you could have done differently.


Closing thoughts:
Do not judge. I have never met an addict that says, “I woke up one day and wanted to be this way.” There is a reason it happens and it’s up to us as a society to help change the stigma that addiction carries.