From the Podcast: Get to Know Your Host, Ashley Loeb Blassingame
In this very special episode, the host of The Courage to Change: A Recovery Podcast, Ashley Loeb Blassingame, shares her harrowing recovery story. Ashley graduated from UCLA in sobriety, is the Director of Healthtech Women OC, and the Co-Founder of Lionrock Recovery. Ashley is happily married to a sober husband, is a mom of three-year-old twin boys, and she is celebrating 14 years of recovery. Ashley’s story is raw, real, and gut-wrenching; to listen to her incredible story in its entirety click here.
At 7 years old Ashley’s family moved to Northern California from Boston, and she immediately felt the culture shock of moving to a new area. Ashley attended Catholic school and she excelled in her studies, but she never felt like she fit in. This difficult transition at a young age brought Ashley’s coping skills to the surface. “I truly believe that I was born an alcoholic. I have the disease of more. I always wanted to feel differently than I felt. I wanted to be anyone else, anywhere else doing something else. And I never really fit in anywhere,” reveals Ashley.
Ashley had her first drink at 7. She stole a beer from her parents’ fridge and drank it in her closet. “I was looking for something to feel better, and this was something I knew I wasn’t supposed to do, and therefore it had attraction to me,” says Ashley.
Ashley felt like she was born with a large void that she could never fill. She hit puberty very young and she started to feed that void with male attention. Ashely’s smoking and drinking increased in 6th and 7th grade. In eighth grade, Ashley started using cocaine with friends from another school. “Cocaine is the drug of more. I think the high is the feeling of wanting more that is, in and of itself, the high of never being satisfied. And so that was the drug that really spoke to me,” Ashley reveals. Cocaine was not the drug that brought Ashley to her rock bottom, but it was the catalyst that brought her from experimentation to addiction.
At this point Ashley’s parents knew something was going on, but they did not know the extent of her addiction. “There was a lot of sneaking around and lying, but I was always getting good grades,” explains Ashley.
When Ashley entered high school, she increased her using and continued experimenting with other drugs. During her sophomore year she was moved to an alternative school; a school for delinquent kids who can’t make it in the mainstream school system. “I met new people who were using, and I started dating a guy. I dated a lot of guys that were older than I was. This is a very stereotypical story for young women and girls who struggle with addiction,” explains Ashley. Her boyfriend was 14 years her senior and a heroin addict, and Ashley was doing cocaine up to six times a day. “The drugs and the alcohol are the solution to the problem, but then they become the problem,” Ashley explains.
Over time Ashley became curious about heroin. “Eventually, I wanted to try and so he put a needle in my arm for the first time I was 15 years old. And I overdosed that first time and I vomited. It was a terrible experience,” describes Ashley. Several months later, the curiosity came back. Ashley was 15 and getting more and more addicted to cocaine. The effects of the cocaine began to wear off, and the curiosity of using heroin came flooding back, “when my survival was threatened, needles didn’t seem so bad because the feelings, the void that I had, was worse. It was more painful than the thought of needles, which terrified me. And so, I crossed that line.”
Her boyfriend who she likened to Charles Manson due to his ability to manipulate her, moved into her parents’ home with her. “My parents were so afraid that I was going to die, that they actually let him live with us. So, I was 15 and he lived in my room with us. And that was the only way I would come home. My parents knew that if he lived in our house, that I would come home every night,” says Ashley
Ashley ended up at a psychiatric facility after hallucinating on meth, where she was left to detox. “I got there and was like, “I am never doing this again. I don’t want to use anymore. I don’t want to drink anymore. I don’t want to do drugs. I’m done. I’m done. This is just killing me. It’s killing my family,” Ashley shares.
Ashley had a sound resolve to change, but a couple days later she met back up with her boyfriend and went to an Avril Lavigne concert. They met two guys at the concert, who convinced Ashley’s boyfriend she was cheating on him, so he left her at the bar. They proceeded to tell Ashley her boyfriend left her and she felt helpless. One of the guys handed Ashley a drink and that is the last thing she remembers.
The next thing she remembers is being helped into the back of a truck. “I don’t remember anything else until I come to the next day. I woke up the next day in a bed, in a house that I didn’t know, and all my stuff was gone. No shoes, and I heard a woman upstairs scream, ‘Oh my god, she’s awake,’” reveals Ashley. She did not wait to find out what that meant, she got up, found the nearest door and ran down the street barefoot, “I ran down a major street and I ran as fast as I could for as far as I could until I got to a Safeway.” Ashley called a friend, who then called her parents and they came to pick her up. After the kidnapping, things spiraled even more out of control. The abuse in her relationship got worse, “There was physical abuse, but honestly, the mental, verbal abuse was so much worse,” explains Ashley.
At 17, Ashley had an encounter with law enforcement that prompted her parents to send her away to a private lockdown facility in Utah. “Level 5 is where they have locks on all the windows, all the doors, and I was in level four,” says Ashley. After nine months, Ashley was not getting better, and her parents brought her home, where she was thrown back into normal life. “Now, I have no friends in the area because I’ve been gone for a long time. I’ve been off the map and my parents have turned my bedroom into a sitting room,” says Ashley.
Ashley was home for a few months and eventually overdosed on heroin. Her father found her just in time. “I woke up from an overdose and with the paramedics pounding on my chest, with Narcan in my arm. They’d cut my shirt off. So, I was totally exposed and my family was screaming. And my grandmother had been performing CPR and I was blue, and still had a needle in my arm,” explains Ashley.
To this day, Ashley has no idea how she got the heroin. “The truth is that if you do have this disease, you may not be in control of what you do while you’re under the influence. And that was the reality for me,” says Ashley. The overdose was incredibly traumatic for Ashley’s family.
Ashley was sent to a psychiatric ward and eventually went to GateHouse treatment center in Arizona. She was 17 and living in a community of young adults, learning how to be sober. Unfortunately, Ashley did not stay sober there, she ran away and got drunk again.
From there, Ashley went to Meadows Substance Treatment Program, “I learned the day in, day out life skills, but I really hadn’t learned how to process the emotions and the pain that led me to be in a relationship like the one I had been in,” says Ashley. Once again, she didn’t stay sober and had come to terms with the fact that she had a very serious drug problem, but was still unsure if she was an alcoholic or not.
Ashley started drinking again and was attempting to “drink like a normal person”, meaning keeping bingeing on alcohol down to as much of a minimum as she could. She was living in Arizona at the time, and she got into a horrific fight with her live-in boyfriend. The combination of alcohol and an emotional breakdown was enough to send her searching for drugs to quell the pain. She drove to a trailer park in Phoenix and started knocking on every door until she found heroin, but they only had used syringes. She felt like this was her only option.
“I used the junkie folklore using Clorox and pumping through the syringes 10 times and said a little prayer and hoped it worked. I shot up probably about 25 times total in each arm small shots of heroin so that I wouldn’t overdose. I was trying to pace myself. I lost my vision and my hearing for a period of time, which was really terrifying,” reveals Ashley.
Ashley blacked out and woke up hours later back in Prescott with two guys in her house that she didn’t know. Her car was gone, and her boyfriend was banging on the door trying to get in. “My arms were frozen and bent out in front of me. I had infected all the veins in my arms, and it was incredibly painful to move them. I could not move them,” she vividly describes.
Ashley’s boyfriend called her mother, and her mother flew in and took her to the hospital, “I was in the hospital and my mom, who doesn’t cry very often, sat next to the bed. And I’ll never forget this. And she looked at me and she started crying and said, are you going to make me bury you?”
This was a turning point for Ashley, she knew what she needed to do, “I made the decision to continue to stay sober. And that turning point of admitting to my innermost self that I was an alcoholic, really changed the game for me, because there were no back doors, there were no trap doors, there were no ways out of this anymore. I knew it was all the same thing. And I knew that in my innermost soul, and it changed my recovery. It changed the questions in my head.”
Ashley started attending Alcoholics Anonymous regularly and committed to truly working the program. She went to meetings, had a sponsor and surrounded herself with like-minded friends. She met her now-husband; it was a beautiful time in her life. She started community college studying political science, then moved to Los Angeles, and graduated from UCLA.
Ashley and her now husband moved back to Orange County and got married in 2015; in 2017, she gave birth to fraternal twin boys. “They will get to grow up with sober parents as long as we stay vigilant and work our programs and our recovery and make it number one in our lives. If your recovery does not come first, everything you put in front of your recovery, you will lose. I was taught that very early on. And I do believe that.”
Quotes have been edited for clarity.