My name is Ashley Gabbard (Neeley). I am a recovering addict who has found my calling in life — helping other addicts achieve sobriety.

There is something in the eyes of an addict who has turned her life and will over to God and slowly built her life and relationships back that makes you know God is real.

I spent seventh grade in a foster home with a very nice lady. My grandma got custody of me when I was in the eighth grade because my parents by then had spilt up, and they were both trapped in sickness as well.

My grandma was my saving grace. She always gave great advice and loved unconditionally. Those things I promised I’d never do I was doing.

I started experimenting with drugs in ninth grade. I started with smoking pot, and by 10th grade I was partying, sneaking out drinking, and had found something I spent years loving more than anything else: pain pills. I could do a pain pill and everything seemed to make sense, made things a little easier. One or two pills a weekend ended up becoming five or six a day.

I was being sexually active and thought, “I’m just a teenager.” Then, when I was 17, I went to the doctor and found out I was pregnant. I was in shock. I was just a kid! I didn’t know how to raise a child!

All I knew is I wanted to give my child a different kind of life than I had, and I wanted my child to never go through or see the things I did at a young age.

I quit all the drugs on April 18, 2003.

I gave birth to the most perfect baby girl. Her father and I started a toxic hatred for each other very shortly after I brought my baby girl home, and I started using drugs again. There was a lot of fighting, physical and mental abuse.

I thought I could maintain and be a mom, work, and hide a generational curse of addiction. Man, was I wrong.

I left my baby’s dad and moved back in with my grandmother. She watched my daughter while I worked.

During this time, I found the drug took it all from me – METH. Within a couple months of doing a lot of meth and partying I found out I was pregnant again.

I only felt like I was happy if I was high. Because I could never stay sober long enough to pass a drug screen, my kids were taken by the Department for Community Based Services and placed in foster care.

At this point, I completely shut down. I had been in and out of jail, and my youngest children were placed with my ex-mother-in-law. My own selfish mistakes were like a death sentence and the hurt never went away.

In 2016, I did heroin for the first time. I remember saying I want to feel like this forever; it made all my hurt feel numb. So now I was either going to die or go to jail. My life was like shattered glass.

I did have good periods of my life where I would be clean for six months at a time, have my kids in my life, work do as I should, and have a home. But I’d always find a way to mess things up.

I hated what I was. I’d like to blame it on coming from generations of drug addicts, but it was no one’s fault but my own. I remember praying and begging God to take it all. I was angry at God for the things I went through in life.

In April 2018, I was doing lots of drugs, running from charges, and was in a really bad situation.

One day I got a ride back to Jackson County. Little did I know this ride would change my life for the good. I came back with this guy who was in Drug Court and was clean.

I slept that night for the first time in a very long time. While I slept, he watched over me and checked my purse, which had drugs inside. When I woke up, he asked me to dispose of the heroin. First, I thought, “Yeah, right.” But somehow it was so easy to flush it! I was sick of it all.

He helped me change my life, and we have been together since April 7, 2018. I have my kids back. I am a mother, a wife, a friend.

 I pray for the mothers whose babies are in foster care and feels there is no hope at ever getting her babies back. God changes people. I know that firsthand. I pray for the addict who numbs the pain because it hurts too bad to breathe. I was you.

Today, I do recovery events Faith 4 Recovery (Sling Some Hope) and have all these people who have, like me, overcome all the obstacles. They come and speak openly about it. These people who are suffering with addiction know there is a way out. You have an army of support behind you, and I want to make those resources available for people here in Jackson County.

I love these addicts. Most of them have had a lot of bad happen to them in their lifetime, and drug use is their only way of coping. If you see someone suffering, please not make fun of them. You never know what they have gone through.

If you are struggling with addiction and need help, please reach out. The best thing I ever did was get sober. My youngest two kids buried their dad last August. He passed from a drug overdose.

It was so painful to watch their hearts break. It was an eye-opener as well. If I hadn’t gotten sober, I, too, would have died.

Please reach out. Come to some of these events. You’re not alone. I love you! Your children love you! Please get sober before it’s too late.