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Before it's too late

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Before it's too late

At 15 Ashley was so excited, She was finally old enough to start a part time job after school at our local supermarket..Make her own money and buy the things she desired..She was very responsible for a 15 year old ...then her and her first boyfriend Justin were in a car accident and they had been drinking I later found out at the hospital..Justin didn't have any injuries but Ashley broke her ankle and had an injury to her rectum,when a piece of the window frame pierced her...We contacted a lawyer and he started a personal injury lawsuit..we now wonder if things would have turned out different had we not sued the insurance co.
At 17 Ashley and Justin had broken up she was still working at the supermarket...My husband got her a cellphone in his name and we even got her a credit card so she could start building a credit history ..What amazed me was, that girl payed every bill she owed on time..her cell,her credit card...We were so very proud of her..Then Ashley got her licence and her Dad wanted to get her a car,So my husband got a loan and bought her a little GEO Metro..Ashley agreed to make the monthly payment...And just as we expected she always made sure her payment was paid on time..
I remember the first day she drove off by herself, No more permit..she was legal now...I was so scared and depressed..It was hard to let go but I managed...She made it home alright that night.. so each day she came home safe I didn't panic as much..She was always asking if she could go hang out in rutland at the parking deck with friends..I didn't care for that but my husband always saw her there on his way to work so we figured it was harmless..
Just before Ashley turned 18 she met this guy named Gary..My husband later found out through a guy he works with that Gary had just gotten out of jail..We still dont know why he was in there..But Ashley made it seem to us that he was the sweetest thing and he cared for her so much..This was soooo far from the truth..
While with Gary, Ashley lost her job for shoplifting where she worked..we could not figure why she would steal an eyeliner when she was in there picking up her paycheck..It made no sense..she had money.But I remember the call from the police officer and I remember an overwhelming sense of Disappointment..We grounded her and she threw a fit..I had never seen her get so upset She needed to see Gary or she would die she claimed..We ended up giving in and ungrounding her early..
A few weeks later Ashley turned 18 ...This was the day she was legally able to get her money from the lawsuit..She had over 120,000 dollars..We thought we had drilled smart sense into her through the prior 2, investing,buying a house, or something where she would make good use of the money.
The day she got her money she had her dad go with her to buy a brand new car..a blue honda civic..She was so excited and the minute the car was bought she had to run right to Gary..I dont even think she had a piece of the birthday cake we got for her..I think she told us to save her a piece and she was out the door..
Over the next few days Ashley was always on the go,not doing her share around the house,just taking showers and out the door.. I got pissed off and called her cell and told her she might as well move out if she was just using us for a rest stop..I really regret ever telling her that because thats what she did..Her and gary started living in hotel rooms and Ashley and I didnt speak for weeks,as much as that hurt me ,but we are very much alike and both very stubborn..she was a senior in high school and i kept getting notes about her absences and my husband called her to warn her she might not graduate if she kept it up..She told her father she would do better and that was that..she did end up graduating but didnt attend the ceremony.
Ashley called me crying one night upset asking if she could come home, I was always stubbornly saying if she ever wants to come home theres no way in hell im letting her, but the moment I heard her ask I said YES come home..She never did tell me why she was upset that night,because she always protected him no matter what,but months later told me he was smoking crack and acting crazy and he wouldnt stop..The next day she comes home after school all happy because he met her after school and told her he walked all the way from whitehall,NY..yea right... ashley was always too trusting..She was right back with him,right back to the hotel ..
Another instance my younger daughter came home and said the police were talking to gary at school and he was yelling..I called and asked Ashley about it and she claimed He went into school yelling at some girls that were starting rumors about her..AGAIN Garys a hero..She later told me he freaked and went into school accusing her of sleeping with a teacher..I will never understand why she didnt tell me the truth from the beginning..Why did she want to protect him and make him seem so great to her father and I?
Early morning may 27,2003 The phone rings and my husband answers it to hear some strange girl telling us that ashley is in the hospital..We rush to the emergency room not knowing whats wrong,every scenario running through our minds..Then a doctor comes out and tells us Ashley has a stab wound and we right away look at each other thinking Gary did it but he then says she did it...and we were floored.. I couldnt wait to talk to her because I still thought she was protecting Gary...We finally go to see her in the rehab,psych unit..and she said she did do it herself to get away from him...At the hospital the officer had alreadygiven  gary a ride back to the hotel where he found marijuana and god knows what else but gary knocked the cop down the stairs and took off running....
In my visits with ashley at the hospital she finally told the truth about Gary, he was no prince like she pretended..He was a sick individual that did unspeakable things to her that i cant even bear to repeat..he wouldnt let her go to school which explained all the absent notices..Ashley also said she once went to the doctors with gary and the doctor asked him if he was still hearing voices..he told ashley that he made that up so he could get out of prison..Now I am no expert but I dont think hearing voices will get you out of prison..I think he probably had a very serious mental condition...
Ashley did confide in her school counelors who desperately tried to help one even brought her to the battered womens shelter so she would know where to go for help..I so wish she had told us what was happening to her but she must have been when she was in the hospital he called and threatened to kill she called the police from the hospital and they go and see my husband at work..the next thing I know 2 officers are at the door telling kids and I to leave the house, even if he wasnt serious they think it would be best i we went to a we did..but after that night I refused to let that bastard scare me, Who the hell did he think he was..No wonder my daughter was a nervous wreck..The hell he must have put her through..while in the hospital he stole the stereo system from her car and took all her belongings from the hotel..she never did get them back and I never even got to see her yearbook, he took most all she had...
In the hospital Ashley admitted to me that she had tried snorting heroin and she had tried crack..I could not believe my smart daughter could be so STUPID..She said the night she stabbed herself she did alot of ECSTACY..I never heard of it before but as I would find out,with Ashley I learned alot more about drugs than I ever thought I would have to or wanted to..
Ashley started seeing a guy named dave and by that time gary had helped her go through half her money..Ashley once said of Dave that she couldnt believe that he never once asked her for a cent or asked her to buy him  anything..He did seem like a real nice kid..I wish she had stayed with him..Ashley wanted to take a trip to new york city with a girl she had met..she said she was going shopping,her and Gary had gone there before and the big city fascinated her..anyway she was gone for 2 or 3 days and dave called worried and said he hadnt heard from her and he couldnt stand the girl she was with.Later that night I called Ashleys cell and she seemed was 6pm but she thought it was morning..So I called dave and told him my suspicions..I think ashley is doing drugs and he said Yes she is,he told me that her and the girl had been doing heroin at a house in rutland and someone called the cops...around midnight Ashley arrived home and I confronted her and asked to see her arms she denied it for a little while..and i asked her what the red spot was on her arm..she finally looked me right in the eye and said it was a track mark..My worldcrumbled..I will never forget the look on her face..or the slap in mine,thats what it felt like anyway..
We tried to talk her into getting help but she insisted there wasnt a problem that it was the first time she had ever tried a needle and promised it would be the last..Why did I believe her?? the summer went on and i remember being out in our backyard and ashley coming home she came out to see me and I could tell she was on something and when I ased her she denied it but a few minutes later she said mom I cant lie to you,I did some oxycontin..and dave made me flush the rest down the toilet..I wouldnt let her leave I made her sit there with me and it was so sad to see this pretty girl face all saggy and itching up a one point she even picked up a rock and started scratching her skin with the rock..I felt so helpless I didnt know how to help her and that feeling would only get worse as time went by..a few weeks later she had a checkup appointment with our family doctor and without ashley knowing I called the office and told them about ashleys drug use..they wanted me to come to the appointment also but i knew ashley would know something was my husband went and picked her up where she had spent the night ,so we made sure she got to that he brought her home and she looked really really bad and I asked her if I could go with her to the doctors and she hesitated but agreed..
when the doctor came in he could see she was on something and we both talked to her about the drug use.
and he suggested evergreen a place for substance abuse..
and made a follow up appointment,which ashley never made because she was on her way back to NYC..I guessed to buy more heroin..It was so frustrating that we couldnt do anything,No matter how much we begged and pleaded with her she wouldnt stop..
When a child turns 18 a parent has no rights anymore and we felt so alone and desperate..ashley was  well known with the police because she hung around with bad people and was always getting stopped and they a few times I knew of found needles in her car..but they never found they would let her go on her way..even my youngest daughter found needles in a sweatshirt of ashleys she was wearing..That really made me mad and we had a big argument over that..
We always wondered why they let her go..I thought they could arrest you for needles..guess not...In the fall we had a phone call from a detective he was with the drug task force and we had a long talk about ashley and her drug husband and I agreed to help them..because as much as I loved my daughter I would rather see her in jail than the constant fear of waiting and wondering if this would be the day a cop knocked on the door and said our daughter had been found dead of an overdose somewhere..Actually it was the only alternative we felt we had left if we were going to save our daughter
One day ashley sold some belongings and had about 1000 dollars so we called the detectives beeper number and he called back and we told him she had money and we thought she was going to buy drugs..after all he had told us he could have someone tailing her within 5 minutes..well I dont know where they were but that weekend ashley bought 40 bags of heroin and did them all in 2 days..that was the last time we called his beeper..She bought 40 bags and where the hell were they..By the way Ashleys money was all gone at that point thats why she was selling things..she spent 120,000 in 6 months time and only had a car,clothes and a chow chow puppy named princess to show for it.. I believe the rest went into drugs...It just breaks my heart because she could have gone so far in life..yet she chose drugs.
Around september Ashley had split up with Dave and was seeing a kid named Shawn she said he didnt do drugs and decided she wanted to clean up and she applied for a job at a nursing home because while in school she got her LNA so she renewed her licence and they hired her..She seemed to enjoy it at first, she really got attached to some of the older people, She would come home and tell me how cute they were and what had happened that day..Then she seemed to be slipping again..shawn was into drugs too,she had lied, why did she protect these guys I remember saying to her That she needed to stay away from all the druggies she hung out with before and to concentrate on work and think about going  to college..I told her if she did all that she would be able to stay away from drugs..She said Mom you just dont understand I cant even get away from it at work..There was a male nurse who stole oxycontin and gave her some and tried to have a drug friend of ashleys sell them for him....I was so mad...but afraid for ashley if I said anything...Ashley wasnt there long before she decided she wanted to get clean once and for all..She made arrangements to go into the brattleboro retreat and I remember the morning she was packing to go she went into the bathroom and locked the door and when she came out she was sitting on the floor packing saggy face,eyes closed, I knew she had just shot up in my bathroom..I couldnt yell at her I felt so sorry for her and I knew she was leaving for rehab in a little while..They would help her and get our little girl back..Her dad drove her to rehab and checked her in..and I later found a bag of heroin in the bathroom closet Ashley had forgot which i poured down the sink..We so thought things were on the right track finally and this would work..
When we went to visit her she seemed really good and we went to a meeting where people tell their stories..some just break your heart and you never realize how many others are out there addicted..but the room was packed and My daughter was one of them...
Ashley came home from rehab and within 3 days she was using again with a guy she met in brattleboro..I was so pissed I told her to take her clothes with her.. if thats the way she wanted to live i didnt want to see it we argued and she tried to kick me and she fell back on the floor then she came back at me and I grabbed her hair and we fell back on the couch,then to the floor...I never hit her but I held her down and she kept screaming let me up..finally I did..and she left with her new friend from rehab.. I felt so hurt and depressed that our relationship had come to that,That heroin meant more to her than I did..The detective once said heroin is THE BEST WORST DRUG..the best feeling you'll ever feel and the worst feeling when you cant get it..
Through fall the drug use continued and the trips to holyoke..Her father was diagnosed with cancer in the neck and had surgery to remove his tonsils.which upset ashley but I begged her to stop the drugs that we needed to be there to help her dad and she agreed... november 29th the phone rings and I answer, a woman says ashley and shawn have been in a car accident and shawns not doing to well..yet she never said how ashley was..we raced to the hospital not knowing if she was alive or dead..preparing for the worst..Thank god she was alright only 2 broken ankles and a broken femur..but she was alive thats all that mattered..we were so relieved...shawn had surgey that afternoon for a broken femur and broken ribs and ashley went into surgery later in the evening..she came through very well they put a rod in her leg and pins in her ankles..she was in alot of pain..but I made sure to tell them of her addiction so they could maybe give her something beside morphine or whatever they do in cases of addiction..she was in the hospital for 2 weeks and then she came home..wheelchair,commode,and walker..
call me selfish but ashley was always on the go,and now i had her with me,broken legs ,no access to heroin..I just wanted my daughter back..but she seemed so sad at times she would sit in her wheelchair and cry and she liked the curtains closed and the room dark..she had depression and had been on paxil since she stabbed herself,then lexapro,seroquel and after the accident sometime they put her on klonopin..  I was happy she was in the house but i hated seeing her that way..I so wished i could take away her pain...
Mid January she started walking around and shawn came and picked her up driving with a cast on his leg..That ticked me off ...because some people never learn ,he could have killed my daughter 2 months before in the accident, hell he didnt even have a license..Ashley was going back and forth staying at shawns and then coming back home.. I think she was so confused she didnt know where she wanted to be..She always said she hated VT and wanted to move to california or nyc...She even said she wanted to have a baby ,which I quickly discouraged telling her that she had to straighten out her own life before she could bring another into the world..And now I wonder if I should have said those words to her..maybe if she had had a baby she would have straightened out and been happier..I dont know there are so many what ifs that sometimes my mind seems to overload and I just go numb..
February 13th around 7:00pm I saw headlights pull in the driveway it was shawn dropping ashley off, they sat out in the car for about 10 minutes..then ashley came in and she looked upset..she just kept walking around the house and I asked her what was wrong and she said she was in a bad mood...I didnt press but damn i WISH i HAD..My daughter kayla and I left for the grocery store and when we got back I asked my husband where Ashley was and he said she left wth her friend nicole..We had rented some dvds and I fell asleep on the sofa bed amy husband fell asleep on the other sofa..around 2:30 am feb 14 he heard ashley banging on the door and let her in..he thought it was strange that she didnt ask how he was feeling..but he doesnt remember her saying anything..he laid back down and said he head the beep on the phone like she was calling someone..then he fell asleep..I so wish I had heard her come in,he said I asked what time it was but I dont remember..why didnt she lay down next to me on the sleeper any other time she would have...Her dad had just gotten home from a 2 week hospital stay because chemo and radiation had made him really sick..The next thing I knew I heard my husband screaming and I jumped up thinking something was wrong with him since he had been sick..I kept screaming what what but I couldnt find him..then I looked down in the basement where the screams seemed to be coming from and he screamed that she hung herself...I couldnt make myself go down those stairs..I was like 1988 all over again when I woke up and found my 3 month old son Justin after he died of SIDS..I called 911 and i dont even remember picking up the phone and then I was downstairs I dont even remember going down the steps I just remember being at the top not being able to go down but I did.We did cpr on her until the paramedics got here...Then they told us they were sorry but she was gone..I cant even find words to explain but a part of me died that morning..I was and still am angry at her for what she did and wonder why she never thought of what this would do to us...if she had waited just a few more minutes would she have changed her mind...and what bothers me most did she start and slipped or something and couldnt stop even if she wanted to...i drive myself crazy with all these questions with no answers..not only do we miss our daughter terribly and deal with her death..we have to live with the hate and anger of the people that got her into drugs,the people that used her,the people that stole from her,and anyone else that ever hurt almost seems too much to bear at times...
I get some comfort from the fact that we always let her come home no matter what she had done..we neverstopped loving her and always forgave..if  we had done the tough love thing like many had suggested and not let her back that would have just been more lost time without her every moment with her was so special..even the bad ones..
About a week after ashley died my husband and I went to the nursing home where ashley had worked and asked to speak with the head of nursing..we reported the nurse that ashley had told me about and when they asked us his name..they just looked at each other like they knew i was going to say him..they said he wasnt there anymore and had gone to another facility but they would report it to the state...and thanked us for telling them..a few days later i got a call from the state and told them what i knew..But I had to do it for my daughter, because now nobody can ever hurt her again.there is not a day that goes by where i dont think of  her or miss  her so much...words cant even begin to express


This Story of Hope was created in celebration of recovery and to let families know that there are pathways to hope and healing. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is the only nonprofit organization dedicated to helping families who are struggling with their son or daughter's substance use. Please consider sharing this page so that families know where to turn to for help, and that there is always hope.

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