Hello my name is Ashleigh my story is about how I overcame an opioid addiction at a very young age. I am the oldest sibling of three. One younger sister I grew up with sharing the same mother, and one even younger sister sharing the same father I met at the age of 20. She was only 5 when we met. I have two loving parents that have been married basically my whole life to this day, one of which is biological and a technical step father whom adopted me at the age of 2. They told me in early grade school about my adoption when my name was legally changed to my fathers name. This was very traumatic for me because it was when my abandonment issues first ignited. It was when I was first introduced to the idea that parents could leave you. That anyone at any time could walk out of your life forever and leave you. This made me feel like anyone or everyone might abandon me. I mean abandonment issues by exactly that; the fear of one abandoning me. When your so young you cope with fears in many different ways. One way I dealt with it was feeling like I had to prove my worth or act out in order to keep the ones I loved around me and keep their attention. Put the extremities on my relationships, particularly my parents, to see how the other they would react. Would they leave me? I was always in a way ready for it because I thought about it so much. Analyzing and analyzing. We were not the wealthiest family. My father worked full time at an assembly plant and my mother worked a series of part time and full time jobs. Still a very loving home. They provided everything they did not receive themselves growing up. To them they were giving their all. They loved me and even if I didn’t always know that looking back I can always see the love. Both me and my sister were involved in sports but moved three times within our school years so making friends without today’s technology was hard. I was about 8 years old when I was molested by a baseball coach. This was also very traumatic for me. After this experience I started having extremely bad lucid and vivid nightmares. I didn’t know how to process this experience so I walked in silence. It haunted me and change me and I lost all love for myself. All innocence. That beautiful innocence you have as a child. I was a very challenging teenager. I fought everyone’s love for me, was extremely insecure and had a hard time with my identity and personality. I was very manic in my activities and had to be out and be entertained constantly otherwise I would self sabotage sometimes even creating fights and making my environment hostile. I was consumed with people loving me but when they did I challenged them because deep down I thought everyone would leave me at some point because I was not enough. Because of my actions they usually would leave. I even wanted to leave myself, and that is a scary thing to walk with in this world. I never learned how to protect myself and then became angry and resentful with anyone else who did not protect me. Even if that protection was against myself and the negativity I was drowning in. I hated myself. A strong statement for a child. I started experimenting with drugs at 14 and continued on a rampage until I found heroin at the age of 15 with the help of an older boyfriend. I didn’t become an injection user until 16-17 but was still physically addicted before hand. That experience was monumental for me because at that point I didn’t even remember when, if I had ever, felt that kind of peace or absence from my pain. It changed everything for me and my entire being. By the unconditional love from my parents they fought for me always putting me in rehabs and even jail when necessary. They fought and managed to help me graduate high school even in my addicted state. Let me tell you spending your entire Junior year in a rehab facility is not something children can process well. I learned how to manipulate and about all the demons I had inside me sitting with myself for so long without the proper direction or guidance. After graduation I became even worse. Moving in with this boyfriend to go on a full Sid & Nancy ride for the next 3 years. I’ve stolen, I’ve sold, I’ve danced and I’ve manipulated for my drugs landing me in the worst possible situations. I didn’t care because I got my heroin and everything was ok for a few minutes. That’s what people don’t tell you about. It’s the first few times you experience the drug and what effect it has on you that traps you. As human beings we strive for happiness. To feel those rush of chemicals when we are happy. Heroin chemically alters your brain sending a flood of those chemicals in a few moments into your brain putting you into a relax and euphoric state. For example, my whole life it was very difficult for me to experience this kind of rush of happiness on my own naturally. I didn’t believe it was possible for me. So when I experienced this high at such a young age it stuck with me deeply and told me this was the only way to feel this good. Of course this feeling diminishes behind guilt, shame, and the pain that addiction afflicts upon the soul. I began only using so I would not be physically sick. It was no longer enjoyable. No longer an escape but a hell I was creating for myself because I was so fearful of what awaited on the other side of that drugged state of mind. Maybe a few seconds of serenity then reality always slaps you in the face, causing many addicts to use more and more with their tolerance. Every time I used afterward I would feel so guilty. I was a real person with a real soul and real ignorance about how to begin forgiving myself or loving myself. I felt incapable. I felt like a burden. Guilty about to damage I was causing to the people that loved me, the pain I was inflicting on not only myself but everyone around me, the hatred and anger I felt from all the things I had no control over and the fear I felt of my entire existence because of my traumas. Within my addiction my nightmares got so out of hand I was sometimes in a state of psychosis at times where I didn’t know reality from a dream. This was extremely traumatic for me. I was not only plagued with the shame of what I have become but I could no longer have any kind of peace because even when I slept I was forced to my knees by my fears and regret. To this day I am unaware of some of the things I experienced of being reality or a vivid nightmare. I’m not sure what actually happened. Throughout my addiction I tried to stop many times begging to come back home, withdrawing, being sober then relapsing. I could never get through the guilt and regret I felt sober. It was unbearable. I even ODed during a withdrawal trying to sleep through it the withdrawal forgetting how many Xanax I took and sent myself into RENO failure actually dying momentarily. After this near death experience I was clean for a while within a rehab then eventually relapsed again. I still couldn’t take it. It wasn’t until I met another man at the age of 19, broke up with my drug addicted boyfriend, moved back home, deleted all my contacts and truly gave working the program a chance did I finally stay clean. Changing everything and refocusing and obsessing about something new. I was clean for two years and was still living an addicts lifestyle. It is hard to rebuild yourself. This was the start of a whole new world of struggles and problems for me. It truly takes so much work on yourself to be able to happily live a clean life. Using substances at such a young age severely stunted my mental growth and I had to explore and endure a lot to become a healthy human being again not just physically but mentally also. My recovery journey has not been an easy one. I was nearly two years sober before I had my first child and became a mother. Forcing me to either deal with my problems right away or suppress them. The pregnancy was very rough on me and ignited a condition I suffer from called sleep paralysis. I had experienced something like this throughout my life but never this bad where it involved my unborn child. I would wake up in full blown panic attacks and throw up. It got to a point where I was afraid to sleep which is very much needed being pregnant. It was difficult to keep myself physically healthy let alone me and a baby inside of me healthy. Luckily he was completely healthy and went full term. Unfortunately after birth I experienced many struggles. Lack of proper breastfeeding caused an infection within my breast I had to have surgery on, the stress of living with my parents and the miscommunication within our relationship, uncertainty within the relationship of the father of my child, post partum depression, vividly traumatic dreams and the real life fear of not being able to handle motherhood were paralyzing. But even through this I never used heroin. After that baby was made inside of me it was over. The moment I heard that heartbeat it was the sound of a chapter of my life closing forever. Never again would I use. I had no choice. The choice was made for me the second I heard that thump. Heroin was no longer an option. Thankfully the father of my child stuck around and helped me. Supporting me all the way into therapy. I was put on medication and it worked for me. Assisting me into being able to work on myself more throughly. I went to my sessions, I listened to podcasts, I watched documentaries, I reflected, I sat with my fear and asked it questions so I could understand it, I worked hard on myself and looked deep down into all the things I kept hidden. Doing this I started to understand myself and I learned to forgive and love myself. It was definitely not easy, it took work. I was diagnosed with bi polar disorder, borderline personality disorder, generalized anxiety, depression and sleep paralysis. I got some answers and explanations on why I react some of the ways I did and that also helped me have a direction on how I should start handling these issues mentally. Today I am 8 years clean, have two beautiful healthy children whom I am constantly learning and growing with, I am employed full time at a job lasting 6 years and counting and also a designer in a apparel collection at www.fellowshipapparel.com , I am always striving and working on having healthy relationships with my family, I see my therapist and psychiatrist monthly, I am on medication that I allowed to assist me, and I am an author two two of my very own published poetry books ‘Nothing Was a Waste’ actually consisting of my life throughout my addiction into newly motherhood. The second one ‘A Beautiful Difference’ consisting of my life clean but still struggling with mental illnesses and trying to be the best person I can be. My biggest message I can give is that we have control. You have to believe that you have control. How you react, what you say, how you respond, what you allow to stick, what you learn, what you put into your body, your power, your self love. What you chose to believe has an enormous impact on you. Educate yourself as much as you can. Look, find, explore and see. A lot of times the world we surround ourselves with is such a small one in retrospect to the entire world around us. People sometimes forget about the real truth of survival. No matter what you go through in your life you got through it. You cried, you broke, you failed, you lost, you screamed but you lived another day. You closed your eyes and woke up again. You won a chance to rebuild. To start again. You made it no matter what happened. You have to remember that you can only make it if you try. That’s the only thing we can guarantee in this life full of spontaneity, is the assurance and comforting feeling that we tried our best. That’s the best thing about being human, is that most of us want to grow.
I am currently living in Michigan.
My full name is Ashleigh Rayl.
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And find my ‘AMR’ apparel collection on
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