New Mother Lives A Clean & Sober Lifestyle

With help from the Bridge House/Grace House former heroin addict Ashley Fowlkes was able to overcome her illness.

Three years ago Ashley was in a dark place. She hit rock bottom when she got in a horrible accident that left her blacked out while EMS responders pulled her out of the windshield of her car.

It was then that she decided she needed to turn her life around. She found the Bridge House/Grace House and it saved her life. There, she was able to take charge of her future and focus on the importance of her recovery.

To celebrate the achievements of the Bridge House/Grace House and the people who have recovered there, a 'March To Recovery' walk will be held on September 16th at 10 a.m. The event will begin at Palmer Park on the corner of S. Claiborne and Carrollton, in New Orleans. The event will also spread awareness for the recovery center and educate people in the community on substance abuse realities.

"People in recovery are passionate about being in recovery and about getting out the message of recovery," said Else Pedersen, CEO, Bridge House Corp. "We want to raise awareness that recovery is available."

The Oscar J. Tolmas Charitable Trust will be providing the event with music, food, and guest speakers. As a symbol of the loss of a loved one, participants at the event will carry a flower during the walk and add it to a larger flower arrangement towards the end.

The event was inspired by several causes. September is Recovery Month, a time when people in the recovery community make an extra effort to come together to raise awareness on the topic. Another reason the march was established was to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Bridge House/Grace House.

Ivana Grahovac will be one of the guest speakers at the event; as a recovering heroin addict she will discuss the realities of how important getting treatment really is. Also City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell will be speaking and Joseph Kanter, M.D., medical director of the New Orleans Health Department.

Alarming information from the Orleans Parish Coroner's Office has told us that drug related deaths has doubled in the past year. Exceeding the number of murders in the city, 78% of overdose deaths resulted from opioid use.

The Bridge House/Grace House has seen about half of their patients addicted to heroin. Pedersen from the recovery center has explained that it is especially dangerous for patients in treatment to relapse because their body can not handle the dosage they were used to before; it can likely result in death.

He also pointed out that the "ideal image" of an addict can not be stereotyped.

"Addicts come from all walks of life," Pedersen explained. "Addiction is the great equalizer."

Ashely Fowlkes threw away her dreams of becoming a law enforcement agent while she fell deeper into her heroin addiction. She is a former graduate from Loyola University, majoring in criminal justice.

"It felt like a darkness. Something didn't feel right within me," Fowlkes said. "I always felt like I was meant for something bigger and better, but I had no idea how to get there or how other people got there."

When she finally decided to receive treatment for her substance abuse issue, it was because of her brothers encouragements after her accident.

"You're going to feel terrible tomorrow, but just a little bit less terrible (than today)." he said

She then checked into the Bridge House/Grace House for just over 7 months.

"Grace House taught me that one of my problems in active addiction was that I'd lived two separate lives," Fowlkes said. "When I went to work I was one person. When I went home I was a completely different person. I felt lost because nobody really knew me."

She now is leading a functional sober lifestyle and feels better than ever.

"All it took was that one moment to ask for help and to be willing to accept help no matter what it looked like." she said.

She has a new job as a manager at the Mojo Coffee House, 4700 Freret St. in New Orleans. Her new baby girl is 10 months old and is perfectly healthy; she keeps Ashley's inspiration to stay sober alive.

Fowlkes spoke kind words about the treatment center she attended, "a loving community that asked nothing in return" she said.

This treatment center is different than most because the duration of the program lasts longer. It is important to take time in the recovery phase to develop "recovery habits".

"To learn every day how to go through life's ups and downs and to do so in a supportive, clean environment." Pedersen explained.

"We accept people unconditionally," Pedersen said. "You don't have to have money, you just have to want help with your addiction. Recovery is available and life after addiction is wonderful."

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