Ashley's Story: The Music of Recovery

Ashley Garritson
Table of Contents
Hazelden Betty Ford planted the seeds so I could lead a life of integrity and be of service to others.


Ashley is a concert cellist with a doctorate in music. But after a stay at Hazelden Betty Ford, she developed a passion for being of service that led her to become a life coach as well.

"All that I am today is because I got sober," she says. "I'm here to share and to give back. Both my music and my coaching are a calling."

Ashley struggled with an eating disorder as a teen. She had restored a healthy relationship with food by the time she got to college—and had her first drink. "I was like, 'Alcohol, where have you been all my life?'" she says. "I discovered I could drink and fit in and seem 'normal.'"

Ashley managed to maintain a rigorous performance schedule and hide her alcohol use. Her heavy drinking caught up with her, however, and she was hospitalized with multiple organ failure. "I had a spiritual awakening," she says. For a year and a half after that, her life seemed good.

"Now I know I had underlying issues that hadn't been addressed," says Ashley. "It was about control and safety. I was missing the education of what it means to be an addict." When Ashley started drinking again, "it was like no time had passed." Again, she was advancing her music career and performing frequently, despite her addiction.

After two back-to-back DUIs, "I hit bottom quickly," Ashley recalls. "Almost dying at 28 wasn't it. It was the public humiliation that got me. I'd put so much into hiding my disease. But I couldn't keep up the ruse anymore."

Ashley's family took away her car keys; she agreed to go to Hazelden Betty Ford for treatment. 

"It was actually a relief to be there" says Ashley. "I had somewhere to go where I didn't have to pretend. For the first time in my life, I felt that I was not alone. Finally, I had an answer to why all this happened."

Ashley says her experience at Hazelden Betty Ford was "mind-blowing." "I started to tell the truth—and they were OK with it!" she says. "For the first time, I thought I might be able to live without alcohol."

Ashley feels certain that "I wouldn't be where I am today if not for Hazelden Betty Ford." She recognizes that her care team did so much more than help her find recovery. "Hazelden Betty Ford gave me an arsenal of tools to live," she says. "They addressed the underlying root issues I had and taught me what to be alert to, how to build a support system. They taught me how to live in recovery." 

Back at home, Ashley participated in Hazelden Betty Ford's Connections program, and she is grateful for the accountability and support it provided. "I signed up because I wanted my family off my back," she admits. "But my counselor, Jeff, was safe and calm. He pushed me, in the best way. I needed that."

Additionally, the reporting and random testing that was part of Connections ended up helping Ashley in a tangible way. "My legal issues were waiting for me when I got home after treatment," she says. "The fact that I had a track record [of abstinence] to show the judge really helped my case."

Ashley truly believes that Hazelden Betty Ford saved her life. "I'm happily married, with a career I love," she says. "Hazelden Betty Ford planted the seeds, so I could lead a life of integrity and be of service to others."

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