Ashley Dollie (24), a mother of two, is a recovered drug addict from Mitchells Plain, Cape Town – she’s been clean for a year and three months.
She cites the freedom she had growing up and her parents’ divorce as the main reasons for her getting into drugs – a habit she was introduced to by a friend. “It only happened when I turned 18 and had my own child to look after,” she says. “But because I relied so much on my parents and their divorce came as such a shock, I rebelled and that’s when the worst part of my addiction started.”
Life under the influence
Her increasing drug addiction changed her life for the worse and her friendships took strain as she found herself spending more time with the people who shared her drug habit. Her relationship with her mother took the hardest knock. “My mom and I always had a good relationship,” she says, “but we drifted further and further apart. I had so many secrets that I couldn’t risk spending time with her in case I let something slip. Things got so bad that I was almost left without a place to stay, no job, no money, with a child and expecting my second one.”
She realised the depth of her problem when the drugs became her main priority, leading her to steal and take out loans she couldn’t afford in order to feed her addiction. But the final wake-up call came when she saw the effect that drugs were having on her children. She was neglecting her son, and breastfeeding while on drugs was affecting the health and mental well-being of her baby. “My two-month-old baby started displaying signs of addiction, and the quality time with my son which I foolishly compromised in order to spend more time doing drugs, is something that haunts me every day.”
It was only when Ashley started being honest with herself that she sought the support and assistance of a therapist and other drug addicts in a therapy group.
The road to rehabilitation
Recovery was a bittersweet experience for Ashley. “The tough part was re-learning to live life without drugs and alcohol, as I had become accustomed to that lifestyle for so many years.” The programme provided enough support and guidance to make the transition a smooth process for her, however. “The success for me was being able to use all the information I had learnt on the programme and implement it in my life,” she says. “As hard as it was to change my behaviour, thinking and attitude, it was all worth it. Without this programme I would not have had the will or courage to recover. I can proudly say I have been clean for one year and three months.”
Looking to the future
Ashley now wants to complete her studies, as she was never able to obtain her Matric certificate. She dreams of becoming a qualified artisan in mechanical engineering one day, but most importantly, she’s learning to take things one day at a time, and to keep things simple.
All images by Onele Liwani.