The realisation that our beautiful daughter had a drink problem became as a huge wake up call to my family and me. Our life was bobbing along very nicely thank you very much. We were all working; we had a happy home and a very close family with lots of lovely friends to complement our life. It was not as if we had encouraged her to drink – we always thought that if she wanted to take up drinking she could do so on her own volition. Little did we know she would do so and it would lead to a trail of sadness, anger and pain. That said though, please read on as there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Ashley had a good job in the bank. She worked hard, never missed a day’s work, and was earmarked for promotion. She then met up with a new group of friends and things began to array. She began to miss work and if we questioned her she would tell us she had booked a day’s holiday. We believed her at first although I suppose we did have niggling doubts. It began to dawn on us that Ash was drinking too much. The drink in the house began to dwindle and she would spend days staying in ‘friends’ houses. We were then subjected to the evil effects of drink.
We removed all alcohol from our house and began in earnest to help Ashley. To be honest once Ash knew we knew things became even worse. She did not care if we saw her drunk whereas prior to this she had always kept it away from us by staying in ‘friends’ houses until she sobered up.
Ash got herself into some very sad situations and it was extremely distressing for us all. The whole of our family was affected by Ash’s behaviour and it created a great deal of conflict between us all. We all believed we had the answer as to how to get Ash better. We tried showering her with love, shouting at her, banning her from leaving the house, involving the police, taking her to AA meetings and even, on some occasions, getting physical with her to keep her in. None of this worked. Ash was in a very dark place and it was spiralling out of control.
In the end we were introduced to Cenacolo. Ash agreed she needed help and we began our visits to the Shrine. Ash was very good; she never drank from her first meeting to the day she went to Italy. She said she would stay for a year but as the time drew closer this went down to six months and then to three months. I did not really mind. Three months would be better than none.
I dropped Ash off in Italy. I left her with 16 strangers, in a strange country and not able to speak the language. I was devastated when I left her but I knew she would be safer there than at home. Before I left she said ‘I will be okay here mum, don’t cry’. I have to say I was immensely proud of Ash – she seemed so much stronger than me.
Ash said she would stay one month. She has now been there three and a half months. She did ring us after a month to say she wanted to come home but we encouraged her to stay.
We went to the Fest in July and met Ash there. The change in our daughter was significant both psychologically and physically. She did not have that tormented look in her eyes. She was fully focussed on the conversations that were taking place, and she was happy, carefree, and laughing – just as she used to be when she was young.
She had lost weight she was no longer bloated.
Ash surprised us all by dancing on the stage in front of five thousand people at the Fest. She would have never done this four months previously. Ash also told us she had found her faith and that this was helping her in her road to recovery. She said she learns something new about herself everyday and is now learning to cook for all the girls. She said she cannot wait to come home and cook for us all. Ash is happy in Italy although she does miss us all dreadfully. She even said she enjoys gardening now and will help her dad when she comes home.
I do believe that Ash, myself and the rest of my family have been sent this challenge to make us all more aware of the important things in life which are love, faith, understanding, and compassion.
And so life goes on. I have no idea how long Ash will stay in Italy but I know she will not stay for ever, I just pray that when she does come home she is not drawn back in to the life she had before. I pray that all the lessons she has learnt in Cenacolo will remain with her for the rest of her life. To me her time spent there is better than any degree she could ever do back home.
I thank God for sending Cenacolo to us.