Robert: The Value of Long-term Recovery Support

Robert Ashford
A man shares his story of recovery from alcohol use and how he now works with college students to get clean and stay sober.

Robert Ashford
University of North Texas, Program Director of the Collegiate Recovery Program at the University of North Texas
Denton, TX

Today, I consider myself a person in long-term recovery, which for me means that I haven’t had a drink, a drug, or a manifestation of a symptom of my mental health illness for a little over two years. The reason I introduce myself that way is so I can be a face and voice of recovery, and because it’s very important for me to let others know that not only is recovery possible, but it works no matter who you are.

My recovery journey really began as a child. I came from an upper-middle class family, and I could do anything that I wanted. I had good grades, I was involved in sports, and everything on the outside looked like any other normal kid. But on the inside, I wasn’t aware of the internal conflict and the damage and destruction. It continually progressed over my entire adolescence, until I really found recovery.

After I got my third DUI, my family and friends came forward to say, “You need help. There’s something that’s going on. We want to take a look at this because we really care about you.” I never heard these messages so clearly before, so that day I decided to go to treatment.

Thanks to government support, treatment was accessible for me in the state of Texas. Those 42 days in treatment were really an eye-opener. I began to take a look at what was going on inside of me. There were counselors and other people offering peer support who I could talk to about the trauma, underlying issues, and my mental health illness. It allowed me to finally see who I was for the first time. It put me on a path to what I call long-term recovery that didn’t just end with 30 days of acute care treatment.

I needed long-term recovery support, which I think most people do, so I went to a recovery residence hall. I enrolled in college. Now I get to take part in a collegiate recovery program with like-minded peers and services to support my recovery in a caring environment.

When I look toward the future and where I am today compared to where I was, I’m proud to be a program director of a collegiate recovery program at the University of North Texas that changes and saves lives. I am proud that I get to sit on the Board of Directors for Young People in Recovery, which empowers emerging adults in recovery to be able to effectively tell their recovery stories. All of this was possible because of recovery. Long-term recovery is continuous–whether it’s abstinence-based, counseling, peer supports, or another pathway. Recovery is a life-long journey, and today I’m glad to know that I’m in it.

Last Updated: 12/18/2015