Mae Abraham knows the addiction treatment community faces pressing challenges, and she's often left to wonder if the resources will be there to meet the need. But the co-founder of Ashley Addiction Treatment always reorients to a place of hope, embodied in the spirit of the Maryland treatment center that she and the late Father Joseph Martin co-founded in 1983.
She likely would tell the professionally disillusioned something similar to what she tells patients navigating early recovery when she visits Ashley on the first Satuday of every month: “Give yourself a chance to have a dream.”
Addiction Professional spoke with Abraham, 91, late last year on the occasion of Ashley Addiction Treatment's 35th anniversary. An alumni homecoming gathering that was scheduled for mid-September had to be canceled because of threatening weather, but Abraham spoke that fall about the connection so many former clients have maintained with a place where they found healing.
“We made it a happy place to come back to,” Abraham says, recalling annual outings with entertainment that were held in Ashley's early years as Father Martin's Ashley.
Change and tradition
The influences of Abraham and Father Martin remain strong at Ashley, even though the facility has experienced leadership changes and no longer bears the name of its charismatic spiritual co-founder. Balancing tradition and innovation continues to be a high-priority topic throughout the substance use treatment field. Ashley seeks to continue to combine the emotional strength of Father Martin's “Chalk Talk” presentations with the contemporary agenda of initiatives such as its Pain Recovery Program.
Abraham says the name change to Ashley Addiction Treatment didn't bother her. “I see people getting sober here,” she says.
She also expresses gratitude for the presence of Ashley's current administrative leader, Rebecca Flood, who as a teenager heard Father Martin speak.
Abraham simply communicates that the philosophy of care never should change, and everyone needs to continue to move forward to make new recovery stories happen.
“Ashley was a miracle,” she says. “It would have to be the desire of the good Lord that a Baptist minister's daughter and a Catholic priest would get together to raise money to help alcoholics.”
Another tradition will be commemorated by Ashley on May 14 in Baltimore when it holds its annual Mae Abraham Luncheon, honoring women in recovery and raising money for treatment scholarships. The beneficiaries of these events have a chance to embark on a similar journey to the one Abraham took as a mother in recovery who first met Father Martin when he served as an unexpected fill-in speaker at an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting.
“He was the happiest, jolliest person,” Abraham recalls from that first encounter. “Everything he put on the chalkboard had happened to me. I vowed then never to be ashamed of it.”
Now 54 years in recovery, Abraham schedules a monthly return to Ashley to tell patients that the miracle can happen to them as well. “God never made a nobody,” she says.