Mar 24
  • Written By Scott Drochelman

  • 5 Things That Kept Me Sober For 17 Years

    5 Things That Kept Me Sober For 17 Years

    In this Q and A episode Ashley talks about the 5 keys she’s used to remain sober for 17 years. For someone who found it a challenge to string 2 days together, 17 years seemed impossible. Learn what Ashley had to learn the hard way and what will be most critical piece in remaining sober for the next 17 years.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame has been clean and sober for 16 years, she’s a drug and alcohol counselor, interventionist, and the co-founder of a telehealth company called Lionrock Recovery that provides substance use disorder treatment.

    Episode Resources

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    Episode Transcript

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (00:13):

    You are listening to the Courage to Change a Recovery Podcast. We are a community of recovering people who have overcome the odds and found the courage to change. Each week we share stories of recovery from substance abuse, eating disorders, grief and loss, childhood trauma, and other life-changing experiences. Come join us no matter where you are on your recovery journey. 


    Hello, beautiful people. Welcome to the Courage to Change a Recovery podcast. My name is Ashley Lo Blasting game and I am your host. And today we have a q and a. Scott, what are we Q and Aing?

    Scott Drochelman (00:55):

    Q, N, and A.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (00:56):

    Are we Q and N on what?

    Scott Drochelman (00:58):

    Q one. Qan. Uh oh. Are you Q Are you, are you Q?

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (01:02):

    I’m Q I. What?

    Scott Drochelman (01:03):

    Oh shit. We just broke the internet. We just discovered Q

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (01:07):

    Shit. I also invented Bitcoin shit.

    Scott Drochelman (01:10):

    Oh no. And you’re Banksy.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (01:11):

    I’m also Daft Punk.

    Scott Drochelman (01:12):

    I think they know who’s under there. It’s not a mystery. Just

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (01:16):

    Gave myself away. .

    Scott Drochelman (01:19):

    They’re two Frenchmen. Ashley, I, I’m two Frenchmen. We’re our q and a for today. We have the five things that kept you sober for 17 years.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (01:31):

    Do you want me to name

    Scott Drochelman (01:32):

    ’em? I just want you to read ’em.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (01:34):


    Scott Drochelman (01:34):

    Through and then stop. No explanation. Explanation. Read ’em. Okay. And then end episode.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (01:39):

    End episode. Okay. So I’m gonna say the five things and then I’m gonna go through the five things. Therapy meetings slash community step work, fun slash novelty and boundaries.

    Scott Drochelman (01:51):

    So what is this therapy stuff you’re talking about?

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (01:54):

    So it’s like where you go and you hire somebody. Hmm. And you talk to them. Okay. For me, just getting sober and just being abstinent and, and doing step work were not enough. I needed to explore various patterns of behavior, various cognitive distortions, like thinking errors, various relationship patterns, trauma I, there were a lot of things I needed to go through that 12 step and my, which was my form of community, were really great and step, the step work was really great, but it didn’t delve into and do the depth of work that I needed to maintain my sobriety. And I needed all different types of things at different times, including couples counseling at various times, e, emdr, you name it. So that was where therapy was really supportive. I don’t think I would’ve made it as far had I not done that work.

    Scott Drochelman (02:50):

    Can you think of like one specific epiphany that that came out through therapy that wouldn’t have come out just through doing the step work?

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (02:59):

    So in therapy I discovered that a lot of the things I was doing in my teen years and childhood were trauma responses to traumas that I didn’t even know were traumatic. I’ve talked about this before, but there were a lot of big things that happened in my life that were easy to go, haha, that’s what’s wrong with you. It turned out the trauma was these other things that I didn’t really understand. And so my world viewpoints of like, do I trust people? How do I respond when I’m cornered? How do I respond to scary situations? How do I respond in relationships? I learned how to use language of, I’m having a big reaction to what’s going on right now. I’m gonna take a minute and take a step back before I respond. Like things like learning language to use in those situations and skills that could be utilized in order to slow down and really think through how to make new thoughts and new decisions.

    Scott Drochelman (04:00):

    Is there a phrase you tend to use? Like let’s say it’s happening right now, you’re experiencing something like that. What’s, what are you saying to me?

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (04:08):

    I’m feeling really triggered right now because I am feeling unheard. I don’t believe that that is your intention. And when I feel unheard, I don’t respond in a way that is helpful. And so I’m gonna take a break from this conversation. Can we come back to it in 10 minutes so that I can try again? Because when I’m triggered this way, I’m not very productive.

    Scott Drochelman (04:30):

    If you were new to the game, you were new to this sobriety thing, if you were sending somebody to one specific type of therapy, is there a first one that you felt like you personally got the most bang for your buck?

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (04:42):

    I’d start with cognitive behavioral therapy.

    Scott Drochelman (04:45):

    Great, great. Number two.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (04:47):

    Number two would be meetings slash community. So for me, this 12 step community and the the 12 step meetings, that has been a huge piece of my recovery and my community and getting sober and so on and so forth that I use the word community alongside meetings because it really is essentially like what where the skill, right? The five things is, this is the community aspect of of my recovery that I created. Community, it just happens to be in 12 step for me.

    Scott Drochelman (05:18):

    What if everybody in the 12 step meeting by me is way older than I am? And I don’t really vibe with that community?

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (05:26):

    There are lots of online options. They’re young adult meetings, they’re young people meetings, there’s young people conventions and and also there’s a lot to be learned from the meetings with the older people. You know, if, if what a lot of people probably don’t realize, right? Is like if you were to walk into a meeting with me and you’re 16 or you’re 20 and you look at me, you’re gonna see who I am today. You are not going to see who I came in as and I’ve, you know that it will not be apparent to you who I was. And that is the same with my sponsor who is a corporate America badass bee. And she was living in a van at 25 doing uppers and P in coffee cans. Like, but you’re not gonna know that because you’re not gonna see that. Cause that’s not who we are anymore.


    And so one thing I would say is I encourage you to give those old people a chance because they may have gotten sober at the same time you are getting sober and they may have a lot to offer you. And so not to say that you shouldn’t create community with people your own age going through the, the same things you’re going through. You absolutely should, but also don’t write off the people who’ve had success doing what you want for a long time. Those people are invaluable and can walk you through scenarios that the people your age haven’t been through yet.

    Scott Drochelman (06:51):

    Okay. I’m convinced. Okay. Three

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (06:53):

    Step work.

    Scott Drochelman (06:54):

    Was there a particular step that was the most challenging for you?

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (06:59):

    The most challenging step work for me has to do has been spirituality. That’s not what most people experience from my understanding. The very ethereal turn your will in your life over to the care of God as you understood is like what? What does that mean? And so I had to find a sponsor who could work with me and my doubts and questions and confusions over that stuff. And so we would say like, okay, God is good orderly direction or group of drunks, you know, AA or great outdoors or whatever. So turning my will and my life over to good orderly direction was what is the next indicated step? So instead of my brilliant plan to you know, do a bank heist when I run outta money, I think of what’s good orderly direction would be the next indicated step is to get a job or whatever.


    And, and those were, that was my version of that step. And I had, I had to find people that could break that down for me because it was really, really hard for me to understand. And it still is. I still have to spend a lot of time like gearing up for and translating the language of 12 step into what works for my brain. What’s hard for most people is writing out the resentments, finding your part, and then making amends. That is real intense and, but for me that was not difficult. And the reason why I put step work on there and step work has helped to keep me sober is that step work taught me a very specific skill for how to manage and relieve myself of resentments and to show up in relationships and knowing the language and the ability and when and how to make amends for my part has been invaluable in my life.

    Scott Drochelman (08:50):

    Is there any part of the step work that you had to revisit at say the 10 or the 15 year mark?

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (08:55):

    I’ve had to do a four step many, many times. Some people do it annually, some people only do it once, some people do it every couple years. I’ve done the steps on different issues. I’ve done it on food, I’ve done it with different, different things and I’ll do mini four steps. I do ’em in arguments where I’m thinking in my head like, what’s my part? What’s my part? What’s my part? You know, it’s, it’s, it’s almost automatic now, but I’ve done tons.

    Scott Drochelman (09:20):

    Number four.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (09:21):

    Number four is fun and novelty. If sobriety sucked and was boring and not fun, I would not have stayed. In fact, one of the biggest reasons that I did stay was it was a lot more fun than my using my using, you know, had elements of novelty and excitement. But it also had a, a lot of drama and a lot of very unpleasant outcomes packaged into all that quote unquote fun. Part of the value of finding community that is your age is that when I got sober I found young peoples and Alcoholics Anonymous. I also moved to like the mecca of that, which is in Southern California. We did everything and we had so much fun doing it. And had you been watching us, you would not not have known that we were sober. I once had someone literally say, I want whatever she’s drinking and pointed to me and I was sober and the reality was that I was having a blast and I was doing different things and trying things and going places and having a great time.


    And that made sobriety worth doing. If you feel like it’s just all gonna be work and all gonna be step work and self-actualization and spirituality, whatever, you’re gonna put your head in the toilet because that gets old and that that gets tiring. It’s fun and novelty to me now, which I still like and do, do not look like going to a rave in Las Vegas. That sounds exhausting. I am not interested in doing that. That doesn’t sound fun. So my, my definition of fun has evolved, but I maintain a strong desire for fun and for novelty.

    Scott Drochelman (11:00):

    Can you speak to the importance of strippers in that? Yes.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (11:04):

    Yes, absolutely. So if you are going to stay sober, strippers are a must. So just write that down

    Scott Drochelman (11:10):

    Please. I’ve seen, I’ve seen photographic evidence and I just wanted to make sure that people will highlight

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (11:15):

    That. Listen, I’m trying to put people through college,

    Scott Drochelman (11:18):

    She makes dreams come true people,

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (11:20):

    I make dreams come true. Yeah. Uh, make a wish Foundation. Have you not heard of this? ? I’m a philanthropist.

    Scott Drochelman (11:25):

    I think they were all in med school, right? Yeah.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (11:28):

    Obviously. Ok, this is my future doctors,

    Scott Drochelman (11:29):

    Right? Number five.

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (11:31):

    Number five, number five, boundaries.

    Scott Drochelman (11:35):

    What’s a, what’s a boundary that was really challenging to enforce and then how’d you do it anyway?

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (11:40):

    This sounds dumb and redundant, but it’s more that the boundary was that I wouldn’t abandon myself and that I would set boundaries. I know that sounds like a, you know, like a genie wishing for a third wish. The act of making decisions on a regular basis where I would say things like, I’m not comfortable with that, or I don’t actually wanna do that, or that doesn’t sound fun to me or I don’t have the bandwidth. Those types of things. And again, it’s looked different over the years, but I found it, especially with things I wanted to do. I would find it difficult to say no, particularly in a helper role. I did end up getting loaded once I was probably on my way to getting loaded. To be clear, this wasn’t the only situation, but I had a friend who was from Portugal, I was trying to get her back to Portugal.


    I was trying to get her to her family. She had a son, like it was this, it was a very dramatic int she was shooting heroin. It was a very dramatic situation. I was like, I’m gonna drop everything and drive her to Las Vegas. Long and short as we got to Vegas and like we went to dinner and I ended up art ordering a margarita, then we got stuck in Vegas cuz we didn’t make that flight. And lemme just tell you it was downhill from there. Today I would set a boundary about that of like how I would help. I am not going to put myself in untenable situations because I value my need for safety and health and all those things, even as a helper. Another one that I’m, you know, just it’s really relevant right now is that I don’t go to wineries.


    I have a trip coming up where it’s a business trip with a bunch of corporate folks and they’re, we’re going to na, we’re taking them to Napa and they’re going to a winery. And I have said like, I’ll go to the dinners, I’ll go to all this stuff. Like I can go to bars, I can go to, but I don’t go to wineries. You know, it, that boundary is a little uncomfortable because it’s a business thing. It draws attention to me that I don’t want, I don’t really wanna have to explain myself. I don’t want people to feel guilty or embarrassed about their drinking, which they often do when I draw a boundary like that. So, and that’s 17 years sober. But that boundary keeps me safe and I’ve, I discovered that I needed that boundary over time of being aware of my feelings, doing the step work, having the community, talking to people, like all those other things I listed. Figuring out where I can go safely, where I can’t go safely. And then making sure to communicate that with others. And so those things have made a huge difference in my sobriety.

    Scott Drochelman (14:15):

    What’s one thing that you think will be most critical in you having 17 more years of sobriety?

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (14:23):

    I think community, believe it or not, because community, because we’re social animals and we wanna fit in and be a part of. When you have a shit ton of friends who are all sober and all doing the same things and all celebrating, you know, 15 and 20 years of sobriety, it’s harder to like veer off that path cuz you’re all doing the same thing. And I am better and more well adjusted and take better care of myself when I’m in community because I’m reminded and encouraged to do so. It’s like that safety net that pushes you towards all the other things I mentioned. If I’m in community and I’m being a hot mess express, they’re gonna be like, you need to do step work. You need to call your therapist, you need to go have fun. You know, you need boundaries. They’re gonna encourage all the other behaviors. And so as long as I remain in the community and like active in that community, I feel like whatever is going on is going to be provided for me or encouraged.

    Scott Drochelman (15:15):

    I love it. Well, if you’re in a situation where maybe you’re early on and you’re looking at Ashley’s 17 years of sobriety and wondering how that could possibly be, so how that could possibly happen. I hope these five tips were helpful, but Ashley, any words that you would have for that person who’s very early on, it doesn’t seem possible. 17 years, might as well be a hundred years in their mind. Like any last words that you’d have for them?

    Ashley Loeb Blassingame (15:39):

    Yeah, it doesn’t seem possible to me either. Um, it still doesn’t seem possible. I joke with friends of mine. We sometimes wake up and we’re like, are we lying? Because it was truly unimaginable putting together more than a day or two. And the way to do anything is to stack successful moments upon each other. Uh, you may not get consecutive days in a row for a while. You may have to keep trying. And I did. I relapsed a lot until I got that last sobriety date. And then I, you know, I took it a day at a time, a moment at a time, you know, whatever it needed to be. And sometimes I just had to sit on my hands and the only thing I did perfectly was not pick up a drink or a drug. I totally messed up everything else. And that’s the only thing I was able to do. And that was good enough. Don’t worry about the time, worry about the moment. Just getting to the next moment, the next indicated step and the rest will, will come. And it’s okay if you can’t imagine , if you can’t imagine three feet in front of you, I I sometimes still can’t. And, uh, and that’s okay. I will leave you with this if you want what the winners have do what the winners do. We’ll see you next week.


    This podcast is sponsored by Lion Rock dot, life Lion is a diverse and supportive recovery community offering weekly over 70 online peer support meetings, useful recovery information and entertaining content. Whether you’re newly sober, have many years in recovery or you’re recovering from something other than drugs and alcohol, we have space for you. Visit today and enter promo code courage for one month of unlimited peer support. Meetings free. Find the joy and

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