Just as every addict’s story is different, so is their road to recovery,” said Ashley “Punky” Pierce of Pass Christian, who is now taking part in the new faith-based support group, “No Judgement Day,” which aims to help fight various societal epidemics and provide resources while restoring faith and hope for a better life.

Pierce, a 30-year-old native of Hancock County, is a recovering drug addict. She says she knows first-hand the importance of having options while struggling to recover and restore self-hope.

“I believe this program will benefit our communities greatly,” Pierce said. “We are bridging the gap between law enforcement and those who feel trapped by addiction or who are struggling on how to deal with everyday life. Having options to overcome that life is vital to one’s recovery,” Ashley said. Pierce says she found the desire to help others after conquering her own crippling habits. At just four years old, Pierce’s downward spiral into years of addictive behaviors began. She said she awoke one night to the sound of a loud bang.

“I went down the stairs and saw my mother in a pool of blood in the living room,” she said. “I thought she was dead.”

Ashley’s mother had been shot by her husband, Ashley’s step-father. Fortunately, the bullet only penetrated her leg and she survived. Her mother lied to police, Ashley said, and maintained she had accidentally shot herself.

“She was so afraid of him,” Ashley said. “She was afraid he would finish the job if she told the truth.”

That’s when Ashley’s hidden life took a turn for the worse, she says. Her mother refused to escape the situation due to fear. The abuse continued but not just on Ashley’s mom — she and her siblings became targets, too.

“He beat us and did other things. One of his favorite things to do was to take us on rides when it was late at night. He would literally watch in the rearview mirror as we started to fall asleep. When we did, he would turn around and punch us just for fun. I always sat in the middle so I could try to catch my brother and sister before they fell asleep. I would nudge them to wake them up before he would hit them. I guess, at some point, I became their defender.”

The abuse went on until Ashley was about nine or 10 years old, she said. One instance was so traumatic, she said, she blacked out.

“He took me into another room. I don’t remember what happened, but ever since that day, something came over me.”

Tormented and embattled by the brutal reality of her circumstances, Ashley searched for comfort, which she quickly found only came when she was high or intoxicated.

Her tragic experiences led to a life full of inconsistency and constant conflict with herself and those around her. It wasn’t long before her life on the edge landed her in jail.

Behind bars, Ashley said, she sobered up for the first time in her life. She found Christ and agreed to go to rehab, but she was only offered one option.

“The place was terrible,” she said. “I wanted to change, but I knew it wasn’t going to be in there, so I left.”

Ashley found a friend who was willing to take her in. But the familiar lifestyle she lived was hard to resist. Within months, Ashley was back on drugs, which ultimately led to a life back behind bars.

“This time, I had all the more reason to fight!” she said. “I needed to get clean not just myself, but for my kids.”

Upon her release, Ashely cut off all ties to her former life except for one. She and her boyfriend at the time knew they would be up against all odds, but continue to fight together to stay clean.

The two are now married and have been clean for nearly a year-and-a-half. Together, they have four children and are members of a local church. Ashley currently serves as a court support advocate for others in need of guidance.

“As my old friends see my progress, they trust that I know the way and they contact me when they are ready for help,” she said.

“I’ve already successfully helped one girl by appearing at court for her. That’s where I met Judge Desmond Hoda. He took over and helped get her into proper treatment. He pulled me aside and asked me what I was doing there. When I told him, he introduced me to ‘No Judgement Day.’ Now I can continue to help others while helping myself.”

As part of “No Judgement Day,” Coast leaders collect valuable resources available to help those struggling with not only drug and alcohol addiction, but abuse, PTSD, depression and other life altering issues.

“The many options available give each person a better chance at recovery,” Ashley said. “What may be good for me, may not be good for you.”

You can find out more on this Christ-centered recovery program and the many resources available by visiting the No Judgement Day Facebook page at www.facebook.com/nojudgementday.

Story By Stacey Cato