ashley ward headshot

Meet Ashley Ward

Ashley Ward’s an Empowerment Center (TEC) graduate from 2016 – and has also been a Peer Support at TEC since 2019. She works with clients 1:1, guiding them through their addiction treatment. This can mean anything from walking them through the stages of their personal programs to helping with doctors’ appointments to simply being available to chat.

As The Empowerment Center has grown to incorporate onsite psychiatric care, Ashley’s role now includes acting as a liaison between our clients and doctor. Ward keeps track of who needs appointments scheduled, ensures everyone arrives on time, takes vitals, monitors medications, and handles communication with insurance companies and pharmacies.

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is using medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to help patients sustain recovery. Many of our clients use MAT, as well as treatment for co-occurring disorders, to support their sobriety – making Ashley’s role a key part of what we do.

ashley ward headshot

What Brought Ashley to TEC?

When we asked Ashley what she liked most about working here, she immediately jumped into sharing her personal story. “The first thing about The Empowerment Center is that it helped get me through my addiction and onto the right path in life. It’s kind of like a family here. We talk about sisterhood and community with our clients because we want them to support each other.” She enjoys working with clients and hearing their stories – and is excited about the TEC2 expansion and being a part of our growth.

When Ashley came to TEC in 2016, she was on a relapse. Ashley was born in Big Pine, California, a tiny town in the Eastern Sierra. When she was 1, her mom moved to Carson City. For much of her youth, she split her time between mom’s house in Carson City and her dad’s in Bishop, another town in the Eastern Sierra.

She started using meth at 15. “Looking at it today, I feel like it was an acceptance thing. Wanting to be liked by the group of friends I was hanging out with,” Ward notes. She only occasionally used coke and never really drank, feeling that it “just wasn’t really my thing.”

Ashley has a son and two daughters. She got clean for the first time 2-3 months before she became pregnant with her first, her son, but started using again when he was 6 months old. She stopped using again when she became pregnant a second time, going through treatment at the Reno Sparks Gospel Mission and Step2. While she occasionally used other substances, she stayed away from meth for 9 years.

Ward moved to Sacramento and was using again. She felt like her life was a mess. Having left her daughters with her mom in Carson City, she missed them. Eventually, one of her friends saw she was ready for help and needed a change – and brought her home to Reno.

ashley ward and her dog

In Recovery at The Empowerment Center

Ashley Ward has known TEC’s Program Director Steve Maxwell for years. He’s married to Ashley’s best friend’s mom. (her best friend passed away in 2013) Ashley also lost her brother to suicide (in 2008), and her mom saw Steve at a Walk in Memory, Walk for Hope suicide prevention and remembrance walk. Her mom asked Steve to help Ashley get her life back on track.

This was on a Saturday. By Tuesday, TEC had a bed available for her. The Empowerment Center was different back then, still co-ed and with fewer therapeutic resources. It felt like more of a transitional living space to Ashley, who took advantage of AA/NA meetings onsite and offsite while quickly applying for jobs and getting back to work.

This time, things were different. “I did what was suggested to me, meaning I actually got a sponsor and went to meetings. I was older and had a different outlook on life.” She worked at a gas station market and saved up for her own apartment. When she moved out, she once again could have her daughters living with her, while her son continued to stay with his dad.

selfie of ashley ward and her 3 kids

Ashley’s Life Today

Today, Ashley’s son is 19 and her daughters are 16 and 10. She enjoys spending her summers camping, hiking, and fishing. She BBQs with her mom, takes her kids on a June Lake camping trip every year, and takes them to visit her dad, who now lives in the Mojave Desert

She also bowls. A lot. Her 16-year-old daughter lost 90% of her vision when she was 12. Yet, two years ago she decided to learn to bowl. While she has to be told where to stand and can’t see the pins, her form is great and she scored 227 in a recent tournament. It takes a lot of practice – and the national news has taken notice.

ashley ward with two horses in the background at empowerment center equine therapy

Ashley’s Advice

Ashley’s been sober for almost 8 years and her clean date is August 17th, 2016. How would she advise someone newly sober, or considering treatment? Ashley shares, “when we’re first considering getting clean and sober, we wonder in our heads, ‘is it worth it?’ Are we worth it? I say yes. Everyone’s life is worth living. I don’t think we really intend to do drugs and alcohol for the rest of our lives. Sober is a better life, with better opportunities.”