BEDFORD, Va. – Ashley Sweigart found herself back in a Bedford County courtroom Friday. It wasn’t to receive a sentence, but a certificate of completion for breaking the cycle of drug addiction.
“[I’m] grateful. I never would’ve thought that I would’ve been in this place,” said Sweigart.
She lost custody of her 11-year-old son in 2019 after a decade-long battle with opioids. That’s when Sweigart enrolled in Bedford County’s family treatment program, which is dedicated to reuniting parents and children as they work to overcome substance abuse.
County leaders said the strict, five-phase program includes drug tests and court visits and that failure could result in possible jail time.
“I came into this program kicking and screaming. I was not the problem,” said Sweigart.
The 33-year-old admits she then reached the breaking point and faced reality.
“I just had the realization that nobody else was the problem, I was my biggest problem,” said Sweigart.
She pushed through the program, regained custody of her son in the fall of 2019 and completed treatment in 2020. COVID-19 pushed the graduation ceremony back to April 30.
Sweigart credits family service specialist, Hope Brown, for the support.
“I tried to motivate her to see what I was able to see within her,” said Brown.
Sweigart became a recovery coach in November 2020 to work with patients like herself.
“I can relate with them and understand that desperation,” said Sweigart.
We’re told since the program was created in 2018, there have been six other graduates, with two more graduating in the coming weeks. There are currently 12 participants and others on a waiting list.
Sweigart’s message to those struggling is simple: “Swallow your pride and accept the help because your life can be so much better.”
She’s paying it forward by helping others take their next step forward.