By Ashley Phillips: I remember the taste just like it was yesterday. I was 15, and the minute that drink hit my lips, I was hooked. I could drink and drink and drink, and was too young to know what consequences might eventually come. I remember people cheering for me, wanting to be around me. Giving me compliments and my first interaction with guys. I was finally someone. I was no longer the abused girl with the weird OCD-like habits who stayed home. I was living.

The first drink led to partying on the weekends, which lead to partying during the school week, which lead to partying every day. By the time I was 17, I had been kicked out of school for being caught with drugs on school property, kicked out of my parents home, and was living from one couch to the next. At the time, I was having a blast. I hung out with an older crowd. I worked when I needed to in order to support my habit, and eventually I made a life for myself in banking at the age of 18.

From 18 to 24 I developed a daily habit of drinking about a case of beer a day. There were times I would recuperate from a strong binge, but my main focus on life was to drink. I was your classic “Functioning Alcoholic.” I would go to work, pay what bills I needed too, and then the rest of my income went to booze. I became secluded. I noticed as time went on, no one really wanted to be around me. I had turned into the girl that drank way too much and stayed up way too late. All that was going on in my head was “It’s never too early or late for a beer.”

During this time I had lost my father to alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. Watching someone you love so much deteriorate for a week straight should be as good a sign as any to put down the bottle, but it made me angry and just gave me another excuse to drink. I drank more the last two years of my drinking than I had ever drank before.

I wound up with nowhere to live, nowhere to go and I had developed such a strong addiction that a day without a drink was pure torture. Mentally and physically.

I believe God puts people in our lives for a reason, and I know He put my dear friend Mark into mine. As I was diving further into the hole of addiction, Mark gave me a place to stay. He also did not tolerate my drinking. When I did drink, rather than what I had heard before (“Just don’t drink as much…”), Mark would show me what I was doing to myself. For the first time in my life, someone was telling me I could be better and do better for myself. He gave me a mirror to see what and who I had become.

One morning, after a severe binge, I stumbled back to Mark’s house. I immediately went to the shower and just sat and cried. I felt like I was losing my mind. For the first time in my life I actually prayed. I remember crying and screaming, I remember asking “God, please help me because I cannot help myself.” I was on that shower floor for four hours straight. As I prayed I felt the warmest sensation come over me. The water was freezing, but the room was warm. It was as if I was being draped with something. I saw this light, and to this day I still cannot believe it, but once I saw this light I started talking to myself. I said “Get out of the shower.” So I did. I then said “Get dressed.” I did. I then said “Computer.” I was then on the computer. I searched for something, anything, and found a local rehabilitation center. Within 2 hours I had made arrangements to check myself in.

Financially, treatment can be hard to come by, but God was there. I spent the next 90 days rebuilding my life. A life I never really even began, but God was giving me a second chance to do so. I learned what it was to love a sober life, to have dignity and to be proud of who I was and who I had become. To this day, I owe everything to God. The situations I put myself in, the things that occurred in my life could easily be blamed on God, but I feel I was kept alive to show that blame is not the way.

We are blessed with life, we have choices everyday and we must choose wisely. Some would say I no longer drink because I would die. Part of this is true. While in treatment you are seen by a physician, scanned and have extensive tests completed. I discovered I, like my father, drank to the point of destroying my liver. To drink again would decrease my life significantly, but believe it or not, I find the strength not to drink because God blessed me with a second chance to help others, like me. My life finally has a purpose. To serve and give back what was so freely given to me.

Today, God has put a wonderful man in my life, who I now call my husband. Today, I wake up and thank the Lord for every new day. Today, I am free. I was once lost, but now I’m found.

Today, I continue on with my second chance and choose life.