Ashley Nettles


March 08, 2021


My story is unfortunately not unique. It’s a story shared by far too many. Like so many Americans, my family was destroyed by the addiction of someone I loved and I never saw it coming. I had no idea what addiction looked like. I believed that addiction was someone else’s problem. It was the problem of a man or woman who, to put it plainly, could just not get it together. I could never have imagined that my husband was an addict.

It was not until one fateful day I had a knock on my door that forever changed my life. That knock on the door represented the interruption of a façade of a comfortable life. The knock came from my husband's boss. At work, he noticed some of these red flags and confronted him. He was prepared to fire him, but my husband confessed to misusing prescription medications. His boss thankfully knew enough about addiction because of previous experience with his own family and knew what needed to happen. He drove my husband home, knocked on my door, and required my husband to confess to me.

The next day, my husband’s boss and I drove him to a treatment center about two hours away from home. When we got there, we realized that his employer-sponsored health plan did not cover substance use services. Unexpectedly, my husband's boss took out his credit card and paid for the program. I will forever be grateful to him. He relentlessly stood by my family and went above and beyond the traditional role of a boss.

My husband completed a nine-day detox program and was able to stay sober for about six months. After six months, he lost his job due to refusing a drug test.

This is where life dramatically changed. At that time, I was a stay-at-home mom of two young children, and because of my husbands' job loss, it was time for me to go back to work. I answered an ad for a position with a local non-profit that did alcohol education and awareness. In my interview, the executive director told me that she had a new program she was working on. It dealt with overdose and drug use. She asked if it was something I would be comfortable with. In my head, I laughed, if she only knew! The position was made for me, and I said yes.

Unfortunately, my marriage could not withstand the effects addiction had on it. But I was given a gift; an opportunity to help others. My struggle became my mission. What was my biggest heartache and biggest battle has now become a platform for change.

I will leave you with a little bit of wisdom from a person who has stumbled along the hard road of addiction. If you continue to allow addiction and its symptoms a comfy place to live and rest, nothing will change. It will only get worse. Set boundaries and stick to them. Confront the addiction head-on, reach out for help, do not let the shame of it all keep you and your loved one in the bondage of addiction.

Now to some practical action items we can all do to evoke real change. We need an all-hands-on-deck approach, and this is where the workplace comes in.

As a business owner, you are in a position to change your employees’ lives, as my ex-husband’s boss did for our family. I believe the first step is education. Business leaders should incorporate education and training related to opioid and substance misuse for employees. Management teams should go through specialized training in recognizing the signs of addiction. Businesses should develop policies that deal with substance misuse, interventions, and re-entry policies for employees who receive treatment and are ready to be back in the workforce. For example, when my ex-husband returned to work, he was required to submit to regular and frequent drug screens. He was not allowed to drive a company vehicle until he had routinely tested clean. He had to earn trust back. These steps are suitable for a person in recovery.

Businesses should also ensure that their sponsored health care plan covers substance use treatment. Lastly, as a business owner, you can partner with local non-profits that are doing the work on the ground. All non-profits need assistance, financial and in kind. Help with their missions, save lives, and assist families because we are all in this together.

About the authors

Ashley Nettles