A Tennessee couple overcame drug addiction and posted before-and-after photos to show that “it gets better.”
Brent and Ashley Walker of East Cleveland, Tenn., met in 2010 when both were in the throes of methamphetamine addiction. However, the couple has been drug-free for two-and-a-half years. As inspiration, they shared a transformation photo representing their recovery from November 2016 to this past July.
The viral Facebook image with 205K likes, 18K comments, and 143K shares has earned them respect for their determination and set an example for others who are struggling with addiction.
“This is my wife and I in active meth addiction,” wrote Brent on July 26. “The first photo was taken around December 2016 [and] the second one was taken in July of 2019. This December 31st will be 3 years we have been clean and sober and living for God. I hope that my transformation can encourage an addict somewhere! It is possible to recover!!” The post included the hashtag #Cleanchallenge.
Brent tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the photo was first meant for a few loved ones who are newly in recovery. “It was to show them that it gets better,” he says.
The 30-year-old steel plant worker started dealing drugs at age 16. When his brother reportedly died in a car accident while driving under the influence, he began selling methamphetamine, cocaine, acid, and ecstasy. “Being a dealer is all I have ever known,” Brent tells Yahoo Lifestyle, adding that he has served periodic prison time since the age of 20.
Brent and Ashley met through a marijuana drug deal, dating on-and-off for years. While Ashely is now a certified nursing assistant in a hospital ICU, she started taking drugs at age 13 and was later expelled from school. In July 2016, she lost custody of her children, and went to rehab.
In December 2016, Brent gave Ashley an ultimatum. “He said, ‘Get clean with me or leave,’” Ashley, 32, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Newly sober, the couple wed in January 2017. While Brent will be on probation until 2024 for previous charges of selling and delivering methamphetamines and fleeing the police, two months ago he proudly earned his G.E.D.
The couple is almost unrecognizable in the “before” photo — a selfie taken in a friend’s bathroom a month after one of Brent’s jail stints— compared to their recent vacation photo in Coco Beach, Florida. “People have written to say, ‘Ashley looks so different now — glad she got rid of that guy in the picture,’” says Brent.
The couple are slowly building their credit to purchase their first home and trying to earn back Brent’s driver’s license, which he lost in 2015. They also wish to regain custody of Ashley’s children.
Proof that posting the photos paid off, the couple has collected grateful notes from people dealing with addiction. “There was an amazing response,” says Brent, “and if it helps one person, it’s worth it.”
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