For more than 38 years, Ashley Addiction Treatment has helped people find freedom from addiction with an empathetic approach to recovery based on its founders’ philosophies.
It started with a friendship.
Ashley Addiction Treatment founders Father Joseph C. Martin and Mae Ashley Abraham accidentally met at one of Father Martin’s award-winning “chalk talks” at Johns Hopkins University in 1964. Mae, who was struggling with alcoholism at the time, had come to hear a talk on alcoholism by Senator Harold Hughes. However, a Catholic priest came in the senator’s place — much to Mae’s disappointment as a devout Baptist. In the talk, Father Martin identified alcoholism as a disease, not a moral failing, and did so without preaching or demoralizing. That day, Mae was finally able to accept herself and her addiction.
“Father Martin removed the stigma and shame from me about my alcoholism,” said Mae in a 2008 interview with the Baltimore Sun. “And I vowed that never again would I allow anyone or even myself to make me feel ashamed of what happened to me.”
The possible dream
In the years following, Mae and Father Martin became close friends. Father Martin eventually moved in with Mae and her husband and continued to give his talks. One day, when Mae and Father Martin were returning home from a speech, Mae planted the first roots of the future Ashley Addiction Treatment.
“Father, you can talk until you die. But then what?” Mae asked Father Martin. “Why don’t we build a treatment center where everything you stand for can go on, where laypeople can get the kind of treatment priests got from (Austin Ripley) at Guest House?” Guest House was where Father Martin went in 1958 to seek help for his alcoholism.
That conversation was the catalyst. Mae led the fundraising efforts, themed “Ashley, the Possible Dream,” for many years to follow. And despite the trials and failures, Mae and Father Martin never gave up their mission to create a place where people could heal. Eventually, they purchased the former estate of Sen. Millard Tydings in Havre de Grace, Maryland.
Everything for recovery
On January 17, 1983, Father Martin’s Ashley opened its doors — with no fanfare — to five patients and six hand-picked staff members.
“Everything had to be perfect or Mae wouldn’t be satisfied,” Father Martin once recalled. “All of us, Mae’s family, my family, board members, our friends and supporters, looked on in awe as Mae’s finishing touches converted that big stone building into a home.”
Within two years of opening, Forbes Magazine ranked Ashley as one of the country’s top 10 facilities. Now known as Ashley Addiction Treatment, a nonprofit, accredited substance use disorder treatment center with four locations, Mae and Father Martin’s legacy has helped more than 50,000 patients and 100,000 family members heal their minds, bodies, and spirits. The driving principle — everything for recovery — reinforces Ashley’s timeless mission to treat each person with dignity and respect because everyone deserves a chance to live a happy and healthy life.
“Yesterday is but a dream, tomorrow a vision. But today well-lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness.”Father Joseph C. Martin
Our history at a glance
We are incredibly proud of how far we have come, and how many lives we have touched along the way. We could not have emerged from humble beginnings without the determination of Mae Abraham and Father Martin, nor without the ongoing dedication to recovery embodied by the patients, family members, staff, donors, and partners we’ve encountered along the way — including you.
We have much left to do, and we’re excited for what the future has in store for us.
Join us in gratitude as we look back on the people, places and events that have made Ashley Addiction Treatment into the institution it is today. Check out our timeline of notable events to learn more about our story.