Mae Abraham hears Father Martin present his “Blackboard Talk” at an AA meeting in Baltimore, and it transforms her life. From the moment the speaker came out and said, “Hello, I’m Father Martin, and I’m an alcoholic,” Mae recalls, “I sensed that I was in the presence of someone who knew and understood me. Everyone had been describing my drinking in terms of a problem with morality: I was evil, sinful, immoral, women, don’t behave this way. That night hearing Father Martin’s Backboard Talk, I could see clearly – for the first time – that I did have a problem, but it wasn’t a problem with morality, it was a problem with a disease.”
Mae and Father developed a deep friendship, writing and calling one another often. No one could have predicted the effect the friendship that developed between Mae Abraham and Father Joseph Martin would have not only on Father Martin himself, but on the field of alcoholism. No one could have guessed that these two people, so different in background and temperament-one a Catholic priest from Baltimore, the other the daughter of a Baptist minister from the mountains of North Carolina-would have even become friends.
After speaking at the Fellowship by the Sea conference in Myrtle Beach, SC, Father and Mae begin openly discussing plans for a treatment facility on the plane ride back, initially naming the project “Ashley: The Possible Dream.” This leads to seven years of looking for funds and donors, as well as searching for the ideal location.
The Ecumenical Chapel of the Holy Family is completed thanks to charitable contributions from donors. The space emphasizes a crucial tenet of Father Martin’s philosophy: that recovery is a spiritual process. On Christmas Eve, 1985, Father Martin holds his first of many midnight masses for Ashley patients. With a central position on campus, the chapel symbolizes the essential role of spirituality in recovery, providing a dedicated worship space for people of all faiths and beliefs.
In order to more effectively address the unique issues children face when they deal with addiction within their family environment, Ashley launches its first adolescent-focused recovery program.
The Clubhouse by Ashley opens virtually in July 2021 to support Harford County teens and their families struggling with or impacted by SUD. Freshly renovated, the physical space in Aberdeen, MD, has served as a welcoming space for the free, fun and safe after-school and summer program since July 2022.