As one of Ashley’s co-founders, many regard Mae Ashley Abraham as the first lady of Ashley Addiction Treatment and a visionary in the treatment field.
Mae Ashley Abraham was born in 1927 in western North Carolina to Rev. Arthur Ashley and Molly Williams Ashley. She grew up with 10 siblings in a traditional Baptist household.
After Mae graduated high school, she moved to Tennessee to attend business college. During her first summer break, Mae joined one of her sisters in Maryland to work at the Mayflower Diner in Aberdeen. While in Maryland, Mae met the love of her life, Tommy Abraham. They married soon after and had a son, Alex.
Grappling with the disease of addiction
Before her marriage, Mae had never had a drink, honoring her Baptist upbringing. According to her recovery story, Mae had her first drink to relax and dance better with her husband. That one drink eventually turned into alcoholism. And she felt deep shame and remorse about her addiction.
But in 1964, amidst her struggles with alcohol, Mae met Father Joseph C. Martin at one of his infamous “chalk talks” at Johns Hopkins University. He identified alcoholism as a disease — not a moral failing. He didn’t preach or demoralize. After hearing him speak, Mae said she could finally accept what was wrong with her. That night she stopped drinking and remained sober for the rest of her life.
A life-changing friendship
Mae and Father Martin became good friends. In 1976, Mae proposed that she and Father Martin open up a recovery facility so people with substance use disorder could learn about their addiction and recover from it. Despite many trials and tribulations, Mae’s passion and persistence helped her raise enough money to acquire Sen. Millard Tydings’ former estate in Havre de Grace, Maryland. On Monday, January 17, 1983, Mae and Father Martin’s dream became a reality. Father Martin’s Ashley opened up its doors to just five patients and six staff members. And although it was a cold day, the hall was filled with light and warmth.
“That feeling of warmth, comfort, and security wasn’t coming from the new and very expensive heating system,” Father Martin once recalled, “… it was coming directly from Mae Abraham, and everyone knew it.”
A legacy of healing and hope
Now known as Ashley Addiction Treatment, the treatment center Mae and Father Martin founded has helped to change more than 50,000 lives. Mae remained very involved with Ashley throughout her life, giving talks and serving as the personification of sobriety. Despite her death on August 23, 2019, at the age of 92, Mae continues to be a beacon of hope and healing. Her warmth lives within the rooms on campus and in the hearts of all Ashley staff.