Ashley + Brittnay: Building a Resilient Relationship

Written on April 23, 2020

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When Ashley and Brittnay reconnected after six years, Brittnay had no idea Ashley had been burned. Together, they’ve survived addiction, trauma, and insecurity — and now they are building a strong foundation together.

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How did you meet?

Ashley: We met when I was 16, and she was 18. My family always thought it was a phase. Being young and in love, you think, "This is the person I'm gonna be with for the rest of my life." It was so magical. We had that innocent puppy dog love, and we felt like we had known each other our whole lives. Back then, we were both so young, stubborn, and super self-centered. No matter how much we loved each other, it was unhealthy.

Brittnay: I had already been out for a while by then, but coming out at a young age was rough. We both come from Hispanic Catholic families. We were into the rave scene with designer drugs being a big part of that scene. We were together for about three years and broke up and went separate ways when I was 21. I moved to Reno, NV, where I got into harder drugs such as meth and heroin. I had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder when I was 11, so that diagnosis mixed with addiction was sending my life into a downward spiral.

How were you injured?

Ashley: Both of us got into the rave/party scene and along with that came drugs. We experimented at first, but then developed an addiction. I ended up getting pregnant by my ex, but wasn't with him for long. We were both lost in our addictions, and it was tough to get out. My best friend since I was 13 died by suicide, and that sent me over the edge. My addiction took over, and I hated myself for being an addict. I ended up attempting suicide by using fire and in the resulting accident, I suffered burns on 75% of my body.

How did you get back together?

Ashley: I never thought I would find love again, especially because of my scars. Almost a year after my accident, we got back together. Before we started talking again, we chatted on Facebook Messenger. Because of my insecurities, I didn't tell her about my scars until the last minute after making plans to meet. Reconnecting has been the best thing to happen to both of us. We were more mature and both had the same goals. Our feelings for each other were just as intense as when we were younger. We shared what we both went through and realized that we both lived such similar lifestyles.

Brittnay: When I reconnected with Ashley, I was 27 and battling my addiction. It was spur of the moment after she contacted me on Facebook. We talked all night, then agreed to meet the next day. She told me about her accident at the end of our conversation. I didn't know prior to that point and was shocked to hear. I wish I could have been there for support or maybe to change history. Anyway, seeing her for the first time in six years was incredible. This was the women I had loved for years, and here she was in front of me: older, with a daughter, and now a burn survivor. Not all her scarring is hidden. She was beautiful, and nothing will ever change that. She was inspiring, and her scars didn’t define her.

What were some of your challenges after getting back together?

Brittnay: She pushed me away at first. I was 100% faithful, but she couldn’t believe that. But then I started to understand. We were able to talk more about how we were feeling rather than just fight about it. Ashley told me it was a feeling of insecurity more than anything else. It’s an issue that she’s worked on to help our relationship, and I'm so proud of her.

Ashley: The first couple weeks of being intimate, I wouldn't even let her turn the lights on. I would accuse her of infidelity when she really wasn't doing anything. I kept asking myself, "Why does she wanna be with me? She can be with someone without scars." It wasn't that she didn't make me feel beautiful, it was just something that I had to grow through. It wasn't fair to her, especially when all she would do is tell me how beautiful I am, and how much she loves me. She helped me by loving me until I learned to love myself.

What advice do you have for others struggling with insecurity?

Ashley: If you are single, don't give up hope. No matter how hard your insecurities try to convince you, someone will come along. You have to love yourself until then. If you are in a committed relationship, always communicate with your partner. Let them know if your insecurities are destroying you. Let them know you need a little more love than you did yesterday.

What steps did you take to get sober? How do you stay sober together?

Ashley: We both knew if we wanted to be together, we could only do it sober. Getting sober is hard for anyone with a substance abuse problem, and having trauma makes it a much harder obstacle. Once you recognize the problem, don't give up. No matter how many falls you take, no matter how many times you relapse, do not give up. For me, trauma and addiction go hand in hand. Working on my trauma helps me stay sober. We also attend Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous meetings where we meet others like us and build our support system there.

Brittnay: In recovery, you need guidance and support. Helping hands are always available if you know where to find them. We knew we had to get sober because of our family, so we used each other as our main support system. We both had the same wants and goals. Now we’re both on our way to becoming substance abuse counselors to try to help people out of the path that will take your life if you let it. We are so grateful to be here today.

Ashley: I'm so lucky to have my wife. She is my biggest supporter, as I am hers; we lift each other up, and push each other to do the best we can. We both have been through so much stuff that would break other couples. Our daughter adores her other mother, and we want to add to our family in the near future. Despite everything we have been through, we are standing strong.

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